17 posts categorized "Twitter"

05/31/2011 Your Mother Was Right: Be Nice!

Dan Zarella at HubSpot just released a report showing that people who ask others to “Please Retweet” get four times as many retweets on Twitter as those who don’t ask.  Even when you shorten retweet to RT, the number of people passing forward your tweets increases.

Let’s break this down: Asking people, in a nice way, to do something, or to help you delivers higher results than not asking people. I think there’s another corollary Dan should test: the difference of saying “Please” or not.

Nice helps. It helps online and offline, especially in customer service. Staffers who are nicer to customers have a better chance of defusing touchy situations as well as delivering positive experiences people remember.

I’ve got to dig around to find more data around this. I think the data will show that asking nicely helps. If anyone knows of any, post it on the comments. From a social media standpoint, it’s a no brainer.

It raises the question:
How much of advertising asks us nicely?

If nice works, why don’t companies use it more? Do they think it’s boring?

Or are all advertisers and brands just modern day Leo “The Lip” Durochers who think, “Nice guys finish last?” (And remember, that’s coming from someone who managed the Cubs!)

I think our mothers were right: Be nice. 


07/29/2010 It's the People, Stupid

I've been reading the latest 360i whitepaper "Twitter & the Consumer" this week. It's a study about how people use Twitter and what they talk about. The part of the report that seems to interest most people is the data showing that people aren't using Twitter to talk about brands, they use it instead to talk to each other.

I'm wondering: Is this really news?

Marketers and brands tend to be incredibly self-centered. I'm not sure if it's due to the power of the late broadcast era, or whether it's due to the type of people who tend to work in the industry. Whatever the reason, the era of the self-centered marketer is over, that's what I see as the true message of this study.

It's too bad we've already labeled this next era as Social Media. It's really People Media. Of the people, by the people, for the people. 

This doesn't mean that marketers have no role to play here. It means that marketers and brands have to show up as people. The ones who do it best are the ones who have either put themselves out front as a person first and a marketer second (Scotty Monty, Frank Eliason), or those brands who identify quickly who's actually doing the talking and tweeting (Zappos, Best Buy). The ones who do it well act like people too, which means they listen and converse, rather than spout.

I must have quoted Adrian Ho a dozen times here in the last six months, but he nailed it: "People don't want relationships with brands, they want relationships with other people."

The 360i Twitter study puts numbers behind this. We might be tweeting about the silliest, inane or personal topic, but we're tweeting for us and our friends and acquaintances, not for brands.

If brands and marketers want to succeed, they'll have to remember: It's the People, Stupid.

07/07/2010 How Good is Tweet Level at Predicting Influence?

MTV is apparently using the Edelman Digital tool Tweet Level to choose one of its next DJs. Their competition is using Tweet Level (TweetLevel) to gauge which contestant should have the greatest impact if chosen. While the tool is one of the elements used to gauge popularity, it's interesting that MTV is trying to get beyond things like number of followers (even if Tweet Level itself uses that measurement as one of its criteria).

TweetLevel isn't something new; there have been a number of different online tools to gauge Twitter power, such as Twitter Grader.  Actually, I'm not entirely sure why one is better than the other since in the tests I've done the results are actually quite close.

In any case, I decided to put Tweet Level to the test and compare its results with the voting on Social Media Day in Burlington. And no, I'm not doing this because I didn't win (as you'll see there was an unanticipated sleeper that was missed), but because I wanted to see if TweetLevel's automated system matched up with what people in Burlington actually said.

Here was the Burlington voting for Social Media Day:

King - Shay Totten
Throne pretenders - Rich Nadworny, Joe Mescher

Queen - Nicole Ravlin
Throne pretenders - Bridget Butler, Dana Freeman

Business - Small Dog Electronics
Throne pretenders - August First, Handy's Lunch

Non Profit - VPR
Throne pretenders - Echo Center, Cots

Here's who Tweet Level says has the most juice (higher is better)

@shaytotten 57
@rnadworny 54
@joemescher 47

@PMGNicole 55
@missmagpiefgs 51
@birddiva 49

@hellosmalldog 50
@augustfirst 49
@handyslunch 43

@vprnet 51
@voicesvt 45
@cotsvt 32

If you look at that, Tweet Level predicted who should have won, and they actually did! So far so good. It worked.

What did Burlington Tweeps miss? On the King side, both Michael Martine and Mitch Lieberman scored 60, higher than any of the King finalists. On the Queen side Lara Dickson matched Nicole with a score of 55, a tie. On the business side, Magic Hat scored a Burlington high of 66 (!) but that may not be fair since they're a big brand, at least by Vermont standards.

