Observations

The Death of Twitter

Posted on April 6, 2009. Filed under: Observations, Social Media, twitter, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

People Pyramid

The death of Twitter is a much discussed topic. The April Fool’s posts this year about Google buying Twitter and then some of that being revealed as real potential brought it to the surface again. Originally it was felt by some that Twitter would cease to be an effective communication tool as soon as big brands started using it. That hasn’t happened, brands are using Twitter and for the most part it has had little or no impact on Twitter users in general, at least in a negative way.

What Will Kill Twitter?

So if the arrival of brands didn’t kill Twitter what is the next big threat. Unfortunately that threat has already arrived and woven itself into the very fabric of Twitter, no not the spam-bots, but the MLM’ers. Those people who have got the lastest and greatest get rich quick scheme, all of which is vaporware. They sell courses on how to sell courses, they write e-books on how to write e-books, they sell you a plan that you only have to sell to 10 other people before you will see money just roll in.

Now they have turned their attention to Twitter. There are already people selling Twitter user courses, which in of itself, while a bit of a head-scratcher, is not too awful, but now there are those who are selling Twitter based get rich quick schemes. They vary from schemes that guarantee you 7000 followers in 24 hours to tools that will get you 20,000 followers in a month.

What’s The Harm?

I am all about the freedom to use Social Media in the way that best suits your business model or in fact your personal goals, there have been way too many people who have tried to write the “Social Media Rulebook”. So why are MLM or Internet Marketers as they now prefer to be called (no offense to real Internet Marketers) a bad thing for Twitter and Social Media in general? The main reason is that they are experts at “gaming” the system, they will use every shortcut they can to provide an image of knowledge or influence. That is how their business model works. This past week I have been followed by at least half a dozen Twitter users who have less than 500 updates (which gives you a sense of how long they have been active on Twitter) but have 20k followers and are following a similar number. How can you possibly grow an organic following of over 20k followers in a month? You use tools like Tweetgetter or other services that charge up to $10 a month to provide you with 1000’s of followers.

Where this has an impact is that it skews the ability of both new users of these tools and brands to be able to recognize those with influence and those with just numbers. Unfortunately at this point a lot of people are still associating the two. Tools like Twitter Grader and Twinfluence used to be both fun and provide some indication of at least how popular a user was, now they have, in my opinion, become redundant. A recent look at Twinfluence showed the top users are no longer Barack Obama, Guy Kawasaki, Robert Scoble or any of the other usual suspects, the users in the top ranked places are people who have made major gains in their follower numbers. Now I am not claiming that they have used any of these tools, maybe they are just Twitter addicts who spend hours searching out great Twitter users to follow and following them – but if you think that it probably takes about 1 minute to perform a search by topic, then another minute at least to identify a Twitter user from the list returned by Twitter Search then clicking follow that would be 40,000 minutes – or nearly 28 days of non-stop Twitter activity, no food, sleep or bathroom breaks!

Image by Dan of Future’s Past via Flickr
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When Did Mashable Lose the Plot?

Posted on March 23, 2009. Filed under: blogging, Business, Observations | Tags: , , , , , |

Image representing Mashable as depicted in Cru...

I used to think Mashable.com was a pretty good online publication. Certainly enough to pitch them ideas and actually have a few posts published by them, but of late, I really think that Pete Cashmore and his organization has lost the plot. Mashable used to be “All That’s New on the Web”, now they are titled “The Social Media Guide”. Unfortunately they aren’t either.

The posts they now put out are mostly lists, now I know that blog readers like lists, 10 best this, 7 ways to do that, 18 plugins for this problem. But seriously are there not enough bloggers out there already producing those types of posts. If you have a visitor base of some 1.5m unique visitors per month (according to Compete.com) don’t you think you could try and be a little bit different?

Has Mashable gone the way of its print cousins and become so focussed on Ad revenue that they have decided it is better to turn out the same old stuff that everyone else is doing and play it safe?  One post today just made me laugh, 18 WordPress Plugins for RSS – this is one of the laziest types of posts, and takes about 5 minutes to pull together. Just go to the WordPress Plugins Directory type in the resource you are looking for, and viola you have a list of plugins.

