Tag - twitter

Props from a master: sci-fi legend David Brin makes my day

I have been promoting my first science fiction novel, No Other Gods, on Twitter and Facebook and this blog. And the sales have been starting to come.

So have the positive reviews: 4.9 stars so far on Amazon, which is great.

But the best has been the result of taking a if-you-don’t-swing-you-can’t-hit attitude and approaching some big-name authors and personalities about the book. David Brin is a best-selling sci-fi author — and a scientist, by the way — with novels like Postman and Heaven’s Reach that I’ve personally read and loved. He’s such a respected author that he’s the one the Asimov people picked to write the final posthumous novel in the Foundation Series, Foundation’s Triumph.

He responded to a tweet that I directed to his attention, and then we emailed back and forth, after which I sent him a copy of No Other Gods.

This was the response:

david brin response no other gods

Brin’s schedule is crazy, and he must get a million queries from just-starting-out authors like me. But he read the first part of the book, liked it, and said I am “no amateur.”

That made my day.

Hopefully, he’ll also find the time between writing and speaking and working to read the rest, and give me some feedback on the complete novel.

Of Klout and Klouchebags

My second post on VentureBeat is live: Why you should be using Klout when making hiring decisions.

Klout is a social measuring and monitoring tool that gauges online influence, mostly by analyzing data from Twitter, Facebook, and a few other social networks. There was a pretty major reaction last week to the Wired story about the marketing exec who lost out on a new job opportunity due to his low Klout score. A lot of people were pretty negative on Klout.

That’s understandable, to a degree. Who likes being measured and analyzed … especially when the results may not always line up with how we think of ourselves. Or, when there are concerns about the methodology and accuracy of the measurement.

In any case, I still find value in Klout … and here are a few reasons why.

Infographic about YOU: what you tweet, post, and share … according to Intel

Intel has posted a social media tool for social content creators like you and me. It connects to your social networks – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube – and creates an infographic of YOU.

Here’s a piece of mine:
Infographic: John Koetsier

Apparently, this is what I talk about online:

  • Tech (22%)
  • Food (15%)
  • Art & Photography (14%)
  • Sports (12%)
  • Gaming (7%)
  • Study (6%)
  • TV/Film (6%)
  • Travel (5%)
  • Fashion (5%)
  • Science (3%)
  • Music (3%)
  • Shopping (2%)

I really doubt some of what it’s saying. Gaming? I hardly play any games, except a few on my iPhone. Food? Seriously? I can’t recall the last time I posted anything about food. Same about TV or movies. Or fashion for that matter.

Still, it’s definitely interesting.

What does yours say?

Twitter: when will we get TweetRank?

Google has PageRank to tell us what web pages are the best. Facebook has EdgeRank to show us the most interesting, relevant social updates. But what does Twitter have?

There are a lot of tweets.
That might be an understatement. Let’s put it this way: THERE ARE A LOT OF TWEETS. And the signal to noise ratio is not as good as it could be … nor is it as good as it should be.

  • in February 2011, there were 155 million tweets per day
  • in March 2012, there are over 500 million Twitter accounts
  • and they send out 33 billion tweets a day

May I repeat myself … that’s a lot of tweets. WAY too many for anyone to read, and hard even to try to imagine.

That said, many tweets, if not most, suck
We’ve all seen the account from the “social media expert” which consists of 100K followers, 100K following, and mostly automated tweets from a quote database … over and over and over. Profoundly uncool, and largely uninformative, not to mention unimaginative. In a word, spam.

Then there are others who add nothing, but retweet everything. They are slightly less annoying, but they are adding more noise than signal.

Most egregious are the twerps, er, tweeps who endlessly promote their own content, much of it consisting of crappy digital stuff to buy. No conversation, no engagement, no community just a carnival barker set on perpetual play.

These people kill the Twitterverse.

There’s gotta be something better
There’s gotta be a way to increase the signal to noise ratio. To dampen the static, and crank up the song … let the good stuff win out, rather than being drowned out.

There’s a bunch of options for this already. None of them are ideal.

One of them is simple: follow fewer people. If you only follow a few, you’re guaranteed to get less noise, right?

Right, but you’re also guaranteed to get less signal, too.

