Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

Canadian Twitter Traffic vs. Facebook

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

I read somewhere today (I’ll track down a source) that Canadians supply only 4% of Twitter traffic compared to 40% in the US. My first question is whether or not that’s just web, or also API/SMS. Either way, it surprises me because Canada is known now as a social media early-adopter given the explosive growth of Facebook.

Why the huge difference? Is there something special about Facebook that appeals to Canadians? Or is there something specific about Twitter that doesn’t? Or did we just spend all of our social media capital in the Facebook boom?

Twitter Spam Doesn’t Exist

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

Everyday, it seems, I see a few mentions of "Twitter Spam" in my Twitter timeline. Most times, I simply ignore them, but twice in the past two weeks I’ve gotten into protracted debates about what is and isn’t "Twitter Spam." I thought it time to to elaborate on my position on the matter: Twitter spam is impossible. It simply can’t exist. Why? Because Twitter is an entirely opt-in environment – you are in control of the messages you receive.

Most of the complaints about TwitterSpam seem to originate with an "illegitimate" Twitterer following thousands of people all at once. Keep in mind that following someone on Twitter is similar to subscribing to a blogger’s RSS feed – with a couple bonuses. First, you receive an email when someone subscribes to your Tweet – which I’m sure FeedBurner could do for your feeds if they thought it would be useful. Second, you can see who is following you. Cool.

I’ve gotten in the habit of challenging claims of Twitter spam, and response is becoming consistent. It begins with claims that the ‘notification email’ about a Twitter follow makes it TwitterSpam. When I counter with the fact that you can disable the notification email, there are usually claims of ‘illegitimate’ Twitterbots following thousands of people but not offering any value beyond pushing brands. The claim is usually stated as if a bot following you brings with it some obligation to follow back.

Following is not a social act

I get the Twitter follow notifications in my inbox – but I’m more than willing to turn them off if they become to frequent. Sometimes, I’ll recognize the name and make the effort to return the follow. Most times, though, I won’t do that until I have a social reason to – and that reason is conversation. Following is not a social act. Speaking to me through Twitter is. That means that 50,000 people could follow me, but I feel no obligation to return the favour until they’ve reached out to me via an @ reply.

My most recent spat erupted when Shannon Whitley (@swhitley) complained when the customer service Twitter account for Pandora (@pandora_radio) followed him. I countered that I appreciated @pandora_radio following me after I had Tweeted about the service because it meant I could DM them with questions, etc – which I have done.

Your Say

Shannon was joined by a few others who agreed with him, so I offered to include their thoughts here – my responses in bolded italics.

Joel Postman (@jpostman) offers these three points:

  1. Twitter spam exists because once you receive a follow, you may have to check the user’s profile to determine the nature of the follower. You have thus received an unwanted advertising/marketing message. Colin: Why do you need to check the nature of the follower? You wouldn’t/couldn’t do that for your RSS feed, would you? There is no expectation of privacy on Twitter. There is no reason beyond sheer curiosity or ego to check out folks who follow you.
  2. Spam is an old term applied to new media in Twitter’s situation.The role of email is minimal on Twitter, and email is where spam traditionally lives. Forced unwanted marketing messages are spam. (See above.) Colin: As I’ve already noted, nothing is forced on Twitter. Emails are optional.
  3. Unwanted follows are a violation of privacy. You wouldn’t send Target a copy of every SMS from your mobile. Why would you want online retailers and service providers collecting information on you, even if doing so does not violate Twitter’s Terms of Service? Colin:Following on Twitter is no more a breach of privacy than a Google search or a simple TweetScan or Summize query. Again, unless you lock your Tweets, there is no expectation of privacy on Twitter.

Shey Smith (@shey) comments on my assertion that followers are akin to RSS subscribers:

Can "twitter spammers" can be equated to RSS subscribers?
When a spammer posts a comment or trackback on my blog, I can remove it even before it gets to the discussion, and I can usually identify right away that it’s spam.
The problem with Twitter spammers is that you don’t know, yet.  We’ve got legitimate people out there who follow 20,000 people and fraudulent ones who do the same — the time wasted weeding out who you want to follow back and who you don’t is becoming more and more lopsided and annoying. Colin: I’ll stick with my contention that the decision to follow someone should be determined by your social interactions (ie: @ replies) rather than something as anonymous as a follow.
My RSS subscribers are a MUCH less annoying and time-consuming than Twitter spammers (plus i’m willing to bet all, if not most, of them aren’t spammers). Colin: The folks you determine as spammers aren’t annoying or time-consuming for me at all because I don’t have any reason to DO anything with them. 

