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The Industry Review

One Guy's Thoughts On Technology, Social Media, Internet Marketing, Artificial Intelligence, and more

It’s been more than three months since I last updated this blog. Moreover, I’ve written at least five posts, all in various degrees of completeness, that have never been published. Assuming I still have readers (do I? :-D ), you might wonder why. The reason is that I decided that I want to change the nature of this blog but I was not sure in what direction to take it.

 
Until now, I’ve primarily written about social media (with a focus on Twitter), occasionally included internet marketing, and every now and then wrote about other topics.

 
In the past few months, I kind of realized that often what I want to discuss has already been covered in other places, at times in great detail. I felt there’s no point in discussing what I had in mind since I’m not going to add much new.

 
There have been other topics – related to affiliate marketing / social media – that I have much to say about. But some could be considered controversial. Quite frankly, I have no patience for flame wars. I’ve had those in an older blog and don’t feel like going through this again. (Ever been in a situation where someone responds to something you said and you just HAVE to respond – only for him to respond again, a cycle that can takes days to complete? I have, and I really don’t have the time to go through this).

 
I also miss having a personal blog. I’ve had several in the past and I’ve always enjoyed the experience. However, these were quasi-anonymous – I was not using my name, though my loyal readers knew who I was. This blog is too strongly associated with my name for me to feel comfortable doing this, at least at the degree I used to do it.

 
In the past several months I’ve also greatly expanded the technical aspect of my business. I’ve gone back to my programming roots, as I’ve intended from the very moment I launched my business. I’ve considered writing about this subject, though frankly I’m not sure most of my audience would find this interesting. Besides, I don’t want this to be 100% of what I write about either.

 
To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to do, and so, simply posted nothing.

 
I’ve decided to have no plan. Since I’m mainly writing for myself (my blog was never written with the goal of making money), I’ll simply write a mixture of the above. Hopefully enough people would find it interesting.. and if not? Well, it’s a risk I’ll have to take.

 

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The wisdom of the crowds

 

This post is based on the excellent session, “Crowdsource Your Success”, that was given in Affiliate Summit East 2010 though I expanded it and added my own perspective.

 
Crowdsourcing is becoming increasingly popular these days. According to Wikipedia, Crowdsourcing “is the act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, to a large group of people or community (a crowd), through an open call“.

 

Using Crowdsourcing, you can submit a job description and get multiple bids each already satisfying the specifications you desire. Since you get multiple people trying to create what you want, the results are potentially diverse and can be surprisingly creative. Of course, this is usually more expensive than just using regular outsourcing sites such as oDesk or Elance – but the disadvantage of those is that no matter how good your contractor, you are ’stuck’ with a single design.

 
Crowdsourcing works because of the ‘wisdom of the crowds’ principle: the idea that a crowd – a collection of individuals – is much more likely to get the right answer than a single individual.

 
A good example is the game show “Who wants to be a millionaire?”. Asking the audience for the answer is more likely to result in the right answer than asking your friend or Regis Philbin.

 
This principle has been adopted by computer science as well (and probably other fields). In my academic career I used to create multiple artificial neural – instead of a single one – networks that solved a problem. The right solution was determined by taking the solution that the largest number of networks ‘voted’ would work best.

 
Here are some suggestions given at the talk to get the maximum from crowdsourcing:

  1. You reap what you sow: define your project properly or you may get something very different from what you had in mind.
  2. Tight deadlines are very effective as people like discovering quickly whether they’ve won a bid.
  3. Don’t be a jerk: Designers thrive on feedback, give feedback and recognition.
  4. The project has to require your involvement: a crowdsourcing project is not ’set and forget’.
  5. Keep it simple: be realistic in your expectations and ask for what is reasonable.
  6. Don’t be too cheap: most people aren’t going to be paid, so keep this in mind.
  7. Announce there will be multiple winners to boost designer participation (assuming that is the case!)

Until the talk in Affiliate Summit, I (naively) thought crowdsourcing is limited to graphic design/web design and 1-2 other types of applications. I was mainly familiar with 99design.

