Humans have conveyed short messages, long with meaning, for as long
as 40,000 years. Smoke signals have traversed the airways.
Expressive quips filled the Seinfeld show. At all stages and ages,
we move forward in small bursts of communication. Some people just
don't notice how much can be conveyed when just a little is said.
Microsharing is the class of social software tools that enables
people to update one another with short bursts of text, links, and
multimedia - either through standalone applications or as part of
larger online communities or social networks.
Messages sent this way usually can't exceed 140 characters. This
restriction isn't arbitrary. One hundred and sixty characters is
the total that mobile devices (SMS) can accept; 140 characters for
the message and the remaining 20 for the bits of data necessary for
identifying the source of the information. Within these 140
characters, people can ask questions, post feedback, highlight news
stories, and link to items on the Internet.
Microsharing emerges from a trend to make digital content smaller
and faster to spread. It is eclipsing email (too slow) and texting
(too restricted an audience). Microbursts of information are easy
to read and write, there is nothing to delete, you can communicate
one to one or one to many, and replies are optional.
Microsharing doesn't require any special technical knowledge to use
or any complex technology to deploy. The software can route
messages to people's desktops, laptops, and devices already in
pockets and purses without depending on local email servers or
phone trees. These utilities can quickly convey text messages or
images to an extended enterprise, a decentralized workforce, a
dispersed campus, a community of practice, a small group of
friends, or just one person who needs to know.
The best-known microsharing software, at the time of this writing,
is Twitter. Actor Ashton Kutcher was the first to acquire 1 million
followers on Twitter (beating out rival CNN Breaking News for the
honor). Barack Obama's presidential campaign made wide use of
Twitter to reach voters. And millions of ordinary people use it
every day to send and receive very short messages - amplifying
voices, netting people-picked answers fast, facilitating listening,
and enabling a natural approach to being aware of the community
Microsharing is a powerful way to connect people for personal,
professional, or corporate benefit. With enterprise-focused
Twitter-like tools such as Socialcast, Socialtext Signals,
Cubetree, and Yammer, designed specifically for private use,
organizations can now bring microsharing capabilities in house.
Because they operate behind the firewall, these tools help protect
confidential information and can link back to other enterprise
Note: This article is excerpted from
The New Social Learning by Tony Bingham and Marcia Conner.
Tony Bingham is the president and CEO of ASTD. Together with the
board of directors and supported by a staff of 90 and a wide
volunteer network, Bingham is focused on helping members lead
talent management in their organizations, demonstrate positive
business impact, understand the power of social media on informal
learning, close skills gaps, and connect their work to the
strategic priorities of business. Bingham co-authored
Presenting Learning: Ensure CEOs Get the Value of
Learning, a book to help learning professionals articulate the
business case for learning more persuasively, position themselves
as a strategic partner, and communicate a compelling story about
the impact of learning on business results.
Marcia Conner is a partner at Altimeter Group, a research-based
advisory firm that helps companies at a crossroads tackle the
world's toughest business challenges. Working with organizations
and industries to leverage disruption to their advantage, she
applies experience from across disciplines to accelerate
collaborative culture, workplace learning, and social business.
Conner is a fellow at the Darden School of Business, founder of the
popular Twitter chat #lrnchat, and writes the Fast Company
column "Learn at All Levels." A 20-year veteran of the enterprise
market, Conner was vice president of education services and
information futurist for PeopleSoft, senior manager of worldwide
training at Microsoft, editor in chief of Learning in the New
Economy magazine, and a fellow of the Society for New
2010 ASTD, Alexandria, VA. All rights reserved.