Iran’s Twitter Revolution Offers Lessons for CIOs

Politics is a fascinating subject and I am sure we all have our own views on the events currently unfolding in Iran regarding their recent elections. However, this post is not about the election or who won. Rather it is about the amazing flow of information that occurred even in a very restricted / controlled environment. We live in the 21st century and this unfolding story contains many lessons for modern CIOs …

What do the elections in Iran have to do with Twitter?

Noam Cohen of the New York Times has analyzed how information has flowed since the riots began. Honestly, the “twitter revolution” is probably overkill. Websites, text messages, and simple person-to-person conversations probably did a better job of spreading the news than Twitter. However, Twitter did an incredible job of getting information out of the country.

Remember that Twitter is only three years old. His impact is far greater than his age would have a CIO believe. Although you may not face a contested election, Twitter could play an important role in the future of your business.

What Twitter means to your business

There will be times in the future when your top management (CEO, president, etc.) will want to control what information is disclosed about your company and have some control over what people say about your company. Twitter opens up a whole new channel for people to talk about your business. Here are six lessons the Iranian elections have taught us all about this powerful new communication tool:

  • Twitter really can’t be stopped: Twitter messages (“tweets”) are actually a one-to-many form of communication. There is no centralized site that can be shut down or forced to remove information by court order. There is no way to stop this beast.
  • There’s power in numbers – a single tweet probably doesn’t mean much. A couple of tweets will not attract attention. However, a series of tweets on the same topic will begin to create an ecosystem about an event or point of view. This can get attention and start generating more conversations.
  • Attention to the buyer: Remember, on the Internet nobody knows that you are a dog (a saying from the first years of the Internet). Since the people who participate on Twitter don’t have a real identity, you can’t really trust what they are saying until it has been verified.
  • Home of Bad Information: There are probably people who are trying to communicate truths using Twitter, but there are probably also people who are trying to spread lies using Twitter. Whether it’s to lower (or raise) your stock price or prevent / encourage an acquisition, all kinds of people will use Twitter to spread completely made-up stories.
  • People on Twitter use Twitter: CIOs should always keep in mind that the people who use Twitter are generally tech-savvy people who are online a lot. This does not necessarily represent the general public.
  • Twitter is connected to the media: Popular media “get” Twitter and are listening for clues about new stories and looking for sources. This means that almost any storyteller now has a potential direct line to a major media outlet.

Final thoughts

Twitter is another form of communication for people. Most of us have a little getting used to as we struggle to understand why someone would take the time to send 140-character messages to communicate when we have so many other tools that we can use. However, Twitter (and all its variants) are here to stay.

CIOs must adapt to this new world. When future events affect your company (disasters, mergers, acquisitions, product problems, etc.), Twitter will likely play a role in how information reaches the world at large. Developing a communication strategy that includes Twitter is a critical responsibility of the CIO. Addressing this issue will mean that CIOs have found a way to apply IT to enable the rest of the business to grow faster, move faster, and do more.

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