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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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When two separate discussions that I conduct converge, I know that I’m onto a topic I need to blog about.

 
I’ve written about affiliate fads in a different blog post. It’s interesting, but in the past month I’ve seen one product launch and three webinars (so far!) that deal with, yes – making money using Twitter. I find this amusing since this is an old fad that’s making a comeback and I honestly never expected that it would. Most affiliate marketers scoff at anything related to Twitter.

 
So is it possible to make money on Twitter? I’ve been (very) active on Twitter for a long time, though recently I have reduced my activities for various reasons. I do think it’s fair to consider Twitter a platform for making money, however, it’s not one of the best places to do so. Despite its flaws, twitter is a fantastic platform for other money-related activities though.

 
Here’s a survey of methods I know of that can be used to make money using Twitter. There are probably more, some I forgot, and some I am not aware of. I’ve classified them to the good (effective), the bad (ineffective) and the ugly (misleading). This classification is, of course, based on my own opinions and others may not agree with it.

 
The Bad (ineffective)

  1. Affiliate links: the most obvious way of generating money with Twitter. You tweet a link that promotes an affiliate offer: if someone buys a product/fills in details, you get commission. It’s as simple as it gets. Theoretically, if you have a large number of followers or a very targeted group of followers, it could work.

     
    There are two problems: first, normally it just doesn’t work – the percentage of people who actually buy/fill in details is very low. Yes, you can make money, but very little money. Worse, because Twitter users are so used to spam, they’ve become extra sensitive to anything that even sounds like an attempt of making money. A person who tweets affiliate links, even if they are completely beneficial to all parties involved (i.e. freebies) will often find himself blocked and reported for spam, and some people will even tell him they do intend to do so. Happened to me more than once.

     

  2. Barging into conversations: I believe this is the method that is recently promoted, particularly since I seem to see it a lot more than I used to. For starters, I want to declare I’ve never tried it myself so can’t say with absolutely certainty whether it works or not. However, with that being said, I don’t believe it does.

     
    This method consists of searching on Twitter for people who discuss a certain topic, say, for keywords such as “losing weight” or “diet”, etc, and sending them a very relevant affiliate link. In theory it’s not a bad idea (“You’re helping people”). In practice? Rude.

     
    I’ve had conversations with people where suddenly someone would “jump in” and offer me something that was relevant to a point I made. Almost always it was something I only casually mentioned, so I wasn’t even looking for anything related. It is my belief – and let me emphasize that being an affiliate marketer I am obviously affiliate friendly – that most people consider it the worst kind of spam, since this is spam that actively barges into your Twitter activities. I know that when this happens to me, I always ‘block and report as spam’. If a friend were to offer this to me, or someone I knew, I would be much more open to this idea. But this method doesn’t suggest building long term relationships but rather jumping in with an affiliate offer – and never has any friend sent me affiliate links on Twitter.

     
    Like I said, I never tried it myself so who knows, maybe it does work. But the people I know – and I know quite a few – would treat this as the worst kind of behavior on Twitter.

     
    Continue to part two of ‘Making Money On Twitter.

 

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I haven’t written about blogging for a while. Since I follow quite a few blogs every day, not to mention, monitor the activity of my own blogs, it’s interesting to see what works and what doesn’t work – sometimes it’s just plain obvious, other times I had to learn certain lessons the hard way. Here are six suggestions that may be useful to anyone who’s blogging.

 

  1. Avoid ads (at first, at least): when you just start a blog and even when it’s quite a bit more established, it’s best to avoid putting ads. First, you’re not going to make any serious amount of money: if you place AdSense code, you may get the occasional click which would probably amount to ~10 cents. However, you will cause – and this is particularly important at the beginning – your potential audience to reconsider visiting your blog.

     
    Here is a personal example: I have a niche site which provies book and movie reviews. When it first launched I got quite a few people very involved because it’s dealing with a specific topic that apparently many people find interesting. About a month after I launched it I added ads: this drove my two most loyal readers away – they never came back! I even wrote one emails and she never responded. After two months during which I made a whopping $4 I took the ads off. I think these people’s response was extreme but some people are turned off by ads or anything that can be viewed as trying to make money (if you’ve been on Twitter for a while, you know that people on Twitter – tweeps – are very hostile to ads). Note that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with placing ads – you spend time and effort, get a domain, a hosting account – why not get compensated, at least a bit, for your efforts?

