Has Twitter Flat-Lined?

13 09 2010

For the last two years twitter has been the poster child of the social web.  The growth has been both phenomenal and relentless as this chart taken from the twitter blog graphically shows.

By the end of June this year the 20 billionth tweet had been posted and the number of tweets had grown from 45 million a day in January to 80 million a day.  Twitter had become an unstoppable juggernaut, changing the way that news is delivered, socialising prime time television and altering the way that organisations and people engage with each other.

But the unstoppable appears to have stopped, or at least dramatically slowed.  Over the last two months the number of tweets posted per day has barely increased and is still hovering around the 80 million per day mark as this graph from Gigatweet shows.  There has been a modest increase but nothing compared to the growth of the past.  Efforts to reduce twitter spam may have had some impact but the spike in usage during the world cup may have masked the fact that underlying usage has peaked.

We’ve been here before, but previous claims that twitter was flat-lining were based on visits to twitter.com and that was due to the adoption of other Twitter apps and clients like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite and the move from pc to mobile.  This time we are talking about the volume of tweets so the data is platform neutral.

If we look at the time that it took to reach major volume milestones it bears out the observation that the period of rapid growth has either stalled or come to an end.

Milestones in 5 billion increments (time taken to reach):

5 billion tweets                                   3 years, 4 months

10 billion tweets                                 136 days

15 billion tweets                                  87 days

20 billion tweets                                  62 days

25 billion tweets (forecast)                   50 days

30 billion tweets (forecast)                   54 days

If Twitter has reached its zenith it suggests that despite the media hype it may not achieve true mainstream penetration. Currently there are 44.4 million users in the US and whilst that’s a big number it only represents 14% of the population.

Book Tops Amazon Best-Seller’s Chart

6 09 2010

Eighteen months after publication my book ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ has become the best-selling PR book on Amazon UK.

The chart gets quite volatile near the top and after a spell at number 2 this morning it dropped to number 4 before hitting the top spot at about 6.30pm.  I expect the reign to be brief so I’ve posted a screen shot here.  I genuinely didn’t expect it to happen and thought the opportunity had passed after the first few months in print.  I’m thrilled that people are finding it useful and if you’ve bought it then thank you.

This blog was always intended as a companion to the book, but although I should probably quit whilst I’m ahead, I think I’ll keep it going.

New Boys Network

6 09 2010

Last week a list appeared on David Brain’s blog of the most influential PR people in the UK on twitter. Let’s set aside the methodology; whenever lists like this appear their veracity is challenged, much as night follows day.  What struck me most was the relative absence on women on the list in a profession that is dominated by women.  There was only one female in the top ten – at number 10 as it happens.

According to Alexa there is only a very slight male bias in twitter usage. My view is that the quest for influence is more of a male characteristic and therefore on average men are more interested building followers than women.  The language even suggests that networking has been a male dominated activity and if the old boys did it why should we be surprised that the new boys do too.

In the light of this imbalance it is excellent news that the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR)  has appointed a woman to be its first ever Chief Executive Officer.  The Director General post which it replaces had been a male preserve. When Jane Wilson joins on 4 October to sit alongside CIPR President Jay O’Connor both the top permanent role and the highest elected office will be held by women.   Jane, originally from Glasgow, has extensive experience in PR and marketing, including leadership roles at First Ford in Scotland, Scottish Media Group and Capital Radio.  “Jane is an exceptional communicator whose experience spans media, public affairs, investor relations, internal communications, policy and marketing” said president Jay O’Connor. “Jane is a strong leader with an innate understanding of PR and the experience and enthusiasm to lead the Institute on behalf of members and the profession.”

Apple Gets into Social Networking with Ping

1 09 2010

Portable iPhone SpeakersApple today launched a full-scale foray into social networking by announcing Ping,  a music based social network built into the latest version of iTunes.  With millions of loyal users of iTunes already in place that’s a fairly solid base from which to launch.

Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO said at the press launch “With Ping you can follow your favorite artists and friends and join a worldwide conversation with music’s most passionate fans.”  The ability to link to artists who have a clear interest in building a relationship with fans through one of the biggest online revenue streams makes commercial sense and taps into the celebrity factor that has been a major driver for twitter in the last couple of years.

With your Ping profile you can also follow friends and let them follow you with the a link to what you’re all listening to and concerts that you’re going to. Ping will also be available on iPhones and the iPod touch.

“Ping is going to be really popular, very fast, because 160m people can turn on as soon as they want, starting today.” said Jobs.  It is available immediately as part of iTunes 10 that can be downloaded at www.itunes.com.

Should Advertising Regulate in Social Media?

1 09 2010

Today the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) announced that it extend its remit to cover “marketing communications in other non-paid-for space under their control, such as social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter”.  The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has decided to extend the digital remit of the ASA and has today published a document detailing the new remit and sanctions.

I have some serious and personal concerns about the document.  In justifying the extension of its remit ASA refers to 3,500 complaints in 2008 and 2009 about the content of organisation’s websites.  How does this relate to social networks or social media?  Throughout the document there is constant reference to “other marketing communication” (sixteen times on 14 pages) with only a very loose definition of what constitutes “other marketing communication” suggesting that it is concerned principally with the primary intention “to sell something”.  Marketing communications is so much broader than that.

The plan is to carry out a review of guidelines in 2013, two years after the implementation of the extended remit.  This shows a fundamental misunderstanding and disregard for the speed of change on-line; for example in two years Twitter went from zero to 10 million tweets per day.  Spotify, which is fundamentally changing the music business, is less than two years old.

There is also a contradiction in terms of definition.  The guidelines exclude “press releases and other public relations material” and yet the definition of “other marketing communications” includes items that could be considered to be public relations material, for example the promotion of unsolicited (or solicited) consumer endorsement.

I would endorse all of the objectives of the CAP code with regard to the prohibition of misleading advertising, the protection of children and social responsibility.  The intentions here are good there is no doubt of that.  I just can’t help feeling that in regulating the social media space, bodies that concern themselves with advertising and have advertising in their title feel more than a little out-of-place.

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