Even if you only follow a few top-notch people in whatever niches your interest lie … you’re still going to get:

  • @ messages from people you follow to other people who follow them … all of them of dubious importance to you
  • some degree of lame and inconsequential updates (we all do it … we’re HERE, this steak is AWESOME, my toes hurt, etc. etc.)
  • irrelevant messages … just because you follow an interesting person doesn’t mean that ALL of his or her interests directly overlap with yours

It’s true we should follow smart, but Twitter should show smart, too
There are cues to how important or relevant a tweet is. Some are obvious, such as these public indicators:

  • social importance of the tweeter
  • number of retweets or mentions
  • relevance to similar info in the Twitterverse

Some are not so obvious. They’re personal, related to complexities of how your interest graph and the person you are following intersect. So, for instance, if Twitter noticed over time that you responded more to Scoble’s tweets about open source, rather than Microsoft. Or more about startups than gadgets.

In both of those ways (macro and micro, public and personal), Twitter could shape the tweets you see to be higher quality, more relevant, better. There is a danger that we do get trapped in our own little reality bubbles, as Eli Pariser has warned. But the TweetRank algorithm could introduce some serendipity, perhaps bringing in high-quality tweets from other’s interest graphs, rocking your world with new ideas and perspectives 🙂

It just seems odd that Google has a TweetRank system but Twitter does not. And the Twitter user experience could be improved with a gently, carefully applied algorithm to improve the overall quality of tweets people see.


Leaving Facebook for Google+? Unlikely

Brian Solis recently posted a poll asking his contacts if they’d abandon Facebook for Google+.

A shocking large number – 24% – are currently saying yes. Really? Are a quarter of technically-savvy social media types going to abandon the biggest social network on the planet?

I say no, and here’s the comment I made:

Facebook = friends & family.
Google+ = tech stuff.
LinkedIN = professional networking.
Twitter = not sure anymore…

Mom’s not going to G+. Not gonna happen. And neither are all your cousins, aunts, and other assorted relatives. Plus, most of your school friends who aren’t engineers or otherwise geeky won’t be there – at least not for a while.

So there’s room for all the networks to play.

Except maybe for Twitter, which is still super-strong, but which will (I think) lose a significant component of it’s more technical contributors to G+.

Time will tell …

Visual.ly & me: trying out their infographic generator

Thought I’d give Visual.ly a try with their new infographic generator. The only module they have for public consumption right now is Twitter.

So here’s me on Twitter, according to Visual.ly. There’s a least a couple of massive errors: I tweet WAY more than .3 tweets a day, and I get far more than .13 new followers a day.

It’s a fun little tool right now, but they should really fix some of the issues, as people will be judging them based on their first efforts.

Twitter: caught in the Facebook/Google+ crossfire?

Twitter, I fear for you.

You rock, everyone knows that. Well, let’s put it this way: you used to rock. Maybe you still do, but I’m not so sure.

You were my other network:

  • Must-have: Facebook for friends and family
  • Must-have:LinkedIn for work & professional networking
  • Nice-to-have:Twitter for intellectual stimulation, learning, & sharing

Facebook – it’s good to be king
Facebook is pretty secure in its position. 750M users will do that for you.

Guess what: my mom isn’t joining Google+. Not going to happen. Same with most of my friends, who don’t know what SEO is, have barely heard of Android, and wouldn’t have a clue that iOS is the operating system (what’s an operating system?) for iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches.

LinkedIn – prince is OK for me
LinkedIn is also pretty secure. Complete domination of a category will do that for you.

Everyone I know professionally who cares about their online profile is on LinkedIn. Anyone in marketing, biz-dev, leadership, and technology has a LinkedIn profile. They’re not going to pull their entire resumes and professional histories and recommendations and contacts out of LinkedIn anytime soon.

Twitter – contender or pretender?
Twitter is a little shaky. It’s not as big as Facebook. It doesn’t have a strong a niche as LinkedIn.

Where are the smart people going?
And guess what: all the smart connected people I know are spending almost all of their spare social networking time on Google+. It has become aspects of social and news and networking altogether.

Maybe some of that is because it’s the hot new girl in class. Maybe it’s novelty.

But there’s a LOT that Google+ does right. Media-sharing is next-generation. Conversations are awesome. Communities and groups are a dream to manage. Everything works, and there hasn’t been a fail whale in sight: if there’s one thing that Google knows best, it’s managing scale.

Twitter, how are you going to fight that?

Twitter: the details matter

What makes an amazing product amazing?

Usually, there’s a few significant things it does really well. And just as usually, amazing products have amazing finish: there are few if any rough edges.

