Will Twitter replace community Forums in next few years?

I was at SAP partner conference in Savannah early March 2011. Meeting partners is always a great learning experience. In one of the break-out sessions, we discussed the relevance of social media and its impact on customer satisfaction. Isn’t that the hottest topic these days? We all know the importance of continuous innovation. Software products companies need to innovate continuously to bring new products or features to the market rapidly. The biggest challenge remains feeding this information to the customers and partners.

It is an accepted norm to use social media sites like Twitter or Facebook to broadcast information.  Many companies today use Twitter to send information to its customers, partners and other stakeholders. Many companies even started using Twitter to provide customer support. This change is so rapid that it sometimes occurs to me the future relevance of community forums. In today’s world, companies still invest a lot in building community forums and portals around their products/ services to provide information to customers in real-time. There are moderators, administrators and other users answering each question. Users have option to search a topic within the forum to read or search relevant topics. It appears to me that Twitter is increasingly encroaching the well-defined territory of these forums. The war is not yet evident but it has already started.

After our partner meet in Savannah, I went to Costa Rica, London and Germany meeting partners and customers. Almost everyone voiced about the importance of rapid product innovation and faster communication stream to customers. On 18th of March, I attended our Product Innovation meet in New Delhi. The challenge here was faster go-to-market and immediate information dissemination to customers. Its one thing to send a monthly email to customer on new product offering but updating a customer about this information in real-time is something quite different. It was therefore decided that we will start posting Tweets from the core product teams so that the customers can follow the Tweets to be current on all news & happenings direct from the Labs. To facilitate this initiative, all CitiXsys products will now be posting updates in Twitter @ProductUpdates. These will be small tweets about any latest innovation, new features, bug fixes, or plain vanilla news from the Product Lab.

It is extremely important to listen to your customers and what’s better than listening in a public forum like Twitter.