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The case against enterprise microblogging

Twitter and its clones seem like a good idea for the enterprise--until you realize that the short-message format is just no good for business.

As a consistent Twitter user, I've found the service to be a valuable marketing tool, as well as an entertaining activity for my friends to shoot one-liners at each other.

Last week, I started experimenting with Yammer, a Twitter clone that facilitates private microblog user groups, a feature that Twitter not only doesn't have but refuses to say if it will ever offer.

My team of five started using Yammer on a Monday, and by Friday, we decided that it was pointless. First, it's not integrated with anything else we use--Twitter, IM, Skype, e-mail, etc. What's more, the Yammer application for BlackBerry is embarrassingly bad. I realized pretty quickly that it's better to just use e-mail, if you want to communicate to a small private group--at least for now.

Lest you think I am picking on Yammer, I'm not. My recent short-lived experience showed me that enterprise microblogging provides minimal benefits to the organization. If our group had been much larger, and we wanted to do some kind of short announcements, it might prove useful, though hardly compelling.

The lack of threaded messages among the users and the challenging interfaces of most microblogging services also affect communication styles by enforcing a shortened message. That sounds like a good idea, until you are forced to spend more time trying to figure out what someone meant in 140 characters. The reality is that most people are poor communicators, and they are even worse, when it comes to their writing and editing skills.

When it comes to business, you don't want to read between the lines, as you do in your personal Twitter verse. Even with enterprise e-mail overload and a never-ending supply of documents flying back and forth, at least you have the ability to state and substantiate a point.

I know of at least one other Twitter-like service that will launch in the next month or so, with several new compelling features for enterprise users. Meanwhile, we'll go back to e-mail and IM for our quick communications.

You can follow me on Twitter @daveofdoom.