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Tag: Interaction

 

As you all know, there are quite a lot of celebrities on Twitter and more are joining every day. I noticed that there are roughly three categories of celebrity following… and yet there seem to be inexplicable (?) exceptions.

 
Let me emphasize, this is not a scientific study, just my general impression. However, my brain usually works by classifying things. There are plenty of other examples in my blog…

 
On this note, I have to say, doesn’t Twitter have a name suggestion mechanism?! It took me quite a while to find some of these celebrities. Eventually I discovered that the easiest way is going to Google, typing the name, seeing the suggestion (which was always right) and using it. Come on, Twitter – can’t you do the same? I remember considering doing this for an eCommerce application I wrote 8 years ago, wasn’t supposed to be hard.

 
Celebrities are easy to recognize on Twitter. They either have the verified tag next to their name, a ridiculous follower/following ratio, or – quite often – by the fact they “broadcast” – it’s a one way interaction on their end.

 
First, there are the big celebrities. They don’t need to do anything and still get a large follower base almost overnight.

 
For example:

  • Britney Spears (5,016,111 followers) – she pushed aside the former king of Twitter and is the new reigning queen.
  • Lady Gaga (4,251,933 followers)
  • Conan O’Brien (1,021,242 followers) – didn’t he just recently join?
  • Jim Carrey (1,017,771 followers)

 
Second, there are the somewhat smaller celebrities who are still household names. Some of them used to be ‘bigger’ in the past but the canceling of their shows or the fact they haven’t been in a big movie recently in a leading role obviously affected their status. Their number of followers is actually reachable by “mere mortals” – I have more followers than most of those I include below.

  • Elizabeth Banks (Spiderman, W., Scrubs – 156,579 followers)
  • Alyson Hannigan (Buffy the Vampire Slayers, How I met Your Mother – 101,537 followers)
  • Jason Segel (How I met Your Mother – 52,941 followers)
  • Julie Benz (Dexter, Desperate Housewives – 44,182 followers)
  • Kelsey Grammer (Frasier, Cheers – 22,207 followers)

 
Finally, there are the “minor” celebrities, those who are known to some, but generally are not household names. These can also be of the previous category whose television shows have expired. I have secondary accounts that have more followers than these…

  • Diora Baird (The Wedding Crashers, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning – 14,066 Followers)
  • Shiri Appleby (Roswell, Life Unexpected, ER – 4,251 Followers)
  • Elisabeth Harnoi (Point Pleasant – 1,559 Followers)

 
Then again, there are some celebrities who ought to belong to the second or even third category yet still have a staggering number of followers.

 
For example:

  • Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Big Bang Theory, Stand By Me – 1,654,037 Followers)
  • LeVar Burton (Star Trek: The Next Generation – 1,601,451 Followers)
  • Brent Spiner (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Independence Day – 1,366,661 Followers)

 
All three are known to Trek lovers, but I doubt they are household names. Moreover, considering their main show was canceled in – what, 1994? – isn’t this large number of followers very surprising – they far outrank more household names like Julie Benz. Heck, even Jim Carrey!

 
Why is that?

 
In my opinion, this is a result of these celebrities not only being active on Twitter, but also using it as a two-way communication medium. They all communicate with their followers: I didn’t say they speak to everyone but they do talk rather than “broadcast”.

 
I believe even Ashton Kutcher (4,986,024 Followers) – that despite the fact he’s already a pretty well known name, he is not of the caliber of Jim Carrey in terms of celebrity status, as well Demi Moore (2,732,687 followers) and Alyssa Milano (856,495 Followers). All are not only extremely active Twitter users, but also heavily interact with their followers.

 
More importantly, to all three this has brought significant Twitter attention. At least in Ashton’s case, I believe this has even translated into success in the real world, being known as the king of Twitter – the #1 most followed person (until last week).

 
So my advice? Use Twitter as it’s meant to be used. I know you’re busy. We all are. But use Twitter as a two-way communication medium, respond to followers, interact with them. People appreciate not being ignored and want to “touch the stars”. Give it to them. They will appreciate it and you will feel the effect.

 
I believe that a celebrity who has a very low number of followers is impacted, to some extent, by this – and the opposite is true as well.

 
Like it or not, Twitter is a measure of sorts of popularity. I would not be surprised if some casting agencies actually check Twitter before they cast an actor. I think it would be wise to do so.

 

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Ancient PC

Ancient PC

 

This post was partially inspired by Darren Williger’s keynote speech at Social Media 201.

 
Despite the fact it’s a common perception that social media is a new phenomenon, it’s actually far from. Both Darren and myself have been using the Internet since the 80s. We ran a small competition: turns out that if you Google us, the earliest result is mine (from 1989!) though Darren was active online about 2-3 years before I was. So it’s a draw ;-) .

 
Back then the online world was very different. In the mid 80s BBSs (Bulletin board systems) were what we all used. These were phone-based systems, usually run by individuals, though some companies had their own, that enabled people to connect using dial-up modems. They were infinitely slower than today’s internet, and all text based, but they were awesome!

