How Twitter and Social Networks Can Make History

ideaEvery once in awhile a video comes along that inspires thought and challenges assumptions.  This video of internet guru Clay Shirky speaking as part of the TED series is no exception.  From the advent of the printing press to modern community platforms, Shirky uses stories from China, Iran, the Obama campaign, and other political uprisings to demonstrate the power of Facebook, text messaging and Twitter to make a real impact.  This is worth the watch.

(Thanks to David Armano for sharing this on Twitter.  Feed subscribers please click through to see the video).

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How to Show The Value of Twitter In 2 Minutes or Less

2170597742_77181240ccTwitter is not a service that will appeal to everyone.  Allegedly 60% of Twitter users leave after the first month (although this doesn’t include those who switch to desktop apps like Tweetdeck).  I’d argue it’s because they only have Oprah and Ashton Kutcher showing them the ropes and need some better guidance; Twitter is intuitive to use but not to build a network or get the most value out of it.  Here are some simple steps to show someone the value of Twitter.

  1. Pick a topic the person is passionate about.
  2. Go to http://search.twitter.com and run a search on the term.
  3. Find an interesting tweet or post about the topic, and click through to the profile of the person who posted it.  If the profile looks interesting, follow that person.  Follow a few folks like this.
  4. Start a conversation, reply to one of the posts as if you had started a conversation in line at the supermarket.
  5. Look for someone sharing a useful website or blog post related to the topic, click through to the blog and consider subscribing to it.  Maybe reply to the author via comment or back on Twitter to let them know what you thought.
  6. Spend a few minutes in the conversation and see what happens.  Try again the next day.
  7. Repeat.

Within a few minutes you’ll likely get valuable content and conversation to you, relevant to a topic you are interested in.  You might even find a job listing.  I just tried this approach on 3 people – using photography, user experience and summer camp – and went 3 for 3 on “wows.”  New to Twitter? Let me know if this helps.  Twitter veteran? What else would you recommend to get someone started?

ps. Try “ball bearings” – you’ll find manufacturing suppliers, engineers, and people who like Fletch.

photo credit: 2create via Flickr

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Understanding How Social Media Impacts the Purchase Path

inspection

Few marketers dispute PPC as an effective and measurable online channel.  Social media, in contrast, is currently subject to dispute.

One of the more compelling arguments for pay-per-click search marketing is the ability to attribute web sales directly to clicks from search advertising.  ROI can be measured to multiple decimal points tying the amount of spend invested in bidding on keywords to the direct revenue and conversion.  When the conversation changes to social media, there are debates about ROI, a lack of proven approaches and many marketers still viewing social media as experimental.  [“Conversion” for those not familiar with web analytics is defined as a visitor to a web property who completes a targeted action, including signing up for an email newsletter, adding a product to a shopping cart, or completing checkout.]

Skepticism Abounds

A way to address the skepticism marketers have about social media is to draw the same correlation to the purchase path as search marketing.  Notice I did not suggest “the” way to address the skepticism —  providing better metrics won’t give the complete picture of social media benefits, but it will start to quantify the role social media can play in a marketing strategy in terms that internet marketers deal with already.  For example, today Webtrends and Radian6 made a joint product announcement tying traditional web analytics to social media monitoring, through Webtrends’ Open Exchange platform.  This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Establishing Credit

Traditional analytics tools give credit for conversion to the tracked marketing activity before the conversion takes place – a “last click” methodology.  This could be a search query prior to a site visit, an ad clicked through on a search results page or a banner ad.  Those in the SEM and Display Advertising industries would tell you that while these metrics are precisely measured,  a major challenge is to quantify all the “other” touchpoints a consumer has prior to conversion.  (Rosetta, my agency, has a differentiated approach to marketing analytics that does capture “view-thru” – tracking that a user saw a display ad days or even weeks prior to a conversion event).

Here is what I would like to see analytics vendors or social media monitoring platforms do to start to quantify the measurement:

  • Track participation in social technologies in similar fashion to traditional ecommerce sites (defined conversion events, page views, length of visit).  A potential limitation is that brands may only be able to track measurements based on assets they control (hosted communities, hosted blogs, custom widgets, etc).
  • Tie search engine queries, organic search site visits and PPC ad clicks – and ultimately, conversion – back to whether the user had participated in a social technology, and measure typical length of visit/level of engagement both before and after conversion.
  • Provide in one dashboard the ability to identify the direct correlation between social marketing initiatives to conversion and revenue.

This level of data would help marketers more directly measure the success of social marketing initiaitves and make at least part of the intangible, tangible.  Is that a lot to ask?

