The Road To 1,200,000 Followers On Twitter

I’m on a mission. And that mission is for 1,200,000 twitter users to follow me.

There’s no logical reason for my desire to attain this goal. I’m not representing a charity or any other philanthropic organization nor am I doing this as part of a sponsored social media campaign. I’m not a celebrity, nor am I an A-List blogger. And I’m not giving away free burgers.

Though I should. Seriously I make a rad burger. The key is feta cheese…

Anyway, I’m not going to lie, this is 100% ego driven. But not for the reasons you think. See, I want to prove to the Gaga’s, Shaq’s, Ashton’s and Diddy’s that the attention economy and subsequently the commodity of followers they’ve accrued is, pardon my language, completely fucked. It’s as FUBAR and disposable as MySpace friends were in the earlier half of the decade – seems we can’t seem to learn from history when it repeats itself.

This has a ton to do with Metcalfe’s Law, but not for the virtuous reasons many a social media “guru” proclaim from the mountain tops of…wherever they proclaim things.

Let me explain, and why yes, I’m dropping mad theory on your asses. To continue…

The concept of Metcalfe’s law in my simpleton of opinions, is completely wrong when it’s applied not to expansion, but the value of twitter. Metcalfe’s Law states that the value of a network is affected by the number of nodes it has – the more users a network has, the more connections are created by each new user. But connections do not equate value. In fact as Metcalfe’s Law in my opinion, is detrimental to the entire premise of Twitter as a 1 to Some communications platform. The more attention I receive, the less time I have to engage. Are you following me?

As a broadcast platform it succeeds, albeit temporarily but I’m convinced, as my network continues to grow disproportionately that I’ll have no choice but to begin adding node:node and that’s when I’ll eventually lose control, along with any meaningful conversations I’ve had via my network.

I’ll concede of course that twitter has made it easier to stay organized. I can set up lists, or use Tweetdeck to filter through relevant topics of conversation, but ultimately, the unfiltered, surprising river of conversation that continues to excite me when I fire up twitter every morning will become so volatile, with a velocity in ever changing topics of conversation that I’ll forever be playing catch up to the conversations I’d like to be having.

And that my friends is a lot of conversation.

So to recap, I believe that size of network has little to do with its strength and I’m willing to bastardize my life on twitter to prove it. As of the time I began this social experiment I’m at 1,231 followers and I am following 71 people. This is roughly a 17:1 ratio. I believe that as the ratio continues to grow, I’ll have less control of conversations via my followers, those who I’m following, and myself.

I have a long ways to go to 1,200,000, so maybe you can help?

I’m @cdny on twitter. Feel free to follow me and I’ll probably follow you back.

P.S. This may all be a pointless diatribe which if you fall into the category of those who think so, I apologize and offer two great blog posts on Twitter and followers. First there’s Alex Schleber’s and next there’s Mathew Ingram’s brilliant post on Dunbar numbers.

P.S.S. I found the image I used for this post via Google images. The illustrator is super talented and you should check out his stuff.

the story of hipstr

Many nights, many weekend and many friends helped make hipstr a reality. What is hipstr? hipstr is a social rating site similar to digg and reddit in the sense that users can upload links to content they deem relevant and the community can vote on its popularity.

There are some immediate differences that really set hipstr apart however. The first being that hipstr is as dependant on the image telling the story as it is the link to the content. Yes, posting on hipstr can be difficult to some, but it’s a labor of love. I’ve found myself absolutely addicted at night, scouring online to find the perfect image to compliment my link.

The other difference you’ll find is the preview pane. Clicking on the image itself will provision a nice in-browser window that shows the page linked. Think of this as a browser in a browser. When finished, you can close out the preview pane and voila! You’re back at hipstr.

Conversely, if you want to open the story in a new window/tab you can do so by just clicking on the URL below the the description.

Additionally, we kept the categories relatively high-level. We felt digg and reddit are awesome at who they target. hipstr is a different crowd who may have never experienced social bookmarking before. We wanted to keep the categories light and easy to remember.

Once a story is linked to on hipstr, there are 2 primary methods of engagement to choose from. First you can rate the story posted. Do you like it (represented by a thumbs up) or does it suck (represented by a thumbs down)? Additionally you can discuss the link by submitting a comment about it. Comments can be rated as well.

Finally, if you find a news story on hipstr that you want to share, you can do so through clicking on the Facebook and/or Twitter icon. Once clicked, the link you like will be automatically populated in either your Twitter submission window or in a Facebook post to site/share with friends window.