So while it’s good news that Jack Dorsey is back at Twitter, supposedly running product full-time … he’s got a lot to do.

Incredibly simple, trivial, and obvious case in point:

How hard can it be to see if only one person has re-tweeted, versus multiple people? And to have the right spelling/grammar in either case?

That’s right – not hard.

But it does take one thing: attention to detail.

Twitter: how to fix the Quick Bar

The Twitter Quick Bar, as seen in Marco Arment's post.

Like any other company, Twitter wants to make money. Like most other companies that live off user-generated content, advertising is one of the methods they’re working on.

The Twitter Quick Bar is an attempt to insert an ad stream into users’ tweet streams. Unfortunately, it’s a massive fail – check out Marco Arment’s blog for an excellent overview and explanation.

It’s all about context
The problem is not that users are angry about advertising (or, at least, that isn’t the main problem). The problem is the complete lack of context. And that’s a problem due to the inherent nature of Twitter.

Twitter is the ultimate in contextual media. You follow people with interests you care about. When they tweet – presumably about things you care about – you get messages that you want and expect to see.

Disastrously decontextualized
The Quick Bar is decontextualized. It’s about something that someone else cares about … someone who has paid a stack of dollars to Twitter to shove under your nose. As such, it’s the opposite of permission marketing. To use Seth Godin’s language, it’s interruption marketing.

The Twitter Quick Bar is the Charlie Sheen of UI design. A catastrophic meltdown no one saw coming.less than a minute ago via Twitter for Mac

(This is clueless and tone-deaf for Twitter … a company that should get this stuff. One can only assume that co-founder Jack Dorsey’s departure from an active, day-to-day role in the company has had a negative effect.)

But easy to fix
The simple solution for Twitter: segment your users by interest and attention. Then, instead of selling advertisers a shotgun of promoted tweets or hashtags, sell a sniper rifle of specific interests.

Now, your promoted tweets and hashtags are more relevant to your users.

And now, your users are less upset.

Simple, no?

(But maybe not quite as easy.)

How to know if the Twitter person who just followed you sucks horribly

Way too many people are joining Twitter lately. The wrong type of people – insatiable self-promoters, salesy salespeople, and multi-level marketers.

You can tell who they are, sometimes, by the fact that they follow an ungodly number of people and are followed by an equivalent number … 20K, 30K, 50K.

But that’s not always a good enough indicator. Here’s the infallible way to know:

The huge number of tweets suggests this might be an account on auto-pilot, but maybe not. The huge number of followers/followed also suggests a marketer/self-promoter, but it’s not conclusive. Some people just follow back a lot (I do myself).

The number that you really need to look at is 4.

Only 4 people have consider this uber-tweeter valuable enough to put him on a list.

In other words: he sucks. Don’t follow back … just ignore him. He’s going to unfollow you soon enough anyways.

Credible backstory: a pre-requisite for marketing

Never start marketing without a credible backstory.

By which I mean: you can’t sell your product to me without selling yourself to me … and you can’t sell yourself to anyone if you don’t have your ducks in a row.

Case in point:

I was just followed by “weightcoachlisa” on Twitter.

This is a marketing occasion. By following me, she’s has created an outbound message to me, announcing her existence and the fact that she’s following me. This creates an opportunity (for her) to be considered (by me) as a candidate for mutual friending. In other words, will I follow weightcoachlisa?

To make that call, I first check out her profile.

  • A decent number of tweets … so not a complete newbie
  • Lots of followers … might be worthwhile
  • Lots of following, in fact more than followers … so probably an aggressive follower, a social media climber, and maybe not worthwhile
  • Tweets are all quotes … this is an automated account, possibly
  • Nice profile pic … looks good, but could it be a fake? Is it too good?

Some good, some bad. The backstory’s not good enough yet for me to follow. But there is a link to a website. Checking out the website might give me more information … if it’s a good website with a decent amount of content … fine, I’ll probably follow her.

Unfortunately, this is what you come to:

This is not a good thing …

  • Lots of errors
  • Only 3 pieces of content
  • No real and apparent link to the supposed person behind “weightcoachlisa”

Conclusion: this is a fake spam account, and I’ll ignore the follow.

Note: I might be wrong. It might be a real account, and there might be a real person behind “weightcoachlisa.” And it might be the case that by not following her I’m missing out on some good tips.

But the backstory sucks. And therefore it’s not credible. And therefore the risk is higher than the reward.


