Twitter Archives - Harris Social Media

How marketers can use Twitter’s weak social connections

on Oct 08 in branding, business, social media, strategy, Twitter posted , , by

twitter birds and speech bubblesIn this article in Social Media Today, Neil Alperstein discusses the premise that the weak social ties we experience on Twitter, where interactions occur mainly between followers, rather than personal friends.

Why is this observation important? Because, according to Alperstein, weak social ties do not require trust in order to be effective. He cites issue-based groups, that might tweet particular hashtags to gain traction.

Interestingly, Alperstein’s thesis runs counter to that espoused by Malcom Gladwell in The Tipping Point, that strong social connections are necessary to elicit societal change.

There’s a lesson here for marketers as well. If Alperstein is correct, and “proximity, trust and incentive to connect based on friendship no longer matter” then marketers must understand that the approach to brand marketing on Twitter will be quite different to that on Facebook, where social connections among fans are typically stronger.

This means in practice that a marketer will want to provide value, as always, but it may also be necessary and justifiable to increase the size of the marketing megaphone to reach an audience. This translates into tweeting more often, maybe repeating some high value tweets, and not worrying too much about connecting with every single follower whose tweets are mostly “Wassup?” It also reinforces an influencer marketing strategy, since it weak social connections imply that the brand network may have less impact than the networks of influencers.

Are all your social media eggs in one basket? – The risk of focusing just on Facebook or Twitter

on Apr 12 in business, facebook, marketing, strategy, trends, Twitter posted by

If you are focused just on one or two social media channels, such as Facebook or Twitter, you need to rethink your approach.

Ever since the demise of platforms such as Friendster and then MySpace, the social media landscape is littered with the corpses of once-great leaders. More recently, the popular blogging platform Posterous announced it was closing its doors.

The moral of this story is that brands run a risk by focusing only on Facebook and Twitter. Most of my clients come to me with just a Facebook profile. Some might have a Twitter account. Few of them have a presence on other social channels. This singular focus is a big mistake!

While Facebook and Twitter are undoubtedly the leaders of the pack, equally undoubted is the fact that other platforms are emerging to establish their market share, and trends among audiences are shifting like desert sands. It is perfectly possible for Twitter or Facebook to go the same way as Friendster, as a recent MIT analysis concludes: “It’s far from unlikely that Facebook itself will one day be a victim of a similar set of circumstances.” (An Autopsy of a Dead Social Network)

According to a new Piper Jaffrey study, popularity among teens of the leading social platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and even YouTube (gasp!), has declined from two years ago (reported in the UK’s Daily Mail: The social networking teen turn-off: MORE evidence chat apps are set to take over from Facebook and Twitter).

Compared to a year ago, ten percent fewer teens named Facebook as their ‘most important’ site. Teens are ditching legacy sites in favor of lesser-known chat platforms such as Kik, Snapchat and Vine.

What does this mean for social marketers? The bottom line is that embracing only the 800 pound Facebook gorilla will hurt. It’s important therefore to spread your eggs among several social media baskets. 

For instance, Pinterest is the only big social platform showing growth among teens, so it makes sense to include it in your strategy, especially if teens are an important demographic. The challenge is to spread your efforts (risk) without diluting your presence in any of your platforms. Inevitably, this means higher costs as more investment is needed to maintain an effective presence in multiple platforms.

More importantly than jumping on the latest bandwagon is to monitor technology trends and to strategize around those trends. Also, your digital strategy needs to consider if trends among teens will translate to other demographics. And how does your strategy include engagement on chat platforms (if that is even tenable)?

A comprehensive strategy that incorporates multiple social platforms really is the only way to ensure the competition doesn’t crush your precious social media eggs.

Could social media monitoring have predicted and helped avert Egypt’s crisis?

on Jan 29 in blogging, facebook, monitoring, News, politics, social media, thought leaders, Twitter posted by

Egyptian protester (Reuters)Much of the press coverage of Egypt’s present meltdown has concerned the influence of social media. Organizers used Twitter, Facebook and other channels to get out their message and instigate a popular uprising.

Egyptian authorities belatedly recognized the power of social media on Wednesday last week. They cut off access to Internet sites such as Twitter and Facebook, according to the UK Guardian news site.

Evidently social media has been an essential tool for protesters to coordinate their efforts. Egypt had already cracked down on bloggers, and according to the Guardian piece, “in 2009 the Committee to Protect Journalists listed Egypt as one of the 10 worst countries for bloggers because of the tendency to arrest [government] critics.”