Photo credit: premasagar via flickr

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The Second Coming of Twitter

PeopleTwitter is all the rage.  CNN talks about it at every opportunity.  Famous people from Shaquille O’Neal to MCHammer to Demi Moore are using it to share snippets of their daily lives.  Legions of new joiners are popping up each day.  Books are being published left and right about Twitter for business and monetizing Twitter accounts (some questionable, others focusing on the community in microsharing – the most anticipated one I’m looking forward to is Laura Fitton‘s (aka Pistachio) Twitter for Dummies).  Blog posts about Twitter are profilic.  Yep, I’m full of irony by adding to the mix – and there are some that would probably say what is happening now is a third or even fourth coming of Twitter.

Observations

I’ve been on Twitter for a year and a half and here are some observations about what has changed, for better or worse:

  • Spammers have become more advanced, using bots, auto-follow/un-follows, and other nefarious ways to collect followers.
  • Gone are the days of “Twitter Karma” where we all try to maintain equilibrium of follower to following ratios.  Now it’s more focused on how we can be useful or interesting to each other.
  • People are very caught up in numbers – of followers, of retweets, of conversations.  New tools continue to crop up to grade your twitter participation, experience and influence.
  • The more followers you have, the more reliant you become on solid third party tools like Tweetdeck and Tweetworks to manage groups and connections that are most important. Tags and search capability are key functions in day to day use.
  • Twitter is no longer solely for the early adopter tech crowd or the social media consulting/services crowd. It’s clearly a useful platform for lawyers, real estate agents, graphic artists, moms, dads, sports fans, you name it.
  • The coverage of Twitter use in traditional media, like the evening news on TV, to me seems like hunting and pecking for needles in a haystack.  It can be devoid of metrics or real analysis, using it more like finding a funny tweet and showing it to the audience.  It reminds me of the Chris Farley show on SNL.  (“Do you remember that?…That was AWESOME.”)
  • The echo chamber of people on Twitter talking about Twitter has grown louder, stronger and more frequent, which can be good and bad.  It’s good for educating folks on what tweetups are, how to use hashtags to help track conversations, which 3rd party apps are great for desktop and iPhone use.  It’s also good when businesses are leveraging the platform to connect with customers and resolve or acknowledge challenges.  It’s bad when people presume to know about someone’s intentions or preach too strongly about how to use Twitter.

Back to the Basics

With all of the hype, there are many who forget or neglect what I would describe as some basic guidelines on Twitter.  I am by no means an authority but am sharing my thoughts as a long time (in technology terms, anyway) user, and I would welcome your suggestions and input.

  • Twitter is for conversations.  Find people who like to talk about topics you’re interested in, connect and participate.
  • It’s a great tool for sharing useful or fun information.
  • Sure, Twitter can be a promotion vehicle, but spend less than 10% of your time on Twitter promoting your own wares (hat tip to Chris Brogan who mentions this approach often).  Would you go into a large networking event and start shouting?  How successful would it be?
  • I try to look at all of the numbers and measurements of grading one’s Twitter use with a grain of salt – they can be indicators of intent, suggestions and guides on what to do differently, and in some cases show influence, but in the same regard do you keep measure of offline conversations with friends, families and coworkers?  I don’t, especially not to decimal points.  I like to check out the tools but I don’t get too caught up in them.
  • Twitter enables meaningful connections, but they are not a given.  Building relationships, just like meeting new people at a conference, party or event, takes time, patience and sincere interest in connecting with other people.
  • Twitter represents a way to build relationships, find useful information, gain access to expertise and connect.  Here is a representation (definitely a subset) of many folks who I have met through Twitter and others who I hope to meet but follow because they share something useful and meaningful – they are real people.  (Twitter Mosaic courtesy of sxoop.com, get your own here).

Have you been on Twitter for a long time?  If so, how have you seen the community and use evolve?  If you’re new to Twitter, what brought you to the platform and what do you think so far?

Photo credit: left-hand via Flickr

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Facebook is the Gateway Drug of Social Media

FacebookaddictionNew joiners to Facebook go through phases – understanding privacy, etiquette and addiction.  But what happens when they settle down?  The functionality of Facebook is a “lite” version of many other social technologies many have come to know.

Facebook is growing strong, recently passing the 175 million members mark.  I’ve seen many folks go from skeptic to addict in recent months.  My parents are on Facebook.  My neighbors are on Facebook.  My high school class is now mostly on Facebook when 6 months ago it was the exception.  My CEO, clients and colleagues are on Facebook.  Campers from summers in the late 80s and early 90s when I was a camp counselor are on Facebook.  Facebook dominates dinner conversation with friends, and Facebook regularly freaks out my wife when people she talks to know what I am up to.

