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Posts tagged ‘Twitter’

Brief thought exercise: does it really matter how many Twitter followers you have?

I used to work with this kid back in the day; almost three or four times a workday, he would tell someone (or speak to himself out loud, which I would classify as awkward but I do too) how many Twitter followers he had. This is awkward. This was in the early days of Twitter, where people had a vague sense that it was important — it had something to do with Obama winning in 2008, right? — but weren’t really sure what they should be saying there.

Now, I’ll admit: when I started this blog I had a little less than 200 followers. I’ve been doing it for about nine months now, and I have about 730 followers or so. Content is king! I digress. Point is: I do look some days and say, “Whoa, I have three less than yesterday… that’s cold,” or “Nice, six more! I’m on fire!” But then I started thinking about it a little more: isn’t it all kind of meaningless? I mean, especially on Twitter, who cares if you have 20 followers or 20,000 followers? Tons of “viral” things originate with people who had 50 followers and it just keeps getting re-tweeted and shared on other platforms.

Do followers really matter, or is it just a complicated exercise in vanity?

Different approaches to this question all over, but most argue that the actual number in the count doesn’t really matter; there’s context to it around the clout (or “Klout”) of who follows you as well. Here’s one of the better, more research-laden ways to look at it:

But does your number of followers actually matter? A new paper out of the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems in Germany finds that Twitter follower counts are a poor indicator of influence. Interestingly, the research, which was led by a post-doctoral researcher at the institute by the name of Meeyoung Cha, found two quite different forms of engagement on Twitter. First, retweet influence — when a user’s content is likely to be passed along — and second, mention influence — in which users engage one another in conversation by mentioning each other by Twitter handle.

Cha’s study, for which Twitter administrators contributed data, looked at the relative influence of the 6 million active Twitter users it counted within 52 million active accounts circa August 2009. First of all, retweets are about content; 92 percent of them contained a URL. Influential content aggregators include technology-specific sites like Techmeme, but the study also indicated that sources like the New York Times have widespread influence, and are retweeted on a variety of topics. However, it’s possible for relatively unknown users to gain influence and rise from obscurity by focusing on a single topic.

Of course, having “real” followers does matter — as opposed to spam accounts. That all makes it stunning that stuff like this exists:

Finally — or not finally in the grand scheme of the issue, but finally in terms of this little post — there’s the issue of “who follows you,” with an emphasis on who. This is basically how Klout works. If you have 10K followers and they’re all spam accounts save 2 people, that’s ludicrous — and talking up the 10K means nothing. But if you have 700 followers and there’s 240 thought leaders on there, that’s something. It’s not as impressive to say “700” as opposed to saying “10,000” — and half the battle with metrics is knowing what to say that sounds impressive to the right people — but 240 people who themselves have clout in the space you’re trying to cultivate is a great jumping-off point for you in terms of whatever message/end game you’re putting forth.

I just did a Klout score, by the way — had never done one before writing this post — and it looks like I’m slightly above average (which is how I’d define myself in the real world! Just kidding; I’m trying to learn to love myself) with a score of 46.

Point is: bigger is always going to be seen as better, especially in American business — it’s the same way we think about sex sometimes, or think about page views as opposed to the website in question doing what it should do (i.e. conversions) — so there’s an uphill battle around discouraging people from discussing / analyzing their Twitter followers. In reality, though, it doesn’t matter. The who might matter — not sheer numbers, but quality of contact — but what really matters is the content and ideas you put forth.

Hey, I’m still working on that part.


76 percent of business interactions on social media are “neutral?” That’s boring.

Big organizations may have ruined social in some ways. They rushed in at one point trying to be cool, and now your NewsFeed and Timeline and whatever else can be cluttered with stuff about Fritos. This is a potential tipping point, no doubt. I read an article on a plane a few weeks ago — can’t remember the publication, alas — about how some cracker company was doing selfies with their cracker in Times Square, and the best selfie got a personalized selfie from Kelly Osborne. This is a good example of a marketing meeting that hit the f’n wall at about 100 mph, but in which someone said “We need to be cool. Something with selfies, and something with Kelly Osborne!” That person probably makes 2x what I ever will. Meetings rule, as we know.

