Twitter Ghostwriters Wanted

The notion that Twitter is just content to be manufactured to support a brand, in this case a celebrity, is pretty damn offensive. It shines an unflattering light on the nature of celebrity, that of glossy veneer over a porous substrate.

I gotta go with Shaq on this one…

“It’s 140 characters. It’s so few characters. If you need a ghostwriter for that, I feel sorry for you.”

[From When Stars Twitter, a Ghost May Be Lurking –]

Would You Pay for Someone’s Tweets?

What do you think, can a twitter stream be monetized via subscription?

Now comes the business experiment. I will be tweeting daily, and often, so I have decided to charge for the services I am offering via @AirCongress. My updates are protected, which means no one can see them unless I first give them access. Any member of Congress who wants to follow me can do so for free. But everyone else will have to pay a monthly subscription fee.

You can take a free test run of @AirCongress for a week. After that, you can subscribe for just $3 a month, or $36 a year. For that small fee, you will get thousands of tweets, plus access to the list of YouTube channels.

[From AirCongress » Blog Archive » Introducing Hill Tweet News]

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To 90,000 Twitter Followers in 30 Days

I don’t think this is such a good idea. What it leads to is artificial inflation of followers that disrupts algorithms for determining influence (yeah they are pretty weak right now but constantly improving). It also leads to the most popular profiles benefiting from the law of accelerating returns and that’s not the meritocracy that social networks are supposed to represent.

Last month Twitter quietly launched a new feature that generated a list of suggested users to follow. Most likely as a result of this list, the followers to many Twitter accounts increased exponential over the course of the last month. @LiveEarth, my employer’s twitter account (which is maintained primarily by me), saw a rise in followers from the mid 2,000s to over 90,000 between January 16 and February 22, when, suddenly, the meteoric rise in followers came to a screeching halt.

[From To 90,000 Twitter Followers in 30 Days | netZoo]

The same thing happened in RSS when “feed bundles” and default feeds in applications started distorting subscriber numbers, the result being that the number of subscribers reported for an RSS feed is pretty much a worthless number today.

Twitter or Plaxo Having Issues?

I just received an email from a friend asking if I retweeted this. I didn’t.


Adding further mystery to the issue, this came through on my friend’s Plaxo stream and when I looked at my message traffic I didn’t see it.

At any rate, I went in to reset my password and whatdayaknow, an error.


Denver Plane Crash, Instant News via Twitter

Loic is making a very good point, one that is becoming increasingly common as more people acquire mobile web access and have instantaneous broadcast capabilities with services like Twitter. There will be more of this but it doesn’t invalidate traditional media, it compliments it.

Funny I have just heard the official spokesperson of the Denver airport on CNN who was just saying “sorry I don’t know” or “sorry I can’t say” while we now have direct information from the sources themselves. Someone should interview Mike Wilson straight on Twitter while he is still there, one tweet at a time. I love the instant web.

[From Loic Le Meur Blog: Follow The Plane Crash From Twitter With Mike Wilson]

The news is not a zero sum game, just because we have something like twitter doesn’t invalidate all of the other sources. We simply have to find a way to normalize the data inflows and separate streams on qualitative factors. Where journalism kicks in is the reporting of facts beyond the immediate what happened, such as what type of plane and how many passengers involved, trauma reports, emergency personnel perspective, and regulatory agency comment.

What is definitely additive to the entire process is the unfiltered and unvarnished coverage provided by people who are actual participants. Never before has it been so common to have live video from someone there, or in this case, tweets from someone on the plane. The news is a whole new ballgame.

Asymmetrical Follow: A Core Web 2.0 Pattern

James delivers a post on Asymetrical Follow that is well worth reading. There are a couple of interesting underlying issues that coalesce in Twitter, but for me there is a downside in that social networks in general – you know, the meatspace – don’t work with this degree of asymmetry in relationships either. Maybe James is right though, web 2.0 is premised on the ability to have asymmetry and deal with it.

I’m not suggesting this is a flaw in Twitter but the reality can’t be escaped, at some point we shifted from conversation to broadcast.

I have been giving Asymmetrical Follow a fair amount of thought lately. Certainly reaching 3000 followers has something to do with it. For me Twitter is a tool, as well as a conversation. Yesterday I got a request from a PR agency to brief me on a mobile IM technology called Palringo. I had never heard of it. But plenty of people in my network had. And I could engage with them because they could use an @reply which I would see, even though I didn’t necessarily follow them back. As a researcher this kind of function is invaluable. Just imagine the power of Jeremiah Owyang’s twinstant research network of 17,019 followers.

[From James Governor’s Monkchips » Asymmetrical Follow: A Core Web 2.0 Pattern]

The other observation I will make is that there is a law of accelerating returns at work with Twitter follow/follower relationships. Simply put, the more followers you have the more you will get because the rate of growth accelerates as you get to higher numbers.

I think James raises some really good points and is insightful in how he articulates them, but there’s something at play here that I can’t quite put a finger on and it’s not a net positive.

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Twollow: Automatically Follow People on Twitter Based on Keywords

Applying analytics to twitter remains a challenge. I had breakfast with a senior executive from a fortune 50 (actually, a Dow 30) company today and this topic came up. There are a lot of point solutions that help you discover interesting things about what is happening on twitter, but none of these tools provides you with capabilities to measure anything but raw data. The bane of analytics solutions is when they operate as reporting tools… telling you what something is instead of what it means. This will remain an emergent area for companies pushing tools like Twollow but they will have little penetration into the corporate executive suite because they fail to function in an integrated fashion or integrate with other dashboard measurement systems that are already in use.