     
    Another consideration is that a blog is a personal thing and ads take away from that intimacy. I think when you have an established audience, most (if not all) will understand it if you put ads, but at first it will turn people off.

     
    If and when you do place ads, it’s a good idea to put them in a place that doesn’t ruin the “visitor experience”. Some blogs are so crammed with ads it’s just a turn off even for me.

     

  2. Give your posts proper titles – the search engine perspective: Try to incorporate phrases that people search for in your titles. It’s not really hard to do, a quick visit to the Google keyword tool will show that. For example: Six Blogging Tips and Tricks (the title of this post).

     

  3. Give your posts proper titles – aim to go viral. If you can come up with a good catchy title it will certainly draw attention. And if it’s a good post, people will want to share it, retweet it and send it to their friends. My recent blog post “Gaining A Million Followers In Less Than 30 Days” – got the fastest numbers of visitors from the moment I tweeted a link to it from all of my other blog posts.

     

  4. Use video properly: using video is a great idea which is highly recommended. Search engines love it and people respond better to videos than to text – after all, it’s easier to listen than to read. However, videos can’t replace your blog post completely.

     
    There are blogs that only rely on a video to convey their message. No description of the content nor a meaningful title. Not only this is bad from an SEO perspective since there is no way for the search engines to figure what the post is all about, and so, index it properly, but this is also true for people too. Often I can’t turn on my speakers from various reasons and consequently, can’t listen to the video – so there are some blog posts I literally have no clue what they are about as much as I’d like to know.

     

  5. Use a correct permalink structure: meaning, the path to the post should not use Wordpress’ default structure (which looks something like this: www.domain.com/?p=1234. Instead, use /%category%/%postname%. This is good for three reasons.

     
    First, it helps with search engine optimization, as the path has a definite impact on SEO.

     
    Second, it helps humans know what the post is about if they just see the link. For example, even without reading this blog post, by looking at the link (which is: http://www.industryreview.org/search-engines/six-blogging-tips-and-tricks), people can get a pretty good idea what the post is about.

     
    Finally, it helps you when you check for rankings. One of my oldest sites – coincidentally, the one I mentioned in #1 – has multiple pages that rank well in Google (and Bing and Yahoo) for various phrases. However, I made the mistake of using the default permalink structure – so unless I manually check, I have no idea which pages rank! All I see is a www.domain.com/?p=1237.

     

  6. Beware of spammer comments: Although I’ve written a post about this before, some comments are really quite devious in the sense you may be tricked into approving them.

     
    Not only they may have hidden links – and this has happened to me – a space between two words had a link to some nasty site, and I couldn’t see it until I actually viewed the code. But additionally, even if they are harmless, and you approve them, they make your site look amateurish to anyone who has seen these comments a million times before.

     
    In other words: avoid any comment that sounds generic – like they could fit any post – particularly if they sound flattering, i.e. “Thank you for the great post”, “Can I use parts of your post in my own blog?”, “Darn, I left a comment but it didn’t work.. do you see it?”, “Your design is fantastic – can I ask where you got that theme from?” and that sort of thing. All these are similar to comments I get every single day.

 
That’s it for now. I hope this has been useful.

 

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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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Twitter DM Longer than 140 characters

Twitter DM Longer than 140 characters

 

The following is a list of tips, tricks and tidbits of information that can be useful to any user. I think Twitter should have a central resource explaining at least some of these, because not being aware of some can definitely affect user experience (i.e. #8)

 

  1. Changing user names: I’ve known several users who wanted to change their user names so that no one could find them. Well, unfortunately, Twitter makes it quite easy to track a user even if they do change their user name.

     

    1. If you’ve ever corresponded with the user, by clicking on the “in reply to” you’ll get to the actual message regardless of the user’s new name.

    2. If you’ve ever listed the user – and this could be a private (invisible) list as well – the user would still appear in the list regardless of his new name.

     

  2. Changing user names #2: the only true way to “start a new life” on Twitter is by opening a new account. Though if the person still “hangs out” with the same crowd he did before, he will be found… there’s no Twitter witness protection program ;-) .

     

  3. Getting out of lists: if someone places a user in a list and he does not wish to be listed, all he needs to do is block the listing user and he’ll be removed from all public/private lists.
    (note that as I mentioned in #1, this is one partial way to escape detection when changing a user name).

