Where Is Your Organization in the Twitter Life Cycle?

Many leaders are in a quandary about Twitter. They know it is becoming increasingly popular, but they don’t know if they want their employees Twittering, especially on company time.

Screenshot of HootSuite

Some executives are outright hostile to it. In fact, a few weeks ago, someone told me that his company’s IT department had blocked employee access to Twitter, Facebook, and every other social media site. They asked if I could have a talk with their CEO.I have seen this movie before. It always has the same ending. I have watched it with personal computers, email, cell phones, fax machines, blogging, Blackberries, Facebook, and now Twitter.

In my experience, corporate executives go through five stages in adopting new communication technologies.

  • Stage 1: Ridicule. The executives initially think these technologies are silly. In the 1980s when I started using email, one of the executives in my company made fun of me, because email didn’t provide (he thought) a permanent record. “Besides,” he said, “Not everyone has it. It will never catch on.”

    Twitter is similar. When I first heard about it, I thought it was the dumbest thing I’d ever heard of. “Why do I care what you had for lunch?” I protested.

  • Stage 2: Control. The executives grow concerned about abuse of the technology and try to control it. With email, the company I worked for issued a formal “email policy.” You had to have a legitimate business reason to use email. You then had to get approval from a Vice President. Finally, you had to sign-up for your own AOL or CompuServe account and pay for it yourself. (We didn’t have a corporate email system at the time.)

    This is why some companies today are developing formal Social Media Guidelines and Policies. They know it’s seeping into the workplace, and they want to control it. After all, that’s what executives do, they think.

  • Stage 3: Experimentation. The executives begin experimenting with the technology themselves. Again, to use email as an example, as more and more people started using email, I saw executives begin to tip-toe into the water. I remember one executive who had his secretary print out his emails and put them in his physical inbox. He would then dictate a response.

    Believe it or not, I know of a couple of executives today who are doing the exact same thing with Twitter. I don’t try to discourage them. If it gets them started, great.

  • Stage 4: Adoption. The executives start using the technology themselves. Eventually, executives learn that the technology is not so scary, and they can actually be more productive if they use it themselves. I don’t know about you, but I never really learned ho to dictate a memo. I am so much faster just banging out my own messages. Besides, it gives me a chance to edit and respond more quickly.

    Some executives are figuring this out with Twitter, too. They can use it as a competitive advantage to be more responsive to their customers, employees, and even vendors. Besides, it’s kind of fun.

  • Stage 5: Dedication. The executives wonder how the organization could function without the technology. Can you imagine joining a company today and not being given an email address? It’s now standard operating procedure. Everyone is expected to use email. No one I know would even think about sending a paper memo any more.

    Twitter is not quite ubiquitous, but I think it—or some version of it—will eventually get there. We’ll eventually wonder how we got along without it.

I see organizations at every stage in using Twitter. In my own company, I think we are somewhere between Stages 3 and 4. My guess is that we will be at Stage 5 in the next 18 months.

Though my colleagues may disagree with me, I wouldn’t be surprised if it eventually replacing email altogether—just as FedEx replaced conventional letters, faxes replaced FedEx, and email replaced faxes. The trend is always toward faster, more immediate communication.

Question: Where is your organization in the Twitter life cycle?
Get My New, 3-Part Video Series—FREE! Ready to accomplish more of what matters? 2015 can be your best year ever. In my new video series, I show you exactly how to set goals that work. Click here to get started. It’s free—but only until Monday, December 8th.

Get my FREE video series now!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read My Comments Policy.

  • http://twitter.com/DarthSpacegrass @DarthSpacegrass

    Stage 1 – I am ridiculed for being a twitter "user".

    But I am also working in a company that I have physically dragged into the modern era at this point.

    Three years ago we did not have, a non-aol email address, a network, GPS navigation and tracking (we have a fleet of over 30 vehicles).

    As we look to expand our interests, I see the internet and twitter playing a limited role in marketing our new services. After the ridicule stops of course.