 
BBSs included forums, multiplayer games (though not real time ones), downloadable computer games (yep, some two decades before Bittorrent) and a lot more. In other words, we all interacted, and much of the content was user generated. Sounds to me a lot like…social Media and Web 2.0. Of course, this wasn’t Web 2.0 because this was almost a decade before the World Wide Web (Web 1.0?) was created! Though BBSs weren’t a part of the internet, they offered much of what the internet could offer at the time.

 
When I first starting using the internet, in 1987 or 1988 (I need to figure this out one day…), I stopped using BBSs. The internet had so much potential! My friends and I actually didn’t refer to it as the internet back then but rather as the Bitnet (which was always a subset of the internet but was separately accessible at the time). When I look at old emails that are archived online, we actually referred to the internet as the InterNet. How quaint! Amusingly, there was a local news story about us at the time: “Local teenagers chat with people all over the world using computers”. It sounds ridiculous now, but it was very “exotic” back then.

 
Bitnet email accounts were very simple: mine was nyschles@weizmann (yeah, no .com, .net or whatever). The internet equivalent was nyschles@weizmann.weizmann.ac.il though I rarely used it at the time.

 
Not long after I had my first chat (using Relay – the ancestor of IRC which itself had a multiple offspring from multiple “wives”: chat rooms, various messengers – even chat roulette). I was introduced to a radical concept called MUDs (Multi User Domains). MUDs are the prehistoric ancestors of massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) such as World of Warcraft, EverQuest and Ultima Online. There were several variations of the concept: some were created for social interaction (the modern equivalent is Second Life), other for gaming, etc.

 
MUDs were just as fun as modern games, despite the fact that the vast majority were text based. However, in a way they were far superior to even the most modern of these games. How so?

 
The type of MUD I used was called an LPMud. This was a classic multiplayer online game: once you registered, you were given a character that would have to fight monsters and get experience points to advance in levels. Depending on the MUD itself (there were hundreds, all run by individuals and as far as I know, hosted at universities), you could choose a class (i.e. a wizard, a druid, a fighter), have spells, and a do whole lot of different things. I’m sure this sounds very similar to anyone who has played World of Warcraft or similar games.

 
The difference is – and that is a huge, enormous difference – is that all MUDs were based on user generated content.

 
Once a character reached his 20th level and has done his share of quests, he became a “Wizard”. Wizards weren’t players anymore.. but were more like MUD administrators. Each was given permission to program a part of the MUD – his domain. Most Wizards created an area with a theme: I remember Castle Dracula, Sesame Street, Star wars, and basically everything you can imagine.

 
User generated content? Web 2.0? in the late 80s?! These terms were used long after these events despite the fact this was decades before they became mainstream.

 
Even today, you still can’t do the equivalent with games such as World of Warcraft (though I do remember that a few years ago, a group of people was able to successfully replicate EverQuest’s framework and protocols and effectively recreated a home-brew version without Sony’s permission).

 
It may really surprise people who started using computers when the internet was already ubiquitous, but back then, things were just as fun despite the technological limitations. There was no spam either!

 
I hope you found this history lesson interesting ;) . Although this post can be read on its own, I gave it for a reason – in order to be able to share an event that took place at the time. Read my next posts for more details.

 
Here are links to the other parts.
The Prehistoric Times of Social Media: The Sting (Part 2 of 4)
The Prehistoric Times of Social Media: Cybercrime (Part 3 of 4)
The Prehistoric Times of Social Media: Crime and Punishment (Part 4 of 4)

 

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What's next?

 

I’ve been doing internet marketing for quite a while, and I can say, I’ve never seen an industry that changes so quickly. Every month there is something new, every month brings a big – sometimes a game changer – event.

 
Unsurprisingly, there is always a wave of internet marketers, product creators, that attempt to benefit from it. Although many marketers create products that genuinely provide value, there are the others who just create something, often without any meaningful understanding of the topic, in order to benefit from the wake of the fad.

 
What both frustrates and excites me is that these changes tend to affect the behavior of online marketers, and in turn, this usually affects the market itself… which affects marketers once again. This is probably why these new fads emerge in the first place. (Ok, I don’t want to lose you now, but this actually relates to my Ph.D. thesis which dealt with interactions that take place between various levels of complex systems… in this case, the market is a hierarchical complex system. But never mind..)

 
Forgive me if I got the time-frames slightly wrong.

 
In October 2009 it was all about PPV (CPV – cost per view) advertising. I don’t know how many courses and products were released in a short span. The result? Not only a large number of people started doing PPV advertising, but also, the biggest PPV network, TrafficVance, became extremely selective about accepting new advertisers, despite the fact its policies already required that new advertisers bring 2 referrals (!) and a minimum of a $1,000 deposit. It’s funny when one thinks about it: they’re literally saying no to advertisers who are willing to pay at least a $1,000. It’s been a while since then: as far I know they are not as strict anymore.

 
Then in December 2009 it was all about site flipping. In the span of three weeks I must’ve seen or heard of at least five products, each suggesting people build quick sites and flip them for a quick buck. I’m sure this could work, but not after releasing all these products… there’s a limit as to how many people can sell sites simultaneously, after all, the number of buyers did not change. Supply and demand and all that.

 
In January 2010 it was Facebook advertising. I don’t remember the exact phrases used but “Facebook loves affiliates” and “a goldmine” got stuck in my head. This resulted in many people trying Facebook advertising, and not long afterwards (April 2010), Facebook coming down with very, very strict guidelines that effectively eliminate most affiliate products from its network.