 
The following is a list of crowdsourcing resources given at the talk. I had no idea there were so many! When I’ve done a Google search I found even more though it’s hard to tell which are good. If you are familiar with anything that is not included and is a good resource, please let me know and I’ll add it.

 
Note that I’m still looking for a place to crowdsource copywriting (sadly, not my strength!) – so if you are familiar with a good site for that purpose, suggestions would be welcome.

 
Banner, landing page and graphic design
99designs: the most well known resource for Crowdsourcing.

 
Landing page optimization:
FiveSecondTest: allows you to get quick feedback on landing page designs.

  • Are your calls to action standing out? Get people clicking on hot spots
  • Can visitors understand what the site is about?
  • Give viewers a memory test: what can they remember about the landing page?

 
PPC management
Trada: Allows you to turn over PPC management to a group of AdWords qualified professionals.

 
Ad copy
BoostCTR: allows you to outsource your ad copy so that your CTR is boosted. Guaranteed improvement!

 
Videos
GeniusRocket: professional videos and animations.

 
Product development
Quirky: submit new ideas for products or influence products currently in production (and earn cash)

 
Feature Requests
UserVoice: a giant suggestion box. You get a lot of comments which are prioritized. Best ideas are voted to the top.

SuggestionBox

 
Software development
TopCoder: an excellent resource for software developers.

 
Find JV partners
Jigsaw: a massive crowsourced database of contact information

 
Content writing
Spudaroo: useful for web content as well as resumes, leases, etc.

 
Beta Testing
UserTesting: usability testing for your website.

CrowdFlower

 
Ideas/Names
Amazon Mturk: Although the Amazon Mechanical Turk is not exactly a crowdsourcing resource, by offering to pay a small amount for ideas, you can effectively crowdsource names. An example was given of a person who paid $27.50 to get name ideas for his iPhone app (the result was iReadFast). Note that there used to be a site (which I vaguely remember) that was used for this purpose but has been apparently closed.

 

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The third and last day of Affiliate Summit East 2010 started with a great keynote speech by Jim Kukral, who also gave his recently published book: Attention! This Book Will Make You Money: How to Use Attention-Getting Online Marketing to Increase Your Revenue to the first 300 attendees.

 
Jim’s talk focused on providing guidance to businesses and individuals who are unsuccessful so that they can become successful. Here’s his five step plan:

  1. Say what you do: be specific.
  2. What you do should solve a problem or entertain: All problems in the world can fall into either category. (Someone tweeted afterwards that this is incorrect and stated that looking for information is a third category. I disagree – looking for information solves a problem: getting information you lack).
  3. Know your customer: Ask them why they use your services so you could further hone your message.
  4. Be the alternative: If you have a tough competition, find an alternative way. The example given was of the 5 hour energy drink – the alternative to coffee, which many drink for the energy boost.
  5. Make it easy: Easy as in simple, instant, quick, hassle-free. One suggestion Jim gave to businesses is to avoid the Paypal button as most ‘normal’ people simply aren’t familiar with it. Real world businesses and individuals pay with credit cards – so give them that option.

An interesting anecdote: one of Jim’s tips was that if you come up with an idea and get a reaction – even a very bad one – it means you’re on the right track. After saying that, he shared the story of a company who came up with a bizarrely disgusting line of juices. Someone in the audience blurted “Ewww” and Jim responded – see, that’s exactly what we’re looking for. This company was very successful.

 

 

The Info Product Co-Creation Formula
Later I went to the breakout sessions. This one session in particular was very good. Despite the fact these sessions were 20 minutes each, it lasted more than 30 minutes and there was so much information given it could’ve easily filled an entire hour (I add this picture simply because I liked the speaker’s official title..).

 
In this session a ‘formula’ for creating info-products was given which is said to be so effective that it can be used to sell products even before they are actually made. This was compared to a tennis match, where you, the product creator, ask questions and get feedback from your prospective buyers multiple times.

 
Although the speaker gave a precise list of steps, there was so much information I wasn’t able to type them exactly as specified. Here’s my amended version (I probably split certain steps).

