Tagged: twitter

The Social Media Enabled Quest for the Isunda Gray Whale: in which twitter sends me out on a mid-century modern run in a snowstorm

The elusive EkenasetDespite what you may have heard, I do not spend all of my time following IKEA’s every move and hacking their furniture into cat habitats. But I do enjoy good design at prices that are actually within my reach, so I was bummed to have missed the limited-edition re-release of IKEA’s Ekenäset chair. By the time I clued in to the sleek wood and slubby linen-blend cover, it was still on the website but out of stock at every location I checked. And I checked every location in the US.

So I had nothing to lose trying to get the inside track on social media. I didn’t expect anything but I tweeted anyway.

asking for a friend

I’ll spare you the additional tweets and DMs, but eventually I got the tweet I was looking for, my twitter buddy at the store spied some Ekenäsets in the “as-is” section. The race was on. The goods were on the showroom floor, I was in a race against anybody who might be wandering by with an eye for some mid-century revival seating at 30% off. Having already studied the assembly instructions online, I packed up my cordless drill with allen key bit and a couple of wrenches – as-is items is usually assembled and I would have to disassemble the chairs to get them into my car – and headed out.

Into yet another Boston-area snowstorm. At rush hour. On 93 South. A horrible 90 minutes later, dizzy, dehydrated, shaking with road rage, I staggered into the store, not even pausing for fortifying meatballs, and made a beeline for the as-is section.

Thar she blows!

There they were, two Ekenäset chairs, just sitting there, one up on a little platform right at the entrance to the as-is section. I sat in one, then the other. They seemed sound, clean, unblemished, not covered in pet hair. I put one on my cart and turned the other over to double-check my plan of disassembly. A woman nearby said, “you know there are some in those boxes over there, too, right?”

In the boxes? As in new? NIB and NWT? Could it be? I checked the boxes. I matched the product numbers. I asked a passing associate. Yes, there were four more Ekenäset chairs. They were all 30% off. They were still packed in their boxes, nothing as-is about them but the price. What crazy Swedish capitalism makes things cheaper when they get scarce? I could buy the lot of them and flip them on craigslist for full price if not more!

I backed away from that madness and heaved two boxes onto my cart. On the way out of the store I dropped a tweet of thanks to my inside informant and noted that four chairs remained, two still in their boxes. I hope they’ve gone to good homes.

Social media mystery: the case of the 5000 follower intern

So we were hiring an intern.  Hiring might be a strong word since we’re not planning to pay this intern, but I digress.  So I’m reviewing resumes and sometimes if somebody looks promising, I check out his or her Twitter account.  It is at least in part a social media internship, after all.  So one candidate comes to the top of the pile and she has over 5,000 followers on Twitter, no small feat.  Or so I thought.

5,000 followers is neither here nor there by itself, but this person was following only 30 people and had under 100 tweets in just a few months on Twitter.  Reading the tweets, I was not super impressed: almost all were links to various marketing and social media articles, no added commentary, no @ replies, no real value add from information or entertainment.  How do you get 5,000 followers with 100 mediocre tweets in a few months?  I was pretty sure there was only one possible answer: cheating.

A phone screen confirmed, the intern candidate had paid some shadowy service to deliver followers.  It was, she said, an experiment to see if having more followers would make it any easier to get noticed or get her message out on Twitter. Purists – and even semi-purists – can be horrified all they like, but here’s the thing: it works.  5,000 followers and 100 tweets over a few months gives you a higher Twitter Grader score than mine with about 1,000 followers and 5,000 tweets over more than four years. Maybe that says more about Tweet Grader than it does about buying followers.

So if you’re still in the habit of judging people by the quantity of their following, or using follower quantity as the raw materials of social media scientific inquiry, or to create dubious metrics like TweetGrades, beware, not everything is as it seems.

And the intern?  No decision yet, but I give her points for scientific method.  If she’d done a double-blind study, I’d be willing to double her salary.

The state of the twitter economy

I’m not sure what’s more narcissistic: binging oneself, checking your follower status, or reading your own blog’s back catalog.  That’s a topic for another post, but while committing a minor sin of onnetism I discovered a post from last November that bears revisiting some six seven months later.

After attending a meeting of Boston Media Makers, I set out to estimate the market value of my twitter stream.  You can read the gory details here, but the upshot is that the Magpie service seemed to value my twitterish at about $15 CPM. I wonder if that figure has gone up or down, and why.

Here’s the formula: I used magpie to get an estimate of what they’d pay me, then using followcost and some guesstimation, I figured out what my audience was, and derived the CPM.  Back in November, Magpie offered me 69 Euros a month, and I was tweeting about 5 times per day to 252 followers.  Interestingly, today Magpie quoted me only EU 23.49, but I now have 632 followers and tweet about 3 times a day.  These figures suggest a CPM of about $3.75, quite a drop.  What’s changed?