Was just perusing the Buffer blog and I found this, via a Mention study: when you analyze over 1 billion interactions with businesses on social media, 18 percent are positive, 6 percent are negative, and 76 percent are neutral/transactional (so basic questions about the brand, etc.) That means that 3/4 of all interactions on social with a company tend to be neutral. That’s fairly boring, especially if you add in the fact that 80 percent of individual social users are “me-formers” instead of “informers.”

There’s probably 2-3 main lessons here, as I would see it.

1. If 76 percent of brand interaction on social falls in that neutral category, then your social strategy needs to rest less on engagement / lead generation and more on moving customer service over to social. If Twitter is a customer service channel and you’re dealing with people’s tweets pretty quickly, you’re converting those people into “brand ambassadors,” which is a form of lead generation. Now… the issue here is that only a small percentage of people are actually on Twitter, and probably none from certain generations that still may have questions or be the leading purchasing force in a household. So you can’t abandon traditional forms of customer service, no … but if 3/4 of branded social is neutral, you need to be doing customer service in that space.

2. Ultimately social media needs to be tied to revenue, yes — I had a job interview with NASCAR this spring where a high-up guy told me, “I don’t care what we do on social, so long as we make money” – but this 76 percent figure points to looking at social ROI differently. The goal shouldn’t necessarily be “lead gen” — the funnel is totally shot from how most people are taught it, anyway — but rather, conversion to ambassador status (basically make a potential customer/client feel like you dealt with their question/issue and make them think, “Wow, that’s a good company”). That conversion could lead to e-mail capture, and then you start to get towards lead gen. But sometimes it feels like companies enter the space and assume, “Well, leads will fall into our lap. There’s millions on social!” There are actually several intermediate steps in the process. It’s not conventional 1970s sales and marketing anymore.

By the way, they call this whole 76 percent concept “The Pac-Man Effect” because of what the graph looks like:

Pac Man Effect 620

Penalty kicks are the conclusive proof that Twitter is just a big digital sports bar

I’d like to say this is a sign that I’m older and more mature, but it’s probably not: I haven’t watched a lot of this World Cup in bars. Most of it has been in my living room, with the round of 16 and eight mostly happening as I pack up my apartment. Still, I’ve watched a ton of memorable sporting events in bars — probably too many to count — and I generally know how the flow of a bar goes during dramatic ebbs and flows in a given contest. I watched a bunch of 2002, 2006 and 2010 World Cup games at bars, too, so I’m familiar with the ethos and atmosphere of a pub during a penalty kick situation: silence, perhaps punctuated by a little context (“He’s gotta make this to keep them even!”), and then … reaction. Good, bad, ugly, etc. Something will happen. People will scream, jump, cry, gasp, etc.

You’ll often hear the argument that Twitter is, essentially, a large digital sports bar with people lobbing opinions out into the ether (as happens in a lot of bars). Well, now there’s conclusive proof of this.

Look at the chart below. It’s from Twitter data — they’ve ton an excellent job with data analysis during this World Cup, although I have no idea if that means they’re a more valuable brand now — and looks at the Brazil-Chile shootout (one of two so far, I believe, with the other being Netherlands-Costa Rica). The popped out portion is David Luiz (Brazil’s first shooter). Look at what happens:

Twitter and Penalty Kicks

See that jump? That’s the same situation as in an actual bar. Silence — > shot taken — > massive reaction. As Twitter’s blog puts it:

On Twitter, you can see the world gradually draw its attention more to the screen as the shot nears. When the referee blows the whistle, Twitter goes nearly silent as all eyes are glued on the crucial kick. The shot is taken, and Twitter — as with fans worldwide — erupts into applause, disappointment and elation.

