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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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After you’ve used social media sites for a while, you start finding common patterns, specifically, annoying patterns. Although each one of us is annoyed by different things, usually there are commonalities that annoy each and every one of us. I’ve decided to create my own list of pet peeves and share it with you.

 
Originally I was hesitating whether I should call this article ‘Pet Peeves in social media’ and have one section for Twitter, one for Facebook and one for LinkedIn, all sites I know really well. However, considering I have fewer LinkedIn pet peeves, than say, Twitter pet peeves, I think I need more time to get a list worth reporting. So for now this is only for Twitter.

 
Second, after I came up with this subject I met a great guy on Twitter, Darren Williger (@Williger). Not only he’s extremely witty and hilarious, but it turns out he also created – a video – that (can you guess it?) is about Pet Peeves in Twitter. I thought that I can’t seriously write an article on the subject without including his video. I am fully aware that no matter what I say, people will remember Darren’s video (which is awesome) as the point of this post. Oh well, I bow down before you, Darren – absolutely brilliant video!

 
Here’s my list of Pet Peeves. Feel free to add some of your own.

  1. Many users have some kind of auto-follow script – so when you follow them, you get a direct message (DM) “Thank you for following me, blah blah blah”. That’s fine with me. However, the thing that irritates me the most (more than spammers!) are the users that send you the DM – but don’t follow you back, so you can’t respond! It goes along the lines of “Thank you for following me. Here’s my blog. Can you tell me about yourself?” (remember, all automated). But I can’t answer! Because you haven’t followed me! I’d much rather not get anything, and not be followed than get a message I can’t reply to!

     

  2. Following the previous item are the users who have an auto-follow that sends you to some kind of unrelated sales page. Sometimes the description is even deliberately misleading like, “learn about me in this link” or “read my blog here” but when you press the link, it’s a sales page! Dude, we just got to know each other, and you’re already asking me to buy something from you? What are the chances this is going to work? Occasionally these links are broken and don’t even work – which truly makes these users look ridiculous. I used to respond to them “your links are broken” but never received a response. Not even once.

     

  3. Bots, particularly the sophisticated ones. I don’t know whether these are real people who do 90% automation, or bots that occasionally have a real person controlling them (there’s a subtle different in my opinion). But do any of these sentences look familiar?
    • 140 cramping your style?
    • Apu Akhbar?
    • Ma Shlomkha?
    • Como está?
    • Hur är det?
    • What’s everyone talking about?
    • Robin Williams survived open-heart surgery; has new role in film – and life
    • Too many tweets. Too little time to reply.
    • Why is Twitter a verbal gym? Stress relieve for the mind.
    • The day ends with a tweet.
    • iphone is always ringing. standby
    • Random tweets
    • Is Obama doing a good job?
    • Ogenki desu ka

    I’m sure some at least look very familiar. Guys, I understand you want to automate things, but for crying out loud, get a better list. All these are real messages I’ve seen over and over and over and over. The ironic thing is that one of the messages is ‘random tweets’. My guess is that someone made a list of things to tweet, and the title was ‘random tweets’, and somehow this got into the actual list of things being tweeted about.

     
    I tend to retweet them with a smart ass comment, and never, ever, received a response. i.e. “Ma Shlomkha? -> Do you even understand what that means? Of course you don’t, you’re a bot” (it’s “what’s up?” in Hebrew).

     

  4. Spammers: I won’t elaborate. They annoy me less than most people. I even find them funny at times (read my post 5 Different Types of Spammers).

     

  5. Users promoting products in an idiotic way. Personally, I have no problem with people using Twitter as a vehicle for promoting products – not at all (hey, I may do this too at some point). But come on, be smart about doing this. Don’t say “Want to learn how to make $158,081 in less than 8 hours?” or “Gain 1,500 followers in the next 21 minutes!”, be smarter about this. No one in his right mind will take you seriously. And if they do, I assure you, they don’t have a credit card or a way to pay you.