. . .
. . .

By the way, this is me on Twitter. Is my backstory credible?

Facebook & faces: personas, masks, & me

The old joke used to be: on the internet no-one knows you’re a dog.

That’s less and less true today … today the internet may know that you’re an Alaskan Malamute with a serious flatulence problem. Uh oh.

Who are you online?

I’ve been thinking about this since former-Googler-and-current-Facebooker Paul Adams posted his real life social network deck on SlideShare. In case you don’t have the time to go through all 224 slides, let me give you the Cole’s Notes version:

  • More than one offline network
    Real-life social networks are not evenly distributed, homogenous, and singular … they are unevenly distributed around the various aspects of a person’s life: work, home town, schools, associations, etc. In other words, you don’t have A social network, you have MANY social networks.

  • Different faces for each network
    We generally present ourselves differently in different scenarios … essentially, in different networks. Which is to say, you’re a slightly different person with your friends than your co-workers, or family, or at the school reunion, and so on. Or you choose to preferentially reveal and conceal aspects of yourself to those different sets of people.

  • More than one online network
    A technology-mediated social network that matches your life, therefore, should have the ability to match your offline life … giving you the ability to be how (and who?) you want to be in each of those groups.

Diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks
In other words, the college buddies get the salacious off-color joke, the family gets the “johnny’s-doing-so-well-in-school” update, and the professional network gets the note about acceptance into a master’s program.

This has worked heavily into Facebooks’ groups feature … which now you can use to hide and reveal bits and pieces of your life as you choose:

Is that really going to work? I mean, aside from the existential angst about personas and faces and integrity and reality … will people actually use this?

Right now, I can only go by my own experience, and it seems to be that I segment my online social existence not by editing audiences for each particular message, but by selecting separate social networks for different types of messages.

The difference may look small, but this is the significant part: nothing is hidden. There are no messages that some friends can see and other friends can’t. Everything is available … if you choose to interact with me in the particular forum that I’m engaging.

Segment by service?
So, in my example, most work-related things go on my LinkedIn account. Most internet/technology/web/mobile musings and shares go on my Twitter account. And comments, posts, photos, and movies that are primarily for actual physical friends and family go on my Facebook account.

Kitchen, office, bedroom
It’s not so much that I have different sets of friends on the various accounts … it’s that there are different kinds of conversations. It’s not so much about having multiple personas … it’s about having multiple interests.

Certain conversations happen in the home that would never happen in the office. Others that you would engage in with the boys after the game wouldn’t happen when you visit your parents.

But I don’t want to hide anything … in fact … in the pursuit of integrity, I don’t want to have anything to hide – from anyone.

I’m an outlier. I have footholds in many social networks.

So you can’t – and I can’t – judge others by myself. It’s silly to think that what I do is what others will do. And frankly … it’s much easier to use one social network (and use the groups feature) than to maintain multiple social presences.

But I like it this way … at least for now.

It remains to be seen how others will react – and how the major social networking platforms will accomodate users’ desires to have move offline relationships online, in all their complexity. Data and relationship portability across social networks would have an interesting effect here as well.

Simplicity – and laziness – argues for a single solution.

Twitter: it's not about size, it's about reach

I saw this story on a Hollywood news site earlier today. It’s basically an article dissing Twitter for not being as big or effective a marketing vehicle as some have cracked it up to be:

Why was everyone in the movie business so excited about Twitter? Probably because of its potential, more than anything. The speed and the scale of word-of-mouth on Twitter seemed to manifest a terrifyingly powerful tool, one in which Hollywood was unprepared for.

The actual reality has been something less.

Surveying 1,500 moviegoers last September, research firm OTX found that as a source for word-of-mouth about films, Twitter actually lagged far behind rival social-streaming platforms such as Facebook and MySpace, as well as just basic interaction with family, friends and co-workers.

via The Twitter Effect Isn’t What Hollywood Thought | TheWrap.com.

But the article misses the point. Right now, and for all of its life to date, Twitter has not been the biggest social network, or social news network, or news sharing space … whatever you want to call it.

But Twitter has two things going for it:

  1. You saw it first here
    Twitter is where news breaks … it’s always on Twitter first, before it’s on any other social network, or most news sites.
  2. Reach is more than size
    How many people you reach is much more important than the simple size your network. If you’re connected with just 5 people, but each of them re-tweets your messages to 500 more … you have a lot of reach. Because of this viral nature that is fundamentally different than Facebook or MySpace … Twitter users have far more potential (and in many cases actual) reach.