Magpie's estimate Tweet frequency via Followcost

Well, I am tweeting less – to the relief of many – and that might make me less attractive to advertisers.  But I have more than double the followers (so my total theoretical impressions are up), and my twitter grade is up and my percentile rank is up, too.  (In November I was #10,546 out of 255,406 for the 4th percentile, and now I’m #44,613 of 2,276,191 which is the 2nd percentile)  So why is my Magipe CPM a quarter of what it was half a year ago?

Twitter grader stats

Well, gentle readers, as  you may have noticed, I didn’t really buy the ad valuation last time out (my estimate was a lot closer to diddly) so the fact that it’s gone down should please me.  But here’s the thing – it’s still too high by a huge factor.  Back when I had 250 twitter followers, I could tweet a link and around 20 people would click on it.  Pretty sweet.  Today, with over 600 followers, I can tweet a link and about 20 people click on it.  Based on grader’s estimates, the twitterverse is about 10x larger in terms of number of users now, but the results that I get – and by extension, what I figure an advertiser would get – in terms of clicks is pretty much the same.

I suspect that this bottoming out of the Twitter ad economy (which, by the way comes from a whopping sample size of one) is partly a coming around to reality and deflation of hype, and partly a change in the way people use Twitter. Follower and following numbers are up, and use of applications such at Tweetdeck to manage these larger streams is also way up.  These applications let users group and manage their Twitter friends, and thereby reduce the number of tweets that are actualy read.  This, and the fact that the applications remove from view the actual Twitter UI, suggests to me that the prospects of anybody making money with Twitter advertising – including Twitter – are dwindling.

DUCKIE SAY RELAX

I’ve done it over 2,000 times., and I don’t think that’s immoderate for a man of my age.  I’ve done it on a boat but I’ve never done it with a goat. Sure, when you’ve done it as many times as I have, it may seem almost routine, but I’ve noticed that some people are having some anxiety about their First Time, so here’s my advice for  your first twitter experience:

Relax. Just do it.

Seriously.  If you’re sitting on the twitter sidelines trying to figure out what it’s about or how your company can use it, you’re missing the point.  Just get on there and say something.  It’s social media, after all. Follow some people, @ them a bit, get your feet wet.  No ideas but in things! I promise you’ll be able to figure it out after a while.  (Here’s a hint: ask for help on Twitter, tweeple love to help)

Some people say that Twitter is the most important thing since sliced bread. I doubt it. But if they’re right, why are you wasting time worrying about it when you could be living it?  And if it’s not so important, what have you got to lose?

So if you’re still fretting (yes, I’m still talking to you, G*****, and you too, L*****), here’s a handy tip: you can erase your embarrassing tweets. Permanently and forever. Just click the trashcan next to the goof – see it on the right?

The first time doesn't have to hurt

The last thing people need these days is something else to worry about.  I suppose that might be an argument for ignoring twitter entirely, but if you can’t do that, I urge you to just jump in.  There will be plenty of time down the road to laugh at ourselves for being so foolish or faddish.

Are avatars authentic or effective?

I was engaging in some micronarcissism (that means looking at my Twitter page) the other day when I chanced to notice that most of the icons – or avatars if you prefer – were faces, most of those photographic.

The old New Yorker cartoon said, “on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” (the cartoon showed an actual canine using a computer) yet here are some people using (I assume) their real faces for their online presence.

Before pondering the implications of that, a brief geektour of the numbers:

I classified twitter pictures into four types:

  1. Faces (photographic) – to the best of my ability to tell, photographs of one person’s face
  2. Faces (illustration) – faces but not photographic, includes illustration and overtly manipulated photos such as “obamifications” (which should be called “Faireifications” or perhaps “Obamanations”)
  3. Corporate or personal logos
  4. Other (body parts other than faces, bucolic scenes, pictures of animals, etc.)

Some Twitter avatarsOf the 36 icons pictured in my little “Following” bloc,

Faces/photo: 28 (78%)
Faces/illustration: 1 (3%)
Logo: 4 (11%)
Other: 3 (8%)

Of the top 50 Twitter Elite in the USA (via Grader)

Faces/photo: 39 (78%)
Faces/illustration: 4 (8%)
Logo: 4 (8%)
Other: 3 (6%)

The results are pretty consistent these samples.  Faces are in. Photorealistic ones, especially. I’m not sure if that has changed over time or if it’s always been the case.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but why?  I’m thinking that there’s a general movement in social media for authenticity and transparency, that you should say who you are and be real.  There’s a lot of software in our brains devoted to recognizing and understanding faces, and we seem to like to use it.  Faces humanize online experiences.