  1. Start with a survey
  2. Get responses
  3. Identify core needs of the people in your list
  4. Verify this is what they want: they confirm or deny.
  5. Give them a free report based on their responses.
  6. They read the report and respond
  7. Pre-sell the full (nonexistent) product. If you do it right you can sell more before the product exists to justify your costs. Be fully transparent about this, that you haven’t created the product and want to make it if it’ll appeal to enough people.
  8. Create the full product.
  9. You already have enough buyers to return your time investment, and can get many more now.

 

 

Affiliate Platforming: How to Attract & Retain Audiences
I went to Scott Stratten’s (@UnMarketing’s) talk. I spoke to Scott during lunch just before – since both of us are very active Twitter users, we exchanged amusing anecdotes (well, mainly horror stories..).

 
Scott’s talk was excellent, not to mention, absolutely hilarious. He advocated using social media as a platform to engage people and build an audience both for individuals and for businesses. This session would’ve fit perfectly with Social Media 201, the conference I helped organize (and gave a talk) back in April.

 
Here are guidelines towards attracting an audience (this is relevant for blogging, tweeting, any relevant medium).

  1. Traction: “nothing works at first”. This is the hardest phase. You blog and/or tweet and it seems no one is listening.
  2. Momentum: starts taking care of itself. People are coming to you. The ratio change.
  3. Expansion: you built so much traction and momentum you can expand it.

 
A few more general guidelines.

  • Don’t use Twitter as a one way communication stream and expect success. Scott suggested the key to success is 75% replies.
  • To those who just use scheduled tweets – you can’t automate authenticity, people know this and react.
  • Social Media investment is much more than dollars (.. and this relates to my own blog post, Twitter: Beyond Immediate ROI)
  • Be ready for negative comments. The 1% happiest and the 1% unhappiest are the most vocal.

To demonstrate these points, he gave both good examples and bad ones, i.e. a coffee shop that criticized at length a customer for tweeting a complaint.

 
Blogger room
Since I was running back and forth between sessions and the exhibition hall, I barely spent any time in the blogger room. To be honest, I didn’t really need to, after all, we had wireless access. But I went there to spend some time with friends.

 
The blogger room was run by the amazing BlogMistress, Heather Smith. Heather told me about Missy Ward’s competition and I am very sad to say I did not win, though I was runner-up with @loxly. Next year I vow to win.

 

Missy Ward's competition


Heather Smith at the blogger room and the prize I almost won

 

To summarize: I had a fantastic time at the summit. I think the fact I spent much more time in sessions than in parties really gave me a different affiliate summit experience. Despite not going to parties, I did a good share of networking – I talked to a lot of people at the exhibition hall/meet market, during lunch breaks and in between sessions. Personally I feel this is more effective than exchanging business cards while shouting during a loud party (though I can’t argue with a friend of mine who said “people spill their secrets when they’re drunk”. True.)

 
Looking forward to the Affiliate Summit West 2011!

 
p.s. Still have two sessions I intend to summarize as independent posts.

 

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The second day of Affiliate Summit East 2010 started with a great keynote speech by Frank Luntz, a well known political consultant (according to Wikipedia it’s actually Dr. Frank Luntz). Frank’s specialty is “testing language and finding words that help his clients sell their product or turn public opinion on an issue or a candidate”

 
Frank wrote a book called Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear (yes, this is an affiliate link :) ) and his talk was very much about the same topic. Specifically, how people say one thing, but the words they use harm, even completely sabotage their goal. He suggested using certain words that in this day and age evoke responses. Put simply, by merely rephrasing what you say you can make a world of difference! Frank showed many videos that demonstrated how people become more attentive or tune off when certain words are used.

 

 

I thought Frank’s talk was very insightful and some of the tips he gave can be immediately applied (or perhaps I should say “fiercely insightful” – he said that “very” no longer means anything because it’s been so overused, and gave ‘fiercely’ as an example used by one political candidate to replace ‘very’).