Take a look at what people are doing in Facebook after they get through the initial connection streak:

  • The “25 things about me” meme is one of a dozen different types of viral “notes” going around.  Isn’t this a form of blogging?  I doubt many would claim the “Blogger” title though.
  • Over time, more people seem to use status updates more.  I don’t have any scientific data to back this up, but I’ve noticed people slowly adopting using the status update for a funny anecdote, what’s for dinner, a victory potty training moment.  The status update has many similarities to Twitter.
  • More people are posting and sharing links, photos, and other content.  Enter (arguably) easy to use versions of Delicious.com, Flickr and Friendfeed.

acpromFor these reasons I think Facebook is an easy “gateway” for those who don’t use those other tools day to day and are building their communities – and it may even encourage more adoption of Twitter, Friendfeed and other tools down the road (especially with their integration to your News feed).  All of these features add up to introducing core social media technology functions to the average Joe – who also happens to own a scanner and is sharing pictures of me from my senior prom.  (The mullet was all business in front, party in the back, I swear).

Did Facebook introduce you or people you know to social media?  How’s it going so far?

Photo credit (above): escapetowisconsin via Flickr

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The Power of Social Media: Support for Caroline

carolineCaroline Stitcher is home. Details of her disappearance from Friday afternoon until Saturday evening are still being determined, but she is with her family which is all that counts.

Given that outcome, I thought it would be helpful to highlight the power of social media.  I am both amazed and humbled by the outpouring of support on Twitter and other channels, and wanted to capture it here.  If anyone is still doubting the compelling viral nature of the technology, this should help convince them that it’s here to stay.

Starting on Facebook

On Saturday morning, Doug, a colleague from work, posted the following note in Facebook:

My god daughter has been missing now since yesterday afternoon. She went running by herself after school. Her friends saw her leave and she has not returned. We are all very frightened, as you can imagine. Please pray for her and her family. If you have friends at church who pray for people in trouble, please let them know about Caroline.

Several folks from work commented, and later in the day Doug posted that he was leaving Cleveland for Chicago with two of his sons to help with the search.  He also shared a link to the Chicago Sun Times article with the story (which has continued to be updated with the latest information). What transpired after that is nothing short of remarkable.

Outpouring of Twitter Support

Angela Moore, Jon Anhold, Chris Boggs (all folks who have worked with Doug) and I all started to share an article  from the Chicago Sun Times on Twitter and Facebook, outlining Caroline’s disappearance and information to reach the Deerfield, IL police department.  I reached out to several Chicago based contacts on Twitter, and the retweeting began.  David Armano [blog] added a hashtag #Caroline to be able to track on search.twitter.com, and was kind enough to respond to his network asking for people to retweet as much as possible.  Some other notes:

  • Several others began appealing to those with large constituencies on Twitter to help in the retweet effort.  Amber Naslund [blog],  Chris Brogan [blog], Mack Collier [blog], Jessica Smith [blog] and Julia Roy [blog] were among the many to respond and share with their networks.
  • MCHammer, Kevin Pollak, Soleil Moon Frye and Wil Wheaton were among the celebrities that responded.
  • Several groups conversing on Twitter at the time also shared the news, including #typeamoms.
  • Services like HelpFindMyChild and the TrueCrimeReport picked up the news.
  • By 8:30PM ET, #Caroline hit #1 on twitter trends.
  • The Sun Times article showed up on Digg and started to get some momentum.
  • A Facebook group named, “Help Find Caroline Stitcher” approached 3000 members by late evening.
  • All in all I’m sure thousands were reached – I’m working on digging up a report on number of mentions and the likely reach of the viral effect and will share it when it’s ready.

At the end of the day on Saturday, the good news broke that Caroline had returned home via a text message Doug sent me.  A few minutes later Chicago Breaking News confirmed the details, and another round of “good news” retweets went out.

The Power of Social Media and Thank You

Take a look at search.twitter.com for #Caroline and drop back a few pages to what transpired during the wave of the evening spike.  The support really speaks for itself.  Here’s to a speedy recovery, Caroline – there’s no harm in that happening as fast as the news spread.

A very sincere thank you to the broad Twitter community for helping out and responding with your thoughts and retweets.  Not this time, but I will not be surprised if community through social media tools one day is directly responsible for solving another situation like this one.  In terms of my involvement, I’d like to think friends at work would take a moment to do the same if the situation were reversed.

Update:

Doug has shared another note on Facebook at 1:30am Sunday morning which I figured I would post here too:

Caroline is alive and we have her now
We are all unbelievably relieved and happy. Caroline is alive and with her loved ones now. No details have been sorted out, yet. As you can imagine, there are lots of people caring for her and it will be a while before the complete their work.