For example here’s how to produce a post called 5 WordPress Plugins for Podcasters:

Type in podcasting, get the following result:

podcast_plugins

Now just rewrite some of this info which comes from the developers and you have a post! No magic to it, no effort either.

Perhaps I am holding them to too high a standard, perhaps I shouldn’t expect anything approaching journalism from what is really “just” a blog. But I do, if Social Media is to progress, those that put themselves out there as “leaders” in the space need to try harder, need to raise the bar, not just produce the same old junk that any hack can pull out in a pinch.

Whilst I agree finding new and interesting Social Media stories is hard work, if you are truly going to be “The Social Media Guide”, then guide don’t follow.

Mashable Image via CrunchBase
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Why Kellogg’s is Right & Cenk Uygur is Wrong

Posted on March 6, 2009. Filed under: Business, Marketing, Observations | Tags: , , , |

Marketing Profs sent out their Marketing Inspirations today with a message from Liberal talk show host and blogger for Huffington Post Cenk Uygur.  In that article he argues that Kellogg’s decision to drop Michael Phelps as a brand spokesperson is a major marketing error.

I have some major issues with this article, Cenk Uygur is a political commentator not a marketing or brand expert, so I am not sure what his qualifications are to talk about branding decisions are. His position is that Kellogg is going to alienate a large portion of its customers and potential customers by deciding to drop Michael Phelps.  He bases this on his claim that 42% of the US population has smoked marijuana. He further claims that even those who have never smoked it see nothing wrong with it.

He of course doesn’t supply a source for these claims, he also fails to point out the difference between those people who may have admitted that at some point they once tried marijuana and those who are currently regular users of the drug. Because Omega & Speedo have decided not to drop Phelps, apparently that is enough reason that Kellogg should. Here are my questions. Do Speedo and Omega perform drug tests on their prospective employees, in their contracts do they have a clause that allows the company to have unannounced random drug tests? Many large employers do, my own company – which is still less than 10 people conducts drug and criminal checks before hiring. So if those companies do the same what message does it send to their employees? Oh we will test you but Michael Phelps is different because he is famous.

I have heard the defence that he “made a mistake” – how do you accidentally smoke marijuana? The mistake he made was getting caught. Cenk Uygur is trying to promote a political agenda and proposes that brands, by taking a stand on a particular issue will alienate potential customers. Did I miss something or did he just become a raging capitalist – profits at any cost?

Will 42% of the buying public in America suddenly decide that they are not going to eat Kellogg products because they dropped Mr Phelps for smoking dope? Will they suddenly see Kellogg as not being “cool”? Uygur is quoted as saying “You are no longer protecting your brand when you are prudish and overly careful,” he says. “You just seem out of touch.”  Out of touch with what precisely? Parents who are buying cereal or the kids who eat them? Is the premise that kids see a role model smoke dope and endorse cereal therefore the cereal is cool, or that adults who smoke dope will get the munchies for Kellogg cereals because of their fellow marijuana user?

Either way, I think it is Uygur who is out of touch. Stick with the political commentary and leaving brand advice to those who know better.

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Snake Oil Certificates

Posted on February 23, 2009. Filed under: Observations, Social Media | Tags: , , , |

This past week I happened across two different people offering Social Media “Certification”.  I was interested to see what these offerings consisted of and what these two people’s level of involvement in the field was.

After doing just the most perfunctory research on both individuals it became very apparent that they were Snake Oil salesmen. One was charging $800 for an online course the other $1495 for a similar online course both staged over several weeks. What amazed me is that neither of their websites cite any customer success stories, or particular personal achievements in Social Media. In fact when I dug a little deeper one of these so called experts had only 2,500 twitter followers, and 150 “friends” on Facebook.

They were of course the author of several e-books on the topic, apparently that made them qualified.  What troubles me more than the fact that they are selling their knowledge, is the fact that they feel qualified to “Certify” others in Social Media.