On surface, this isn’t that interesting. Essentially what we’re discussing is the idea that something dramatic happens on a TV, so people turn away from one screen (phone/tablet/laptop) and towards another (television). Once the thing has happened, people go back to the screen where they can provide their pithy two cents on everything. That’s the modern world, right? You see that happen with the World Cup, but also with Scandal. But in the case of Twitter and the World Cup, it’s a bit more interesting because people have been making this “… Twitter is a sports bar …” reference for years, and, well, here’s some evidence that in form and function, it really is.

Brief thought exercise: where would the O.J. Simpson white Ford Bronco chase have ranked as a Twitter event?

Think about this: if 20 years ago tomorrow was, instead, tomorrow — the Internet might break in half. You’d be in the middle of the World Cup — already poised to be the most-tweeted event in history — and you’d be coming off a U.S. game — meaning one of the more me-former nations on the planet would be tweeting up a storm — and then, BAM, one of the most popular NFL players of the modern era maybe kills his ex-wife and goes on a low-speed Bronco Chase throughout Los Angeles. The O.J. Simpson vs. Rockets/Knicks Game 5 paradigm is almost always brought up in the “What if Twitter existed then…?” discussions, along with events like the Moon Landing, the JFK Assassination, other World Cups, John Lennon being murdered, the Beatles on Sullivan (I should have put those last two in reverse order), etc.

Globally, I don’t know what the interest level in the white Ford Bronco chase would have been in a Twitter era. High because a lot of others would be discussing it, sure … but I’m not entirely sure of O.J.’s global resonance. Purportedly 100 million people world-wide watched the verdict in the O.J. trial; compare that to 3.2 billion people who purportedly watched at least some of the 2010 World Cup. One figure is half the entire world’s population; the other figure is 33 percent of just America.

There are different metrics for determining the “most-tweeted events in history,” and different viewpoints on it — see here and here — but one thing is for certain: they tend to involve politics (such as Obama’s re-election or India going to the polls), sports (especially soccer, i.e. Spain winning Euro 2012), and, well, Beyonce. This post goes a little more into metrics like “tweets per minute” and how everything is contextually measured. One important take-away is this: of the 20 major events featured in that official Twitter post, 18 are sports/entertainment-related, and two are politics-related (they were Presidential debates). Since many believe that O.J. Simpson’s drama actually ushered in the era of reality television / the blurred lines of sports and pop culture, you’d have to think it’d be a fairly well-discussed event on social media/Twitter (the company would be loving all these tweets right now, because their model may be getting a little stagnant).

I’d say top-10 global Twitter event of all-time (which says a lot about the world) if it happened tomorrow but everything else was contextually the same — i.e. distance between the actual murder, distance between 1994 and his playing career, NBA Finals still on, World Cup on, etc.

Small Business Marketing Success Stories: Twitter

Let’s start here: Twitter may be approaching a tipping point, although it could be years away. It has about 1/8 the active users of Facebook, and you can make an argument that the only people who should really be on Twitter are journalists and thought leaders in different industries. I like Twitter a lot, but even the notion of the “share” / “retweet” — which are core tenets of the digital democracy idea — tend to lead to a lot of clutter. If you find an article you like on, let’s say, The Atlantic – and it’s in your field/interest area/what have you, and you share it, well … let’s say when you clicked “Share” the number on the share box was 282 or something. That means you’re the 283rd person/bot to put that link onto Twitter. Since people’s follower lists tend to cluster around interests, that means someone might have seen that link 15-20 times. Good for the author and good for The Atlantic, but … if people start getting bored of that kind of Twitter context, possibly bad for Twitter.  That’s all a long way of saying: good to great for right now, but the future is, well… it’s a bit questionable.

Still, you can and should market there. For example, consider:

Twitter isn’t just for big companies or spray-and-pray marketing. Any business can find a place on the platform—the key is conversation. Pay attention to your customers and respond to their questions, compliments and concerns. Keep their attention with fun facts, real-time information and local flavor.