     
    A while ago one of the eccentric users who took it on themselves to police user activities told me that “I’m being watched from now on” (95% of his tweets to other users were “You’re being watched”. Immediately after he sent it to me, he also sent this to Arnold Schwarzenegger – I said he was eccentric, right?). I chuckled to myself and blocked him. Good luck with that, buddy – let’s see you track all of those without using private lists.

     

  4. DM mechanism: Unlike what Twitter states, the DM mechanism is not limited to 140 characters. Whether it’s a bug or a feature, I don’t know. As far as I heard, using an external application can enable you to send much longer DMs, though most applications – and the web interface – limit you to 140 characters. This is easily demonstrated by a screenshot of a DM I received some time ago (which appears at the top of this post).

     

  5. Finding out whether you’ve been blocked: How do you find out whether a user has blocked you without trying to follow them again? Easily: you go to their profile page and see whether you can list them. If you can’t, you’ve been blocked. In addition, you can actually do this en-masse by going to a list, or a user’s followers list, and see whether there are any users you cannot list. All these have blocked you.

     

  6. Public messages: I’m sure you know that you only see responses to a user if you follow both sides: so if user @a talks to user @b, you’ll see their individual responses if you follow both users a and b. However, one way to make a response public is by adding a dot . before the response, i.e. .@a message. Of course, when you think about it, this really changes the response to a standard tweet, which is of course public, yet this still is a commonly used mechanism for making responses public and usually the dot is used as well.

     

  7. Number of stored tweets: many users are not aware of this, but the profile page only shows the last 3,000 tweets. If a user wants to be able to view all his tweets, he should use a service like Backupmy which is free and stores all the tweets that have been sent.

    Interestingly, it seems Twitter does in fact store all tweets. This is evident by clicking on ‘in response to’ of really old tweets as well as by the favorites section – which often include tweets that have long vanished from one’s profile. I find this a weird design choice on Twitter’s end.

     

  8. Vanishing DMs: I’m not sure whether this was always the case or was only changed a few months ago: DMs vanish if one of the participants in the correspondence deletes them. This is a very bad design choice, since it is possible to delete a DM before its recipient has seen it! Also, if Twitter has made this choice, why not be consistent and do the same for responses?

     

  9. Vanishing DMs #2: On the other hand, if a user terminates his account, his DMs are still available.

     

  10. Number of followers/followees/lists bug: this is a serious bug that has been present for at least several months, and I’m sure almost every user has encountered it. Specifically, the number of followers and/or followees and/or lists one appears in fluctuates: A refresh of the screen changes it, and another refresh may change it back. Usually the difference is by no more than 15, but I’ve seen one user whose follower numbers fluctuated by a 100 (exactly!). Weird bug, and I don’t understand why it is still present after so long since it clearly affects user experience.

     
    I’m sure there are many more of the above I omitted – if you have some suggestions, please let me know!

     

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Twitter Birthday


 
Today, a year ago, I went to a technology networking event with a friend of mine. On our way to the event he told me: “dude, you and me – we have to join Twitter”. I said “Why? It doesn’t have anything that Facebook doesn’t that I need” (yes, I know I was wrong). Then he shared with me the following story:

 
“Yesterday I went to a public event. When it was nearly over, the organizer asked us all to vote on a subject. He said ‘Log in to Twitter now and tweet me YES or NO’. I had no idea what he meant. I never used Twitter – so I sat there doing nothing, while everyone logged in to their Twitter accounts and voted. That’s when I realized that I’m getting old”. Then he looked at me and said: “You and I – we have to join Twitter”.

 
He was right, you know. I think that’s how it happens. A new generation of software/products comes along and you skip it, thinking that if you ever want to master it, it won’t be a big deal (and it really won’t).

 
The next generation of the software/product is eventually released: features are added, the existing terminology and slang are expanded. You ignore it again.

 
When the third expansion happens, you suddenly realize: even if you wanted to, you are so far behind that it’s next to impossible to catch up unless you make a considerable effort, which older people – ok, translation – people with a full time jobs and kids – can’t afford. So you fall back… and accept defeat on this.

 
When it happens multiple times. You, my friend, are officially old – or at the very least, not young anymore. Doesn’t matter your real age. I’ve seen it multiple times. I remember my father couldn’t use a PC until he made a major effort to master it (and that he did!). My wife’s grandmother couldn’t even use a remote control. I believe it all starts this way.