In looking at this, maybe TweetLevel is a good indicator of influence. It's certainly something I'll keep my eye on and look to use in various clients' social media marketing

12/14/2009 Twitter Ponzi

I started using the site Twunfollow a few months back and since then I've seen evidence of what I call Ponzi schemes on Twitter.

Twunfollow sends you notices via e-mail any time anyone unfollows you on Twitter. I thought this would be a good listening tool to make sure I wasn't boring or driving off people I want to communicate with.

What I found instead showed that many, a majority actually, of my new followers unfollowed me in a day or two, especially if I didn't follow them back! Not that I mind that much, but these people didn't really care what I had to say at all.  Their choice. What I do mind is that there seems to be some type of unspoken pact of "you follow me, I'll follow you" going on.

And to be honest, I felt that way when I started with Twitter as well, especially with people in my own field. But the people following and unfollowing have nothing to do with my field and, in many instances, already have upwards of 20,000 followers.

I've realized that the name of this game is building huge Twitter followings. And that wouldn't bother me except for the fact that in this early stage of social media, following size is one of the key measures of influence. Just try any of free measurement tools; most say the same thing.

If we use followers to identify key influencers, the whole system breaks down. What's worse, I see many brands following the same Ponzi scheme, trying to grow their Facebook fans to 1,000 or 10,000 by screaming out "Join Us and Raise Our Numbers." What they find is that many people are not really their fans at all and don't really care about the brand.

If you're using social media to talk to people who don't care about you, you should either stop or buy television advertising.

I'm not sure what to do about the Twitter Ponzis. But they make the metric of followers and fans into a complete joke.
10/02/2009 Why Twitter, or Something Like It, Matters

You can tell how successful Twitter's become just by seeing all the articles announcing that the fun is over, it's not that important and that sure decline is on the way. The articles might be right about the business of Twitter but they're dead wrong about the changes Twitter has wrought.

An experience I had with AT&T over the last two weeks illuminates the power of this medium and shows why it's too important to disappear.
  1. Vox Clamantis in Deserto - That was my college's "Tag Line." It's the New Testament quote "A voice calling in the wilderness." Used to be that online was just like that; you shouted into an empty echo chamber with little chance of someone actually hearing you. Twitter changed all that. Now, people call out into this wildness all the time, and people hear them. Yes, people hear them! That's what happened with AT&T. I shouted out that my Internet coverage was crappy on my iPhone and, low and behold, someone from AT&T answered.
  2. Twitter has Big Ears - That's why AT&T heard me. It, like other brands, has grown big ears to listen to all sorts of chatter and comments about its brand and its category. Don't disregard the significance of this point. The biggest challenge in online marketing, in my opinion, has been to convince companies to actually open its ears and listen to what people say, positive and negative. While some companies still shy away from this, so many, like Zappos, have embraced it and made it part of its customer service. The fact that Twitter, unlike Facebook, enables all sorts of third-party listening tools makes it a game changer.
  3. It Happens in Real Time - I love that people respond to me on Twitter pretty quickly. It doesn't have to be within the minute, but it sure is a lot quicker than e-mail or phone communications happen. On Twitter, brands respond within an hour or two, usually. Compare that with how long it takes them to respond to an email! Remember the phrase "at Internet speed?" Now, it's finally happening.
  4. Real People, Real Contact - While you can't always solve problems in 140 characters, you can get the gist of the problem and follow up via phone. That's what happened with AT&T. After a few tweets back and forth, I was talking to @ATTJohnathon and he patiently walked me through solutions, even though I was frustrated to have to go through them. Within a few hours, on my time and my pace, he solved my, somewhat complicated, somewhat random, problem.
How did Twitter improve my communication? I didn't have to get into an automated voice mail system that never let me talk to a human being. I didn't have to wait days for an e-mail response. I had my problem solved in probably the quickest way available.

That's why it's significant. Now, some other cool company may build this functionality into a faster, more intuitive product with better features down the road. But whether that company has the name of Twitter or Blabster or Zoom, Twitter's functionality has changed the way we communicate.
09/02/2009 Twitter: More Like a Frat House and Less Like the Neighborhood Bar?

I have to admit, that while I still love Twitter, it's not as exciting as it was earlier in the year. Maybe it's not as new or shiny as it was; or maybe I'm just using it in a more mature way. Those seem plausible, but they're both wrong.

What's missing these days from Twitter is the vast sense of discovery and unexpected connections between new people. It's there, but in a much reduced form. And I think that Twitter itself is to blame.

Here's what I mean: a year ago through the spring, I could discover great people like @inakiescudero, @iboy and @armandoalves by listening in on conversations they were having with others. I might have discovered them anyway, later, but who knows. The fact is that they were tweeting with someone I knew, I checked them out, and became richer for it.