Disclaimer: Before continuing I feel it is only fair to point out that I too sell Social Media consultancy to organizations and companies as part of the services my company offers. So as I say I am not concerned with someone making a living at Social Media.

What concerns me is that having seen so many people lose their jobs in the Marketing field and so many companies looking for Social Media guidance these Snake Oil salesmen are muddying the waters and taking advantage of people desperate to find something that sets them apart. When going for a job interview, having a certificate that says you are a qualified Social Media practitioner would certainly do that, however, quite probably not in a good way.

If these certificates were being offered by someone in the field who had proven skills then I would probably be at the front of the queue to sign up. In a field that changes all the time you can never believe you know it all. However, these people are too busy to setup “schemes” like this, they are out there doing.

So if you really want to know how to get “qualified” in social media what is your best avenue, where should you spend your money?  My recommendation would be to attend the conferences where the best practioners are giving sessions – SXSWi, SOBCon, Blogword etc. go and meet the people who are the thought leaders in this field. Read what they and others are writing on a daily basis and then practice with your own brand.  Find out what works, and what doesn’t and don’t rely on a piece of paper that someone printed out that says you are now an “expert”.

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Does Twitter Need A Lesson In Being Social?

Posted on February 19, 2009. Filed under: Observations, Social Media, twitter | Tags: , , , , , |

I am sure you have seen the story circulating about Twitter’s mass rejection email that was sent out in an open manner.

I came across this story on a couple of different blogs Koo’s Corner, ValleyWag and a few others. What piqued my interest in the story was less that the HR manager didn’t know the difference between CC & BCC in an email. It wasn’t the fact that she revealed the email addresses of 186 candidates for a Twitter position.

What I found interesting was that the email was identical to one I received from Twitter for a completely different position that I applied for about 4 months ago. Same wording, same phrasing exactly.  This leads me to believe that the email is in fact generated by whatever HR system Twitter has in place.Either that or they are really lazy and keep template emails for rejections in Outlook and then just add addresses to it. But I digress.

What interests me is that the company that is behind one of the biggest Social Media platforms right now, is still employing old school thinking in its hiring.  Oh I am sure they have cool, whacky interview techniques, you only have to read their HR Manager Krissy Bush’s Twitter feed to see odd references to candidates being asked to do push-ups to get a sense of the “cool factor”.

However, it’s examples like this that really show how a company works. It also shows that although they are responsible for a great Social Media platform, it doesn’t actually mean they have any better understanding of Social Media than any other Tech company, which is what Twitter really is.

So if the hottest Social Media platform developers can’t be more creative with how they communicate with applicants to their company is it any wonder that other companies struggle to understand how to utilize Social Media ?

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How To:Get Your Blog in the “A” List

Posted on February 10, 2009. Filed under: blogging, Facebook, Observations, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , |

With Social Media tools being so readily available now it seems that some people are getting very obsessed with ranking tools.

I have written about these several times, Twitter Grader, Twinfluence and Facebook Grader most recently.  I decided to do a little experiment whilst at the same time promoting my blog.

I used the “NetworkedBlogs” application on Facebook to add my friends to my blog network.  Its a very easy tool to use. You simply send an invite to your friend network on Facebook which asks them to join your network. If they do it displays your blog thumbnail on their profile page and adds them to the list of “Fans” for your blog.

It allows you to include a personal message with the invite, which I like to do, emphasizing this is really from me. That it gives the invitee the opportunity to not only see what I am writing but also what I am reading – I currently have 30 or so blogs in my network, so this is a virtual blog bookcase.

One of the things that NetworkedBlogs does in their application is provide a list, by topic of the Top 50 blogs.  My blog appears in the Social Media list.  What I wanted to show with this post is the subjective nature of these types of lists.

Take a look at the screenshot below

Social Media List

Social Media List

You will see that my blog appears immediately above that of Scott Monty, Ford’s Social Media evangelist. WOW, right, my blog is more popular than that of Scott Monty! I have made it, I’m on the “A” list. No more waiting for restaurant reservations or perhaps at least invites to cool parties at SXSWi.