     

  6. People doing #FollowFriday for people they don’t follow themselves. Quick explanation: #FollowFriday is a very nice Twitter Tradition. Usually every Thursday/Friday people will tweet a list of the people they recommend for following. Some just include names, other give lists with brief titles “amusing conversations” “sweet and funny”, etc. This is what gives Twitter its personality.

     
    However, some people do #FollowFriday for people they don’t follow themselves. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s okay to retweet someone’s FollowFriday tweet even if you’re not following the person (since you’re basically just saying “listen to this guy, he knows what he’s saying”), but don’t publicly recommend following someone when you’re not following your own advice. It’s like a health guru eating junk food in secret – do what you preach!

     
    In particular I was irritated by a guy I tried to converse with a while ago (we have some things in common so I thought he’d be interesting to chat with). He ignored 2-3 tweets I sent him. One day I RTed two of his tweets. he ignored these too. Ok, I get it, he doesn’t want to talk. However, the next Friday he included me in his #FollowFriday. He wasn’t talking to me (at all), or following me himself, but he publicly recommended that people follow me. How hypocritical is that?

     

  7. The last one is pretty mild: Direct Messages (DMs) that require 10 separate messages. Yes, I understand the whole 140 character limit (that’s the point of microblogging), but at times you want to say more, and the only alternative is to use 10 consecutive messages. My friend Suzanne gets a phone call for every one of those and it can become really annoying. I would’ve much preferred if the direct message system was not limited to 140 characters (blasphemy, I know!), or alternatively, it could send you to an extra app that allows you to write one long email which will automatically be broken up. Or even just use real email (which is my preference).

 
That’s my list. Any ideas for more?

 
Edit: Although Twitter is still crawling with thousands of bots, they did take out the bot network I mentioned in #3 about 1-2 months after I posted this (not that I think there’s a connection…).

 
Edit 2: After writing this post I befriended Darren (the funny guy in the video). This friendship was a catalyst for so many positive things in my life. One of these is Social Media 201.

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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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Twitter bots

This is going to be a short post. Mainly interested in people’s opinions so feel free to either comment or email me at udi @ industryreview.org.

 
We all know there’s a terrible spam problem at Twitter. Also, we all know there are lots of bots in Twitter.

 
People who know me even for a short amount of time know I have a very weird memory when it comes to numbers, personal details, birthdays (i.e. during college I remembered all my friends’ social security numbers. I didn’t even try, it just.. stuck somehow). This is a fun party trick, and extremely useful in professions which require remembering many details about lots of participants. Affiliate Marketing and Academia, two fields I’ve been in, are actually really good examples. Anyway, I’m diverging from my point.

 
Lately I noticed something which we all noticed, i.e. groups of Twitter users suddenly appearing with very similar characteristics & identical messages. I’m sure Twitter is very much onto them.

 
What bothers me a bit more is that I started noticing a group of users that until now I thought are really well established Twitter users, repeating the same sentences again and again. But not often (like the standard bots, which sometimes repeat the same sentences within minutes) but significantly less often, like once a day. These sentences seem to be identical, and at times meaningless – and don’t seem to promote any product. I would estimate there are at least 15-20 people in this group, from both sexes, various ages and ethnicities. That’s actually one of the thing that looked suspicious to me, why would a young girl repeat exactly the same sentence an elderly gentleman said a day before?

 
Maybe it’s just my overly active mind, and these are all real people who have the same sense of humor, and from some reason, decide to repeat the same sentences very infrequently, but to me this seems kind of odd. Maybe they all belong to a cult. A Twitter cult. I really don’t know.

 
I suspect these are much more advanced bots. Perhaps establishing themselves very subtly as ‘real people’, and occasionally, very infrequently, trying to promote a product (I haven’t been following them that closely to notice that until now).

 
I can definitely say that none of them has ever responded to a comment or a direct message I sent. I can also say that I tried repeating some of their sentences (by now I remember quite a few), and got no response. I’m somewhat wary of doing it more often in case this really is a group of bots and by doing so, I’ll be marked as one eventually.

 
Anyway: have you noticed this too? I’d rather not specify which sentences/users in case I incur the wrath of real people, or worse, a very aggressive bot operator. I’d really like to get feedback.

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