But let me take the contrary position for a moment.  Shouldn’t your online avatar or chat icon stand for you in a communication and marketing sense?  Isn’t it a small ad banner that you can use creatively?  And shouldn’t you at least attempt to stand out in the crowd or cloud?

On the one hand, if I don’t already know who you are, seeing that you’re a middle-aged white guy with unfortunate facial hair doesn’t add much to my online consumption of your updates.  On the other hand, once I start reading those things, seeing that photo might add depth or credibility to your online presence, and then I even stand a chance of recognizing you in person.

Here’s a post (that I found via a tweet from a logo avatar) about adding your photo to LinkedIn, which seems a lot more straightforward.  On LinkedIn, like Facebook, you’re definitely supposed to be you.  On Twitter or blogs, you could be a character, a brand, a team, all sorts of things.

What the duck?As a guy who uses a duck (you can sometimes still find my old icon, a rasterbated photo) for online imagery, I guess I could be accused of hiding.  But that icon serves pretty well:  it’s easy to recognize,  related to my online brand, consistent across social media sites, seldom changed so consistent across time, and pretty good at standing out in the crowd.

It's a nice day to start again (with social networking bankruptcy?)

I try to rethink on a daily basis, if not constantly, but like most people, I don’t do the Big Rethinking often enough, maybe mostly around milestone birthdays, new years, yom kippur, presidential turnovers, etc.  Now I’m preparing to move and going through all my stuff, evaluating what to keep and what to discard, donate, sell, gift, regift, recycle, shred, burn, bury, etc.

In December I made a joke about unfollowing all my twitter friends and starting over with the new year.  It was just a joke, but the idea of spring cleaning social networks has stuck with me.  Most people joining social networks don’t know quite what they’re getting into at first and I’m sure that many end up with some ill-chosen, finger-quote, “friends” on their lists but feel uncomfortable ditching them.

Burger King’s mildly controversial and thoroughly amusing (at least to me) whopper sacrifice program seems to have upped the ante on my gag.  Short form: they’ll give you a free whopper if you “sacrifice” (publicly unfriend) ten of your facebook buddies.  (That values a facebook friend at about 37 cents) I don’t know if it’s actually good for BK, but I think it’s great for social media. Heck, any PR that doesn’t link Burger King to e coli is probably good for BK.  It takes some of the hot air out of the social media thing, and gives people another way – and a lame excuse – to unburden themselves of unwanted finger-quote “friends.”  I presume there’s nothing stopping you re-friending people after lunch.

Remember a few years ago there was some chatter about email bankruptcy?  In short, email bankruptcy means that you’ve decided you’ll never be able to deal with the current contents of your inbox, so you delete it all and start again.  That idea seems to have faded out, but I wonder if we aren’t on the verge of a rash of social networking bankruptcy: twitter bankruptcy, linkedin bankruptcy, and most likely, facebook bankruptcy.  Fed up with superpoke requests?  Maybe it’s a nice day to just ditch everybody and start again!

Well, that’s probably not for everyone, maybe not for anyone, but I do have to wonder if the clean slate would allow us to make new and interesting connections that might not even have occurred to us since we’re so busy with the connections we already have.

OpenCoffee at Andala

I got a message from Si in London recommending that I check out this upcoming TweetUp in Cambridge.  Turns out it was at Andala Cafe, home of my favorite hummus plate and barely a block from limeduck world headquarters.  Once again, the internet pwnz geography.  The TweetUp, called OpenCoffee, happens Wednesdays at 8:30ish, and seems to be a global phenomenon that has somehow landed right in my back yard.

This week, OpenCoffee was pretty Twitter-centeric, with Bijan Sabet of Spark Capital and Sanjay Vakil of LuckyCal leading a loose discussion of location-based apps, twitter platforms, and using twitter either as a start point or an end point for aggregation of what can only be described as your “stuff.”

The session was well-attended with some 40+ tweeple stretching the limits of Andala’s front room.  You can catch up on some of the chatter via this twitter search.

There was some debate about the utility of hash tags as opposed to unhashed tags, and taxonomy vs folksonomy.  I came down on the side of getting it mostly right and keeping it simple, which seems to be the guiding principle of twitter.  And then I fell off a chair while trying to explain Pants Status to the assembled masses.  My point, such as it was, is that there seems to be apps (if you can call Pants Status an app) that use twitter without any special action on the user’s part.

On a side note, the frothy beverage pictured above is an Andala specialty, fresh apple ginger juice.  I highly recommend it.  iPhone not included, but if you come to OpenCoffee, I promise you’ll be near one.