Such a heavy-handed dictatorial approach betrays a profound lack of understanding about social media’s power to communicate ideas.

Is it possible, with better understanding of social media, that this crisis could have been averted?

Sophisticated social media monitoring tools could easily have picked up “buzz” weeks or even months before protesters took to the streets. Social media monitoring would have given the Egyptian government the chance to evaluate the response to its proactive measures and to adjust its policies accordingly.

A proactive approach might have afforded the Egyptian government time to react with conciliatory measures. Monitoring could have identified thought leaders and influencers, to whom the government could have reached out with an olive branch. Would they have avoided the type of instinctive crackdown that contributed to the present crisis? Maybe not. But in any case, social media monitoring would have helped the government judge the zeitgeist and to take appropriate pre-emptive action. Instead, they are now on the defensive, and if history is any lesson, have already lost.

The Mubarak government missed the opportunity to manage change gradually. For such lack of leadership, perhaps they deserve what’s coming.

Does Coke “get” Twitter?

on Oct 04 in advertising, trends, Twitter posted by

Last week, Marketing Pilgrim’s Frank Reed posted a thoughtful analysis of Twitter’s recent foray into advertising.

Twitter’s advertising platforms are indeed headed into uncharted territory. And it’s going to be hard for Twitter, let alone advertisers, to confidently predict the optimal configuration.

Frank cites an AdAge article that quotes Coca-Cola marketing chief Michael Donnolly as saying that Coke is not interested in tens of thousands of people but millions.

One important point to make, and one that I’m not sure Michael Donnelly gets, is that the value of Twitter is not in the quantity of followers but the “quality.” Of course, the quality of a follower might be hard to define, but that does not mean we shouldn’t try. And trying to evaluate the quality of followers might an anathema to someone like Donnelly who seems limited to thinking terms of in millions of people.

Indeed, most of Coke’s tweets seem rather inane. Their tweets provide no links that might be of interest. They consist of tweets such as:

  • @euribjs Coca-Cola loves you, Talita! ^SS
  • @thomasbrunskill Yay! Thanks for celebrating with Coca-Cola, Thomas! Enjoy! ^SS
  • @diogopontes2010 Coca-Cola helada, siempre deliciosa y muy refrescante, Diogo. ^GD
  • @alexaliggio Thanks for following Coca-Cola Alexa! We’re following you too! ^CA
  • @Mahrukh_ That’s enough to open happiness with friends! Enjoy! ^CA

Yawn. There aren’t even any special offers, which might be why most followers are following.

CocaCola ranks 31st among social media brands. And it shows. This performance might lose the company a couple of places in that ranking. What Coke needs to understand is that the key to success in Twitter is to cultivate loyalty through providing value among a cadre of followers who trust you and enjoy your content as I have pointed out in this blog (as have many others more sagacious than me). Focusing on quality of your followers puts the emphasis back on the individual. And it is individuals that wield power in social media.

It really makes me wonder if Coke “gets” Twitter. If I was Donnelly, I’d be much more interested in a hundred thousand followers who I could consider to be brand ambassadors and influencers rather than a million who just wanted a coupon for 10 percent off their next six pack of Coke. In the long run those influencers would give a higher and much more sustainable ROI than an army of marginally interested followers.

Hootsuite’s tweaks for tweets

on Jun 24 in hints and tips, social networks, tools, trends, Twitter posted by

Hootsuite logoHootsuite just keeps getting better and better. 

It calls itself “The professional Twitter client” and today it went several steps further toward reinforcing that position. The company rolled out a new version of its app, called Hootsuite5 (see blog post). Aside from a a touched-up dashboard, improvements include:

  1. Extensive use of HTML5, which runs quietly behind the scenes to bring yummy goodness such as drag and drop, geo-search and quicker switching between tabs and streams. Anything that improves user experience is a good thing.
  2. Themes to customize your dashboard’s appearance. Not such a big deal but definitely keeping up with the times.
  3. Publish photos to your Facebook wall. This won’t manage your Facebook albums, but it means that when you post a link you can include an image, just as you would posting directly onto Facebook.
  4. Retweet options include using the traditional RT, which Hootsuite incorporated in the early days, or now using Twitter’s built-in retweet option (which sucks IMO). According to the company’s blog “HootSuite users can choose whether to Re-Tweet with initials “RT” or to use the Twitter native auto-Re-Tweet tool.” However, I couldn’t see how to RT in the way you used to with Hootsuite. Now, the function is like Twitter’s. Here’s how:  “Click the Owl > Settings > Preferences > Uncheck “Use Twitter Web retweets” (Thanks to @Hootsuite_Help for clarifying.)
  5. Access your Google Analytics data. Hootsuite now integrates your Google Analytics data into its dashboard. Great time saver, since you don’t need to login to Google to get your latest stats. But wait, there’s more! You can overlay your tweets from various Twitter accounts to evaluate which tweets are providing the most traffic to your sites. This will be a great tool for marketers. 
  6. Attachments! This is getting almost like email. You can include an image or other file as an attachment to your tweet (or hoot). The attached file is automatically linked with a shortened URL.
  7. More goodness! Hootsuite has speeded up the interface, and provided easier access to support, and Japanese users can now use the app in their own language (not so useful for me, I confess).

These improvements are sure to keep Hootsuite as leading application for those looking to streamline management of their Twitter outreach. It certainly came out tops in a recent online discussion on LinkedIn.

If you use Twitter to do more than update your timeline on what you’re having for breakfast, I strongly recommend Hootsuite. To get the most out of it, read Ten steps to becoming a Twitter power user with Hootsuite.

More blue than host – Bluehost’s systemwide downtime due to power outage

on May 25 in technology, Twitter posted by

Website host company Bluehost was down today for about an hour between 4:15 pm and 5:15 pm Eastern.

Apparently the hosting giant was been taken out by a power outage in Provo, Utah, where it’s based.

According to the Twitterverse almost 6 million sites were down. (But the company hosts only about a million sites, according to this blog post.) Luckily only one of them is mine. But other users have lost several sites apparently.

I called tech support but just got a busy signal so I had no luck there when I needed information. As for email, my site’s email doesn’t work either. Bluehost’s Twitter account seems DOA, so it’s a shame they didn’t see that as a way to connect with disgruntled customers. Evidently they don’t “get” Twitter if their first tweet on February 24 was “Bluehost.com is embracing twitter, more exciting news to come, stay tuned….” and promptly ended with that.

It’s definitely a budget hosting company ($6.95 a month buys you their basic package), but I wonder why, being responsible for at least million websites, Bluehost hasn’t invested in emergency power back up. Seems a bit of a no-brainer, but maybe there’s something I’m missed… (aside from my website that is).

Follow your own path

on Feb 05 in biology, strategy, Twitter posted by

A recent flurry of Tweets between me and @HarvardSocial about the ideal number of Twitter users you should follow got me thinking.

I blogged a while back about Dunbar’s limit, an idea from anthropology that we are hard-wired only to manage about 150 interpersonal relationships at a time. And a recent Wired article commented on how following about 100 Twitter users is engaging and useful, and even a few thousand could still be worthwhile. But above a certain number, say tens of thousands, the conversations start to die off. We are back to mass media, not social media. (Here’s another article: Facebook’s “In-House Sociologist” Shares Stats on Users’ Social Behavior)

Although I was a relatively early adopter, having joined Twitter pre-Obama and Oprah, I still have only about 850 followers and in turn follow about 450. And these quantities have worked for me.

For me, the utility of Twitter to me has always been about the quality and tenor of conversations. Numbers are useful to see if you are connecting with your audience, but obsessing over the numbers is like masturbation. It satisfies an urge, but is ultimately unrewarding.

So what’s a user to do? New users especially are confounded over how to best use Twitter (hence the widely reported high drop-out rate of so-called Twitter Quitters).

One suggestion is don’t follow the “big” names. So out go @mashable, @guykawasaki, @scobleizer, @techcrunch, @chrisbrogan and so on. It’s not that these Twitter stars don’t provide value. But their tweets are so widely retweeted, that people you follow will pick up on the important conversations and tweets, which will filter to you in any case. And when you retweet the most widely retweeted tweets (follow that?) your tweets clutter up your followers’ Twitter streams.

Much better, IMO, is to follow a few dozen users with whom you can have rewarding exchanges: who will listen to you, who trust your thoughts and ideas, and respond in useful and thoughtful fashion. Isn’t that the basis of all meaningful relationships?

“Follow then the shining ones, the wise, the awakened, the loving, for they know how to work and forbear.” — Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism, 563-483 B.C.

A new way to use Twitter in the classroom

on Jan 29 in panconsciousness, technology, thought leaders, Twitter posted by

Today, Charlene Li, author of the influential social media strategy book Groundswell, tweeted that she was looking for practical examples of social media being used in the classroom.