 
In February-March 2010 it was all about mobile. Mobile advertising. Mobile sites. Pay per call courses. A few courses created by very big marketers in a short span of time. Now, I don’t think mobile is a fad. I think mobile will just get bigger. But it was interesting that these were released at such a close proximity.

 
April-May 2010 were the months of local advertising. I saw several classes touting that “these are the biggest markets left unexplored” or so. Some of these classes seemed like the real deal, but others seemed almost like a scam (at least in one case, I’m pretty sure it IS a scam). What’s going to happen as a reaction to that? I don’t know. I guess we’ll find out very soon.

 
Don’t get me wrong, I’m guilty of trying some of these as well. I’m not trying to say “look at these idiots, trying one fad after the other” since often I was once of “these idiots” ;-) . I’m also not trying to say that none of these forms of advertising worked. In fact, I believe all of them worked prior to the release of the courses/products… by then the market had reacted and it became considerably harder, and at times, impossible, to benefit from the lessons taught.

 
While I love these dynamics, it’s virtually impossible to predict what will be next. What will be “the next big thing” in June? August? October? I don’t know. From an intellectual perspective I am really curious, though I know that whatever is promoted then, now is probably a good time to do it because by the time we hear of it, it will most likely be too late.

 
Edit: by the way, any guesses? Obviously Plenty of Fish (POF) is becoming increasingly popular as well as other traffic methods. I’m curious what you think.

 

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Twitter jokes
(The image above doesn’t really relate to the article – I just found it amusing).

 

A friend of mine sent me a link to an article that discusses Twitter and influence. It argues that number of followers isn’t the best measure of Twitter influence. I think he expected me to argue that the article is wrong. However, I fully agree with the article’s premise. Here’s an anecdote: there is a Twitter user I recently stumbled onto who has – if I recall – ~135,000 followers and 0 tweets. Clearly that user is not influential in any way. How he got to this number of followers is a mystery.

 
An additional commonly regarded measure is number of times a user is being retweeted. While I think there is some merit to this idea, I think it fails too. There are quite a lot of users – I can name 5 off the top of my head – who have an auto-tweet mechanism that just tweets quotes and/or facts and/or news all day long. Some are bots – there isn’t even a real user behind them. Personally, I find them somewhat annoying, but manage by mainly ignoring them – though a few friends of mine detest those passionately and argue that these are what will bring Twitter’s downfall. I do have a problem with the quotes being repetitive and cliche, as well as the facts being erroneous and misleading, but that’s a different matter.

 
My point is, these users get retweeted lot. This is unsurprising: corny, cliche quotes would be retweeted since they appeal to the lowest common denominator, particularly if they are repeated countless times. It’s like popular commercials: the jingle sticks in your head no matter what, simply because you hear it all. the. time.

 
Another aspect I haven’t read about and yet would consider relevant is the number of lists one appears in. This appears to be somewhat correlated with influence. However, the more followers and/or the more active a user is, the more lists a user tends to appear in. I wouldn’t say that the more lists a user appears in, the more influential he or she is. However, I would say that a user that is not listed a lot is probably not influential.

 
Yet another aspect is interaction: how much a user interacts with fellow users. Why is this relevant? Because interaction creates relationships, relationships result in paying attention to what one says, and that is influence.

 
Ok, now that we’ve seen this is problematic, how would I measure influence on Twitter? As the article argues, it’s not easy.

 
If I had to devise my own algorithm, and a few months ago I actually considered doing just that, I would take several factors into account. The following are not sorted in order of importance:

  1. Number of followers.
     
  2. Number of followees.
     
  3. Number of tweets.
     
  4. Number of lists the user is included in.
     
  5. Number of retweets.
     
  6. Number of interactions a user has with other users (responses) – both the number of users he/she interacts with and the actual number of interactions (i.e. 100 responses to many different users vs. 100 responses to a single user).
     
  7. The characteristics of those who retweet the user’s tweets (i.e. their number of followers, followees, lists, tweets, and retweets).
     
  8. The characteristics of those who interact with the user.
     
  9. A measure that will indicate whether a user is real person or not. If a user tweet 24 hours a day, in set intervals, and never interacts in any meaningful way (i.e. it may say “thank you for the RTs” in a mechanical manner) it’s not a real person, period. I would remove those from the list completely.

What will this show me? I believe it will – generally – demonstrate who is an influential presence in Twitter. Of course, some people are exempt from this. Conan O’Brien doesn’t need to respond to anyone to be influential. But he’s influential outside of Twitter and this influence carries into Twitter.

 
Why is Twitter influence important? The article stated that companies are paying users with many followers to tweet. This is true to a degree. Companies such as SponsoredTweets and ad.ly (I believe) do factor influence measures into the decision whether to pay a user to tweet. It’s not just number of followers.

 
I don’t intend to do a full survey of Twitter influence tools, but here are three I’ve used.

 
Twitter Grader used to do an adequate job in my opinion, but it was changed so much its results are completely meaningless nowadays. I stopped paying serious attention to it a long time ago, as it is so fundamentally flawed.