This microdrivel for microrent

At Boston Media Makers, there was sporadic discussion of Twitter advertising, mainly meaning people monetizing their Twitter use by selling ads either in their streams or on their profile pages.  It was generally agreed that profile page ads were less invasive and obnoxious than in-stream ads.  The mavens in the group predicted large-scale unfollowing and extensive antisocial media shunning for anybody foolish enough to try in-stream twitvertising.

I’m thinking it would be hard for most twitter streams to get less relevant or more annoying, my own included.  My initial objection to the whole idea of in-stream twitvertising is that it just doesn’t seem that it would be very effective.  But first, let’s run the numbers, using me as the guineaduck as it were.

Magpie is one twitter ad service.  They tweet ads through your account (tagged #magpie) at a set frequency (such as one ad per five tweets) based on a keyword bidding system.  They pay per tweet, not per click or per action.  Magpie says that I could earn up to 69.07 Euros per month.

Using Followcost, I discovered that I’ve been tweeting at an average pace of 5.19 per day, so I’ll just guesstimate that I would serve up one Magpie ad per day.  At this writing I have 252 followers, so 252 x 1 x 30 = 7,560 potential ad impressions per month. That assumes two probably untrue things: (1) that all of my followers read all of my tweets, and (2) that there are no secondary impressions from syndication of my tweets, such as in the sidebar of this very blog, or from anybody who’s not a follower just reading.  Let’s just say that those two effects cancel out.

Those figures together imply about 9.14 Euros, or $11.63 CPM.  Since that’s the payout to me, let’s mark that up 20 or 25% so Magpie can earn some money, and assume they’re selling limetweets at $15 CPM.  Is that a good price for promoting your product or service in the limedrivelstream?  Honestly, I haven’t looked at CPM priced advertising in a long time, preferring CPC or CPA if I can get it.  It sounds cheap, but there are a lot of reasons why it should be cheap.

In the process of poking around for this piece, I checked my twitter power at Twitter Grader, and found some interesting factoids.   I scored in the 94th percentile, but what’s interesting is that my overall rank is 10,546 out of 255,406.  There are only a quarter million twitterers?  I’ve been so deep in this bubble I would have guessed a lot more.  And if I’m in the top 6% of them, there must be a lot of inactive or totally dead accounts.  I’m sure it’s growing fast, but I have to wonder if there’s enough total market for Magpie and their advertisers to make a real go of things.

The foregoing generally assumes that the twitterati will be willing to sell their real estate, that doing so will not in itself massively devalue that real estate (if people unfollow you for putting up ads, your ads become less lucrative…), and that – and this one is where I worry the most – those ads will in fact make any actionable or measurable impression on the marketplace.

For now, I remain skeptical and the limeduck media empire remains commercial-free.

Full moon brings tweets out to WBUR

It’s rare that I know something about social media that C.C. Chapman doesn’t, but earlier this evening I left the third WBUR social media get-together and saw this tweet.

So, for C.C. and others, let me set the context.  WBUR‘s social media guy, Ken George, called the third WBUR tweet-up, the usual informal social media gabfest with the added lure of a tour of the station.  I was lucky enough to be in on the first such event, but missed the second. I hope C.C. can join us for one in the future.

The discussion was pretty free-flowing, and I’m sure it flowed even freeer when the crew decamped to the bar, but I’ll try to mention some of the interesting people and themes I noticed.

David Boeri, host of WBUR’s Radio Boston, kicked things off with a discussion of using twitter and other social media to source stories or find trends and ideas as they bubble up.  He came with an attitude of “beginners mind” and probably left with a headache.  The crowd was eager to help, but I’m not sure if even those of us swimming in new media fully understand what it is we’re in the midst of.  As one said, “I have over 800 followers [on twitter] and I have no idea why.”

A soft-spoken woman named Angie mentioned an event called Courteous Mass, a reaction to the sometimes controversial Critical Mass, but specifically committed to obeying traffic laws (in contrast to the “corking” through red lights common to Critical Mass) and being nice to both pedestrians and drivers while celebrating urban bike-riding. Bravo, I say.  As a pedestrian and a driver, I find the behavior of many cyclists unnerving and reckless while wishing that more people could safely ride bikes in the city.

Manifest Magazine is a twice-monthly free magazine about “ordinary people with extraordinary experiences” delivered, oddly to my mind, in PDF via a blog.  The creator of the magazine spoke of his use of “most favorited” searches to find interesting and up-and-coming authors and interview subjects.  Worth a look, as I’m sure will be whatever this gentleman does next.

On the way home, I walked over the BU bridge and watched the moon peek in and out of the clouds.