Tweet by Charlene Li

In my role with Harris Social Media, I advise schools and educators on social media strategies, much of which I learned through practical implementation of the principles outlined in Charlene’s book. 

But one idea I have been sitting on for a while, simply for lack of resources to implement is a new way to use Twitter in the classroom. I emailed Charlene with the idea, but want to share it with a wider audience.

In my model, there are four key elements: 

  1. Every student has a mobile device that can text via Twitter (or Yammer or similar application).
  2. Students are encouraged to use the devices to message each other with tweets.
  3. Rather than keep these tweets private, the micromessages are projected on a screen in the front of the classroom (visible to everyone) while the teacher is active in his or her presentation of material.
  4. The teacher has a screen available so he or she can follow the stream in real-time.

This model would provide several advantages to the teacher and students.

  • It can be used on the fly or in later analysis to measure student engagement in the material
  • The teacher can use it as a real-time method to gauge his or her efficacy in keeping students’ attention
  • It allows students who are less confident or outspoken to ask questions and interact on a level playing field
  • The stream can be searched for topics and themes that may not have been obvious in real-time
  • It empowers students to self-police themselves for disruptive behavior
  • It could prompt serendipitous conversations and discoveries that would not otherwise emerge in a traditional setting
  • It offers an objective measure of teaching efficacy that does not rely directly on test scores
  • It represents a stream of collective consciousness (what I have called panconsciousness) that may raise each individual’s awareness of the topic

When I saw Charlene’s tweet it prompted me to go ahead and publish a draft this blog post that I’d been sitting on awhile.

I’ll be surprised if others haven’t thought of this way to use microblogging in the classroom, and may even be implementing it, but I have not heard of such cases. I’ll certainly be excited to learn if Charlene’s research unveils any instances. In any case, if you have thoughts about whether this model would be worth field-testing, please share them. I am sure science education researchers would be interested in studying its pedagogic impact.

Social media is a curse as well as a blessing for Haiti

on Jan 14 in News, social media, social networks, Twitter posted by

Over the last day or so Twitter has been indundated with tweets that the global shipping company UPS is offering free shipments to Haiti for packages under 50lbs.

Kindly users are offering useful suggestions such as “UPS is shipping anything 2 #Haiti under 50lbs for FREE: send a care box with things like food blankets candles tents batteries medicine etc.”

Unfortunately, the rumor is false. The company has in fact suspended shipments to Haiti. UPS’s latest blog post cites the “destruction of roads and communications networks” as the reason to put their Haiti service on hold. 

Another popular retweet was American Airlines offer of free travel to Haiti for licensed medical professionals. Again, airline spokesmen have denied the rumor as reported on CNN.

For social media providers, the lesson here is to verify the authenticity of offers or news before retweeting info

In the longer term, spread of rumors can only damage the value of social media. It behooves us all to double-check information unless we know it comes from a verifiable source.

More immediately, these rumors only compound the suffering of Haitians. Many of the country’s residents are reaching out to the outside world through social networks. Twitter and Facebook were for some the only meaningful contact they had with friends and relatives. (See Social media key in Haiti earthquake coverage.) Given the Haitian’s reliance on social media, how cruel to pile such hoaxes on top of their misery.

Please take a moment to post a Tweet to counter the rumors. Feel free to copy and paste the following: “Free Haiti American Airlines and UPS offers are hoaxes, according to CNN. http://ow.ly/WtK6”

Hootsuite adds link preview feature

on Jan 06 in hints and tips, tools, Twitter posted by

One criticism of the browser-based Twitter management application Hootsuite is that you cannot see the website URL that a shortened URL links to (i.e., in the bar at the bottom of your browser window, the link simply shows up as the URL you mouse over). So you have little idea of the linked page’s content without actually clicking the URL and visiting the site.

PROBLEM: Mousing over the URL shows only the linked URL in the browser bar. You can only guess at the linked content.

To be fair, this criticism applies to Twitter itself. In any case, Hootsuite has added a feature that magnificently addresses this problem. Tweets that appear in your feed columns with URLs now have a little plus sign next to the URL. Mouse over the plus sign and a popup appears with the title, website domain and an excerpt from the first few words of the linked page. This is much better than just a cryptic URL. Neat!

SOLUTION: Mouse over the plus sign next to the URL in Hootsuite and a pop-up previews the link

Hootsuite has gone beyond the call of duty here. This update provides an invaluable tweak to its already excellent interface.