 
Using Social Media For SEO
After the keynote speech I went to this talk. I was particularly interested in this considering much of what I do is social media. The focus of this talk was on leveraging social media platforms and users to get backlinks (the building blocks of SEO).

 

Several useful tips:

  1. Build links to your site using Twitter, Facebook, etc (I share a list of the platforms he gave below).
  2. Incentivize people to tweet your link (for example, give them a special discount)
  3. When using forums, people an opportunity to tweet about the post with a link to your website.

The speaker said that there is evidence that in the near future Google will determine how important/authoritative a profile is (for example, using follower/following ratio) and assign a greater weight to links tweeted from that account. Note that as far as I know, to a very limited degree this is already happening.

 
Surprisingly, a few things which I experienced firsthand and expected to be in this talk were not mentioned. Huh. Maybe I should suggest a talk about these for Affiliate Summit West?

 
Social Media link building opportunities

  1. Youtube: one way DoFollow
  2. Google profile: one way DoFollow
  3. Yahoo answers: NoFollow links. (though these could still bring traffic).
  4. Facebook profile: one way DoFollow as long as the profile is public (this was the only thing that surprised me – need to check).
  5. Urbanspoon, Yelp, etc – most are followed

 
Afterwards I went to a talk titled “Android Affiliate Mobile Marketing” which was so good I intend to dedicate a separate post to it. This session focused on using Google Android phones for advertising/promoting CPA offers, etc. More soon.

 
Similarly, the next talk I went to “Crowdsource Your Success” is worthy of a separate post. I didn’t expect to learn anything new (isn’t Crowdsourcing only 99designs?) but was very fiercely surprised.

 

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Unlike previous affiliate summits I attended, this time I had to skip all after hours activities – I was moving to a new apartment two days after ASE ended and had to pack (… and if you’re interested in hearing how that went, check out this post. Spoiler: there’s criminals, police and ransom. For real.)

 
I figured: since I’m doing less networking, I might as well focus more on the sessions. And so, I attended more sessions and have taken more notes than any other affiliate summit – and probably any other conference I’ve been to in the last several years. Perhaps because of this the summit, to me, felt completely different than any of the others (more educational?). Consequently, in this coverage of the event I’ll focus much more on sessions summaries than I did last year. I’ll also probably dedicate individual posts to some particularly interesting sessions.

 
Affiliate summit East 2010 started with the Meet Market. The Meet Market is a great place to meet vendors, networks, other affiliates and old friends. Not to mention getting some free stuff. It’s always a fantastic way to start the conference since the dynamic atmosphere gets everyone in the mood for networking.

 

 

Interestingly, two sessions I attended during the first day had a common theme – trying to look into the future of affiliate marketing and see how we can prepare for it (regardless of the sessions’ titles).

 

 
Innovate! New Exciting Applications of Affiliate Marketing
This was a pretty interesting session. It started with the history of affiliate marketing. Did you know that the first affiliate offer originated in the adult industry back in 1994? Specifically, by a company called CyberErotica? I guess this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Amazon came next in 1996.

 
The session focused on trends and the future of affiliate marketing, something which every one of us who intends to be in the business a few years from now should find valuable. Some interesting projections:

 
In 2008 the affiliate “Ubiquity era” started and is expected to last until 2013. During this time we can expect

  • Recognizable affiliate consumer brands (already happened).
  • Major brands have affiliate programs – 20,000 affiliate programs in 2010! (already happened).
  • Crowdsourcing becoming increasingly hot (happening now).
  • New ways to ‘mashup’ datafeeds with apps to create user value.
  • New automatic storefronts (i.e. PopShops).
  • New automatic ways to link affiliate offers to content. SkimLinks links keywords to affiliate offers and is geo-targeted, too. Pixazza associates products right with the image source – this means that if a user views an image, he sees relevant affiliate offers (i.e. if the image is of a person wearing sunglasses, links to the sunglasses, other items shown, even the camera type, would appear).