Then, in the spring, Twitter changed its rules. We couldn't listen into other people's discussions unless we followed EVERYONE in the discussion. I didn't really think much of this until yesterday, when I got a tweet from @awolk responding to a comment I made. Here's what it looked like:

On the left is my @ reply column. @awolk has tweeted an @nrose and me. In my normal stream, that tweet doesn't show up. At all. It turns out that @nrose is a creative director at a digital shop, someone I'd never heard of, but who might be interesting to follow. Without that tweet, chances are I'd never hear about @nrose. So the Twitter changes have started to affect who I'll meet.

It's more like the Frat House. I can hang with the Bros, people I know. Everyone once in a while we'll let a group of newbies, and once in a while we'll have parties and ship in some Tweeties. Somehow the Tweeties (a phrase coined by my former colleague Todd Gallentine) find me and everyone else, even if we don't want them to.  But for the most part the Frat feels like a limited social environment.

The Neighborhood Bar, on the other hand, is a place you go to with friends but is a place you can meet new people. You listen in on conversations, an acquaintance walks in with someone you've never seen before, and your social scene expands. Of course, you can just sit at the bar ignoring everyone. But the point is that the Neighborhood Bar, unlike the Frat House, is where you can choose how social you'll be.

It's too bad Twitter isn't as social as it once was. Making that change didn't keep the spammers and Tweeties away, it just limited everyone else.

I hate it when the Good Old Days were only a couple of months ago. I wish Twitter would change back.
08/11/2009 The End of the Beginning for Twitter?

Robert Scoble had an interesting comment on yesterday's blog. Once you get through his bluster, he seems like a guy dealing with an out of control monster, i.e. his Twitter followers. In trying to do the right thing for everyone, the whole Twitter experience became unworkable.

Maybe it's time to put in some limits to Twitter. On the upper scale, these would only apply to a few, but in doing so, Twitter might be able to make its tool more manageable
  • Set the Free Twitter limit of followers and people you can follow to 5,000 (or 10,000 or 1,000) - Limiting who you're following is easy. Limiting and changing who's following you would be harder. But they're clever guys at Twitter. One of the interesting things that might happen here is that have to refresh followers and follows regularly. This might be a good thing, forcing Twitterers to make new contacts, and listen to new people, continually.
  • Make people pay, for various levels of followers (25K, 50K, 100K) - This might be an acceptable business model for Twitter and would work for those who need big followers (brands or social media superstars). It would hurt spammers and some big swinging Tweets who have big followings but no biz model. Twitter would have to build some type of spam filters if they're going to make people pay, so that they don't run into Scoble-type issues.

Look at the top 100 on Twitterholic.com. They are all (pretty much) celebs or businesses. All of them can afford to pay for their following. There's almost no one on that top list you'd have any type of personal relationship with.

Of course, as soon as you limit who can follow you, it starts feeling more like Facebook, i.e. not a good thing.

It seems like we're starting to see the end of the beginning for Twitter. When it's top social media evangelists can't use it, there's trouble. Of course, I think it's worthwhile to think of this is a small or medium connection place rather than a big one. And I think when you take the auto-follow out of the equation, there's still a question of how many people you can manage (See Armano's 50-50 Rule post).

But something's got to give, when top social media evangelists start complaining about having too many people to deal with. It's kind of sad, actually. This has been a fun year on Twitter, the wild west of online.

08/10/2009 It's Time to Purge the Purgers

The big news last week was that social media superstar Robert Scoble had purged the people he followed from his Twitter account. He went from following 90,000 to none in no time. Scoble had instituted an Auto-Follow for his Twitter crowd, meaning that if you followed him, he would automatically follow you back. Lots of big swinging Tweets, like Guy Kawasaki, do this. The problem for Scoble is that he says he received too much spam. Now that he wasn't following anyone, the spam problem disappeared.

Well good for him. But the problem is that a number of other people followed suit (it wouldn't be social media if they didn't now, would it) and it raises an interesting question about Twitter. 

Why should you really follow someone if they don't follow you back?

The great excitement and promise for Twitter is that it is the best two-way thing out there. We've been talking interactive and one-to-one for almost 15 years now, and Twitter is probably the closest we've come. But it's playing out in two ways:
  • Individuals who you can actually listen to and connect with in real time; and
  • Broadcasters who are using Twitter to blast out their message, seeing it as another outreach medium
The problems start when broadcasters start posing as individuals. Pete Cashmore isn't really on Twitter, Mashable is. And now Robert Scoble is removing himself from Twitter as well, it's a Scobleizer broadcast instead. They're more like CNN and USAToday then they are like Chris Brogan.