Mike Driehorst (@mikedriehorst) mentions the SEO implications of so-called TwitterSpammers. 

Not totally harmless as it has SEO juice/links to own site. Leads browsers astray. Also, for spammers, wastes time to check out Colin: Multiple accounts full a of garbage content with links back to products, etc. would certainly fall into the realm of search engine spam… but it doesn’t in the least affect my Twitter experience – so it’s an SEO problem not a Twitter problem.



Interstingly, not long after the exchange about TwitterSpam, I got follow notifications from two Twitterers: @HillaryClinton5 and @ChrisDodd53. What did I do? Nothing. If either of them want to be part my my social media experience they’ll have to actually engage me. Until then, they have the privilege of seeing whatever spills out of my head and into my Twitter stream.

I also received a Twitter DM from Lucia, the human being behind @pandora_radio, thanking me for sticking up for her.  See? Pandora is listening. We in social media encourage our clients to listen. We should be impressed when a brand ‘follows’ us – it means they’re listening.

Social Media in Two Buckets

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

Active Communities and Latent Networks

I discovered the concept of latent networks and active communities last summer while trying to save a magazine by activating a community within a social network. At the time, I was fascinated by the concept of latent offline communities becoming active online communities once given the tools to discover themselves and communicate. In the Business 2.0 magazine example, it was simply a case of thousands of readers (the latent community) being given a reason and means to congregate online (the active community) where none existed before. 

At that time, and for a long time afterwards, Facebook was my primary online active community. It is where I interacted most with people sharing stories, photos, videos, etc. It was where I met new people and kept in touch with old friends. Facebook helped me make plans for the future and reminisce about the past. But that large finished now. I visit Facebook a few times a week to check in on some of my groups and to respond to various proddings from my network. I upload the odd video or photo of my kids. But that’s it.  Facebook is simply not where I hang out online anymore.

I finally joined Twitter earlier this year because it’s where all the cool kids were hanging out.  It has now fully replaced Facebook as my online social home. I’ve written quite a bit about Twitter lately, so I won’t go in-depth here, but it is clearly my active community online.

Facebook has now become a collection of several "latent networks" with sporadic bursts of activity.  At any time, for a variety of reasons, these latent networks will be activated around a cause or event – like a high school reunion, or a University alumni football game. For the most part, though, Facebook is now my rolodex for old friends and acquaintances.

LinkedIn, similarly, is part fancy business card and part fancy rolodex – much like Facebook but with latent networks comprised of different people. Old co-workers and business acquaintances reside there with tremendous potential should the need arise. In this way, LinkedIn and Facebook are more similar than ever for me now.

It’s important to stress that this change for Facebook from an active community to a latent network does not diminish it’s value to me as a social media tool.  All that has changed is how I engage with the medium.

An interesting point about Twitter, though, is that I don’t think it could ever become solely a latent network. Unlike Facebook and LinkedIn, active participation in the Twitter community is necessary for any of the network benefits to retain value.  Inactivity on Twitter would actually allow that particular medium to atrophy and lose almost all of its network value.

Where are your ‘active communities’ and ‘latent networks’?

Fleet Thinks Scoble is ‘Dead Wrong’ About Twitter

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

Dave Fleet wrote a response to a recent post by Robert Scoble about the ‘secret’ of Twitter. He said that Scoble is "dead wrong" about his theory that following more is better than getting followed more. I had to go back and read Scoble’s piece again, because I seemed to recall nodding my head as I read it the first time. Sure enough, I still agree with the essential point that Scoble was trying to make. Twitter is not, and should not be, a popularity contest where the winner is determined by the number of followers. That’s what Feedburner stats are for. So I don’t think Scoble is dead wrong on this one.

I hesitate to criticize Dave to strongly, though, for his assessment of Scoble’s theory. Dave knows his stuff and I’m convinced he’s not dead wrong either. The points Dave makes to support his criticism are excellent ones and I found myself nodding along with him as well.

How is it, then, that I can agree with two diametrically opposed opinions? When this happens, it usually means to me that I’m looking at a false dichotomy. An argument of extremes where the answer actually lies somewhere in the middle.

But maybe it doesn’t matter at all. Maybe we should be more focused on the quality of the conversation rather than the quantity of our audience. Maybe we should stop paying attention to those following/follower number entirely. The power of the ‘@’ will ensure that your audience will grow in proportion to the quality of your participation in the conversation cloud.

Twitter is the world’s largest pub. If you walk in with earplugs in and start talking to everyone – you will probably get hurt. On the other hand, if you try to sit at every table and never say a word, well, you’re probably just hurting yourself. The two extremes.