 
For example, if you look for major influencers in the state of New Jersey, the #1 – consistently – on the list is a bot (it RTs useful pieces of information – but a bot, nonetheless. Until I see it interact with anyone I won’t believe otherwise). Clearly it assigns excessive importance to retweeting. Also, strangely it includes users that have tweeted a ridiculously low number of tweets and don’t have a lot of followers either (i.e. one user tweeted a total of 172 tweets – seriously, that user is a major influencer? I’m not buying that). Twitter grader also doesn’t explain how it works – it feels like a random generator of numbers. There are more issues but I’ll stop here.

 
Twitterholic (which seems to be in the process of changing its name to Twitaholic) simply shows the number of followers, followees and tweets for a specific area. That, as stated, is not an accurate measure, but it is far superior to the Twitter grader whose results are meaningless. Even this limited number of characteristics says a lot about the user.

 
Klout, I believe, does the best job. What I like about this tool is that it takes a lot of the above factors into consideration and even explains its reasoning why a user is influential or not, and classifies it into one of several categories. It’s really the only tool that does an adequate job in my opinion.

 
And there are many more. Many more. More seem to appear every day.

 
Any thoughts?

 

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Gaining twitter followers
Click on the image to see it in higher resolution


Everybody knows that interacting on Twitter attracts followers, right? This is the main reason for Twitter’s existence. As a long time active user, I can say: this is, of course, true – you can gain followers based on that alone (as I wrote about very early on).

 
With that being said, very active users know that if you tweet too much, it really hampers this process. There were periods where I was extremely active and tweeted as many as 400 tweets a day ( …see my article on Twitter Jail… ). I was well aware of the fact that if I tweet less, I will gain more followers. But gaining followers wasn’t what I was after, so I did what I wanted to do. If someone didn’t want to follow me because I talked too much, then there’s nothing I can do about it – I’m not going to change myself.

 
In the past two months I’ve drastically reduced my Twitter activities. Not to change the subject, but the main reason is that I’m busy and simply can’t afford the time. There is also another big reason, which I may dedicate a post to, but can’t discuss at the moment.

 
However, watch the above graph (click here to see it in higher resolution) – a new feature, I believe – courtesy of TwitterCounter. It shows my number of tweets and followers over a three month time period. I really like this feature.

 
As you can see, there is no correlation at all between the number of followers I gained every day and the number of tweets I tweeted. I was aware of it, of course, but it’s nice to see it visualized.

 
The truth is, while interacting and being active – in moderation – really helps getting followers, it is entirely unnecessary. One does not need to be active at all to gain followers. How? That’s a story for another time. I am aware of several users who don’t tweet at all whose Twitter growth is extremely fast.

 
Twitter may not like this fact, but that is the case. In fact, in many ways they encourage this by setting artificial limits on tweets and DMs (again I mention my post on Twitter Jail) and other issues. Hopefully this will change in the future.

 

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Twitter Jail
Thanks Krishna Sadasivam from pcweenies for drawing this awesome comic!

Lately this term is becoming increasing used within the Twitterverse (at least in my circles). Twitter Jail means you maxed out your status updates for a period of time/a day (I think these are two separate things, though not 100% sure), OR you maxed out your number of Direct Messages (DMs) for the day.

 
(Edit: as far as I discovered, Twitter Jail occurs when you update your status more than 100 times per hour or 1000 times per day and can last any time between 30 minutes and several hours. For me it’s usually 2 hours).

 
Once this happens – usually in the midst of a conversation – you find out that you can’t talk anymore. Can happen both using standards tweets or DMs.

 
I imagine this was created to deal with spammers who would send 15,000 tweets in 10 minutes. I doubt it was meant to limit very talkative users – since what’s to stop someone from just unfollowing them? I see no reason to limit that.

 
Lately because of my increasing number of friends I find myself almost daily in ‘Twitter Jail’ for a period of time. This is very frustrating, because here I am, chatting to multiple friends, and suddenly I can’t reply – to anyone. From their perspective, I simply vanished. Usually I send them all DMs, but it’s becoming a really annoying daily situation. Sometimes it happens when I’m not even talking that much. I guess Christmas, with all the ‘Merry Xmas’ messages made this temporary worse (for me) and triggered writing this post.

 
As an ex profsesional software developer and architect I cannot but speculate, again, that this was done mainly to prevent spamming. However, wouldn’t it be best to limit the number of links that are sent, rather than the tweets? Since spammers mainly send URLs, by limiting only the number of tweets that include them it would really just target spammers. Then they can talk as much as they want but won’t get any sales… though I’d still have a limit, just make it much greater (say, 5 times as high).

 
Furthermore, if it were my system, I would set the limits according to the age of users: clearly a spammer is more likely to be a new user since sooner or later he’d be suspended. Unlike, for example, a user that has been a Twitter user for 2 years who would be far less likely to be a spammer. There’s no reason for the two to be treated the same.

 
Finally, I also think the limits should be set according to the number of people who follow a user: if someone has a million followers and wanted to respond to each, he’d be thrown very quickly to Twitter jail. Ridiculous in my opinion. If you have more people to talk to, you should be able to converse more. Isn’t that the whole point of Twitter – interaction?