 
So when my friend said this, it resonated with me: I immediately realized that he’s simply right. Twitter was just starting to be hot and we had to be involved… or risk the consequences.

 
I hope you realize that Twitter is just an example here, it could be any number of technologies. My point is not that joining Twitter is mandatory, but the fact that our social circle (the one my friend & I belong to) used it extensively, it was considered important, and we were out of the loop – now, that was significant.

 
Once I got home I signed up to Twitter and very quickly realized that I’m quite bored. I used it on and off for a few months, until I started using it intensively towards a specific goal four months later (namely, the promotion of this blog). The rest is history (… as this blog demonstrates quite well … look which word is biggest in my tag cloud).

 
So happy birthday to my Twitter account! It’s been mainly a good year. I met a lot of great people. I made tons of business connections. Numerous business opportunities were created, and multiple friendships as well. Some, I hope, will last me my entire life. I also met some – not a lot of – negative people, but I’d like to think I learned from these experiences too. In conclusion, overall I think it was a pretty good Twitter year for me.

 

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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 hashtags


Bringing a laptop to a conference is a pretty good idea. Not only it helps summarize notes – I type much faster than I write – but you can also email these notes, share them, post them online, etc.

 
These days it seems every conference – even small ones – have a Twitter Hash tag (and why not? It doesn’t cost anything). What this means is that people can send messages with this tag, and everyone who “listens” to this tag will get it. It’s a bit like group chat. This is one of the things that differentiates Twitter and Facebook (as I mentioned in my one of the first posts in this blog: Explaining Twitter to Facebook Users).

 
This has several effects I didn’t fully grasp until Affiliate Summit East 2009. Motivational, educational, you name it.

 
For starters, days before a conference starts, people already start tweeting using the hash tag (i.e. in Affiliate Summit West 2010 it was #asw10). So even if you’re at home, you’re already starting to feel the ‘vibe’ of the conference, get the excitement. People announce they’ve left their homes, that they’re at the hotel, that they’re checking in, that they’re meeting other participants. Some people even upload photos. And since it is all in real time, you get pulled into it. You feel you’re a part of the conference before it even started.

 
Furthermore, during sessions people constantly tweet about what they listen to. This proves to be extremely useful from several reasons:

 
So my second point: you know who is present. During one session I discovered that two of my Twitter friends (whom I never met in person until then!) were in the room with me. We tweeted each. One even uploaded an image of the speaker (in real time, of course), so I could even tell where he was sitting in the room. Later I went to meet him.

 
Third, people constantly tweet the highlights of a session, the important points. There was one moment where I missed what the speaker said, but knew it was important. I looked at the stream, and multiple people tweeted that point. I just copied this directly into my notes. Moreover, thanks to the Twitter 140 characters limit, the point has to be concise, and this greatly facilitates the transmission of ideas in this context.

 
Fourth, you get to “hear” what’s going on in other sessions as well. So in a sense it allows you to attend multiple sessions at once. I actually took some of the tweets from other sessions as notes, as they were very relevant and interesting.

 
Fifth, one session allowed people to ask questions through Twitter and had its own hash tag. This certainly improves interaction between audience and speaker. Another session I attended had a contest where people suggested ideas and at the end, there was a reward for the best one.

 
Sixth, I tweeted quite a lot of the good highlights from sessions I attended. Some were actually retweeted by people who were NOT at the conference. So this helped spread useful information beyond the conference. In my opinion, this can be said to make Twitter itself a more valuable site. I remember that during Blog World (a conference that took place several months ago and I didn’t attend) there were occasional retweets of highlights from their sessions – some I found fascinating. And I wasn’t even there!

 
Finally, sites and conferences now take this into consideration. For example, the conference I speak at next month, Social Media 201, constantly “listens” and places on its website tweets that use the #sm201 hashtag. Or another example: ad:tech NY had a huge screen which featured select tweets that use the #adtechny hash tag (see the above image).

 
I think what we’ve seen here is a glimpse into the future of education. Where future students will get more and more opportunities to interact with the speakers and each other in real time, as well as potentially virtually “attend” sessions they are not present in. So not only the conference hash tag is great for passing information and ‘bonding’ everyone, but it also contributes a great deal to the effectiveness of taught sessions. I find this fascinating.

 

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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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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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