Is Twitter Knowledge Management?

January 28, 2009 — 5 Comments

I’m not sure it’s the first thing that pops into a KM purist’s mind, but it does seem to fit this definition surprisingly well.  

In my current role, I’m responsible for bringing change to the way our employees traditionally do their work.  As a big part of that includes the adoption of social media, one of the agenda items I’m pushing is an enterprise micro-blogging capability.  Outside the walls of work I not only have  fun participating on Twitter, I do derive a great deal of personal value from it as well:  insight into my passions (both personal and professional), peer review & feedback, expertise location, network expansion, timely alerts to pertinent information (I actually first learned the date, location, speakers and topics of my own company’s annual IT Forum on Twitter from a non-employee…that’s crazy!), and innovation & ideation.  

I believe knowledge is highly social and that it happens in the cracks between our published and documented work:  in the water cooler, email & IM conversations we have that aren’t indexed or searchable; in the impromptu meetings and white-board sessions that have no minutes or ‘share this with others’ button.  Imagine moving those interactions to a platform capable of storing, indexing & making searchable those interactions?  By capturing   the lifestreams’ of its users, Twitter does a very good job of  tracking what’s in those cracks and by extension KM.   Maybe a better way of putting it is that the social nature of knowledge lends itself to Twitter.  

Here are the Motivations of KM as Wikipedia defines them:

  • Making available increased knowledge content in the development and provision of products and services
  • Achieving shorter new product development cycles
  • Facilitating and managing innovation and organisational learning
  • Leveraging the expertise of people across the organisation
  • Increasing network connectivity between internal and external individuals
  • Managing business environments and allowing employees to obtain relevant insights and ideas appropriate to their work
  • Solving intractable or wicked problems
  • Managing intellectual capital and intellectual assets in the workforce (such as the expertise and know-how possessed by key individuals)

Well, heck.  I’d say Twitter does most, if not all of those things.  If those are your ‘holes in the wall’ then I’d say Twitter could definitely be your drill.  Here’s a post from Forrester’s Jeremiah Owyang (I highly doubt that if you’re reading this you don’t already know who he is) that might help fill in some of this posts’ gaps.

I’m trying to convince my peers and leadership that we don’t necessarily need the traditional threaded discussion board or Ask An Expert-type application; that if we do our change management correctly all we need is micro-blogging, a document management system that gives URL’s and maybe a link-trimmer, a la Snurl.

Those three things are a powerful combination, they’re cheap and low-risk, too (I’m guessing if you’re interested in KM your company already has a document management solution that spits out URL’s).  Twitter may not be your father’s KM solution, but it certainly solves his problems.  I’m getting more and more convinced of this every day…


5 responses to Is Twitter Knowledge Management?


    Nice post. I agree with most of what you’ve said. I wouldn’t say that Twitter *is* KM, though. I wouldn’t say that *any* application is KM. But I would say that a Twitter-like application, or micro-blog, when used in the enterprise, can be a tool to promote KM efforts. It is important to be in the enterprise because KM usually refers to efforts not of the general public, but of a smaller group, like a company or law firm. Such a tool (there are a few of them out there – Yammer, SocialCast, etc.) could certainly be used to capture, share, and disseminate knowledge and information.

    By the way, your job sounds great. As CKO at a law firm, I do some of that, too.


    Of course knowledge sharing and learning are social! Take a look at our white paper:

    Also, take a look at the latest release of Socialtext, with a built-in Twitter-like component and other support for knowledge sharing, creation and learning.

    I often comment about the above at: @valdiskrebs


    I agree with what Patrick said.

    Twitter is a tool that can be used as part of a cohesive KM strategy, but it’s not “KM”, nor is it a “KM application”.

    Twitter is an enabler, and it can be a very useful one. But it is simply a type of communication tool; nothing more, nothing less.

    It can’t achieve the KM goals you list on its own — you need to establish the appropriate organisational culture as well.

    It’s the creation and maintenance of this culture which is so critical to effective KM, not the tools used to help build it.


    I can’t argue with the culture point; any tool will be more effective if the culture is one that embraces the purpose for which the tool was procured. I attended a Forrester/Newsgator webinar last week in which they predicted microblogging applications to have negative to minimal impact on E2.0. I disagree with their prediction because I think Microblogging is one of the best tools for KM that I’ve seen. So, in this case I do believe tools matter. I see in our organization that many of our KM applications discourage usage because of their cumbersome interfaces and non-intuitive design. You mention that Twitter ‘is simply a type of communication tool.’ I think it would be better to say that Twitter is a simple communication tool. Makes a difference. Additionally, because such a high degree of knowledge is social, microblogging derives another advantage. In many ways I think Twitter is a better KM tool than most tools designed with KM as an end goal.

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