Twitsophrenia – Split Personality Online

23 06 2011

Split Personality Cowboy and Indian CostumeIt began with a conversation in the Blackdog Ballroom with Dom Burch.  He is about to take a six month sabbatical from his role as Head of Corporate Communications at ASDA and he has a new twitter profile to mark the occasion.  I then saw on twitter that the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg is moving to ITV and will therefore cease to be @BBCLauraK; re-emerging in the autumn as @ITVLauraK.

The border lines in social networks are commonly understood if sometimes blurry.  Facebook for friends and frivolity,  LinkedIn for work and Twitter…well for either, or a bit of both, or neither.  Twitter is nothing if not versatile but if you tie your twitter account to one aspect of your life, in this case your working life, then you may find yourself in need of multiple on-line personalities.   The other downside is that if your circumstances change you’ll lose the network of followers that you have lovingly built.

For journalists, their personal following online is becoming more and more important.  Speaking in Cannes this week Piers Morgan claimed that a single tweet added up to half a million viewers to an interview he conducted with Charlie Sheen on CNN.  The value of a personal online network is not solely the preserve of the press.   So I guess we have to decide.  We can have different accounts for the different aspects of our lives or we can have an account that reflects the varied aspects of who we are and what we do but isn’t tied to any of them.  The choice as they say, is yours.

Gaga Pips Bieber to the 10 Million Twitter Post

15 05 2011

Lady Gaga is the first entity to gain 10 million followers on Twitter.  Although teen idol Justin Bieber is gaining followers at a faster rate, 23,000 a day against Gaga’s measly 22,000, he still has around 300k to go before he crosses the line.

It’s only two years since the biggest account on twitter had just a million people hanging on to actor Ashton Kutcher’s ever 140 character missive. His @aplusk account narrowly beat CNN breaking news @cnnbrk.  Before that @BarackObama had been the number one account.  Gaga’s milestone confirms a number of observations:

  • On-line and off-line popularity are pretty much the same thing.
  • Twitter is a broadcast channel.  It is not the only thing it does but 10 million is pretty broad (even if they’re not all following every utterance).
  • Twitter is also a highly effective news feed – lots of traditional news media have large follower numbers. Create a list and you have a customisable news channnel.
  • Twitter is now firmly part of the celebrity PR portfolio.

@JustinBieber is gaining on @LadyGaga but her twitter account was the first to hit 10 million followers and at the current rate it may be several months before the teenage Canadian crooner captures the twitter topspot.

TweetDeck Launches V2 for iPhone

26 04 2011

Amidst all of the buzz around Twitter’s $50 million bid for Tweetdeck, a new app for the iPhone is launched today. To date the iPhone version has been something of a compromise; a big box solution squeezed into the narrower confines of a handheld device.

Version 2 is not an update; it’s more of a re-imagined mobile version of the uber popular (pun intended) twitter client.  It’s faster, better looking, has more features, is considerably more intuitive and it feels like it has been designed for the iPhone rather that simply engineered to fit.

Improved aspects of iPhone TweetDeck include more effective swiping between columns, better navigation and an add column flow button.  Using the “pinch” move on a column provide options to add new feeds into a column.   V2 is also OS4 compatible so as well as retina-quality graphics there is multi-tasking support.  Best of all it’s still free – for now at least.

Superinjunctions and the Social Web

21 04 2011

It began in earnest with Trafigura but the freedom to publish now means that the superinjuction, a form of gagging order in which the press is prohibited from reporting even the existence of the injunction, or any details of it, is now almost impossible to enforce.

In the case of Trafigura The Guardian reported that it had been prevented from covering remarks made in Parliament by a superinjunction from libel lawyers Carter Ruck.   The Guido Fawkes blog identified that the question related to the allegations of waste dumping in the Ivory Coast by oil trader Trafigura.  Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian tweeted about it and Stephen Fry played a key role in spreading the story via twitter.