The biggest problem I have with this is that it's not authentic. Seth Godin, as usual, is a good model here. He's realized that he can't have relationships with so many people at once, so rather than using the relationship tool Twitter and faking it, he eschews it completely. He's being very honest. However, over the years, every time I've sent Seth an email, no matter how trivial, he's answered it within 24 hours. Talk about authentic! He obviously doesn't need Twitter and will not compromise what he stands for.

I mentioned Chris Brogan before. He has as many followers as Scoble. Right now, he's still following them back. And Chris is great at answering DMs and email. He's been a huge help in the few things I've asked him.

Purge.sm I think we need to #PURGE the broadcasters posing as individuals. The reality is that it hurts them more than it hurts us. If someone unfollows me, big deal, I'm not basing my marketability on the number of Twitter followers I have. But broadcasters do. It's the only measure they have, since they're in a one-way conversation. It's like Nielsen TV ratings for them.

And if they broadcast something really interesting, some of their remaining followers will probably ReTweet it, so we're not really missing anything.

Except a two-way relationship.

So long, @scobleizer, I hardly new you. #PURGE

07/24/2009 Using Twitter for Advertising

With marketers sold on Twitter's impact and business's interest in testing the Twitter waters, it's only been a matter of time before we'd start seeing online advertising campaigns using Twitter. Since Twitter is still working on its own advertising model, marketers have been creating their own variations.

Volvo and Intuit have used Twitter in their banner ads. VW had a good campaign analyzing your Tweets to recommend a car. Some are trying to show those Tweets in the banners themselves, allowing people to create the content themselves (after someone screens it, of course).

Yesterday I stumbled across another variation from the Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince U.K. site. The entire site focuses on getting you to perform some magic on one of your followers' Twitter page, while it sends out a Tweet that you're doing so.


Here's what I found interesting:
  • The site takes some proven technology (page takeovers) and performs them on your personal page.
  • While it taps into Twitter to broadcast the message that you're using the campaign, only one person at a time can actually SEE what you've done.
It's kind of a mishmash between social media and microsite advertising, between broadcast and one-to-one advertising. While I think this is cool, it didn't really spread that quickly online, from what I could see. And that, after all, has to be the goal of a campaign like this.

We're still in the infancy of Twitter advertising. Although, really, the best Twitter advertising happens in the Tweets themselves: reviews, recommendations, rants and shout outs.


06/19/2009 The Revolution Will Be Tweeted

[This post is from a VPR commentary I gave 6-18-09]

A few days ago I found myself in the middle of the Iranian protest against the re-election of President Ahmadinejad. At least virtually. And the experience has left me with great hope for democracy around the globe.

As almost everyone knows by now, the Iranian people had a presidential election. The incumbent Ahmedinejad, bane of the West, had a big lead until his challenger, Mousavi, caught fire and began to look like a sure winner.

On election, night, however, the government declared Ahmedinejad the winner by a big margin. The opposition cried foul and rose up in protest.

Now keep in mind that this is Iran. Protest is risky, if not life threatening.

Iranelection4 But the Iranians did protest and when the government tried to cut off all conventional means of communications, Iranians found alternative ways to tell their story, this time through Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and other social media sites.

The first thing I noticed was a topic trending up on Twitter, the phrase IranElection, which I began to follow. Suddenly, I was transported via social media to the University in Teheran, where defiant yet frightened students were sending live Tweets describing how they were under attack. Iranians posted pictures and shaky cell phone videos showing government agents opening fire on public dbemonstrators and it was hard for me not to duck behind my desk.

I listened in as they warned other Iranians as to danger spots, worried about injured friends, and plotted about getting out of one part of the city and into the other. And as I watched, listened and read, I forwarded their stories to people I knew, to show how brave and determined they were.

Soon, all of this began to have an impact here. People started Tweeting that CNN wasn’t reporting this so CNN pumped up its coverage. Twitter itself canceled a planned maintenance last Monday after getting pressure from Iranian and US Tweeters to not shut off the protesters’ main outlet. When the Iranian government shut off Internet access, people around the world set up new servers for the protesters to communicate through.

It has been inspiring to see the democratically deprived people of Iran challenge the ayatollahs’ stranglehold on information and censorship. And thanks to social media, everyone in the world is watching.

Even though a change in government won’t magically turn Iran into a US friendly nation or cause them to give up their regional aspirations, I still I hope the Iranians succeed - if only for the sake of democracy. 

Because I like to think that social media may be doing for today’s democracy what Tom Paine’s printing presses did for Americans in the 1700s: giving people everywhere the power and freedom to challenge those who abuse power. Because this time, the revolution will be tweeted.

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