  • http://twitter.com/DarthSpacegrass @DarthSpacegrass

    Stage 1 – I am ridiculed for being a twitter "user".

    But I am also working in a company that I have physically dragged into the modern era at this point.

    Three years ago we did not have, a non-aol email address, a network, GPS navigation and tracking (we have a fleet of over 30 vehicles).

    As we look to expand our interests, I see the internet and twitter playing a limited role in marketing our new services. After the ridicule stops of course.

  • http://twitter.com/jodyfransch Jody T Fransch

    Nice post Michael, I particularly like the way you highlighted how the Twitter life cycle evolves from one stage to the next. It was also interesting to see in your last paragraph just how one technology replaces another, and when you think about it, it makes sense, the trend is always toward faster, more immediate communication…I wonder what will come after Twitter? Google Wave maybe?

  • http://twitter.com/jodyfransch Jody T Fransch

    Nice post Michael, I particularly like the way you highlighted how the Twitter life cycle evolves from one stage to the next. It was also interesting to see in your last paragraph just how one technology replaces another, and when you think about it, it makes sense, the trend is always toward faster, more immediate communication…I wonder what will come after Twitter? Google Wave maybe?

  • http://www.twitter.com/danieldecker Daniel Decker

    Love the cycle here. Fits well organizationally and personally. So many people I know, me included, that discounted Twitter initially only to give it a try and see the value first hand. It creates opportunities in so many ways. What baffles me most with social media is the speed at which is seems to adapt and grow. It was only a few years ago that Myspace was the rage (but I think they killed it with smutty ads). Then it moved on to Facebook and Twitter (Facebook and Twitter offering much better platforms as well). Will be interesting to see where it goes, how it shakes down and which tools survive long-term. Especially interested to see where things go now that Facebook bought Friendfeed.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I agree. I am really keeping my eye on Google Wave. I think it might be a good middle-way between email and Twitter.

  • http://www.twitter.com/danieldecker Daniel Decker

    Love the cycle here. Fits well organizationally and personally. So many people I know, me included, that discounted Twitter initially only to give it a try and see the value first hand. It creates opportunities in so many ways. What baffles me most with social media is the speed at which is seems to adapt and grow. It was only a few years ago that Myspace was the rage (but I think they killed it with smutty ads). Then it moved on to Facebook and Twitter (Facebook and Twitter offering much better platforms as well). Will be interesting to see where it goes, how it shakes down and which tools survive long-term. Especially interested to see where things go now that Facebook bought Friendfeed.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I agree. I am really keeping my eye on Google Wave. I think it might be a good middle-way between email and Twitter.

  • http://bigisthenewsmall.com/ Scott Williams

    We are at Stage 5…

    Nice post and great use of the word ubiquitous! Times are changing daily, technology is evolving by the minute, iPhone and Android apps are changing the game. It's a new day, new game and organizations need to get off the sidelines and in the game.

    Stage 5 will be equivalent to a stage one in the future; remember the days of the handwritten and mailed letters? I can't remember the last time I sent one of those!

  • http://bigisthenewsmall.com Scott Williams

    We are at Stage 5…

    Nice post and great use of the word ubiquitous! Times are changing daily, technology is evolving by the minute, iPhone and Android apps are changing the game. It's a new day, new game and organizations need to get off the sidelines and in the game.

    Stage 5 will be equivalent to a stage one in the future; remember the days of the handwritten and mailed letters? I can't remember the last time I sent one of those!

  • Jason E.

    Excellent post. Some of us take longer than others to catch on. I have a coworker in his 30's who ridicules Twitter, almost quoting your Stage One objections verbatim. It's not just a generational problem.

    My industry (law) is notoriously slow to adapt to new technologies. Instant messaging and Twittering is currently discouraged, if not outright prohibited, due to concerns over not having a permanent record and thoughtlessly giving advice that will return to haunt us. My argument is that it is coming regardless of the potential problems, so the sooner we figure out how to deal with it the better. It's not really a choice anymore.