Yep. That’s the crux of the platform. In terms of businesses offering customer service via Twitter, some old-school types seem scared of this. They shouldn’t be. JetBlue does it fairly well, and get this: they’re winning customer satisfaction surveys. You think that doesn’t affect the bottom line? It does, for sure. I said something about this — using Twitter as a customer service tool — in an interview with Anheuser Busch last year and they looked at me like I had just spayed their pet in front of them in the cramped interview room. I still think it’s a good tool, whether you’re a big business or a small one.

Same vein:

Best Buy’s Twelpforce has answered 20,000 customer questions since July, and is featuring Twelpforce in company TV ads.

Here’s another example that makes a good point in the process:

Another Facebook fan is Alison Howell, the founder and managing director of the 10-year-old travel company Foottrails who came to social media relatively late. She made the decision to focus on Facebook and Twitter because of limited resources and has used both networks since 2012. “Social media does take time,” says Howell, who takes on most of the responsibilities for social media herself. “I think it is best to focus on just a few networks and regularly update those.”

Yep. That’s a big one. This stuff takes time and you don’t always see the dollars flow in immediately after you send out a tweet. I write on this blog like four times a day sometimes and some days, I’ll get 200 visitors total. It sucks, and you feel like “Whoa, I put in effort and got nothing.” Wrong. Effort takes time. So does social media. Especially Twitter, because over there it’s less algorithm and more when-you-log-on-and-what-you-see-then (unless you promote tweets). In the same vein, when you choose a back-end for your website, choose something like WordPress or Drupal that anyone can come in and learn pretty easily. Otherwise if it’s too nuanced, you have basically one person running it — means he/she can’t leave – and it’s a time suck. Online marketing should be integrated within the overall day-to-day of the business, not a time suck around it. That’s when people start to get frustrated.

Be “strategic” — a word often misused in business circles — around the follow and unfollow, as detailed here:

Listen. We all dream of having millions of followers or thousands of adoring fans. Problem is, focusing on numbers – especially on Twitter – is the equivalent of simply banging on a pot with a metal spoon; you’ll be generating a lot of noise. Focus on growing your Twitter following organically and targeted. The best way to achieve this is to select one of your target markets and spend some time following accounts that fall within this area. Use the search functionality right on Twitter or visit listing resources such as Listorious. Follow up to 50 accounts. Approximately 48 hours later, go to an service such as JustUnfollow and stop following up to 50 accounts that did not reciprocate. The next day, repeat this process. Keep doing this with specific target markets or accounts you wish to follow – those that are most relevant and beneficial.

And even though it can seem “un-professional,” don’t fear being casual in the Twitter space:

The most effective Twitter accounts (aside from celebrities) are those managed by folks not afraid to take chances and get creative. Here are some great examples: CoffeeGroundzKogi BBQ and Maine’s very own BeadinPath. Add some flair and personality to your tweets. As a small business, you want to be approachable and getting creative and lighthearted can help you achieve that goal.

Remember also: there are 2.1 billion Twitter searches every 24 hours (give or take), so focus on how you word things. What would people be looking for and what would they type into the Twitter search bar if they were using Twitter for information? (Also remember: for those who are good with Twitter, they realize it’s a much better source of real-time information than Google might be; this is a problem area for Google that they’ve tried to fix and not had a ton of success with, aside from the Google cards telling you about your day). Focus on the writing of a tweet, even in a small space.

Here’s a success story straight from Twitter’s own PR/marketing campaigns:

Roger Slack, the GM and Promoter of @EldoraSpeedway, uses Twitter as a central part of the historic track’s marketing and promotion strategy, bringing fans closer to the world of racing by tweeting behind-the-scenes access to upcoming races, post-race highlights and even real-time updates on race days.

For the charity event, @EldoraSpeedway used Promoted Tweets to target racing enthusiasts not only in Ohio, but also across other key U.S. markets known to generate strong TV ratings and / or ticket sales.