 
These are just my 2 cents on the subject. If this ever gets to someone in the Twitter team, hopefully they will find it constructive criticism, which is my intent.

 
edit: I am amazed how searched this topic is. A large percentage of visitors to my blog look for information about Twitter Jail. As a result, I wrote a sequel post which deals with visitors who are interested in Twitter Jail.

 
edit 2: since writing these two posts I actually discovered yet a third type of Twitter Jail: Twitter Jail: Yet Another Type…. They never stop coming with ideas, do they..

 

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mass unfollowing

Unsurprisingly, there are various approaches to follower attraction and – for lack of a better word – follower removal. Some people, and I believe these are the people Twitter originally aimed to attract, just naturally meet people. Follow those whose tweets interest them and unfollow those whose tweets do not.

 
Another group of people are similar to the above, but they aim to gain as many followers as possible. I admit to belonging to this group, primarily because it gives me a much greater audience to this blog as well as significantly more opportunities for interaction and meeting people (it’s also so easy so why not do it?).

 
A third group aims to gain as many followers as possible since every follower is a potential buyer. If you have 50,000 followers, and you try and sell something, even if 0.1% on average buy, then it’s still 50 people – which is a lot if you compare it to other ad models (i.e. PPC).

 
The philosophy behind following and unfollowing is clearly intertwined. If you’re in Twitter and truly only care about interaction, then there’s no reason for you to care if you are being unfollowed (unless this offends you).

 
If you try and gain as many followers as possible, then you’re fully aware of the fact that if you don’t follow someone back (reciprocal following), there’s a good chance he’ll stop following you very soon. So often you see people who follow roughly the same number of people who follow them.

 
Personally, I believe that only those who offer truly unique and interesting tweets can expect someone to follow them and not need to follow back. For example, if you’re a celebrity (I covered this in greater detail in my post, Why Do People Follow Celebrities?) then your life is deemed interesting to your followers even if it’s completely mundane.

 
But even if you’re not a celebrity, but say, are a very funny guy or a very interesting person (i.e. Iconic88, one of Twitter’s treasures), then it also likely that people will continue following you because of who you are and what you say.

 
Alas, for most people, that is not the case. A while ago I looked at the tweets of some people I consider celebrities or experts in their respective fields. Although they may be interesting, even fascinating, in real life, their tweets are, how shall I say it, not really interesting. They often deal with the uninteresting trivia of their life (i.e. I don’t particularly find interesting what William Shatner had for lunch). It may be fun and exciting to interact with them, but normally these people also don’t interact with their followers – don’t respond to their followers’ comments, etc. I’m not just talking about people with millions of followers, but also those with a far smaller number. Some even have fewer followers than I have (and I always respond to anyone who attempts communication – not talking about DMs which are really unusable).

 
For the sake of fairness, I’m not sure how many people would continue follow me if I did not follow them back. I almost always tweet articles from my blog, other articles I find interesting, retweets of articles other people found interesting, blip my favorite music, and generally chat the vast majority of my time – or better phrased “interact with my followers” ;-) ). So I assume if I were to, say, unfollow 90% of my followers, a great number would unfollow me. I also think it’s not unfair.

 
This brings me to an interesting question: so assuming one is not a celebrity or someone whose content greatly appeals to the masses. What would happen if he or she were to unfollow most of their followers? Let’s try and see.

 
Recently I was unfollowed by three people I was following for a long while. When I looked at their follower charts (as I like doing, since there’s always something I find interesting in this data) I noticed that all three did a mass unfollow. Note that this seems to be somewhat of a recent trend since some companies pay people who tweet and their ratio of followers to followees is one factor in determining the price they can demand (supposedly, the greater the ratio, the more of a celebrity you are – which actually does make sense).

 
Since I don’t want to mention any names, I’ll bring the follower charts of these three. If you have any guess who they might be, please do not comment below as I will edit the names out. This is not meant to be a personal criticism of anyone. Really.

 


 

As you can see, in the first two images, there was an immediate mass reciprocal unfollow, following by a stead steam of unfollowing. In image 1, even now, a month and half after the mass unfollow, the trend of unfollowing appears to be continuing. In other words, this person is still losing followers.

 
In image 2, which is much more recent, despite the smaller scale of the mass unfollow, the exact same thing appears to still be happening.

 


 
In image 3, it is a bit harder to tell since the mass unfollow has just occurred – so the trickle hasn’t started just yet – but in all likelihood, the same thing will occur.

 
Personally I believe that in all three cases, people have unfollowed for one or more of the following reasons:

  1. Just because. You unfollow me, I unfollow you. It’s not fair otherwise.
  2. Automatic unfollow: you unfollow me, my autopilot program detects this after X days and unfollows you.
  3. You’re boring, and suddenly I realized that now I have no more incentive to follow you, ergo, you’re gone.

 
Despite the fact that in none of the cases 100% or even 50% of the people have unfollowed the person, the trend in all cases appears to be negative, so there’s no reason to assume it’ll stop – though of course there isn’t enough data to support this theory. Personally, I don’t think it will stop for exactly the above reasons. I think most people simply aren’t aware that they are no longer being unfollowed, and the slow trickle of unfollowing occurs because one by one they discover that.

