Archive for the ‘twitter’ Tag

Social Media: Conversation for the greater good

A friend of mine used to work for the Los Angeles County Department of Health and would often tell me about their proposed initiatives and how they were working on new ways to spread the message about health issues using social media.

Like many companies, they followed the typical route:  creating a MySpace page and/or a YouTube channel, and would regularly publish content. However, unlike most companies, any Health company or Department has the added luxury of having to sell a “product” that is often incredibly “unsexy,” which often results in lower CTRs and a harder sell. They also bear the burden of marketing a product that people are often unable to interact with or, in some cases, are ashamed to interact with.

Think back. How often do you scan the internet, looking for the latest public service announcements? Probably never. And, if you’re like most people, if you do see one on TV, online, or anywhere else, you probably don’t talk about it with your friends or family because it just doesn’t have the same “appeal” as talking about the latest movie trailer or tv show you watched, right? For the few of you who said that you DO actually talk about the PSAs you see on TV with someone you know, 9/10 chance that the PSA you watched had to do with drugs or alcohol. And the person you talked to? Your child/parent/dependent, right?

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Forbes Publishes Top Twitter Celebs: Omits Women

forbes-logo-largeToday, Forbes published an article on the “Top Twitter Celebrities”– featuring the names of both online and offline stars. The lists, which are broken down into two categories: Celebrities (10 on this list) and the Most Influential Twitterers (10 on this list).  The two lists feature a total of two women: Britney Spears and Tina Fey– both in the celebrity category. The parent Twitter article also features a link to The Web Celeb 25, a list which features only one woman– Heather Armstrong.

Let’s take a quick look at Forbes’ selections for females: in one corner, we have a pop-princess (who doesn’t actually tweet herself– her “people” do it for her– we know because they sign the tweets) and a comedian, who tweets sporadic, but funny messages. As a whole, these women neither define the product nor the “active”demographic that Forbes was going for.

According to a Time article, back in August 2008, Twitter’s userbase was rougly 63% male, and 25.9% of the site’s users are between the age of 35-44. (Be sure to read Time’s article for great demographic information on the types of people who use Twitter– it’s not who you’d think).

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Review: Sysomos

sysomosLast week I spoke with Steve Dodd and Nick Koudas of Sysomos, a social media tracking/monitoring service. They walked me through their product, features and showed me how it could be successfully implemented in a business or even by someone with a successful personal brand. Below is my review. Please note that this review is based on a presentation given to me by the Sysomos team, and I have not had an opportunity to actually try the Sysomos product or implement it firsthand.

Structure of this review: I’ve broken down the core elements of the product into categories and have reviewed them based on their merit. I’ve also included a brief review of additional features that are “added bonuses” or things you’d expect to see in a service like this towards the end of the review.

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Social Media-ites: Don’t be a zombie

Check out this great post from Michael Pinto over at Fanboy.com on how Social Media “Experts” are the Cancer of Twitter (and Must Be Stopped)

Here’s a quick snapshot of the article:

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Nearly a day goes by on Twitter without yet another social media “expert” choosing to stalk me. At first it started innocently — back in the day (about a year ago) various techie friends started to declare themselves social media gurus because they decided to hang out on Twitter and Facebook all day. And now an army of their offspring monitor Summize in search of human flesh.

Now the first symptom of this disease was what I call “social media deafness”, a state that occurs when a person’s social graph exceeds 500+ virtual friends. The result is that the person is a mile wide, but an inch deep. Suddenly the friend you use to know develops amnesia like symptoms and starts ignoring your direct messages — what was first simple Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder becomes full blown zombie like state.

The zombies then seek each other: You’ll always notice that of the 5,000 followers that a social media expert has that all 5,000 of them are also social media “experts”. Their only form of conversation is to quote each other and live tweet conferences where they gather. Like any good Ponzi scheme the lead zombies can make a good living feeding the hopes and aspirations of the worker level drones who parrot their every blog entry.

Read the full post here

Let this serve as a reminder to those of you who are “social media” experts/specialists/strategists that it’s ok to be human. In fact, it’s welcomed.

33 accounts hacked on Twitter

After a weekend filled with phishing direct messages Twitter users might want to seriously consider changing their passwords (if they haven’t done so already) after hearing about the latest escapade. 33 high profile Twitter accounts were hacked and random (albeit somewhat funny) tweets were sent out from the accounts.