My advice? Walk in, order a beer, look for a few friends.  Introduce yourself to a few of their friends and let the conversation take its course. Most of all, just be yourself.

Debating the Benefits of Twitter

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

I left on comment on Maggie’s recent Twitter post (in reply to Phil Barrett’s comment) that I thought was worth repeating here, along with Phil’s comment…

Phil Barrett: From what i gather, you need to be sending several “tweets” a day to build a following and get the true potential benefit from Twitter.
I physically don’t have enough time during the day to do this…even with the mobile enabled option. I’ve also blogged about this on my site – twitter dee, twitter dumb?

Me: I suppose it depends on how you define “benefit”. Strictly as a distrobution channel, yes, there is a critical mass of followers required to be effective. But Twitter is about participation in a group conversation. Online and offline, conversation is best when done more with your ears than your mouth. I Tweet when I am moved to by the conversation that surrounds me. I would get just as much benefit out of Twitter with 1 follower as I would with 1000. What’s far more important is who I’m following and what they’re saying.

update: The comments I’m referring to have mysteriously disappeared from the SMG site – we’re trying to figure waht happened… good thing I decided to quote them here!

What is Twitter?

Monday, March 24th, 2008

Micro-blogging service Twitter seems to be enjoying a surge of interest lately. Much of the conversation seems to be a renewed effort to define (or at least describe) just what this Twitter thing is.

The roundup (in no particular order):

My $0.02.

The water cooler and coffee break analogies are pretty close and certainly capture a lot of what we see in the Twitter-verse. My preferred analogy, however, comes from the few months that I spent working online from a local coffee shop and the may hours I’ve spent in little pubs. Twitter is either a pub or a cafe – depending on your preference and/or the time of day.

Twitter is much like these places for a number of reasons:
First, every conversation is somewhere between public and private. You might be sitting in a booth having a conversation that may be private – but since you’re in a public place, it is certainly not secure.
Second, you can talk to one person at a time or many.  A Twitter conversation can be a quiet chat in the corner, or you standing up on your chair to make an announcement to the room.
Third, you get interrupted a lot. Sometimes it’s someone barging in halfway through an ongoing conversation that they only half-heard. Other times someone just walks in, heads straight for you, sits down and stars chatting.

The pub/cafe analogy isn’t perfect, but I think it comes closer to capturing the full breadth and depth of the Twitter experience.  What do you think?  How do you explain Twitter?

LinkedIn Hack Lets You Add Strangers To Your Network

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

Did you know that apparently you can add just about anyone to your LinkedIn network without knowing their email address? Most times LinkedIn requires an email address to ‘prove’ you have some connection to the person you’re trying to add, but I managed to fins a work-around.

Joel Postman announced on Twitter that he was “Launching shameless campaign to add LinkedIn users… add me!“. So I followed the link and clicked on the ‘add Joel to your network’ button. I was presented with a list of ways I might possibly know Joel. Most would require me to know Joel’s email address (I don’t) so I would usually just stop and say, Oh Well, and move on with my life. BUT, today I felt adventurous and wondered “What about that ‘Groups’ option?” A click revealed a simple textbox asking to what group Joel and I both belong. Hmmm. I entered “Twitter” – cuz that’s the truth. To my surprise, the form submitted and I got a message saying somethign to the effect of “Your invitation has been sent and your profile has been updated.” Interesting. Sure enough there in my profile under Groups was “Twitter.” Cool.

I suppose I could be the only social media luddite not to realize this LinkedIn hack, but I thought I’d pass it along anyway.

I Got Your News Fix Right Here:

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

LNC I am absolutely enamored with  This newish site – started a few weeks ago by a Steve Baron of Fox News Chicago – gives you single-page access to newscasts from around the country.  On an important political night like tonight, this is extremely valuable. How else, for example, would I know that Hilary was being interviewed right now on a local Dallas Fox affiliate?

One of the most interesting things about LiveNewsCameras is that it is hosted (or moderated, as they call it) by a human… a real person… live! In the upper right corner is a second streaming window from which a NewsJockey (NJ) keeps you up-to-speed on what’s happening on the various feeds.

Even cooler than that, however, is the site’s use of Twitter. Underneath the moderator is the site’s Twitter feed. Ostensibly, the purpose is to alert viewers (and Twitter followers who may not be actually watching) of breaking news  on the various feeds. BUT, as I found out accidentally, the feed also includes Twitter replies! The potential here for a truly social experience is HUGE! I’ve already experienced social news-watching through the usual channels, but imagine if LiveNewsCameras’ Twitter panel was filled with viewer tips and commentary!