And here’s one from Rock/Creek:

Rock/Creek sells upmarket outdoor gear both online and in five brick and mortar stores. The company was planning a sale for Black Friday but knew that they would be competing with much larger retail outfits in the weeks leading up to the annual shopping extravaganza. Their solution was to get out in front of their competitors by advertising their sales early and creating a sense of urgency with a countdown. To do this, Rock/Creek relied on Twitter to get the word out to likely followers. (In this case, people who were interested in kayaking, camping, rock climbing, etc.) The result was a 172% increase in followers and the company’s best single shopping day of 2012. Not bad for a few well-timed 140 character messages!

Putting it to Work for You:

Create a sense of urgency: Tweets are immediate and have the potential to make followers and potential followers feel that they must act or run the risk of missing out. Consider running a countdown, reminding followers that there are only 10 sets of tickets left, or telling them how many other people have already taken advantage of your amazing deal. This is a surefire strategy that will make followers take notice — nobody likes being left in the dust, even if it is virtual dust.

There’s definitely an aspect of marketing in the moment here, for sure. The key is to (a) have a plan and (b) transparently communicate — that means in terms of writing style, responding to customers, and offering them something they want (also, please only promote the most relevant stuff, otherwise you’re burning a hole in your pocket).

Twitter also has an entire guide to this stuff — part of a bigger campaign by them and Facebook and other platforms to court small businesses — that you can check out.

Bottom line: You can do it; just remember it’s a semi-organic way to have a conversation and treat it like that. 

Jack Dorsey (from Twitter, Square) sent this e-mail in 2012 about authority and merit. People should take it as corporate gospel.

You may have seen this already — if not, here’s what happened. Jack Dorsey, who co-founded Twitter and is now running things at Square (that little thing on top of iPads that you can swipe your credit card through, for the uninitiated), sent an e-mail to his team at Square back in 2012. He posted it online yesterday. The full message is at that link, but here’s the essence of it:

I’ve noticed a funny thing in the company. There’s been a high occurrence of folks using names, mine for instance, to push through an idea. “Jack really wants this to happen, Jack thinks this is an amazing idea, Jack said, etc.” This is obviously counter to the meritocracy/marketplace of ideas we want to build. Using someone else’s name to sell an idea does two things:

  1. It diminishes your authority.
  2. It diminishes the idea’s merit.

Simply: if you have to use someone else’s name or authority to get a point across, there is little merit to the point (you might not believe it yourself). If you believe in something to be correct, focus on showing your work to prove it. Authority derives naturally from merit, not the other way around.

There is really no way to explain how accurate this idea is. Look, hierarchy is tremendously important in several key respects — it gives people a sense or order and security (i.e. “I have to impress/work with these people, and the buck stops with those people”). That’s comforting, especially in tighter economic times with restricted margins at most organizations. But people often confuse hierarchy as a structural comfort with hierarchy as a justification for projects; those are totally different things. The people at the top should be setting direction, yes, but they should be operating at a “broader goals” level. If you set five broader goals, there are an infinite amount of ways to get from where you’re at to those five outcomes. Working at a job is a lot like Google Maps sometimes: if you want to drive from Chicago to Indianapolis, there’s a main way (the one most people would do and understand), and then there’s about six other ways you could do. In the end, people in all seven cars get to Indianapolis (admittedly at different times), so the goal is reached. That’s probably a bit of a lazy analogy, but the idea is similar to what Dorsey is saying: never use “Well, Mr. Big Shot XYZ wants it done this way, so …” (** trails off, end of conversation **) In that moment, your authority and the context of the idea have both taken a huge hit. You’re a foot soldier and you don’t innovate, you execute. Maybe that’s where you want to be, but … it probably isn’t beneficial for your career.

Others reflected on Dorsey’s e-mail, including here and here, and lest you think Dorsey’s advice is only limited to straight-up management tips, there’s also this from this week:

Seriously, though — authority comes from merit; merit doesn’t come simply from authority. If more people understood this, we might not have this problem. 


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