 
My own personal reaction to this was to immediately unfollow all three once I realized I am being unfollowed. As I discovered, it seems I did not follow them for their content as I do not even notice their tweets are gone. Otherwise I would’ve stuck with them.

 
Any thoughts?

 

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many followers on twitter

After using Twitter very heavily for – what – 3 months now? I’ve noticed that there are certain mandatory milestones people who use Twitter pass through.

 
The first occurs somewhere around 150 followers/followees. You realize there’s no way you could keep track of all the conversations since the web interface isn’t really designed for this. At this point people either limit the number of people they follow (too many conversations going on), start using specialized software (such as TweetDeck) or just give up and return to Facebook saying that Twitter sucks and they don’t see the point (in fact, I’ve dedicated an entire post to this, Explaining Twitter to Facebook Users).

 
The second is actually an artificial milestone: it’s set exactly at 2,000 followers. This number is defined by Twitter itself. I don’t remember the exact rule, but it goes something like this: you can’t follow more than 2,000 people unless you have at least 90% of that – 1800 – followers (or something similar). This is actually pretty effective, and you see a lot of people with disproportional follower/followee ratio (50 followers and 1750 they follow). Usually these are people who try gaining a large number of followers very quickly. Not that it’s impossible, but this is not the right way I believe, and neither this is the point of Twitter. The easy – and the fun – way to overcome this is by progressing through interaction (and I’ve written a post about that too: How to Gain Twitter Followers For Free and With No Tools). I wasn’t even aware of this limitation when I crossed 2,000!

 
(An interesting side note, several friends have told me in the past that I have an anecdote for everything. This is true. For almost everything I hear there’s something related I can think of. A family trait, we all are like this. Funny that my blog is starting to look like that too, don’t you think?).

 
The third milestone, is one I believe I reached in the past two weeks is – I estimate – around 5,000 followers, and will shortly elaborate on it.

 
I’m sure there are more such milestones I haven’t reached: 20,000, 50,000, 100,000, 1 million, 3 million, 1 billion, etc. And of course, some milestones can only be reached by God and Ashton Kutcher, and neither is talking to us, so they shall have to remain a mystery.

 
So back to what I wanted to cover in this post: What happens when you start having a lot of followers? (which in this context, is my third milestone).

 
Although I “only” have 7,000 followers, thanks to my witty banter, humorous activities and unnatural modest personality (not to mention my own custom devised algorithm of finding followers – why do people need software packages? It’s just so easy), and some of my best Twitter friends have way, way more followers than I do (like Darren, 101,000 followers, Heather, 22,000 and Ken, 20,000), I’ve started feeling a change once I reached the third milestone. By the way, these three people are always going to be on my #FollowFriday list. Truly some of the greatest people I know on Twitter and outside!

 
An important point: I follow almost every single person who follows me. Why? I just think it’s fair. This point is arguable since I know many people don’t agree with this philosophy, but personally I think that unless you’re a real (non web) celebrity or truly have something unique to say on Twitter (not your blog, TV show, or whatever), you can’t expect people to follow you if you don’t return the favor. The fact John Chow lost a quarter (or more) of his 60,000 followers since his mass unfollow just proves this point – and I don’t think his process of losing followers is over just yet! Of course, this only holds true if you’re actively trying to expand your number of followers: if you’re just in Twitter then there truly is no obligation for you to follow anyone.

 
Here’s what happens – at least to me:

 
The good

  1. When I first heard of Twitter, I read that you can pose a question, and you’ll always get an answer from someone in the Twitterverse. So after I joined and had a couple hundred of followers I tried it. No response. I tried it again later. No response. And again. No response. Kind of sucked, but I thought – I guess I simply don’t have enough friends/followers.

     
    However, some time ago after the ‘third milestone’, I tried again. I pose a question and now I always get answers. Usually multiple, and usually from people I don’t know. This is just awesome. For someone like me, who thrives on interaction and enjoys meeting new people and starting conversations this is absolutely fantastic. I’ve actually started doing it just to get closer to some people who follow me (and I them). This is one of the best aspects of Twitter. I’m really enjoying this.

     

  2. You start getting offers for Sponsored Tweets. My original reason for entering Twitter was promotion of my blog and I knew this may have financial repercussions even though I didn’t anticipate or aim for short-term ones (it’s been 3 months and I’m still not doing anything of the sort). However, I truly hadn’t expected anything like that. You tweet a 1-3 messages and get money? It’s not a lot of money, yet this was still a nice surprise. I tweet sometimes hundreds of messages a day, what’s another one? Let alone one I mark as ‘#ad’ or ’sponsored’ (the application gives you that option)

     

  3. People you don’t know start referencing you or a conversation you had in a way that implies they know you or have been following your conversations, at least to some extent. Some people may feel threatened by this, but I just love it. It’s like skipping the whole “introduction” aspect of becoming a friend – like jumping directly to stage 2 of a friendship.

     

  4. Continuing the last item, people you don’t know start including you in their #FollowFriday. This even now still surprises me and greatly flatters me.

     

  5. You get more business opportunities. I’ve already had several such discussions – which makes sense, because there are so many people on Twitter who look for that, myself included. The one that most surprised me is the offer to give high level direction to a new Twitter application as a “Twitter Guru”. And more so, that the advice I gave was extremely easy to give and I also think, extremely useful. Twitter is truly very simple after all. After you’ve used it for a while you know what could be improved on and what is already great.