I know hipstr has a ways to go. But it’s only the beginning. The impetus for building the site can’t really be nailed to one specific reason – my partner, Ramsey Isler (@ramsey_isler on twitter) and I have been sharing links to each other and our friends for at least 10 years. I’m convinced I could communicate through links. 🙂

We’ll continue to improve the site experience. In the meantime, feel free to post your favorite links, rate the ones on the site, and create conversation around the ones you love or even hate! Regardless as to how you participate, I appreciate it.

-Craig

@Oprah Already Bored With Twitter? So what!


I just read a relatively entertaining piece on Oprah’s abandonment of Twitter. Apparently it’s been four days since @Oprah sent her last tweet – in this case, asking Hugh Jackman if he wanted to catch dinner.

The post goes on to explain that she’s sent 20 tweets in 11 days with almost half from her April 17 dalliance with Ashton Kutcher and Twitter CEO Evan Williams.

So is the sky falling? Is the mainstream fascination with Twitter officially over?

No way. In fact, most certainly not! To those who use Twitter, and I mean really use it based on the fundamentals of the service, won’t be so quick to abandon it.

The sad truth is that celebrity tweets are the antithesis of what Twitter’s members pre-Oprah built its foundation on: responsive, relevant messages between parties of similar interests. Twitter beckons you to be part of the conversation – which is the crux of social media. Sure there is a novelty in consuming messages from high profile members of Twitter – but it’s the call and response of the service that makes it more than a novelty. Speaking to yourself isn’t nearly as fun as speaking to others, right?

And that’s the argument I’m sticking to. The wear-out minutia of Twitter conversation (i.e. I just ate a hot pocket) may sound like a credible rebuttal but I’m not buying it. It has little to do with tribble and everything to do with engagement. The reason why Oprah lost (or is lost) on Twitter is because of her lack of commitment to engage her community.

Without getting too theoretical, look at Moore’s Law and its application to social media. Brett Borders had an interesting thought on the subject:

“The more deeply you get involved in the social web… the faster the volume of personal messages, signals, interactions and relationships — which demand your attention and response — seems to multiply…”

So in Oprah’s world, it’s no surprise she walked away. How can she possibly manage 700,000 followers and give them the personalization they deserve? Oprah has made a living using mass communication as a platform, but her ability to leverage mass communication has never required her to personalize it. She could give away a G6, sell subscriptions to her magazine, and bring huge A-Listers to her show every day – but being asked to participate in mass conversation is much different than being asked to spark conversation.

Lessons We Can Learn From Memphisgate

If you don’t want to read the below, just understand I have no ill will towards James Andrews. We’ve never met and I’m sure he’s a bright, stand up guy. One thing we do know is he’s honest and transparent in his willingness to share his thoughts with his audience.

Via his wife’s blog, she mentions that James’ tweet had nothing to do with Fedex and was taken out of context, which makes understanding the platforms for which we use both as consumers as well as marketers all the more important to understand. For all intents and purposes he could have been talking about anywhere in the world…but one word caught him in a trap: immediacy.

The platform he was using to communicate his thoughts wasn’t built around “store & forward” like a daily blog post that can be read at leisure. Twitter is built around instant response and for that his defense doesn’t hold water. Using tools such as Twitter ensure you speak in concrete statements. James had 140 characters to convey his feelings to his syndicated audience and he did it ambiguously, giving them an opportunity to speculate and respond. That obviously isn’t a bad thing – igniting conversation is something I’m sure he’s tasked with daily.

The problem is when you say something both open ended and provocative, it practically begs for some kind of reaction. In the case of twitter, this reaction is in the form of a response. Sometimes that response is private, other times it’s sent en mass for the world to see. In James’ case, the latter proved catastrophic to his client-agency relationship.

But still, why did this story catch fire?

Well there’s a number of factors. There is a perverse masochistic empathy that comes from watching someone get PWNED by a client. Personally I cringe, but others like to watch a good train wreck. This was one of them waiting to happen.

We root for the underdog, but in this case when James maded the decision to use the handle “KeyInfluencer” on twitter, that set the precedent that there would be people who perceived him to be full of hubris and ego. To quote a friend, “If PR is supposed to be a selfless profession of constantly making your clients look, what kind of selfishness does it take to deem your online moniker as ‘KeyInfluencer?” 😉

But ultimately, there’s no handguides when it comes to using social media. There’s common sense (which unfortunately for James, slipped away from him for a moment) but no rules of engagement. We improvise as we evolve. This was a costly lesson and hopefully the client tongue lashing was enough to ensure it is never repeated.

That’s not to say that James shouldn’t back down from his statement. In fact if he felt strongly enough to mention that he thought Memphis was a far from desireable city for his tastes to live, he should stand by the statement. One of the things clients will have to get more accustom to is the divide between agency rep and consumer. We are all consumers, we all have opinions, even if they go agains the grain. The goal though is to take whatever those opinions are and learn from the insights they provide.