Among the targeted were President elect Barack Obama, Rick Sanchez, Facebook, and Britney Spears. (For screenshots of some of the hacked messages/accounts, visit TechCrunch)

sancheztwitterFor most users, the security breach brought forth more suspicion about Twitter’s privacy and security policy, and sigh of relief as only the “media elite” seemed to be targeted. (However, Michael Arrington of TechCrunch was not targeted and feels “kind of left out”).

Arrington commentThe recent hack, which seems to be the efforts of a prankster, illuminates Twitter’s need for increased security for its users. As Twitter’s population continues to grow, their safety and security efforts should be scalable.

On a brighter note, amidst all of the “panic” Twitter announced in their post today (aptly named “Monday Morning Madness”) that they  “plan to release a closed beta of the open authentication protocol, OAuth this month” which is good news for developers and users alike. Though Twitter is quick to note that OAuth wouldn’t have saved their hides in a phishing scam or hacking attempt, it “is something we can provide so that folks who use third party applications built on the Twitter API can access to their data while protecting their account credentials.”

Beware: Twitter and Facebook Phishing scam

The internet is all a twitter with talks about the latest phishing scam to hit popular sites like Facebook and Twitter. 

Twitter’s Get Satisfaction forum (their help pages) are quickly being filled with users pleading for help, saying they were recently phished. 

GetsatisfactionTwitter has quickly jumped on the alert bandwagon, posting a message above Twitter feeds on the actual site Twitter.com reading:

TwitterwarningHowever, their main blog, as of 5:50pm  PT on January 3rd remained free of any additional information, but their status blog did have a brief update. In addition to this, users who don’t access Twitter through Twitter.com and instead use popular third party sites like tweetdeck or through their iphone might not see the message and instead, must rely on their friends to retweet the warning.

CNET reports that the phishing scam mimics the recent Facebook Koobface virus:

 Direct messages (DMs) are showing up in Twitter accounts with appealing come-ons to visit a site on blogspot.com. The text is, “hey! check out this funny blog about you…” The URL in the message then redirects to a page that looks like the Twitter login page, but is actually not on Twitter–it’s a site, twitter.access-logins.com, that masquerades as Twitter to steal your login credentials instead.

Recent reports also note that Facebook is also being spoofed in a similar login manner, so user’s best bet is to check their URL for authenticity before clicking on any links in DMs. If it isn’t a pure Twitter.com URL, don’t provide your login credentials.

As far as the “Tweet alert system” goes, I’d say this would make a great case for Twitter to strong-arm their users and pull a MySpace– compelling users to receive messages or Tweets from “Tom” — aka Evan Williams in Twitter’s case, anytime there’s a potential security threat. This would surely assuage many users who are “frantic” with the sheer thought of identity theft.

Twitter: please monetize your site

I’ll be up front about my age: I’m 24, and some of my most formidable childhood memories surround technology. I clearly remember crafting my first AOL screen name in 4th grade and finding ways to manipulate new technologies to my advantage before people really understood their repercussions (Napster, anyone?). I’m what they like to call a “digital native”– binary is mixed evenly with my DNA, and I thrive on new technology. 

Perhaps that’s why I’m so perplexed by Twitter and it’s counterintuitive ways. 

Sure, I’ve blogged about it before. Who hasn’t? It’s all the rage, and hey, who wouldn’t be– it’s quickly becoming more “mainstream”– it’s being mentioned more and more often by celebrities, major news sources, and even TV shows, so it’s no surprise that sooner or later a larger portion of the technically savvy population will jump on the Twitter bandwagon. As of 01/01/09, there’s an average of 1:4 stories on Google News about Twitter: Facebook. That’s a fair amount of “hype.”  And oh, hey, look at that– at the bottom of a Twitter news search on Google, Facebook comes up as a related search term. Ironic.

Hopefully all the “hype” will help the Twitter team develop a feasible business model that is sustainable and provides a non-invasive way of making money of their audience– BEFORE they truly become “mainstream.” Because let’s be honest– no one wants to stay a “start-up” for forever. Case in point? Tonight/yesterday/the past day’s “hash-tag” chat session on Twitter. 

