Back in February, I read an article about a company's goal to eliminate e-mails. Theirry Breton, the CEO of a European IT company plans to put a zero email policy in place by 2013. He argues that only 10% of the emails are of any value. Most of us would be hard pressed to argue with him, but ZERO emails? Short of reverting back to archaic forms of communication like phone calls and letters, what’s the alternative? I offer up-Twitter!
In most meetings I attend with traditional business types, i.e., bankers, lawyers, and accountants, they collectively look at me like an alien form when I mention I have not one, but two twitter accounts. The common refrain is, “ I don’t get the whole twitter thing and who has time anyway?” Well, let me guess, the same people that look at 200 emails a day (of which only 10% are relevant) just might be people that could squeeze in a few messages of 140 characters or less. Here’s why Twitter should take the place of emails in corporate America:
1. You only need to see messages from people that matter to you. With emails, you might be on dozens of distribution lists. You’re getting emails from people you don’t know and clearly don’t care about. As Mr. Breton points out, these are the 90% that have zero value. With Twitter, by not “following” those nameless people, you never have to see their messages. You would only see the tweets from people that are important to you, your team and your business. And if someone starts to become irrelevant, just stop following him or her and you never have to see another tweet.
2. You can quickly see what messages are critical. By limiting tweets to 140 characters or less, you can sift through dozens of tweets in seconds. Instead of having to read a three-paragraph email before you realize it’s all crap, you know instantly if you need to reply or take action. The character limitation also forces brevity on those people (and we all know them) who just can’t seem to understand the meaning of the word “brief”.
3. You can schedule when you see the information. With emails, we all tend to be like Pavlov’s dogs. Every time we hear the ding of a new arrival, we drop everything and take a look. With Twitter programs like Hootsuite, you can schedule when you see tweets so it’s convenient for you. By scheduling time to look at messages instead of being distracted every minute of every day, you will be shocked at how much more productive you become.
4. You can add links. Twitter may limit you to 140 characters, but you can attach any kind of link including video. By using software like Bitsy, you can shorten the URL and get your topic across to the reader. So you can’t use “ I get too many email attachments” as an excuse anymore. You might have to find a different way to link the attachments, but twitter will accomplish almost everything you can send in an email.
5. You can send private messages. Assuming you don’t take your lessons from Congressman Weiner, it’s easy to learn how to use the functionality of Direct Messaging, which keeps your responses and messages private. If you’re one of those people that can’t help but hit “reply to all” you’ll be happy to know that hitting reply gets sent to everyone.
If like Mr. Breton, you have the courage to eliminate emails in your company, I offer up Twitter as a perfect alternative. And if you’re worried your employees will spend too much time following people like Lady GaGa, imagine the time they’re freeing up not being on Facebook.