 
After 2013, the “Affilination Era” will begin and will be characterized by

  • Social media dominance: the activity stream will be affiliated (i.e. Foursquare links to physical products).
  • Microaffiliates: everyone can be an affiliate and get tiny commissions (the example given was that of people referring other people to Domino’s Pizza and getting commissions).
  • Micropayments become increasingly common (as a side note, I attended a talk about a year ago by a company that intends to offer ways to do micropayments which would be integrated with Twitter. A lot of potential there).
  • Microtrends: we could find hot product sales by the hour or day.
  • Pre-purchase click data: we’ll have data about the products that are viewed before they are purchased. Which are the most popular?

 
New Lead Generation Models: Social-Mobile-Viral
This session provided a good followup to the previous one by suggesting that the future of marketing won’t be characterized by selling pain (trying to sell by appealing to emotions such as fear or pain – scaring the target audience) but rather by selling pleasure.

 
Several examples were given such as Facebook games: people stay on the site because they enjoy it, and we would have better success by satisfying this need. Another example given was LibraryThing – a social network of people who like talking about books: people stay on this site because they enjoy it, and it brought significant revenue to the creators by affiliating the site with Amazon.

 
The speaker suggested that that the best way of ‘going viral’ would be to stop doing hype and treat people as people: “People aren’t eyeballs – they’re friends”.

 
An additional observation was – unsurprisingly – that the world is currently shifting from desktops to mobile phones. Since everything in mobile is smaller and people are on the move, we have to take that into consideration when marketing using this channel. Smaller banners, shorter ads, shorter emails. Basically reformat everything so that it may fit with an audience that isn’t necessarily at home next to a personal computer.

 

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Before I move on to other posts I want to do (and considering my absence, I have quite a few of those), I want to describe a very unpleasant experience I had last week and some lessons I learned.

 
Last Thursday I moved to a new place. I’m pretty used to this by now as I move, on average, slightly less than once a year – so this wasn’t supposed to be a big deal. However, this time things were quite unusual.

 
In order to get moving quotes from various companies, my wife filled the details of our move using some online form. She’s already done this before. Hell, who doesn’t? This is similar to the way you can get auto insurance quotes from several companies – I offer this on three of my own sites – you can do the same thing with moving companies. We got many offers, invited three to our home to give final proposals, and agreed to go with one.

 
It turns out that one of the companies that sent an offer which we immediately eliminated (obviously a total scam based on online reviews) figured which company we were going to go with. Then they called them, impersonated my wife and canceled our move claiming to be her. The next day they sent their people who claimed they are the representative of the moving company we called. The day before the move they also called my wife and warned her about “scams” so if anything looks out of the ordinary, she should give them a call to make sure things are fine.

 
Considering these, it took about an hour and a half for us to figure out we are dealing with criminals and not who we were supposed to. Thanks to Google, we also found out, in real time, what is next to come: based on dozens of online reviews, this company takes your belongings then hold them hostage until you pay, in cash, an outrageous sum (several times the amount you were promised – assuming you hired them in the first place). All these, however, were based on people who actually hired them. We never did – they got to our place in a criminal fashion. We never saw any review that mirrored our story either.

 
We called the police and the original moving company. After they arrived (the police sent 5 cops!) we heard that neither has heard of a similar case before (though I’d be surprised if we were the first). By then it seemed that it would be better to finish what we started – not our preferred choice, but the police took the movers’ details and assured us that they won’t try to hijack our items.

 
It was pretty stressful, but eventually the move ended despite fears we’ll never get our belongings OR get only some OR will have to pay a crazy sum. Or even worse.

 
My conclusion
Both my wife and I use the net all the time. We’ve always been very careful with our identities. Like I said, I even offer a similar service myself. Scams and frauds are one thing, criminal activity is quite another. It is important to emphasize we weren’t the only victims here, the original moving company was cheated as well (and who knows how many times?).

 
Despite being so careful, this unfortunate scenario still took place. So I ask, how could this have been prevented?

 
My advice
For starters, even if someone calls to confirm your order/move/etc, do not trust this but rather call the company yourself to confirm it.