Twitter trendingIt’s my understanding that it all started with a simple post by Warren Whitlock on his blog, where he encouraged users/readers to “Subscribe to this blog, follow me on Twitter and watch my twitter stream and the hash tag #Happy09for more on the Happy New Year Gift giveaway.” Seems simple enough. Hash tags (#happy09) are common trending tools on Twitter, and are a great way to see what’s going on within the Twitterverse. A quick visit to search.twitter.com shows you a sidebar with the current trends to the right. 

If you’re bored, or interested, you can follow one of the trending topics by clicking on the hyperlink and watching the conversation within the search window. Or, if you’re a more avid trender, you can use a tool like TweetGrid or TweetChat— both of which will track and refresh the conversations/trends you’re interested in. 

As to be expected, most conversations move at a relatively slow to moderate pace. However, this wasn’t the case with the #happy09 hash tag– instead, the conversation moved at a lightning fast pace, reminiscent of old AOL or Yahoo! chat rooms–  long before the bots invaded them, and before people truly understood the technology and talked aimlessly at random people. 

The ambiguous hash tag had an incredible viral propensity– users quickly followed one another,and shared their wishes for the new year. In turn, their followers inquired about the #happy09 tag, and started using it themselves, and the conversation grew to exponential proportions. 

hashtagAnswer

I read the #happy09 messages for quite a while– participating some of the time, but most of the time, noticing trends. There were a lot of moms tweeting, a lot of moms who homeschool their kids, and quite a few people using Twitter to creatively network. I saw one woman using it to find potential employees, another woman using it to help another person find a job (she’s a recruiter, the other person was looking for a new position), a networking event, and several people promoting their own skills/trades/abilities to a broad audience. I even saw “rival” trending tag (they were #4 at one point in the day/night), #tcot using the #happy09 tag to promote their interests. (By the way, all of this made me ecstatic– I love seeing technology being used to connect people in meaningful ways). 

Oh, what a viable marketing opportunity this would have been for Twitter, TweetGrid or TweetChat. The number of impressions on the #happy09 tag is clearly quite high, and any advertiser would have probably had a pretty successful click-through conversion rate on any number of ads within any of the platforms. And to think, if Twitter were to take it a step further and would index/register each Twitter user’s tweets with Google for crawling, the amount of page returns/searches based on each tweet and potential ad could be phenomenal. 

There are plenty of instances where hastags don’t take off the way that #happy09 did, but it doesn’t mean that Twitter couldn’t find a way to monetize them. Companies like Coke, Pepsi, etc could pay to “own” these hash tags, and configure a “boomerang” type tweet that is enabled any time a user mentions these brands or uses the hashtag or the product name in conjunction with a few other key “buzzwords”– this would set off an automatic ad “retweet” or the “boomerang” effect, where the user would then see an ad within their interface pertaining to that specific product. With the right algorithm, that’s targeted, contextual marketing at its best.  

Pepsi

Until Twitter comes up with a clear monetization strategy, they’re going to continue to miss out on opportunities like tonight, and they run the risk of growing too large and running too “clean” (aka ad free) of a site before they make the change, and will end up just like Napster and AOL. A has been.

Facebook: you got served?

Lawyers in Australia have recently started using Facebook to serve legal papers, says Reuters. In the article, an Australian attorney says:

“We couldn’t find the defendants personally after many attempts so we thought we would try and find them on Facebook,” lawyer Mark McCormack said.

“We did a public search based on the email address we had and the defendants Facebook page appeared.”

He said that was enough to convince the court, which found Facebook was a sufficient way of communicating legal papers when it is the plaintiff’s responsibility to personally deliver documents.

This may seem like a giant win for the legal system, but seems like a potential loss for many citizens as the question of authenticity and validity comes to mind. The article fails to outline the steps that the Australian legal team took to verify that the Facebook account actually did belong to the correct plaintiff, but with so many duplicate names and spoofed pages on the internet, it makes you wonder if this is truly fair to the party at fault. 

Celebrities have long been victims of online spoofing– recently, the New York Times featured an article about Shaquille O’Neal claiming his namesake on Twitter because an impostor was using his name to send messages to Shaq fans– pretending he was the real deal. Kanye West is yet another celeb to fall prey to fans wishing to fool other fans.