Twollow is new simple tool that automatically follows people based on keywords or phrases that those people mention. Think of it like Google Alerts but for twitter. It’s an interesting idea but sometimes people will mention keywords or topics that aren’t really representative of their industry. For example you can be in the technology industry and then one day you casually mention “cookies” in one of your tweets. It also doesn’t look like the system keeps track of who the new followers are.

[From Twollow: Automatically Follow People on Twitter Based on Keywords]

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Johnson & Johnson took a stick and whacked a hornet’s nest over the weekend. They released a viral video ad featuring a story of a new mom using one of those sling devices to carry around her baby and how it was making her back hurt so she took Motrin (a J&J product) to relieve the pain while still looking trendy. Bam! Angry moms rose up, primarily on twitter with the hashtag #motrinmoms.

I saw the video and didn’t see what the big deal was, which actually underscored the primary point of the critics who said the ad must have been created by a bunch of men who not only didn’t talk to any pregnant women or women with newborns, but apparently didn’t know they existed. Me, being a man, am therefore unqualified to offer any critique of the video… how’s that for sexism.

I did ask my wife about it, and to fully disclose her bona fides, she is indeed a woman, has been pregnant 3 times and is currently in possession of a newborn. She laughed, thought the video was good satire… further added “that Motrin is good stuff”.

200811181130.jpg Motrin took notice of the angry mob and did what most consumer facing brand companies do, someone fell on their sword. Impressively, their apology, offered by a woman VP of Marketing I will note, has been running on their Motrin site for 2 days now.

So kudos to J&J for quickly acting on this issue. I’ll sidestep the whole “up to the moment the video was released” part of the story, which would have offered J&J an opportunity to avoid controversy in the first place, focus instead on the importance of disaggregated social media channels for consumer brand companies.

Despite how critical this is becoming, few companies have really figured this out and that means there is a tremendous amount of opportunity for a second wave to attack the beach. Companies like Buzzlogic Buzzmetrics and Umbria (now part of Nielsen and JD Power respectively) attempted to monitor brands programmatically, and it proved to be a complex problem, something a hell of a lot more complex than setting up a bunch of Google News Alerts.

At it’s heart, brand monitoring is a collection of problems that attempt to differentiate signal to noise, assign authority, and determine sentiment and other language attributes important to context. There are also additional opportunities around compilation of demographic data as represented by the people who are talking about your brand.

The amount of content and number of sources has grown exponentially in recent years, making traditional “clipping services” obsolete and relatively useless in today’s world. Further challenging the people focusing on this part of the marketing services industry, the content that is being generated often lacks context in that it is either a comment on a blog, a link to an unrelated source, or worse, 140 character twitter messages. You don’t get a lot of context in 140 characters.

All things considered, this is hard stuff that relies on a lot of data inputs in the form of content and some not insignificant technology to process the content once you have it, but the representation of that relevant content in a form that is actionable is perhaps the most vexing part of the challenge. You can present a lot of data about a brand to a client, and perhaps even tell them what it means, but doing so in a way that is efficient and conducive to taking action upon that information is a challenge all consumer brands are struggling with.

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Phoneflix has completely changed my interactions with Netflix. Now, wherever I am I can open it on my iPhone and manage my Netflix queue. It’s as random as while watching television or at the car wash or even sitting is a movie theatre watching previews.

TweetDeck (and Thwirl before it) accelerated my twitter usage. Yammer’s desktop AIR client is universally regarded as compelling within our company, contributing to our usage rates.

The Evernote iPhone app is not only handy for putting my notes on my mobile device, but it also serves as notetaker itself when nothing else is available. My connection to Evernote is stronger than just with web and desktop experiences.

For all of the benefits that web-based applications provide, user experience alone is generally not one of them. Small, high performance, persistent desktop apps can intensify usage which can then lead to broader adoption and with mobile apps, specifically the iPhone but eventually more mobile platforms, this goes to a whole new level.

When I talk with companies, big and small, I am struck by the “we’ll do that eventually” attitude that the majority have. The view that these satellite interfaces are somehow optional or just extra is a miscalculation.

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Twitter is in Missouri Country

Twitter is responding to critics with an admirable degree of humility.

I don’t think it’s a case of armchair quarterbacking, more a case of Twitter being in the “show me” penalty box that comes with having immense promise and goodwill, and simply not delivering on a key expectation. Twitter has, as a company, had one real responsibility put on them by their community, make the backend stable. There has been no loud outcry about client side improvements or richer functionality, none of the stuff that other companies have to deal with, just make it work reliably.

Simply put, Twitter fails too frequently and only recently has the company begun seriously addressing these issues in a public fashion. I still love the service but I’m more interested in seeing improvements, less interested in long winded explanations about why their reliability sucks. It they want to post these details, I’ll listen but when it comes to actual improvement in service, show me.

Part of the impetus for this public discussion extends from the sense that Twitter isn’t addressing our architectural flaws. When users see downtime, slowness, and instability of the sort that we’ve exhibited this week, they assume that our engineering progress must be stagnant. With the Twitter team working on these issues on and off for over a year, surely downtime should be a thing of the past by now, right? Shouldn’t we be able to just “throw more machines at it”?

[From Twitter Technology Blog: Twittering About Architecture]