The potentially confusing thing is that a large art of that reach is actually on Facebook, MySpace, and other social platforms … because many Twitter users will allow their updates to flow through the internet to all their other online accounts. I personally get far more comments on Facebook on my Twitter postings than I do on Twitter … so anyone who heard of something from me probably heard it “on Facebook,” even though it was originally posted on Twitter.

So while I’m not trying to be a Twitter apologist or fanboy … there are some significant factors to consider when estimating the value of interacting in the various forms of social media.

Facebook To Twitter: Back Off, We Own People’s Interests

From TechCrunch:

Whoever knows what your interests are right now and can package them up for advertisers has the chance to make a lot of money. Of course, Google does this right now every time you declare your interests in a search box and it offers up matching ads on the side of results. But Facebook and Twitter are trying to capitalize on the shift from search to sharing. Your interests are expressed by what you follow and react to “like,” “retweet,” etc., not only what you explicitly seek out through search.

via Facebook To Twitter: Back Off, We Own People’s Interests.

Monetizing the Realtime Web

Some really good things we’ve learned:

1. Users are open to ads as long as they’re relevant to their realtime experience.

2. Advertisers really want to create ads that are relevant to the realtime experience.

3. Realtime applications are starting to make serious money through advertising!

Some really hard challenges all of us face:

1. Realtime targeting is complex

2. Data is everything

3. Advertisers need to be taught how to engage in a realtime experience.

OneRiot has been at it since October (beta launch in January), and in April we expect to exceed 1/2 billion ad impressions across our network of realtime apps.

Our impressions are in the stream (e.g. on Twitter apps like UberTwitter and social desktop apps like Digsby) and they are in search (e.g. on OneRiot.com). Recently we’ve started distributing them across the wider web through traditional ad units.

What we’ve discovered is that when the ad is relevant to a trending topic, relevant to what people are talking about on the realtime web, the click thru rate goes through the roof. In other words, if iPad is trending, and we promote the hottest accessories for the iPad, realtime web users love it. Even on mobile, the CTR goes from an industry average of 0.1-0.2% to over 1% and sometimes even higher. We’ve had CTRs as high as 8% when we really nail it.

via Monetizing the Realtime Web – Insights and Challenges after 6 Months | OneRiot Blog.

Google: how many enemies can you afford?

I was wondering this morning: how many enemies can Google afford?

There’s of course Apple, which Google poked with a stick when they brought out Android, their OS for mobile communication devices (or: smartphones). Apple is less concerned about Chromium and Google Apps (see below) … but any other operating systems and productivity apps are inherent competitors.

Microsoft is an enemy not only due to Android but also due to Chromium, another Google OS for not-quite-so-mobile devices (or: tablets). And, of course, Microsoft just loves Google for Google Apps, which threaten to someday replace Office.

Not least of all, Microsoft, which has been trying for a decade to win on the web, is fighting Google for mind and marketshare in search with Bing.

Facebook is emerging as a major competitor for Google for two reasons: sheer scale in terms of audience and pageviews, which diverts users’ time and attention away from Google … and the fact that Facebook controls what Google sees of all that fascinating and mine-able and rich user action and interaction.

Facebook, of course, is really happy that Google’s Orkut is big in Brazil and India …

Twitter, FourSquare, etc.
The whole social world that is exploding in Facebook and on Twitter/FourSquare and many other similar sites watches in dismay as Google experiments with Buzz. It’s abundantly apparent that Orkut notwithstanding Google isn’t really getting social right now, but the giant with deep pockets cannot be ignored. Even its accidental footsteps kill many trees.

Hmmm … Google really knows how to pick ’em. As much as we may admire Google for its principled stance on freedom and censorship, fighting with the more-or-less totalitarian government of the most populous nation with the fastest-growing economy on earth is a bit sobering.

Old media, Magazines, Newspapers, Publishing, Rupert Murdoch, New York
As much as we may laugh at Rupert Murdoch’s understandings of links, traffic, and value … there’s no doubt that aggregation and search have sucked huge amounts of value out of traditional media. And they don’t like one little bit of it … and are searching furiously for ways to re-monetize their content. (Maybe the iPad will save them? Don’t hold your breath.)

. . .
. . .

Who else? From a certain perspective, almost EVERY company on the internet competes with Google, at least somewhat.