 
The bad

  1. Your twitter mailbox becomes useless. Tweetdeck shows you only the last 20 messages, so these days I usually don’t even bother checking my DM box – it’s filled with “offers” and twit validations and whatever. It’s a shame they can’t get a better system for that, like a white-list or a word filter (I’d filter every message that mentions “Trump”), because I’m sure I missed the occasional important direct message (apologies if I never answered someone who reads this).

     

  2. There is a definite loss of privacy. Personally, I’m not too sensitive about what I say. Although at times I’m sure it would be best if some tweets were not public, I still don’t worry about that too much. However, particularly when engaging in personal conversations, sometimes it’s almost easy to forget there’s an audience (and this changes when someone jumps into the conversation – happened several times). This is particularly true when you speak to someone who has fewer followers – or follows only real world friends – and may not to be used to keeping this in mind.

     

  3. Twitter becomes an increasingly greater time hog. Today I had lunch with a friend who told me “but you don’t really know or care about all 7,000 people, do you?”, and I said I don’t know all of them, but I know many, and certainly will be happy to get to know better anyone who is interested in knowing me. Furthermore, those that I do know, I care about, and as a result, I find myself spending more and more time on Twitter. People who know me know I’m very honest about saying this. I’ve met some fantastic friends in the past few months as result of using Twitter.

 
I don’t know what the future will bring to either myself or Twitter (personally I’m not too certain about its future). I assume it’s a different scenario when you have a 100,000 followers. I certainly have no problem conversing with multiple people at the same time (I vaguely remember even testing myself using various messengers and the maximum conversations I simultaneously could do is 8 – not just in terms of typing – I type very quickly – but also in terms of being truly focused on the conversation).

 
However, with such a great number of followers I’m sure one may easily find himself talking with many more people than 8. That would be beyond my technical ability (though it’s possible mentally I could do more than 8). If that happens, I’ll simply become a slow responder, I guess. Not that I envision myself ever having 100,000 followers (I anticipate I’ll peak at 30,000. Don’t ask me why, it’s just an educated guess).

 

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Celebrity following

 

As you may know, the famous blogger, John Chow, has recently unfollowed almost all of his followers (~55,000) in a single day and left only a 100. I read his post about this and all the comments (there were a lot of those). I also read several of the posts other bloggers wrote following his decision, some with very harsh criticism. I’ve met John Chow in Affiliate Summit East and spoke to him on several occasions and think he’s a very nice guy. He unfollowed me too, but then again, I can’t say we are close, so I understand his decision, and certainly don’t take it personally.

 
But this post is not about John Chow’s decision. Plenty of words were written about that.

 
After reading all the mentioned posts it made me think: why do people follow celebrities? I don’t think John Chow is really a celebrity, but to a certain audience, he is. When I was an academic, certain people were celebrities in my field, but I assure you, they won’t get recognized on the street and you’ve never heard their names.

 
There are several reasons I can think of why people would follow a celebrity on Twitter (and note that this also applies to other social media sites such as Facebook):

  1. To get a reciprocal follow: meaning, if you follow John Chow, he might follow you in return. I believe that’s usually not the case when dealing with celebrities because there are several other million people you can follow who will follow you back, but I’m just listing it as a possible factor.

     

  2. Because you’re curious about their lives. Why do people follow Ashton Kutcher or Britney Spears? To see what they do in their day to day life. Hey, it’s all public, so why not? They invite this publicity.

     

  3. Because they provide interesting content. Some celebrities, such as Mashable, write excellent content. Really, almost every one of Mashable’s tweets is a winner – I could not unfollow him even if I wanted to because he’s simply too good a source to give up. It doesn’t matter at all that he doesn’t follow me back. The New York times doesn’t read my blog and I don’t stop reading it, do I?

     

  4. Because they want a chance to interact with them. If you follow someone, you can comment on something they do or they may follow you back… and then you may actually get to ‘talk’ to them. Touch the stars. Be a part of their lives. This goes back to one of my first posts which dealt with interaction.

     

I think for most people it’s usually (4), that is, the chance to interact with celebrities, and to a lesser extent, (2), that is, to simply follow their lives out of curiosity. However, let’s face it, the tweets of most celebrities are extremely boring. It’s like seeing the twitter account of your not so bright teenage next door neighbor. That being said, interacting with a celebrity means you get to say “Hey, I chatted with Britney today” even if all she responded to you was “thank you” – and you get to talk about this for years to come! So I think interaction is the main reason, even if it’s trivial interaction.

 
This reminds me of quick personal anecdote: should I be discussing this in a public forum? Never mind. In the mid 90s, a friend of mine used to be a secretary of a very famous Israeli general who – years later – was a candidate to be the head of the Israeli Mossad (he didn’t get the job by the way). You’d often read about him in the news at the time since he dealt with very sensitive issues. When she left her job, she had a small going-away party (for around 20 people), and he came too as her boss. She personally introduced everyone to everyone, so I was introduced to him as well. At some point someone was talking in the background while she was making a speech, effectively interrupting her (rather impolitely), so he shouted “Silence, Schlessinger!”. Clearly he confused that guy who was misbehaving with me (my friend quickly corrected him, “No no, that wasn’t Udi, he’s a good guy”). But for years later I used to say “You know, the potential head of the Israeli Mossad shouted at me in anger”. Silly, I know, but worthy of an anecdote even 15 years later. Don’t you think?