  • Jason E.

    Excellent post. Some of us take longer than others to catch on. I have a coworker in his 30's who ridicules Twitter, almost quoting your Stage One objections verbatim. It's not just a generational problem.

    My industry (law) is notoriously slow to adapt to new technologies. Instant messaging and Twittering is currently discouraged, if not outright prohibited, due to concerns over not having a permanent record and thoughtlessly giving advice that will return to haunt us. My argument is that it is coming regardless of the potential problems, so the sooner we figure out how to deal with it the better. It's not really a choice anymore.

  • Jeromy

    True Story:

    The lawyers at my hospital gave a lecture to the leadership team about how staff must not post patient information of any kind on Facebook or Twiiter. Fair enough. They then went on, in a very self righteous tone, about how nobody should be posting on facebook and twitter at all while at work.

    Somebody asked, "What's Twitter?" Our brand new CEO, thumbing her blackberry, says, "you don't twitter, I'm twittering right now."

    I like her.

    • http://twitter.com/johnflurry @johnflurry

      Jeromy- I love that story. It is priceless!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      That is a fantastic story!

  • Jeromy

    True Story:

    The lawyers at my hospital gave a lecture to the leadership team about how staff must not post patient information of any kind on Facebook or Twiiter. Fair enough. They then went on, in a very self righteous tone, about how nobody should be posting on facebook and twitter at all while at work.

    Somebody asked, "What's Twitter?" Our brand new CEO, thumbing her blackberry, says, "you don't twitter, I'm twittering right now."

    I like her.

    • http://twitter.com/johnflurry @johnflurry

      Jeromy- I love that story. It is priceless!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      That is a fantastic story!

  • Troy

    regarding employees time on social networks–twitter, FB, etc–just like the internet, IM, and even personal email correspondence which were more past issue topics, employees need to abide by and respect company policy. Like many times, this is more of a personal ethical issue–with some abusing it thus sometimes causing/setting harsh guidelines for companies. It really comes down to purpose and intention of the "use."

    Mike, does the leadership team at Thomas Nelson share your philosophy and twitter–realizing it's more of a personal choice? As CEO, do you discuss the need for your leadership team to twitter in the same way you advise people to make the pitch to their boss?

  • Troy

    regarding employees time on social networks–twitter, FB, etc–just like the internet, IM, and even personal email correspondence which were more past issue topics, employees need to abide by and respect company policy. Like many times, this is more of a personal ethical issue–with some abusing it thus sometimes causing/setting harsh guidelines for companies. It really comes down to purpose and intention of the "use."

    Mike, does the leadership team at Thomas Nelson share your philosophy and twitter–realizing it's more of a personal choice? As CEO, do you discuss the need for your leadership team to twitter in the same way you advise people to make the pitch to their boss?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

    I can't speak for every single one. We have almost 40 VPs, but I would say in general, yes. They share my philosophy. In general, we are at stage 3.5 or maybe 4. I don't force Twitter on anyone. I try to explain the merits and then let them decide.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

    I can't speak for every single one. We have almost 40 VPs, but I would say in general, yes. They share my philosophy. In general, we are at stage 3.5 or maybe 4. I don't force Twitter on anyone. I try to explain the merits and then let them decide.

  • http://debashishbramha.blogspot.com/ Debashish Bramha

    When you in in Rome, behave like a Roman.__It will pick up people will bring in Blackberry or Iphone and start doing the social media, in a poor country like India sales are increasing by leapes and bound.
    By 2012 according to TRAI ,600 Mn Indians will be using Mobile and with a typical price elastic market and when economies of scleas sets in the price will go down ward and make it affordables.
    Warm Regards

  • http://debashishbramha.blogspot.com Debashish Bramha

    When you in in Rome, behave like a Roman.__It will pick up people will bring in Blackberry or Iphone and start doing the social media, in a poor country like India sales are increasing by leapes and bound.
    By 2012 according to TRAI ,600 Mn Indians will be using Mobile and with a typical price elastic market and when economies of scleas sets in the price will go down ward and make it affordables.
    Warm Regards