So the question becomes … at what point does Google’s insistence on poking their nose into everyone else’s business model – which they can only afford to do because of a de facto monopoly on search revenue – start to damage Google?

One would have to imagine sometime soon. You can only fight so many Lilliputians (and behemoths) at once.

How to fail fast on Twitter: an easy-to-follow one-step recipe!

At last … the information you’ve always wanted: how to get un-followed on Twitter.

If you use Twitter, you’re familiar with the following scenario: someone follows you, and you find out via email, or some other software you’re using for the purpose (unless you’re automating Twitter, which is usually a bad thing in itself, but we’ll deal with that another day).

You take a look at the user’s stats, and if he or she has a decent number of tweets in relation to following and following numbers, you consider following back. You also check to see if the user is following way more people than are following him or her … because that’s usually a sign of someone trying to game Twitter to develop a big megaphone without putting any significant energy into earning that megaphone.

Sometimes when you’ve done this step, and even noticed that the user’s tweets are potentially of interest to you, you notice something else. Like this, for example:


I followed this user, then read a few more of his tweets. Lo and behold … multiple repeat Tweets.

This is a sign of a user with one or more problems:

  • Boring
    This person does not have a lot to say … but like the boring person at the party that you can’t detach yourself from, insists on saying it over and over.

  • Lazy
    This person probably actually has a lot to say, but is too busy or otherwise occupied to put appropriate attention on Twitter. So she is putting her account on autopilot and just repeating the same thing over and over again without the bother of having to think up (or experience) new things to communicate. This is the broken record (remember those round spinning black things) that keeps on keeps on keeps on keeps on …

  • Forgetful
    This person just says the same thing over and over again … like the old sales guy who has chatted up (sorry, networked) so promiscuously and with so little emotional investment that he forgets who he has told his stories to, and keeps repeating the sames ones to you every time you meet.

  • Rude
    This person doesn’t care about the signal to noise ratio, and doesn’t care what any one individual might think of his or her behavior. It’s all about the mass to this person, and to get to mass attention, they’re repeating everything twice or a hundred times, like old-fashioned advertising spewing out mindlessly and repetitively to an essentially unknown audience.

As soon as I saw all the repeat tweets, I un-followed this user. The funny thing here is that I’m actually interested in some of the topics he’s covering. But his behavior smells like spam.

Moral of the story? Old methods may not work in new media.

Friendfeed growth rocketing?

What is up with FriendFeed?

After perhaps a year of having a FriendFeed account but doing very little with it, I’m suddenly seeing a huge jump in activity. For the past 12 months I’ve pretty much put FriendFeed on autopilot, receiving data from my other social networks and media activities, but not paying too much attention to it or getting much attention from other FriendFeed users.

But in the past month or so I’ve been receiving subscription requests from FriendFeed users almost daily.


I’m wondering what’s going on – is FriendFeed growth exploding? Checking Alexa shows steady growth of 134% over the past 3 months … good, but nothing compared to the stratospheric take-off of Twitter, which has been growing at well over 1000% annually.


Maybe the growth in numbers is not the story. Perhaps more and more occasional users of FriendFeed have – like me – started to use it more and more over the past few months.

Either way, FriendFeed is a social network/aggregator to watch … perhaps it will not be limited to a geeky, connected audience after all.

The real Ashton Kutcher effect?

Well in the wake of the Ashton Kutcher 1 million followers on Twitter event, BusinessWeek is making a big deal about celebrities powering social networks.

Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr win big when celebrities participate; no wonder they’re wooing famous users.

While it’s self-evident that fans follow stars … it’s also obvious that many joiners are also quitters. I was wondering if the masses of extra users that flood on to an online service are major contributors to social network drop-out.

As Nielsen reports, in Twitter’s case that drop-out is as high as 60%:

Currently, more than 60 percent of U.S. Twitter users fail to return the following month, or in other words, Twitter’s audience retention rate, or the percentage of a given month’s users who come back the following month, is currently about 40 percent.

Turns out the Ashton Kutcher effect is NOT related to the poor Twitter retention numbers. As Nielsen discovered by tracking users during and after the Oprah experiment,

For most of the past 12 months, pre-Oprah, Twitter has languished below 30 percent retention.

In fact, Ashton Kutcher and Oprah are contributing to social media stickiness and enhancing retention.

So much for the democratization of the internet!