 
More importantly, I think that from now on, it might be a good idea that whenever I’m asking for quotes, not to give my real name (or to alter it in a way that would be noticeable if someone were to use it). Of course, once dealing with a company, preferably in the flesh, I would use my name. Had we done this, if some criminal company were to call us or come to us using these details it would’ve been immediately obvious.

 
The final option is to avoid using such services.. but I think to have this attitude means going back to the stone ages. We may as well not be online at all. And the same thing could’ve happened had we done everything using phones.

 
Note that there’s more to this story though I can’t share it for various reasons (just yet).

 
Any thoughts?

 

 

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Update

Aug 20

I’m almost done writing up my coverage of affiliate summit (it’ll be 3 or 4 blog posts). But in light of yesterday’s events, I want to dedicate a post to that first. Just need to decide what I can and cannot share for legal reasons.

 
I’m deliberately writing this in a separate posts since I don’t want a really positive experience (affiliate summit) to have even a tiniest connection with what took place yesterday.

 
Back in a few..

 

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Mass unfollowing

 

Warning: read at your own peril, not sure how many people would find this interesting! :)

 
Last year I published a case study, What Happens When You Unfollow Most Of Your Followers?. This post examined the follower numbers of three people who did mass unfollows and the results were very consistent: from that moment on, they all started losing followers at a slow but persistent rate.

 
When I joined Twitter, I was looking to get many followers to increase the exposure of this blog (a fact I never hid). These days I don’t need this anymore, however, anyone who has read my blog for a while knows I’m very interested in cause and effect. In other words: what results in more people following you? what results in people unfollowing you? If you tweet a lot, will you be listed more or less? Unfollowed more or less? This is probably a leftover from my time as an academic: I’m simply curious about the collective behavior of people as it is expressed through Twitter. This, perhaps oddly, actually relates to my academic work.

 
To satisfy this curiosity, and because it’s really easy to do, I’ve been doing experiments using various accounts. Obviously, when my conclusions result in getting more followers I’m not complaining. Therefore, for me to see someone with 210,000+ followers that decides to unfollow virtually all of his followers is exciting (I was unfollowed too but this doesn’t matter – doesn’t seem like this was a personal decision). I won’t name the user because it really is irrelevant.

 
Unlike the three users I mentioned before, it seems this user is losing followers at a very rapid pace: thousands of followers every day (see image above). In fact, when I look at the user and load the page again, it loses followers almost every time!

 
So I ask myself: why such a huge difference in the rate of unfollowing? Well, if I recall, the three users I picked were internet marketers and bloggers, some more famous than others – but all had a successful blog (I picked them because I considered them my peers – I wasn’t interested in examining users who were very different from my own). Therefore, it is logical to assume that many people continued following them because of the content they tweeted – or at least, the belief that they will share interesting content. This, apparently, significantly slowed down their unfollow rates, though none of them had enough ‘celebrity power’ to maintain their follower levels without following back.

 
Even though the three mass unfollows resulted in some animosity towards the unfollowing users, it seems this user is getting a much greater negative reaction: a quick peek in the lists he appears in: “unfollower”, “they-follow-then-unfollow: #Black List … (Mass Follow/Unfollow Dumps). They will follow you then unfollow you”, “cheatoes: THEY NOT WORTHY TO FOLLOW”, “unfollow: Mass following, then unfollowing = idiots”, “unfollowing-bitches”, “teamfakeceleb: dez ppl have like a million followers & follow like nobody & dey WILL UNFOLLOW YOU!!!”, “douchebags: Fags who boost their twitter stats by unfollowing you once you start following them.”. There are many more.

 
This person is significantly less known than the other three… consequently, this might explain why the unfollow process is so much faster and draws a lot more hostility (note that when I published my previous post, the list mechanism wasn’t added to Twitter yet… would’ve been interesting to see the number of negative lists, if any, that the three users would’ve appeared in).

