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SXSW – Biz Stone: Content as a Means for Social Change

12 03 2012

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Biz Stone is back at SXSW for the first time since Twitter blew up there in 2007. In the first of a series of stories he tells is about the birth of Twitter. Twitter wasn’t conveived as a channel for serious communication, it was meant to be fun and social. In the prototype stage, one of the first things Evan Williams tweeted (before the real tweets began to flow) was “Sipping Pinot Noir after a massage in Napa valley”.

By 2007 there were about 5000 twitter users and they “were all the dorks that go to SXSW”. It gave them the “South-West bump” and after that there was seldom a major world event that didn’t feature Twitter. When Biz was called by a journalist and asked about his involvement in a student uprising in Moldova he had to look up Moldova to find out where it was.

The remaining stories cover creativity, being prepared to fail, illustrated with reference to Wim Wenders ‘Wings of Desire’ and the compound value of doing good. Whilst the stories that Biz tells are only loosely connected, they are linked by a theme that links the future of marketing and corporate success to philanthropy. Its his philosophy for business and he walks the talk. Twitter had a CSR person years before it had a sales person.

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How Twitter Fuelled the Glitter Fake

21 01 2012

The fake Gary Glitter debacle only just failed to eclipse the weirdness of discovering in the very early hours of New Year’s day that Rupert Murdoch had joined Twitter.

Something happened between those two events that helped the OfficialGlitter account to appear to be really run by the shamed popstar and garner over 15,000 followers.  What happened was that  Twitter suspended official verification, which meant that there was no real way of knowing whether the account was real or not.   Actually twitter has turned verification into a money-making exercise, available only to advertisers and partners.

The Daily Mail, ITN and The Sun all added fuel to the fire with articles about the supposed social media comeback.  Column inches were even devoted to the announcement of a tour and new album.  This would surely not have happened if the official process was still in place.

If you search OfficialGlitter on twitter you’ll see that a huge amount of unnecessary upset was caused by the so-called social media experiment.  The idea that social networks fuel child abuse is arrant nonsense. Parents do need to be vigilant about who their kids associate with, on the wed as elsewhere but this isn’t about government regulation.  It was Gary Glitter’s infamy linked to the notion that it could actually be him that  created the problem here.

Twitter should bring back official verification.  #verifyback





Twitter Profile Picture Gets the Bird

18 09 2009

 

Twitter has replaced the default avatar, the image that appears in your twitter profile or feed if you haven’t uploaded a profile picture.

They have ditched the slightly enigmatic emoticon o_O ( it’s supposed to represent a raised left eyebrow) with a little bird which appears in one of six delightful colours.

A nice tweak you might imagine, however thousands of users have had their pictures accidentally removed and replaced with the new default bird.  They are not happy.

The twitter status blog claims that the problem has been identified and a solution is on the way but at the moment the only thing disgruntled users can do is manually change their profile picture back.  Some users experience further problems when they did this, @astiir lost his custom background.  It is not yet clear whether the fix will automatically restore your original picture or just stop the problem happening with other users.

o_O

Twitter Default o_O Avatar The old emoticon based default avatar.

Default Avatar 5 One of the new colourful twitter birds.





Trusting the Telegraph

9 09 2009

TelegraphThere is a lot of debate about ‘old media’ versus new.  I prefer to think of conventional media as ‘trusted media’ rather than old media.  It doesn’t however help the case for the trusted media when they get their facts so spectacularly wrong that it questions the whole notion of journalistic enquiry.  The waters are made even more murky when the story is about new media technology.

A piece appeared on the Telegraph website yesterday that announced that “Debenhams has become the first retailer in Britain to use Twitter, the social networking website.”  What were they thinking? Did they entirely miss the Habitat scandal when they used trending topics (like Iraq elections) to try to sell lampshades? It  goes on, this “is a significant change for Twitter as its primary use until now has simply been as a source of gossip and blogging”.  What twaddle.