Thankfully, both for me and those who know me, I am a little more grounded than that and a lot more cynical. Of course my blog isnt more popular than Scott’s (btw if you haven’t already started reading it, you really should). What this shows is the small group of blogs that are being measured. I am sure Scott receives thousands of readers a day, my readership is no where near that level.

This is what happens when you take a very small sample of data and extrapolate it to show importance, influence and popularity. Without lying I can state that my blog is now rated as the number 11 blog in Social Media on Facebook. Everyone knows that Facebook has 150 million users ergo I must be popular, influential and important.Don’t get me wrong I am not dissing the NetworkedBlogs application, it has actually brought me several new readers, for which I am always grateful, but in reality I am not in the “A” list, nor anywhere near it. If you would like to join my blog network please do 🙂

So the next time you are impressed by the fact that someone quotes a Social Media “rank” or “Score” dig a little deeper and find out just how that is being measured.

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Social Media Ranking Tools – One Step Beyond?

Posted on January 21, 2009. Filed under: Business, Facebook, Observations, Social Media, twitter | Tags: , , , , , , |

Recently those wacky folks at Hubspot released another of their Grader tools. This one is for Facebook. It joins the others in their stable of Press Release, Website & Twitter.

I like Hubspot, I like some of their tools. I use Press Release & Website Grader as they provide a pretty decent overview of a press release or website and allow you to focus in on the areas that can stand some improvement.  They are great tools for small companies that can’t afford to call in an expensive consultant.

When Twitter Grader came out, I wrote a post about it and did a comparison between it and Twinfluence for Mashable. At the time, I pointed out that this smacked somewhat of a high school popularity contest but that there was some use for it in terms of an approach that can be learned for engaging in Twitter.  When I used Twitter grader there were currently 5000 Twitter users being graded, so whatever grade you achieved it had to be measure against that fact. Right now it measures against just over 1m Twitter users. That seems a reasonable sample, actually its less than 25% of all Twitter users, so even now its real value is limited.

Enter Facebook Grader – this, in my opinion is one tool too many.  Firstly it is even more skewed as it is an early tool and currently is only measuring against just under 7000 Facebook users – that is 0.04% of the Facebook community. So basically the number it produces is, to all intents & purposes meaningless. Now I agree that for some these tools can be seen as “fun”. Sure why not. However, there are those who will take these tools seriously and use them to convince others that they are some kind of Social Media whizz just because they scored XX on one of these sites. Worse still, companies looking for some measure of success might actually start using this as a metric against which to assess their Social Media campaign.

What I do like about Facebook grader, Yes there are somethings, is the fact it analyzes your profile and points out where you have gaps in it.  Perhaps you missed the part on your profile for “Hometown” or “About Me”.  These are good things to point out and are more in line with Press Release Grader & Website Grader. But please take away the numerical score or at least make it relevant to something else.  More to the point, please take away the Facebook “Elite”.  Social Media is not about “Elitism” it is about community. Perpetuating the myth of popularity equaling Elitism is serving no good at all.

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5 Ways Twitter can Monetize without Ads

Posted on January 19, 2009. Filed under: Business, Observations, twitter | Tags: , , , |

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Recently there has been some discussion about Twitter monetization. Its the same conversation that has been going on for the past few months as people become more aware of Twitter. Unfortunately all the conversations seem to come back to the same suggestions, how Ads can be worked into the Twitter stream without annoying Twitter users.

What I would like to see is some new thinking, instead of simply assuming that if its online then it has to be ad based how about coming up with something better.

Here I propose 5 elements that Twitter could incorporate into a Twitter Premium Service that would allow for some monetization without having to resort to Ads at all.