The U.U.U.S. blogging and twittering rule

Dear reader (if I may call you that in an avuncular 18th century novelist manner) … This is one of those posts in which I use my blog as both a personal and public record of something I want to remember … using blogging as more of a personal database than a public communique.

Brian Clark at CopyBlogger recently posted The Art of Writing Great Twitter Headlines.

While I’m not sure he uses Twitter the way I do – a tool for communication and community, for seeing what’s buzzing and for connecting to like-minded people – it’s an interesting read. If you, like me, don’t post to Twitter solely for the purpose of catching people’s attention and calling them to action (and even if you don’t use Twitter at all) this is useful advice for writing headlines and content that makes a difference.

It’s the UUUS rule. Is your content/headline/post/tweat:

  1. Useful
  2. Urgent
  3. Unique
  4. Specific

That’s a tall order. Millions of blog posts would never be written if all bloggers followed it. And while many don’t – and shouldn’t, as they write specifically about themselves and their families for the benefit of a small group of relatives and friends – many should. It’s something I’ll consider each and every time as I think about posting to Sparkplug 9.

Of course, every rule is proved by its exception!

Director Tom's recessionary get-a-job strategy

tomI worked with Thomas Clifford (AKA Director Tom) recently on a corporate film that I was executive producing.

He was absolutely amazing. And he’s done hundreds of films over a 25-year career. And he’s one of the most connected social media individuals you will ever find. But 3 days ago he just got laid off.

Which only goes to show that in this current economic climate of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt … many good people are losing their jobs as companies are slowing down.

Tom, however, being Tom, is a proactive guy. So he put together the Hire Tom website and kicked his network into high gear. As WorkLifeNation reports, here’s his 4-step strategy:

  1. Making the Hire Tom site
  2. Alerting his network
  3. Multiple LinkedIn updates
  4. Twitter, Twitter, Twitter

Read the article for the full details – it’s great. And the results are coming too. I connected with Tom today, and he says that the opportunities are rolling in – only 3 days after being laid off!

Of course, not everyone has over 500 connections on LinkedIn or 2000+ followers on Twitter. Still, there’s a lot to be learned from Tom’s actions … especially that the time to work on your network is before you need it!

Nielsen ratings: top 20 social networks

Facebook continues to grow at a torrid rate. Reunion.com is growing almost as fast. Ning, Tagged, and Multiply are also all growing at over 100% annually.

However, Twitter is the runaway winner in unbelievable growth rates. While it’s growing from a smaller base, and therefore it’s easier to get a higher multiple, a growth rate of almost 1400% annually is just astounding.

twitter-februaryFree Legal Forms

Those are some scintillating numbers. Wow.

Twitter lesson #1: don't do this

Just like launching your website or start-up too early, being too eager to be a big swinging you-know-what on Twitter can be a fatal flaw.

Check out this Twitter account that I was invited to follow yesterday:

In brief:
Following: 584
Updates: 2

There’s an obvious discrepancy here. When you follow someone on Twitter, they are likely going to take a look at your past tweets to see if you might be someone they want to follow. If you have no history, people have no data. And what happens in the absence of data? You guessed it – not much at all.

So in other words, by “launching” too early … drawing attention to yourself by following people … you’ve done yourself a disservice.

Do yourself a favor instead. Learn Twitter (or any other social application you’re testing), develop some history, put out some data … and then start following people.

The unfortunate part is that this looks like a legit person or organization (unlike the vast proliferation of spam get-rich-quick accounts on Twitter lately) but they will not get the consideration they might deserve, simply because of a bit of over-eagerness.

Walk, then run.

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On Twitter? So am I.

Instant SEO expert on Twitter

It’s amazing who’s an expert SEO on Twitter. They’re popping up by the day – I guess you just add water and stir!

But sometimes things don’t seem to actually add up … as in this case:


Is it really likely that a true SEO expert – and a true PR expert – would have 16 followers on Twitter? Not very! Here’s how a true expert would do it …

First, take the time to build a decent network – a couple of hundred followers at least. Have the credentials to back it up … like the website, the work, the results.

Then announce yourself.

The problem is, of course, all these things take time. Community isn’t instant, and success seldom is too. The harsh reality is that a “quick fix” is usually only half accurate.

The quick half, that is.

Robert Scoble loves me!

Robert Scoble knows who I am! He cares about what I do! He wants to know when I’m in the office, and when I go to Starbucks, and when I have an ingrown toenail! He’s following me on Twitter! I matter!