I’ll be watching very closely to see how this site evolves over the next several weeks – I’ve already sent them some of my initial thoughts and I encourage you to do the same.

[credit to Dave Winer for pointing to via Twitter]

Twitter’s Scalability Problem Isn’t Fixed

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

By all reports, (and the API, for the most part) sailed through the onslaught of the Super Bowl and Super Tuesday with nary a hiccup. Please join me in a round of w00t!

So ends the saga of Twitter’s scalability. The Twitter community can now grow as far and as fast as we desire without fear of the thing crashing down around our heads. Or can we? I fear that while the Twitter team has overcome it’s technical scalability concerns (again, w00t!), there are serious issues to be overcome with the application’s social scalability.

By "social scalability" I mean the extent to which one can receive the ‘signal’ through the cacophony of ‘noise’ as one’s following list expands. This is a more complex problem that simply limiting the number of Twitterers (Twits?) you follow, as you might do with an RSS list.

The scenario is already presenting itself as the Presidential Primary season hits full-stride in the United States. Most of the folks I follow on Twitter are in the social media space – no surprise there. A few of them are also political junkies like me, as I’ve mentioned before. But what about everyone else? Do those social media folks who are not interested in US politics really want to be inundated with play-by-play tweets of Super Tuesday?  What about the Super Bowl tweet-fest? I certainly wasn’t interested in the game but sat through tweet after tweet anyway in case anyone was talking about anything that did interest me.

It’s manageable at the moment since the community is still relatively small and the event-related tweet-fests are few and far-between… but it won’t be long before every sporting event spawns thousands of Tweets that I don’t care about. Unless it’s a Habs game… I’m in for that. :)

So the question is:

How do you intend to manage a growing ‘follow’ list and a broadening of content on Twitter?

Social Media in Real-Time

Monday, February 4th, 2008

I’m a political junkie. I have been fascinated by politics and government for many years a passion which eventually led to a now underused degree in political science.

I am also now a Twitter junkie. The "global watercooler" allows me to eavesdrop on many conversations and throw in my $0.02 on a variety of topics when I think I have something valuable to add.

In the past week or so, these two vices have collided in a spectacular way. It started with the Democratic primary in South Carolina last Saturday. A few of us social media/political junkies (@stuartma, @JillFoster, et al) began discussing the results as they came in. Those of us purists with online-only access to CNN’s raw feeds (TV is so 1.0) had to rely on others to report the numbers as they came in. We could then offer our thoughts on the how’s and why’s… Or just "listen" and learn.

Once the results were solid and the networks had made their projections, the speeches from each of the candidates began. This was the magical part of evening. Barack Obama’s speech elicited responses from my Twitterverse that were raw emotion and reflected his ability to reach down into people’s soul and stir it up.

That this communal emotional response was palpable in an online medium is, I believe, revolutionary. To the casual observer, Obama’s speech was a great one, to be sure. But the ability to witness the emotions it evoked in others in real-time transformed the speech from a political event into an emotional event shared by a community of pseudo-strangers. This has never really been possible before.

Last night I observed a similar event during the Super Bowl. Since I’m more of a CFL guy than NFL, I wasn’t watching the game. I was, however, watching a couple dozen folks twitter the game as they watched it. Thank to Jeremiah Owyang‘s social media experiment, most of the Twitter-banter centred on rating the (in)famous SuperBowl commercials as they aired. The results of Jeremiah’s experiment can be found by searching for @superbowlads at terramind’s search service. Currently, it lists over 2500 responses. hundreds of people sharing an event in real-time through an online medium. Very Cool. [late-breaking re-cap from Jeremiah]

In between commercials, there was, of course, a football game going on. While I was doing other things online (watching this stunning video, for example), I could get a feel of how the game was going just from the expletive-laced bursts of emotion emanating from my Twitter client.

I am very much looking forward to that other ‘Super’ event this week: Super Tuesday. I will miss the bulk of the day’s conversations since I’ll be in meetings and without internet access all day (though I may sneak a peek at TwitterBerry now & again).

As the polls close, however, I’ll be ensconced in my hotel room all a-Twitter about what the results will mean… even for us Canadians. My prediction? I think by wednesday morning (it’ll come early!) we’ll have a pretty good idea of the two names on the Presidential ballot come November.

I have some more thoughts brewing about the social-scalability of Twitter. Tonight may have been proof that we’ve finally seen the end of the technical scalability problems!  I’ll post later in the week on what I mean by "social-scalability" and why I think it’s a problem. Stay tuned.