 
At the time, I believed the three accounts would reach a level which equals their real ‘celebrity power’. I never got to test this because of other aspects that affected their follower numbers, such as contests on their blogs. Here my guess is that since there is no celebrity power, there isn’t anything to keep people from unfollowing the user. Moreover, since there are users who check very infrequently whether they’ve been unfollowed (and then reciprocate) and some even never do, my guess is that when the unfollowing rates start slowing down – and it won’t be at anywhere close to 0 – we’ll get an interesting estimate of the percentage of people who are of this type. So suppose this will slow down at 100,000 – assuming 210,000 followers are a good representative of the Twitter population (which it should be) – this means that roughly half the people on Twitter don’t check whether they’ve been unfollowed frequently. That’s the theory, at least.

 
Ok, I hope this post hasn’t been boring (if it has been, why did you get this far?). Personally I find this stuff fascinating!

 
Edit (July 20th): It seems that in the first two-three days the pace was much faster and later it slowed down to about a thousand followers per day. Interesting, probably means that there’s a number of people who routinely check whether they’ve been unfollowed (like me), and the rest are finding out at their own pace.

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Contests are a really useful way of drawing traffic and attention to a site. They can be used to launch a product, a site, a television show… You, of course, know all this since so many companies utilize them in order to get subscriptions, feedback, reviews, tweets, whatever. They gain potentially a very large amount of publicity (at times) for a small amount of money.

 
But let’s disregard that. I think contests are fun. I’ve won a handful during my lifetime and that was always exciting (even if I didn’t want the prize).

 
The very first ‘modern’ site I created is a book and movie review site (I’m not considering the sites I created in the mid 90s nor the eCommerce-type sites I created for work). This site is still up and running – it’s the site I put the most effort into, but, unfortunately, is practically abandoned. The problem is that even though it has quite a lot of dedicated followers (and a Facebook group), it is simply not worth the time I put into it: no ad or any form of monetization seemed to work and I just couldn’t afford working on it.

 
At the time I thought of running weekly contests. I never finalized the details, but I thought of sending a book (of choice) to the person who will write the most interesting book review, which I could use. I thought it would be a good way of getting content, even if somewhat expensive, but more importantly, it would be fun! BUT I was too busy so I never did it.

 
Several conversations I had recently made me feel like running such a contest again. This time, here, on my blog. However, I am still unsure about the details. Nor am I sure I want to go ahead with it.

 
I figured, why not use the blog itself to get answers to my dilemma? At the moment I’m considering that in order to participate in the contest a person will have to:

  • Sign up to my blog newsletter (he can always unsubscribe later).
  • Tweet about the contest
  • Leave a comment that he’s signed up
  • And that sort of thing. Nothing that requires any effort or commitment.

In exchange, I’ll help the winner get 3,000 followers – actually, almost certainly more – in about 10-12 days (I don’t want to commit myself to a certain number of days because this largely depends on the starting point: a brand new user is definitely harder). If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you probably know I’m pretty good at getting many followers, and quickly too ;)

 
For some people this might be trivial. For others uninteresting – many people don’t want more followers. However, I know people who both want more followers but don’t know how to get them. Often they are “stuck” at the 2,000 Twitter follower barrier.

 
A friend of mine said that people might think there’s a catch. No catch. The thing I will gain is potentially more traffic to this blog and have fun. Furthermore, it would involve some work on my end; I wish I could wave a wand and make an account suddenly have 3,000 extra followers – but I’m not Ashton Kutcher, you know (for me he’ll always be the king of Twitter! You hear this, Britney??). Also, obviously I’d need to know the user’s password to arrange this, but he/she can change it every day and let me know, whatever. I truly don’t care.

 
If people think this is a good idea, I’d also need to determine a way to pick the winner. Could be random, could be another criteria, like, coming up with the funniest Twitter Jail joke (a trend I began at the time!). Frankly, I’m undecided.

 
Is this ‘prize’ worth it? You tell me. Let me know your thoughts. I really like the idea of running a contest but as I said, still fine-tuning the details. I only want to do this if other people think this could be fun too.

 

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Making money using Twitter

 

I continue my discussion on ways to make money using Twitter. Previously I covered what I considered are bad (ineffective) methods, now I’ll cover the rest.