5 Points To Consider Before Creating A Corporate Twitter Account

  • What information is most useful to your audience?

  • How will you plan to update your twitter feed? Dedicated staff? A ubiquitous handle?

  • Have you considered how twitter plays a role in your overall marketing communications strategy?

  • How frequently do you plan on updating your twitter account?

  • What level of transparency are you willing to share with your followers? If you need a lawyer to cross check this one, you may want to avoid twitter all together…

Britney’s Got It All Wrong


I can’t do it justice so I’m going to just show you Gary Vaynerchuk’s decision to take Team Britney behind the proverbial woodshed for a bit of social media spankage:

Maybe her fans will blindly follow her anywhere, even if it’s not really her speaking. Maybe her handlers are afraid of what she’d say if they let her broadcast her own opinion on social platforms like Twitter or Myspace or Facebook. Or maybe they’re all just clueless on how she could accelerate her reinvention as something more than a disposable icon.

Look, MC Hammer may be culturally irrelevant today in comparison, but at least the man is accessible. And that’s why Hammer’s got more cool points than Brit ever will in my opinion.

Motrin Revisited

After a week removed from observing the “Motrin Mobs” er…Motrin Moms controversy, I’ve read a lot regarding whether the brand overreacted. Questions I asked myself included:

  • Was this outrage self-contained?
  • Where could the risk have been mitigated?
  • What were the unique qualifiers that determined the cancellation of the campaign?
  • Was this a purely emotional decision by Motrin?
  • How could Motrin have addressed this differently?

The above illustration (though very basic) shows what could have occurred had Motrin left twitter alone and let sentiment boil over. The primary argument that I’ve read in the advertising journals is that Motrin overreacted due to Twitter’s limited reach. According to an AdAge article on the subject, a Google search last week indicated around 4,000 tweets on Twitter, and analysis using Radian6 data and by Lexalytics suggested around 1,500 tweets involving around 1,000 individuals using the #motrinmoms hash tag.

One item overlooked is how Twitter isn’t necessarily a centralized destination for conversation. In fact Twitter conversation is aggregated across multiple social platforms. So if I’m on the receiving end of visceral anger from my customer base over a campaign that was already a bit long in the tooth, what would you do? I have to be honest, I’d probably do the same exact thing. It was the equivalent of building a dam to stop the stream before it waterfalled into conversations impossible to curate.

Does that mean I encourage turning a blind eye to my customers?

Hardly.

When conversation turns from a meme to a mob, you have very few choices when it comes to mitigation. I assure you, working in the automotive space, I’ve seen my fare share. Motrin took a lot of criticism for not engaging bloggers head on verses their plea for forgiveness on the Motrin site. But that very Motrin.com plea was effective as the bloggers who jumped on Motrin were the same ones who carried the message of “white flag” to their respective online communities.

What I hope is Motrin actually learns from this experience. There’s still a great story to be told – inviting influentials to sit with Motrin and their respective agencies to learn about what it was that truly set them off. Maybe even collaborating with real people verses a condescending voice over to give the next campaign authenticity.

When pitchforks are at your throats, it’s hard to open the gate to let in the masses. I think it’s a case by case decision and in this case, I think Motrin did the right thing.

An Open Letter To Mountain Dew



Dear Mountain Dew,

I hope you’re “dewing” well. 🙂

Sorry, couldn’t help myself!

Listen Dew, I used to really like you. A lot. In fact Before the Red Bull revolution, I used to guzzle you like a Frat Boy at an all night kegger.

Party!

I’ve kept close tabs on your campaigns for a while now and always felt the men and women behind your brand did an excellent job of keeping you relevant.

But times have changed.

The beverage category just ain’t what it used to be Dew. Not only are you competing against carbonated beverage brethren, but you’re now up against flavored water, Vitamin Water, bottled water, fruit drinks, energy drinks…*sigh*…oh how I yearn for simpler days.

But alas, we have a ton of choice and we better make the best of it. Not only do we have choice as consumers as to what we want to drink, but who we want to listen to also.

Yes listening.

See, with varying reports on people seeing between 600-3000 ads daily, a lot of what is put out there is white noise. Don’t believe me?

Then tell me this. What was the last ad you saw before you started reading this blog?

Exactly.

So understandably, to conquer the white noise, you need to find new channels to market in. But heed my warning Mr. Dew, this isn’t manifest destiny. You can’t just set up shop in Twitter for instance with the same message you produce on television.

And speaking of Twitter, I noticed you’ve joined its growing community under the handle “choose2drink”.


