Haughwout also uses Twitter to do informal, non-scientific test marketing. When NA was developing one of its own social networking products recently, Haughwout went on Twitter to see if people were more inclined to use chatting functionality embedded in things like Facebook or if they were more wedded to their AIM accounts. He did this so he could better understand where to build the chat hooks into their product. About 60% of the folks that tweeted back liked the social media-style chat so NA went with that direction. "If you're a Fortune 500 brand you're probably large enough to get the equivalent of a focus group."
CIO-for-hire Hultquist uses Twitter to get action on problems he is having with vendors. He'll tweet that is having problems with some product or other and, if the company is large enough and are listening, they often as not, respond. "I might post a tweet saying 'I'm dealing one more time with company A' or 'I can't believe how poor this product is'."
Perhaps most of all, said Hultquist, Twitter is a collaboration tool. One that is breaking down barriers between leaders and those they lead. This is especially important going forward. As the baby boomers and the vertical hierarchy they've worked under since WWII retire, the Gen X, Y and Millennial generations are taking over. They work in a much flatter, less loyal business world where who you know and who knows you is more important than how long you worked at Company X or Y. In this world, leaders need to adopt different leadership styles; styles based more on collaboration and sharing than fiat. Twitter can help with that effort.
"If they want to be the old-fashion, authoritarian leader then, no, it's not going to be helpful to them," he said. "But, if they understand that that doesn't work very well anymore and what is much more workable is a collaborative approach to leadership I think it's a good tool for that.
"What were learning is you can't hide anything," he continued. "So, the myth you are in control somehow because you have knowledge that others don't have, is really harmful to you as a leader. So, instead, flip it on it's head and develop trusting relationships with your staff and the people you support in ways that have you show up as a human being; as somebody that wants to collaboratively work with them, I think (Twitter) is a good tool for that."