  1. Bio Search. Right now this is extremely hard to achieve and for the most part is fairly hit or miss. It would be a great idea to have a keyword search for the bio section of a Twitter users page. I would definitely see both power users and commercial Twitter users paying a premium to get at this data.
  2. Extended Tweets – yes I know there are 3rd party services that will allow you to do this for free but if you could do it from within Twitter or better yet within your Twitter application through the use of an API Key which would allow TweetDeck or whatever tool you use to recognize that you are allowed to extend your tweets to says 300 characters I think people would pay for that.
  3. Priority Bandwidth – one of the biggest criticisms of Twitter since it first went live has been its flaky servers. So first they would need to fix that, but moving certain accounts to more reliable servers with greater bandwidth would certainly be a premium service that some would be willing to pay for, especially those that micro-blog from events, such as CES etc.
  4. The ability to DM non-followers. Now I know the TwitterVerse, will, for the most part hate me for even suggesting such a thing – after all it opens up Twitter to Spammers even more – but you get spam anyway. Being able to target Twitter users as a result of good search and send them directed messaging is a Marketers delight, and I am sure they would pay for it.
  5. Make the Sign Up Info available to developers of third party applications via the API. Twitter asks for very little information about you when you sign up, and what it does request it keeps to itself.  Making this type of information available to certain developers would allow those tools to become more useful and powerful and allow for better integration between Twitter and other Social Media platforms. For example you cannot currently export your Twitter followers and then import them into say Facebook to see who is also on there.

Well those are my 5 ways Twitter could monetize its Premium service, what are yours?
Image via CrunchBase

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Intro To Twitter

Posted on January 12, 2009. Filed under: Observations, twitter | Tags: , , |

I am presenting at a conference at the end of January and as part of the promotional work for that I took part in a webinar hosted by Brad Kleinman of Work Smart who are the organizers of the conference that I am speaking at.

I’ve done a far number of webinars before but always to a known audience.  This was my first time presenting to a group of people without knowing if anyone would actually show up!

Fortunately for me Brad, David and the team at Work Smart had done a great job of promoting the webinar and we had a good group of people.  What really amazed me was the answer to the first poll question that I asked – how many of you have a Twitter account – 65% of the people who were attending the Webinar did not have a Twitter account.

Being such a Twitter addict and being in communication with others who use Twitter a lot I sometimes lose sight of the fact that the majority of people do not know about Twitter, what it is, or how to use it.

Overall I found the experience to be great. The audience input was very helpful, and the questions were as instructive for me as I hope they were for those attending. By that I mean, I learned a lot about the perceptions, potential uses and views of Twitter that the audience had.

Here is the webinar.

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Look Who They Got Their Hands On Now

Posted on January 9, 2009. Filed under: blogging, Observations, Social Media, twitter | Tags: , , , |

Twitter, like other new things, has both its fans and its critics. I happen to be a fan. Some people take longer to be convinced of the effectiveness of a tool. I want to share an experience I had recently that would not have happened if it were not for Twitter.

I use Twitter for a variety of things:

  • to connect with new people
  • to reconnect with old friends
  • to share things I find interesting
  • to chat
  • as a newsfeed
  • as a tool to promote my blog
  • as a tool to promote my business

I am sure that these cover most of the usual reasons people use Twitter. But where is the ROI I hear the business users scream (some of them are my clients!). Well because of my use of Twitter a fellow Twitter user @gillianK contacted me to see if I would be willing to help her & her company Weber Shandwick communicate the power of Social Media to a potential new client (you might be able to figure out who from the title of this post).

Now as much as I have a high opinion of myself and my abilities, its unlikely that a company the size of Weber Shandwick would have immediately sought me out to help them in a pre-Twitter world. But because of that approach I ended up in a video with some really cool people, who also happen to be pretty influential in Social Media – Melanie Notkin of www.SavvyAuntie.com (@savvyauntie), Audrey McClelland of www.momgenerations.com (@AudreyMcClellan), Peter Shankman founder of http://www.helpareporter.com/ (@skydiver) and Howard Greenstein of Harbrooke Group www.harbrooke.com (@howardgr). We were asked a set of questions about Social Media and to video our responses.

You can tell two things from my appearance in the video – 1. I need to invest in a better quality webcam, 2. Video is not my preferred medium.  For now I can’t share the actual video. The project has definitely got me thinking about adding video to this blog and how it might add another dimension to some of the things I am doing.

But overall I was very pleased with the outcome, I loved taking part and I actually learned from the experience. Now tell me Twitter isn’t worthwhile.

How has Twitter benefited you?

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