In recent weeks superinjunctions have been used by actors, TV presenters, bankers and footballers to prevent papers from revealing stories about their private lives.  A quick search for the word superinjuction on Twitter or using Google Realtime search and you will see the names of many of the alleged protagonists.   When I began my career in PR you needed to have good contact in a national newsroom to get the sort of information that never made it into print, now you just need a rudimentary knowledge of how to use a search engine.

The Curious Case of Connect.Me

9 03 2011

Earlier today San Francisco web developer Joe Johnston launched his contribution to the social web with a small post via his twitter account @simple10.  It said simply “ beta sign-up launched“.

He doesn’t have a huge following but within hours the twittersphere was buzzing and some high-profile people were registering profiles without actually knowing what was on offer.  Secrecy seemed to be at the heart of the launch strategy; “We’d love to share more” said the site “but we’re in ninja stealth mode and would regrettably have to kill you.”  Part of the sign-up process seems to have involved (personally I wouldn’t touch it without knowing more) granting access to your social networks with the promise “We’re a better way to manage your connections and a better way for online communities to discover and connect”.

I don’t know about you but it seems pretty asymmetric to me to grant access to your social graph with zero information on offer as to why or what for.  However the desire to register your user name seems to be a big driver as many people did just that.

It looks like has found ways to get various types of data, particularly from Facebook once the user has provided a one-off authentication.  It will also call on data from Twitter and LinkedIn.   That might provide an exciting way of linking your social networks but equally it seems pretty scary granting that kind of access without knowing why.

UberTwitter Now UberSocial After Block

20 02 2011

Users of the popular Blackberry Twitter app UberTwitter found themselves locked out this weekend when the famously open social network decided to crack down.

Twitter has claimed that UberTwitter was in breach of policies and trademarks. Specifically they cited the use of the tweet-elongation service which allows people to post  more than 140 characters, and significantly the use of the name UberTwitter.  The service has now been changed to UberSocial with immediate effect.  Tweetdeck which recently introduced to allow longer tweets must be watching with interest and concern. DestroyTwitter is also presumably on the radar.

Apart from the obvious inconvenience to users of the service Twitter has raised the suspicions of commentators by turning off the Blackberry application without notice and promoting their own Twitter for Blackberry service at the same time.

UberTwitter is owned by UberMedia which was recently bought by Bill Gross, who has raised $17.5m to build the Twitter platform.  Gross played a key role in building Google’s revenue mode and he’s applying a similar strategy with UberMedia and applying that to Twitter.  Potentially he has a  better way to make money out of Twitter than Twitter does and this is bound to cause concern for the micro-blogging service.

At the time of writing Twitter has not responded to the speedy changes and UberSocial remains unapproved ad offline.

Want Twitter Followers? Then Tweet More.

15 02 2011

When using Twittercounter recently I came across a great example showing that one of the most effective ways to build a following on Twitter is simply to provide content or put another way to tweet more.

I’d noticed in December that one of the people I follow, an inveterate tweeter had virtually stopped posting.

This is a graph that combines the number of daily tweets (orange bars) with follower numbers (red line).  The individual in question posts an average of around 20 tweets a day peaking at a hefty 75.  Look what happened when he stopped.  His net followers started dropping away immediately, then when his micro-blogging mojo returned in January follower numbers started growing again.

It goes to show that what’s true for blogging is true for its micro-me; if you want traffic then you’ve got to have content.

5 Reasons Why Quora Will Miss the Mainstream

25 01 2011

Robert Scoble; American blogger at Scobleizer, technical evangelist, and author, wrote on Boxing Day a post entitled ‘Is Quora the biggest blogging innovation in 10 years?’

PC Magazine, Techcrunch, TNW and FastCompany echoed the sentiment and the UK’s conservative ‘Daily Telegraph’ brought in the new year with an article entitled ‘Quora will be Bigger than Twitter’.  I think they may be wide of the mark and here are 5 reasons why:

1.  It lacks ‘new-ness’ There isn’t anything in the content that is radically new.  Yahoo Answers provides a Q&A format with voting up and down.  Twitter provides interaction and Wikipedia provides information.

