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Tag: Twitter interaction

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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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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Celebrity following

 

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Twitter Followers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Explaining Twitter to your Facebook Friends

This post was surprisingly hard to phrase exactly the way I wanted to. In fact, it took me three days to write, and during this time an event happened which directly related to what I was writing.

 
Before I begin, I want to quickly compare Facebook and Twitter.

 
Facebook: you have a list of friends, who see your status messages which you can frequently change, you can share with them photos, videos, email, a million applications & games, and even chat. You’re limited to 5,000 friends.

 
Twitter: you have a list of friends, who can see your status message you can frequently change, but are limited to 140 characters. You can send email, but again, are limited to 140 characters. You can see status of groups using the # tag (i.e. #quotes). You can resend other people’s status (Retweeting) which will result in your followers seeing this message. You’re not limited to a maximum number of friends.

 
I’ll admit that a few months ago Twitter seemed to me like a stripped down version of Facebook. Why would I need Twitter if I have Facebook? I mean, everything I can do with Twitter, I can do with Facebook, only better, right? That’s a view that most of my friends on Facebook seem to have. And like I said, until recently, so did I.

 
But oh, how wrong was I. If you’re a Twitter user that that follows at least 200 users you probably know what I mean. If not, please read on.

 
Once I started using Twitter more seriously I realized that Twitter and Facebook, although on the surface seem like two incredibly similar applications, are in fact completely different creatures. The difference is simple. In my opinion – and some readers may disagree – Twitter is not so much a social network, as much as a cross between a gigantic chat room and a search engine. Whereas Facebook is, well, a straightforward social network. Each is great in its own way – I don’t mean to imply one is better than the other, they just have different usages.

 
The way I see things, in Facebook the point is really staying in close contact with your friends. Seeing pictures of their kids. Getting a general update of what they do in their lives. All relatively slow paced. In Facebook changing your status more than, say, 5 times a day is almost considered impolite, whereas in Twitter some people change their status hundreds of times a day (which would be completely unacceptable in Facebook – I think they even warn you if you do this).

 
But that is the entire point! In Twitter the point is ultra-fast conversations between individuals and groups of people. The 140 limit is intentional: it (correctly) assumes that our attention span is becoming shorter, and consequently, enforces brevity – short and precise messages. In Twitter you can send a message to all your followers (which could be more than a million, i.e. @Mashable), or send a message to followers of a group, which are marked by the # symbol. So sending a message to #quotes will result in everyone checking this list getting the message.

 
In twitter, Retweeting is a large part of the culture: sharing something with everyone that you got. Or reinforcing that a tweet you saw by Retweeting it – kind of like saying “I also think this is good”. If I tweet something, and Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) with his 3,270,965 followers decides to retweet it, then these 3 million twitter users will see it. That’s a huge difference between Facebook and Twitter.

 
But the biggest difference of all is essentially that of Twitter being a Search Engine. I only got this point when I heard Jay Berkowitz (@JayBerkowitz)’s excellent seminar. In Google, if you’re lucky, a site is indexed in 1-3 days. Sometimes sites aren’t indexed for months, and if you have a doubt, check out my own site: www.sciportal.com, kind of a website I use for testing various things (and the first domain I owned for commercial applications). It hasn’t been indexed since June 20th despite repeated attempts to force Google to index it using various methods.

 
So suppose I want to ask someone whether the new movie, District 9, is any good. All I need to do is go to search.twitter.com and search for ‘district 9′, and I will find hundreds of people who tweeted about it in the last 10 seconds. Can you do that in Facebook? Can you do that in Google? Most definitely not.

 
Consequently, attempting to compare Facebook and Twitter without considering all these facts is like comparing oranges and apples. It’s simply not the same thing and not even close.

 
The frustrating thing is that many Facebook users – again, yours truly was like this before – join Twitter and expect the Facebook experience. They are annoyed by the vast number of messages. Admittedly, it can and is overwhelming at first, and that’s why tools such as TweetDeck exist – to create order in the chaotic mess that the Twitter timeline is.

 
Today, a friend of mine “diplomatically” complained that I’m sending too many tweets and this is “noise” in his opinion. I “diplomatically” replied “too bad, that’s how Twitter works, maybe you should stick to Facebook if that’s how you feel”. He thought I was being sarcastic, but I was not. I explained him that what he sees as noise is what I consider a wealth of opportunity to meet people, to hear a random smart quote I can retweet, to get the occasional relevant article that I would’ve never seen otherwise. To meet new friends. And that to me, this is not noise at all, but the entire point of Twitter. I also pointed out that I follow more than 20 times the number of people he does (he follows 50 people, I follow around 1,100), and yet I manage not to be overwhelmed and in fact greatly enjoy the process.

 
His response was to unfollow me. I think he thought I’m trying to mock him, but I genuinely was not. Twitter is about interaction. If you want a silent, nearly static, social network experience, then Facebook really is for you. But if you want the “noise” that Twitter brings, the retweets, the group chats: the #FollowFridays, the #Quotes, the #Google messages – the chaotic mess that is Twitter, then you are going to love it in Twitter.

 
Personally, I love both. So I use Facebook in one way, and Twitter in a completely different way. And that’s how things should be in my opinion.

 
What do you think? In this article in particular I am eager to receive comments. Either way, don’t forget to follow me! :)

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