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

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

 

 

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

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

 

Several useful tips:

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

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

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

 
Social Media link building opportunities

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Mass unfollowing

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Making money using Twitter

 

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

 
The ugly (misleading):

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

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

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

 
The Good (effective)

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

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

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

 
Not sure

 
I’ll include this one last category as well.

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

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

     

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

     

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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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Click on the image to see the full statistics

 

 

Ok.. the title is slightly misleading (only slightly). But you’ll have to forgive me for that.

 
As I’ve mentioned earlier in this blog, I like using TwitterCounter. It shows interesting statistics about my Twitter activities, not to mention, it can be used to manually update the number of followers that appear on the top right corner of this blog (otherwise it updates periodically).

 
In the past few days TwitterCounter seemed to have a few issues. I kept getting error messages whenever I tried to access it. Yesterday when I was eventually able to, it told me I have 26 followers. Pretty amusing – it brought me back in time to April 2009 (back when I did have 26 followers).

 
What I find particularly funny is that TwitterCounter hasn’t compensated for that. So according to the application’s logic, I gained more than 76,000 in a day.

 
Based on this rate, I will have 1,230,729 followers in 30 days. You think it might happen? I’m crossing my fingers! That would be SO awesome! :D

 

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Nostradamus: Only fools try to predict the future?

Nostradamus: Only fools try to predict the future?

 

From some reason I remember there is a saying “Only fools try to predict the future”. I can’t seem to find it so I might be mistaken.

 
Even though I completely disagree with the idea that it’s foolish to try and predict the future – many people and companies do it all the time – we have to remember it’s all based on what we know, on past events – and that things can change at any given moment.

 
Many financial companies – Lehman Brothers, for example – successfully predicted the future for many decades and made unimaginable sums of money. Until one day things – in this case, the economic market – changed dramatically and all their predictions turned sour. A company that existed since 1850 perished in a matter of weeks because it didn’t predict the future properly.

 
Yesterday I met with a very good friend of mine. He has a Twitter account but he’s not really active. However, he is very interested (and knowledgeable) in technology trends. He asked me: where do you see Twitter going?

 
That is a very good question. Where do I see Twitter going, I wondered to myself.

 
My guess, and of course, it’s just a guess – that Twitter will follow the same patterns that other companies faced in the past, particularly in the last few decades.

 
Here are two examples – I can give many more.

 
You might not have been online back then, but I still remember the times before Google existed. I was mainly using Altavista and Lycos and was very pleased with the results. When Google appeared, I didn’t see the point of switching. I also didn’t believe – and I remember saying it to a friend – any new company stands a chance in the search market. A few friends of mine mentioned Google is good, I figured I’ll give it a chance. The results seemed to be better though weren’t dramatically better. However, at some point I did find myself switching to Google – though that was mainly because of the simple interface.

 
Of course, Google reinvented the search engine landscape and deserves a lot of credit for that. However, I wasn’t the only one who guessed wrong: I bet Altavista and Lycos were taken by as much surprise as I was.

 
Similarly, when Friendster, the first modern social network, was created, I was one of the first people using it. That’s actually an understatement – I was extremely active because it was so new and really explored interesting territories. Many of the things we now take for granted were actually “discovered” by Friendster who had to find the right way through trial and error.

 
Numerous new social networks later emerged, but the one that deposed Friendster was MySpace. MySpace got so well established I thought “this is it!”. It seemed immovable, but then Facebook rose and completely and utterly took MySpace’s.. space. I still remember articles writing that “Facebook is not going to be successful, MySpace will reclaim its position”. Kind of funny when you think about it now.

 
Quick disclaimer: I’m not writing anything that hasn’t been written before. Someone comes, creates a product – it could be successful, even very successful – but then a successor creates an improvement that completely wins over the audience. Though I don’t remember anyone saying this about Twitter (even though probably someone did).

 
That’s my guess for Twitter.

 
Twitter is flawed. Technically it is awful. Years after its launch we still get the fail whale on a regular basis (I get it at least 5-10 times a day). It has numerous bugs. It has a lot of really silly features and flawed concepts: the retweet button, no search mechanism for bios, no way to mass delete DMs, no way to filter DMs… the list is endless. However, no one can deny twitter is extremely popular. Extremely.

 
Based on these factors: that Twitter is a very flawed application and that the space is extremely attractive, while looking at past trends, I find it hard to believe that at some point in the next 1-5 years a new microblogging service, one that has learned from all of Twitter’s mistakes and improved on it, won’t come and completely dominate this market. That is, unless Twitter will clean up their act completely… but in all fairness, I don’t see that happening.

 
This may seem impossible now, but that was the case in both the examples I gave.

 
Google tried to do this with Google Buzz – that didn’t go too well because of the privacy issues (just too eager, huh?).

 
My prediction is that there will be someone else. And they will be successful. And in a couple of years we will all be seeing articles analyzing how Twitter lost its market share, and “what went wrong?”.

 
Only fools try to predict the future. Perhaps that might be true, but this is my guess.

 

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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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