2. It’s Not a Network You don’t really have a community around Quora.  The Follower/Following numbers on your profile lack any real relevance.  Because usually they are built around pre-existing networks on Facebook or Twitter the follower totals aren’t evidence of an authentic Quora based network.

3. There Aren’t Many Girls In fact the demographic so far is very, very narrow.  It’s skews male, 25-34 and educated to graduate level.  It’s also high income and exceptionally white.  You can’t be mainstream if you don’t appeal to everyone.  At the moment it is geeky and the audience is pretty much the same as Slashdot.

4.  It lacks Serendipity With Twitter and Facebook you see a lot of things that you don’t expect to.  The structure whereby you follow topics means that you see on Quora pretty much what you expect to see and it’s a bit dull. There I’ve said it.

5. It’s Really, Really Hard to be Mainstream How many mainstream social networks are there versus the number that tried and failed?  If Google struggles then it’s clearly a tough task.

Quora and How to Become the ‘Next Big Thing’

5 01 2011

A brief glance at my twitter feed at any point of the day yesterday and someone, somewhere was signing up for Quora.

Anxious not to be left behind in the social stampede, I followed the herd.  What I found was a nicely designed if fairly unremarkable social utility that feels like the love-child of Twitter and Yahoo Answers, with a bit of Digg DNA thrown in for good measure.  I actually quite like it, but so far I’m waiting to be convinced that the information I can get from posting questions on Quora isn’t available from a combination of Google and a bit of social search on Twitter.

What did stand out was the sudden surge in interest.  It isn’t simply that I move in geeky social circles, a quick look at Google search numbers shows that searches for Quora have increased ten fold since Christmas.  I know that no two social sites are the same but it has taken me over three years to amass a meagre 99 Facebook friends. My band of brothers and sisters on Quora hit three digits in a few hours.  Something had to be going on.

A quick trawl suggests that third-party recommendation from a trusted source is as powerful as it ever was and perhaps more so amongst those eager to discover the ‘next big thing’ in the social sphere.  Step forward one Robert Scoble; American blogger at Scobleizer, technical evangelist, author, former technology evangelist and oracle to 156,775 followers on twitter.  On Boxing Day he blogged ‘Is Quora the biggest blogging innovation in 10 years?’ effectively endorsing the site as the next big thing.  PC Magazine, Techcrunch, TNW and FastCompany were amongst the many media outlets that piled in.  Even the UK’s conservative ‘Daily Telegraph’ opined that ‘Quora will be Bigger than Twitter’.   Searches for Quora bear out the hypothesis that it all kicked off on Boxing Day.

Time will tell as to whether the early adopters stick with Quora and if the current flood of  interest is enough for the site  to break through in to the social network stratosphere.

Bear in mind also that Quora only went public in June.   For now it’s all about the hype and proof if proof were needed that if you have something to launch, the right kind of endorsement is still an crucial part of the mix.

Pollution in the Twitter Stream

15 12 2010

Twitter has launched its advertising package with promoted tweets, promoted trends and promoted accounts available to all.  Whilst in various ways users have been able to boost their follower numbers for some time, now followers can simply be purchased via twitter itself, something that fundamentally alters the ecosystem.

“Whether you’re gearing up for a big product release or event, or just looking to expand your presence online, building a strong base of Twitter followers who will share your content and amplify your message makes all the difference…unlike a “like” action, a new follower stays with you.” says the twitter ad blurb.

It will be interesting to see how this pans out for Twitter.  My hunch is that it will turn established users away.  The growth of Twitter has been phenomenal, according to the official blog there have been 25 billion tweets this year.  That’s a pretty stunning total given that at the start of the year 7.3 billion tweets had been posted in three and a half years.   However the pace of growth is slowing.  There were 5 billion tweets between the 31st July and the 20th September, that’s 50 days. It took 52 days for another five billion to be posted.  Twitter has made it much more difficult to monitor tweet volume since they moved away from sequential numbering of tweets.

So if twitter has flatlined and in terms of tweet volume it appears that it has, adding adverts to our twitter stream is hardly likely to  boost loyalty and usage.

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