Kanye

But celebrities are the extreme– it becomes difficult for everyday users to discern who is actually a celeb online (making sites like Twitter and MySpace the perfect place for posers to make their mark), but when it comes down to legal matters, it’s very easy for the judicial system to distinguish who actually is a celebrity and who isn’t– both on and offline. 

This isn’t the case with everyday users. For most people, a quick visit to a site like How Many of Me  will prove the fact that you’re not the only one with your name. When you take that information, add in the ambiguity of the internet, and the ability to spoof simple information like email addresses, home addresses, and even photographs, online verification becomes nothing more than a false sense of security and identity.

Who is to say that the Melissa they serve papers to on a Facebook account is really the Melissa they intended on talking to? Currently there are over 435 different Melissa’s in the US that have my same first and last name, according to US Census data.

Personally, I have somewhere between 5-10 social networking profiles online– if each of the other Melissa’s follow suit, that’s anywhere between 2,175- 4,350 profiles to sift through, including all of the abandoned and neglected profiles that none of us visit. This sets up users for a nasty surprise upon login, especially if a user isn’t a regular visitor of that particular social networking site that the legal team targeted. 

In addition to this, posting a message on someone’s Facebook wall also seems to open up Pandora’s box for spammers and additional legal action. As it stands, there are already enough ways for people to retrieve a person’s identity– allowing for legal action on Facebook seems like yet another way for people to maliciously attack users. 

All in all, posting a message on someone’s wall on Facebook shouldn’t suffice as legal notice until it’s been verified that that in fact, is the correct person and Facebook and the Government come up with a stable way of doing so. Until then, it will be hard to take it seriously.

Twitter’s Monetization Struggle

While companies struggle to figure out how to make money off of Twitter, Twitter is also struggling to figure out how to make money as well. Business Week predicted today that Twitter users might start seeing advertisements on their page, much like what Japanese users currently see. However, there are multiple approaches Twitter could take, including targeted tweets by advertisers.

Under this model, regular users would see sporadic tweets from paid sponsors that relate to their current tweets, much like gmail’s targeted text based ads. The downside to this approach? When tweeple tweet angrily about a product, the reference might cache ads related to the negative comment. (Sentiment targeted advertising should be the next step in all marketing and advertising models).

Businessweek suggests three additional models: users pay, twitter sells ads, twitter sells user information. No matter which route they go, Twitter is guaranteed to see the number of negative tweets about themselves drastically increase.

Twitter faces an interesting problem, as their audience is amongst the tech savvy who typically have strong ties to community and blogging– meaning, their audience has power, reach, and is more inclined to “blog about it.” This audience is amongst the super-lucrative for many advertisers, as the vocal minority is typically the strongest influencers of opinion.

But with all start-ups, the need for monetization always ruffles a few users feathers, as early adopters typically enjoy the streamlined, “free” environment that VC supported products deliver. So how do startups resolve this issue? Early, targeted advertising incorporated on their beta sites? Or, do they just suck it up and let people vote with their feet?

Either way, Twitter’s monetization battle will most likely be a public one, with people waiting to see the giant whale fall flat.

Twitter and Hitler

Twitter and Hitler– an unlikely duo, but recently both were featured in an online, viral spoof showcasing

user’s dedication to the service, and, frustrations with the continual outages. (BTW, you should definitely watch the spoof– it’s pretty funny).

As a regular user of Twitter (though hardly a power user like many) I too, understand the frustration of not being able to Tweet the mundane on demand.

But it makes me wonder: do we often take for granted the free services the online world provides? Recently, gmail was hit hard by a group of users, frustrated by their outage for over two hours. Granted many people hang their livelihood on free services like gmail, Yahoo! Messenger, ebay, and yes, even Twitter, but does it make sense? I always believed that the adage of “you get what you pay for” rings true– so if you’re paying nothing and still getting something, why become anything but irked when you run into an outage? Irate gets you nowhere.

From Rammikin's Flickr page

From Rammikin

If you’re going to expect to make money off of something that costs you nothing, what is the acceptable level of service that you should receive? However, if we were talking paid services, then, by all means, tweet your heart out. (Irony is: many of the gmail outage tweets also reference twitter’s outage. At what point does the brand equity dissipate and users start to associate the “Great Gmail outage” not with Google’s reliable service, but Twitter’s unreliable product?)