 
The ugly (misleading):

Promoting users/lists: Certain users with a large number of followers (though only slightly more than I have) started doing personal shoutouts and including users in their lists for small sums of money. I assume the people who buy these services do so to get followers. To a limited degree, this will probably work. Moreover, if the people who promote these offers have multiple accounts as many people do, I would imagine all their accounts would suddenly follow the paying users (this could easily be 20-50 accounts – to some this is a lot of followers!).

 
With that being said, this has to be one of the most inefficient ways of getting followers. If these were celebrities who offered these services, fine (it would probably be pretty effective being in Conan O’Brien’s list! Just think of @LovelyButton), but we’re not talking celebrities here. I would never consider charging people to be in one of my lists because I think doing so would imply that this bestows some value, and let’s face it, it does not. Note that I have to say, it’s very easy getting followers, at least when talking about a small number (100-200) and I don’t think paying users expect more than that from a single tweet.

 
An additional issue is that I would expect this practice to stop at some point. Personally – and I know many others feel the same way – I treat the shoutouts as noise/spam. These are (personal) ads after all, and my comment from the previous post applies – most Twitter users do not like any tweet that feels commercial in nature. I predict that eventually enough users would have these ‘offending’ advertisers be blocked & reported for spam and this will lead to their suspension.

 
The Good (effective)

 
I’ve written about this in multiple separate posts. I believe that Twitter’s strength lies in creating relationships, networking, doing PR for yourself/your company, so most of this section deals with these. However, the first method is unrelated.

  1. Advertising: Using companies such as Ad.ly and SponsoredTweets it is possible to tweet something and get paid for it. This actually does work. But: (a) You’re dependent on being offered to tweet these and there aren’t a ton of those and (b) unless you have a lot of followers, the sums involved tend to be pretty low.

     

  2. Getting clients: by being active on Twitter, it is possible to get clients. Although pushing yourself and being interactive helps, by just having a good bio, descriptive background and including a link to your website it’s quite possible to draw attention. Personally I’ve had success with this. I have to emphasize that I believe this strongly depends on the industry: i.e. I doubt dentists can gain clients this way.

     

  3. Building relationships: I’ve written about this before. By networking you are likely to meet like-minded people who, by knowing them, in the long run, will result in monetary gain. I’ve met quite a lot of people who got me involved in conferences (i.e. Social Media 201), started collaborations, and introduced other people and clients to me. This does require effort though.

     

  4. PR: I’m probably the millionth person to say this, but in this day and age, companies need to be able to engage their clients. By having an active Twitter account that listens to complaints/issues and addresses them, a company can greatly improve their reputation. This is a topic that we discussed quite heavily at Social Media 201.

     

  5. Twitter services: basically, by offering the previous methods to other people or companies, you can make money. There’s in fact a new course that trains people to become social media managers.

    This is definitely a way that works. Again, talking from personal experience here. You can get paid far more doing this than from paid tweets or trying to push affiliate links. I believe this is the most effective way to monetize Twitter. Note that in many ways the method I included under ‘ugly’ can be said to fall under this category – true – however, I think it’s the choice of which services to offer that makes the difference. Implying someone will get a lot of followers if someone tweets your bio is misleading.

 
Not sure

 
I’ll include this one last category as well.

  1. Niche accounts: I’ve actually dabbled with this but it’s a variation of the methods I previously mentioned. Basically, it’s an account that declares in advance that it will provide information and deals. This can be done using affiliate links or point to your business site.

    Does it work? Maybe. Personally I’ve not tried it long enough to be able to tell. However, I CAN tell say that many users still consider this to be spam despite the user “announcing” in advance what it is all about.

     

  2. Trending topics: I included this but I will admit I don’t know it well enough to elaborate. The goal is to create accounts that tap into Google’s real time indexing of trending topics. I don’t fully know how this works, just that by doing so, it is possible to get an affiliate link into the top of the search of Google. I would imagine this involves creating quite a lot of users. I heard this worked for some but don’t know how successful it was and, as you can guess, I never tried it myself. I figured I should still mention it.

     

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