Unfortunately from the activity I’ve seen, it doesn’t look as though you understand the rules of engagement on Twitter. Twitter is not an excuse to graffiti your followers with random generic advertising messages. I mean, nobody is stopping you from taking that route, however fair warning, nobody will pay attention. And the worst case is you become the object of brand ridicule during an industry event.
Think of Twitter as a means to directly communicating with your audience. Yeah, that’s right Dew, a real conversation with the people who embrace your product. Get feedback, ask them what their favorite flavor is. Listen to their responses and above all else interact with them.

Twitter as a call to action is great. Heck I do it all the time. My Twitter friends expect me to link them to great content. But to attempt to build momentum on a generic post? Buddy, you’re more exciting than that! You’re Mountain Dew man! I don’t mind the every now and then link to your promotion, but give me some content too! How about some video clips from some of your sponsored extreme athletes? How about a behind the curtains look at your newest commercial?

Get me involved, get me talking. If you get me talking, you’ll get me linking. And if I’m linking, people are going to link back. Trust me it works – ask Dell, GM, Jet Blue or Southwest Airlines and they’ll vouch for it!

So carry on brother Dew and hopefully see you Twittering in no time!

Twitter’s Issues With Scalability

On GigaOm, there is currently a post about how Robert Scoble proposes to solve Twitter’s perpetual outages due to scale.

I love this topic. Being a veteran of the SMS space, I used to laugh when my colleagues outside of text messaging used to gush at how Twitter beats the “scalability” issues that have plagued telecom offering a “free” platform agnostic approach to receiving messages.

Pardon my French. Such bullshit.

Here’s the deal and I believe Michael Arrington brought it up in Om’s comments – telcos burn the candle on both ends charging you, the user for sending an SMS as well as decrementing a fee per SMS received. Talk about a Utopian business model!

Twitter has swam halfway across the Atlantic ocean – too late to flip the premium switch on Twitter accounts especially if their goal now is to reach critical mass. All of that user data has to be worth something to someone – I’m sure your average every day portal would agree.

Let’s play the game for the sake of entertaining the masses and say that Twitter has a proverbial gun to its head. Make money now or die.

Okay. Well first thing’s first – you can not alienate your core user base through restricting the number of followers, or charging a fee over X number of messages. This is guaranteed to cause a visceral response which will correlate to a drop off in usage, a new competitor, naughty things said about the founder’s moms, etc.

So what about advertising?

That’s probably the easiest to digest. We’re so numb to ads today, will a 140 character tweet chock full of sponsorship really upset the masses?

In a word, yes.

Why? Simple. Because Twitter is ubiquitously set up to fail off the desktop. We can stomach text based ads. We can tolerate display ads. But a text based ad offline – on a mobile device? Enter the CTIA, the US Shortcode governing body, and the big 5 who will as quickly as you can say “tweet” will remove “40404” from Twitter.

Ok that’s a bit extreme. They won’t take the short code away, but I find very few people willing to tolerate receiving a text message based ad for the very reason listed above – SMS costs us MONEY.

I know what you’re thinking. “Alright smart guy, how do you solve this mess?”

It may sound too simple, but I’d fall back on my days running Simplewire to help create the next new Twitter business model. If I’m Twitter, maybe instead of charging on a bulk aggregate of tweets, charge on a tweet per second. If Twitter is really being used for “in the now” messages of immediacy, then what better way to kick a Calacanis or a Scoble power user in the social media nads than to let them know that they will need to PAY for a service fast enough to reach their followers. Offer a free base of 10 Tweets per second. Move that number up the scale and price accordingly. For those with 30,000 followers – do the math. Part of what makes Twitter awesome is the dialog of catch and response between following and follower.

I don’t think the creation of virtual tweets per second ceilings solves a lot of issues surrounding twitter, but I do think it solves more than most.

Matt Ingram’s Post on Dunbar Numbers & Twitter

Matt Ingram has a great post on Twitter and the Dunbar Theory. To quote his blog:

“This reminds me of the “Dunbar number” — a theory that Robin Dunbar came up with, to describe what he thought was the maximum number of people that one could interact with on any kind of personal level. Dunbar figured the average was around 150. Some have claimed that they can boost that number online, and there’s no question that it’s easier to keep up a kind of intermittent attention flow with more people.”

I couldn’t help be reminded of my discussions with Chase McMichael, CEO of Unbound Technologies in California. At a time where most agencies were completely clueless on how to measure the impact of their social networking buys on say, MySpace, Chase was a rational voice explaining (slowly) that number of friends doesnt equal number of influencers and that at some point, you lose the ability to dialog with your audience when it reaches a certain threshold. I still believe Chase is ahead of the curve in ability to dissect a social network.