I also wanted to recognize several other Twitter MVPs who helped spread the word with fervor last night.  Liz Strauss [blog] was already aware of Caroline’s situation and had engaged her network before I had contacted her.  Dave Kerpen [blog] made several appeals to parents – as a father of three boys perhaps that was part of my motivation to help Doug.  Senia Maymin [blog] also did a terrific job of asking celebrities and others with large networks to retweet the information.  Thanks again everyone.

Photo credit: Deerfield, IL Police Dept

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How has Social Media Helped You?

This morning while doing a demo of Twitter I asked the question, “How has social media helped you in an unexpected way?”  Industry knowledge? Building relationships? Free hat? Catching an unreal bacon recipe?  Thanks much to a responsive group of followers, I received many responses – some deep, some funny, some insightful, all valuable to once again show the immediate response and community value of Twitter.  Thanks to everyone who replied – as promised, here are their insights and Twitter IDs.  (I’m at @adamcohen).

mattceni@mattceni @adamcohen – user validated data has helped me cut through the noise to find whats relevant and good.

aapjerockdt@aapjerockdt @adamcohen boost downloads of an open source app we made to 1000 downloads in 48 hours: [url removed – love the twitter feedback but not trying to promote biz]

patrick_grady@Patrick_Grady @adamcohen Wow. Lots of ways. 1 – exposure to info I wouldn’t have seen. 2 – met peeps with great synergy and things to share / learn.
@Patrick_Grady @adamcohen tech support… idea bouncing… more.

starrgazr@StarrGazr @adamcohen How has SocNets Helped? It’s all about the people you meet which is even better to meet F2F. I can’t even begin to list the ways.
@StarrGazr @adamcohen How about the loan of a camera when mine died days before covering Obama’s camp NH Primary night from someone who …
@StarrGazr @adamcohen …I had never met before in person.
@StarrGazr @adamcohen Of the offer of a power generator from another person during the ice storm and an offer to help pick it up from CT?
@StarrGazr @adamcohen Or perhaps being published all over the world through exposure in SocNets?
@StarrGazr @adamcohen Or perhaps just being able to have an amazing year covering the primaries and being able to attend the inauguration.
@StarrGazr @adamcohen Or being a guest in a church and the home of a minister in the United Kingdom while traveling out there.

4spoken@4Spoken@adamcohen It has allowed me to take a fairly small niche, and connect with people I would have never been able to connect with otherwise

jordansalvit@jordansalvit @adamcohen SM has taught me a lot about businesses and fields I am not involved in. It also keeps me better connected with those that I am.

tippyz@tippyz @adamcohen Social media/net has increased my knowledge of people I already knew, well beyond what I expected –> stronger relationships.  [Great one Dan]

rsomers@rsomers @adamcohen for me benefit is creation of new & expansion of existing offline relationships. Twitter esp b/c time cost of interaction is low

barbarakb@BarbaraKB @adamcohen Social sites forcing OpenID transparency thus easier to make & trust online friends. W/this trust, grow business. 🙂

boggles@boggles @adamcohen the biggest surprise for me was how Facebook has grown into a free version of long-lost friend-finder. High school memories!

marc_meyer@Marc_Meyer @adamcohen I now have an instant knowledge base that I can tap via SM which opens up sometimes a better way to do what I do-  [I agree – much to learn from these folks]

stuartcfoster@Stuartcfoster @adamcohen I got a sweet hook up on a hat at the TD Banknorth garden courtesy of the tag team of @mbrinkerhoff and @michele_moore 🙂

hereitcomes@HereItComes @adamcohen How about the loan of a camera when mine died days before covering Obama’s camp NH Primary night from… [URL removed]

barndance@barndance @adamcohen My own involvement helped me help Lindblad Expeditions jump-start on Twitter. And that’s great for eco-minded tweeps & them!

nhscooch@nhscooch @adamcohen All I can say is that is where I found the Bacon Explosion – TY twitter and @adamcohen [just don’t come after me for cholesterol medication]

chadnorthrup@ChadNorthrup @adamcohen I love having an extended network to banter with during sporting events. It made last year’s Sox playoff games even more fun.  [Couldn’t agree more, especially with Red Sox games.]

shonali@Shonali @adamcohen Making unanticipated connections that have helped me personally and professionally. And give me courage.

beverlycornell@beverlycornell @adamcohen got to meet you. Actually, I have a few interesting stories. 😉

For me, much of my surprise in social media is the general willingness of people to help – this demo is no exception.   How has social media helped you in an unexpected way?

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