  • http://www.intensedebate.com/people/patriciazell patriciazell

    I had to laugh, Michael. Your stages define the steps I have gone through with the Internet and all the "new" technology. Back in early to mid '90's I actively discouraged my older kids from using the Internet and refused to allow it in our house (the control issue). Then when I accepted an offer to teach high school English, I had to use the Internet and before long, I was earning my master's degree through Walden University which was completely online. Now, I am so far ahead of my kids in my online presence. They are mostly stuck on Facebook (only one of them is on Twitter–he rarely uses it). And believe it or not I have my own blog. How's that for irony?!!

  • http://www.intensedebate.com/people/patriciazell patriciazell

    I had to laugh, Michael. Your stages define the steps I have gone through with the Internet and all the "new" technology. Back in early to mid '90's I actively discouraged my older kids from using the Internet and refused to allow it in our house (the control issue). Then when I accepted an offer to teach high school English, I had to use the Internet and before long, I was earning my master's degree through Walden University which was completely online. Now, I am so far ahead of my kids in my online presence. They are mostly stuck on Facebook (only one of them is on Twitter–he rarely uses it). And believe it or not I have my own blog. How's that for irony?!!

  • http://true-small-caps.blogspot.com/ Derek

    With 500,000 new titles a year, the key to success is visibility.

  • http://true-small-caps.blogspot.com Derek

    With 500,000 new titles a year, the key to success is visibility.

  • Marysol

    Does a -2 count as a rating? ;)

    In all seriousness, until twitter enables the same kind of easy free SMS/text features that facebook has for South Africa, I don’t see us moving along for a while.

  • http://marysol@blomerus.org Marysol

    Does a -2 count as a rating? ;)

    In all seriousness, until twitter enables the same kind of easy free SMS/text features that facebook has for South Africa, I don’t see us moving along for a while.

  • http://twitter.com/snydr @snydr

    This 5-stage process is excellent and matches what I've seen as well. Many executives are finally starting to explore and adopt Twitter. I've put together an extensive free database of business leaders with Twitter accounts. It's located here: http://www.twexec.com/

  • http://twitter.com/snydr @snydr

    This 5-stage process is excellent and matches what I've seen as well. Many executives are finally starting to explore and adopt Twitter. I've put together an extensive free database of business leaders with Twitter accounts. It's located here: http://www.twexec.com/

  • Pingback: Que ciclo de vida do Twitter sua empresa está? «()

  • http://www.twitter.com/christianoey Christian Oey

    Great thoughts Michael. Twitter in Australia (where i am) is not as big as what it is in the US at present, but I think it is a growing trend; Facebook is definitely more the rage here (hopefully just for now! – Aussies are a bit slow to adapt!). I think that Twitter should be used strategically. I do Tweet myself and have been doing so for the past 9 months only after the church i attend (Hillsong Church, Australia) promoted it, embraced it, & strategically uses it heavily; otherwise i would have been none-the-wiser. I do invest thought into each Tweet i write. My primary question is “how will this post help someone who reads it?” I also purposely do not use my personal Twitter account as an opportunity to market my company, for that our internal marketing guys manage our separate company account & specifically post articles, tweets, survey facts, etc directly related to our business & our market field (same goes for our facebook activity); again this is done strategically.
    I believe all things created, social media included, are created for God’s pleasure and was intended to serve a God ordained purpose other than promoting, selling, & marketing something.
    Loving your blogs. PS: I still think “who would care what i had for lunch”!
    Question for MH: How did your Twitter following grow to 80,000 followers & what is the key to growing your following without signing up to some “grow your twitter following” website?
    Cheers, Christian

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      How did my Twitter following grow to 80,000? Don't forget that I have been at it for more than two years. I still think the “secret” (if there is one) is to say things people want to read. Thanks.

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Where Is Your Organization in the Twitter Life Cycle? -- Topsy.com()