Or not.

This is obviously a fake Robert Scoble on Twitter … with about 50,000 fewer followers, and 20,000 fewer following than the very similar-looking real deal.

Here’s the real Robert Scoble on Twitter. I think he’s following me too.

But if anybody thinks that actually matters, I’ve got some beachfront property in Alaska for you. It’ll be great in 300 years, when global warming finally kicks in.

5 Things Twitter Needs Now

I’ve been using Twitter for probably over a year. But I’ve really only being using Twitter for perhaps 3 months.

In that time, there’s a few things that I think would add huge value to Twitter:

  1. Context
    Yeah I know it’s a river. But some rivers have tributaries, channels, and eddies. Some of them are even dammed. And it’d be nice to have some context for your latest tweet: “Need help with my current project.”

  2. Categories
    Look, there are some people we follow because we know them. Some we follow because we think they’re interesting and make us smarter. Some we follow because they’re famous, and everyone else is doing it anyways. And some we follow just because they followed us.

    I’d like to be able to categorize followers – and people I’m following. Better yet, do it for me: geographically, by industry … and let me tag them.

  3. Space for URLs
    Every single web address on every single profile is cut off. When it’s ubiquitous, you know you’re doing something wrong.

  4. Quoted messages for DMs
    I know I already have context down, but it’s a particular problem for direct messaging. When someone says “I have a new red door,” and I DM 2 hours later “Interesting, how big is it?” … how on earth do they know what I’m talking about?

  5. Searchable following/followers
    Right now, I want to send a message to a Twitter feed I’m following for a conference. I know it starts with W … but I don’t remember the exact name. How can I find it today? Only by tediously paging through lists of result pages. And they’re not even alphabetical! So I have to do a search of ALL Twitter users to find the one I want … and it’s only even possible because I happen to know most of the username.

    I think I’d even settle for sortable following/follower lists …

I’m not in the make-Twitter-do-everything camp. It’s simple, and that’s great. But would just a few more features to improve the signal-to-noise ratio be so bad?

BTW, here I am on Twitter. Follow me!

Best bio on Twitter?

I wonder what the best bio on Twitter is. I think it might just possibly be Ken Newman’s:

Film and Stage Actor, Trade Show Presenter, Corporate Entertainer, Writer, Magician, Photographer, and anything else that people will pay me to do – w/in reason

Love it! “Anything else that people will pay me to do, w/i reason.” Great.


Here’s Ken’s Twitter … and here’s his blog.

Twitter: Hello Again, Fail Whale

I’m seeing Twitter’s fail whale more and more lately:


Twitter has been MUCH better the past few months, but I guess the relentless growth – up about a million users in the last 3 months – is starting to take its toll again.


Planning for incessant growth is not easy … I recently met a Google engineer who works on Gmail on a flight who had some interesting thoughts. “Up and to the right,” he called it, referring to increasing traffic graphed over time.

Hopefully Twitter’s technical gurus can start to manage the growth curve better. Meanwhile we can all join the Fail Whale club.

Twitter Spamability Quotient: 39%

A truly wonderful part of any user-generated social community is the Jupiter-sized amount of spam that kamikazes towards the site like John Daly to the pro club bar.

Twitter, a social messaging site, is not immune. That won’t shock anyone in the social media know, but I gained a new appreciation for the spam-friendliness of Twitter when nerkaszs followed me.

This is a person with 27 updates, each of which follows the exact same format: “I just updated my Squidoo page: [ link to page ].”


This is obviously a borderline spam account, with no real personal info or valuable knowledge transfer on any particularly discernible topic. This is purely and simply an SEO play on Squidoo lenses that nerkaszs has built and presumably collects some PPC income on.

So why would anyone follow this account? Anyone who takes 5 seconds to actually look at it will drop it faster than a bar of soap on a string in a prison shower.

The answer is the secret to Twitter’s Spamability Quotient: 39%. Many Twitter users automatically follow anyone who follows them. There are a variety of ways, including this one that Dave Taylor explains.

I’m guessing the TSQ is about 39% … based simply on nerkaszs‘s stats. Whoever Nerk is, she/he/it follows (yeah right) 918 people and has suckered 360 people into following (repeat yeah right) him/her/it. Do the math and you’ve got 39% of all people who are followed who will automatically reciprocate.

And that number says interesting things about spammers’ ability to use Twitter as a reproducible loudspeaker.