I am a proponent of PR but what comes next is pure puffery “Rather than finding out the latest celebrity tittle-tattle we’re going to use Twitter to provide customers with instant customer service, ” said Debenhams spokesman Ed Watson. “Our Megaday sale on Wednesday (September 9) is one of the busiest times, so using Twitter in this way will be the equivalent of having a dedicated shop assistant with you for the entire time you are in our store”.  This is baffling beyond belief and it shows a basic misunderstanding of how twitter works and what proportion of the public are actively using it.

It wouldn’t have been hard for the Telegraph to check its facts as there are quite a few retailers in the UK using twitter many of them very well; Asda, The Conran Shop, Dixons, Littlewoods, Tie Warehouse, Waterstones, need I go on?





How to Spot the Bots

7 08 2009

It has been widely reported this week that 24% or nearly a quarter of all twitter messages are generated by accounts controlled by automated ‘bots’ and the robots are on the rise.  The research was done by social media analytics specialists Sysmos

Some of this automated traffic is from useful sources but much of it is spam and as previously discussed here, spam is polluting the social web to an alarming extent.

There is a way of dealing with this.  Don’t follow in the first place, but more importantly if you find a bot block it.  If an account is blocked numerous times it will be suspended by twitter.   Some of the bots and spammers are obvious, the avatars are usually a dead giveway for the porn spammers but many are becoming more sophisticated. There are still ways to weed them out.  Here are some tell tale signs of bot behaviour:

  • Too many tweets – bots often but not always pump out 150+ per day.
  • Tweeting famous quotes – this is a technique increasingly used to make the bot look real.
  • Lot of homilies for the same reason.
  • Duplicate messages – some bots pump out exactly the same streams of messages.
  • A high Follower to Following ratio.
  • No @posts or @mentions. Bots don’t do conversation.
  • Exclamation marks next to a link!
  • Tweets seem disjointed and unrelated to each other
  • The tweet source – this can be a dead give away, for example if the tweets are from ‘API’ be very wary.

OK, get ready to block.





The Dead Twitter Sketch

6 08 2009

Twitter came under a ‘Denial of Service’ attack today less than 24 hours after I bemoaned the proliferation of spam on the micro blogging social network.  The site was down for well over an hour as the result of a probable malicious targeted assault on the company’s US based servers.  It isn’t yet clear where the attack came from.

From launch up until a few months ago twitter went down on a fairly frequent basis and the so called ‘fail-whale’ screen was a  familiar site to early users who would wait anything from a few seconds to in some cases a few hours to get back on stream.   Since then twitter has gone mainstream,user levels have accelerated and it is gaining ground as a bona fide marketing and PR platform, amongst many other valuable uses.

Whilst there is still no agreed model for monetising the site’s success it’s future value will be hugely affected by its ability to keep itself up and running.





Trendjacking and the Twitter Bugs

5 08 2009

The UK retailer Habitat brought the practise of hashjacking or trendjacking to the fore when it used interest in the election protests in Iran to try to sell lampshades, tarnishing its own reputation somewhat in the process.

When a word is used frequently in posts on twitter it will ‘trend’ and show up in applications like twitscoop, twazzup and on the twitter site.  These applications create clickable links so we can all see what the fuss is about. 

Increasing numbers of users users are hijacking these trending terms to sell at us. As I write a twitter user has managed to get Cory Aquino, #iranelection, Paula Abdul, Bill Clinton and North Korea into one 140 character message.   The amount of spam that now finds its way into twitter is one of the reasons that some seasoned PR practioners are seriously questioning its value.

Spammers are getting more sophisticated, setting up believable accounts with convincing tweets.  For example @mgimina and @askanditsgiven both look credible but they are sending out identical tweets at the same time and with alarming frequency.  There are at least half a dozen accounts also automated to send out the same stuff as these two.  If you do look at them take the time to block them (you don’t have to be following to do this) which will help twitter to identify the accounts for closure.   Twitter needs to clean up its act but we all need to do our bit to clear out the garbage.








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