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Microsharing: A Powerful Way to Connect

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 around them.

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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 systems.

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 Communications Research.

2010 ASTD, Alexandria, VA. All rights reserved.

About the Author
Tony Bingham is the president and CEO of the Association for Talent Development, formerly ASTD, the world’s largest professional association dedicated to those who develop talent in organizations. Tony works with a staff of 130, a Board of Directors, and a worldwide network of volunteers to empower professionals to develop talent in the workplace. 

Tony believes in creating a culture of engaged, high-performing teams that deliver extraordinary results. Deeply passionate about change, technology, and the impact of talent development, his focus is on adding value to ATD members and the global community of talent development professionals. He believes that aligning talent development efforts to business strategy, while utilizing the power of social and mobile technology for learning, is a key differentiator in business today.  
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