 
Anyway, my above conclusions made me examine my own list of people I follow. I follow very few celebrities, and most of them are in John Chow’s league (i.e. most people won’t know them). I asked myself: why do I follow William Shatner? I really liked him in Star Trek, but his Tweets are boring (no offense Bill if you’re reading this). I know why I follow Mashable (mentioned above). I started following Brent Spiner (Data from Star Trek) because – I guess – I was curious and wanted to interact with him, but now I follow him simply because he is a very interesting person. He’s extremely witty and funny, and provides one of the best sources of content on Twitter.

 
After this pondering I realized that very few of the celebrities I follow are really justified. Most are either boring (often very boring) and they most definitely don’t interact with me. So why should I follow them? Once I realized that, I unfollowed most (like all 6 of them ;) ) and left those that either I really find interesting, or have interacted with in the past. Sorry Shatner, you had to go. Don’t take it personally, I still think you were awesome in Star Trek.

 
Just thought I’ll share this with you, my reader: if you follow some people (celebrity or otherwise) on Twitter, ask yourself, why do you do that? Do you really care about them? Do you just follow them because you want an extra follower? Do you find their tweets interesting? Thoughts worth thinking in my opinion.

 

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Twitter Followers

Although I am a big proponent of gaining Twitter followers naturally, through interaction, without using any tools (read my previous post on gaining Twitter followers for free), lately I feel I’ve stumbled into – how shall I call it – a barrier of sorts.

 
Up until now I have been heavily using Twitter (as those who follow me clearly know), and I would say gained roughly between 80-100 followers every day I spent on Twitter. Often I would refresh my screen, and within minutes 1 or 2 new followers would appear.

 
However, this changed once I passed 2,000 followers. I was doing my own thing (if anything, perhaps even used Twitter more heavily), but suddenly I was not gaining more than 25 followers per day. This has been going on for roughly a week. Although I wish I could explain it by the fact there’s a labor day weekend here in the US (and overall, I see a decreased number of visitors in many of my sites), this seems too sharp a transition to be a coincidence.

 
Perhaps I need to explain again my ’strategy’ (if it can be called one) for gaining followers. I simply talk to people. I RT people. I send articles and links I find interesting. And people follow me. I am not doing the ‘other’ strategy, that is, follow 500 people, and weed out the 2/3 that haven’t followed me back, follow another 500 people, and repeat the process. I know this works, but – well, it just didn’t seem to be necessary. Of course I don’t mean to say I’m not following anyone on my own – that is far from the truth, but that number is pretty small (20 people a day?).

 
Since I am primarily relying on people following me, which is what I call interaction, and this interaction hasn’t changed, it appears to me that there is another factor involved here.

 
At the moment I’m not entirely sure what it is. I do have a guess though. I’ve been told by a source I consider reliable that once a user has 2,000 followers, he can only follow 10% of his number of followers per day (if you know for a fact this is incorrect, please let me know). Clearly, this would significantly impact people doing the ‘other’ strategy. However, I’ve never even gone close to this limit. That being said, I would not be surprised if some of the automation tools take this into consideration and bias their auto-follow algorithms towards people with fewer than 2,000 followers since they are more likely to follow back. In other words, if you follow someone with 1,000 followers, he is much more likely to auto-follow you back (because he’s not limited), however, if you follow someone with 2,001 followers, the chances of him following you back drop because he’s subject to the 10% limit.

 
Does this make sense? I cannot think of any other way to explain it (besides labor day). If this is true then it heavily weakens my theory of interaction being such an important key element of Twitter, but rather reduces it to being a weaker, secondary force that can “push” you to some degree, but by itself, is insufficient. If this is the case, then Twitter should re-engineer some of their algorithms (i.e. I don’t think it makes sense for someone without any tweets and a single follower to follow 1,000 people), as clearly that is not their goal.

 
If you have any opinion on what I wrote, by all means, please let me know.

 
p.s. I went through the ‘top Twitterers’ list (or whatever it’s called) in the US and was quite disturbed by the number of people there I believe are bots (or semi-bots – that is, bots that are occasionally controlled by a human). Clearly their strategy is extremely effective. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read my previous post. Just reinforces what I suspected before.

 
p.p.s. one question I’ve been asked online is “Why do you care about followers?”. Why? Well, it’s nice having a greater audience. More followers means more people noticing my blog. At the moment I would say 90% of the visitors to my blog come through Twitter – and my blog is one of my most popular websites! Therefore, it means more people reading what I write. Means more people responding and interacting with me. Means more friends I get to meet. Maybe if I had one million followers I would say “Jeez, I can’t handle this noise”, but at this point I’m nowhere even close to my limit in handling my list. There are about 40-50 people who I closely monitor, and whenever there’s a moment which these people aren’t writing anything (which is 95% of the time), I simply look into the Twitter Timeline and look for interesting tweets, or do a search for interesting tweets. I think that’s the entire point in being in Twitter.

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