Posts Tagged Twitter
Social media will likely follow this same cycle. First it is everything, then it is nothing and it was all a big waste of time, and then we’ll find out it really is necessary and relevant and important. So after all that, we’ll end up with the equivalent of websites everywhere, of needing a website, but of course I’m talking in terms of tweets or whatever they will be known by then. You will need your check-ins, your facebook fans, your contests, your mentions, your online referrals and reviews, or whatever all of that is known as by then.
So assuming all this is correct, that still leaves us with what to do with that information. I’m not advocating you go and try and invest in social media companies (not that it’s even possible given that they are all generally privately held), but rather that you think about how this changes the way people will interact with each other, and with companies. Then, if you’re like me, you’ll think about what it would take to build a product that will be needed then. For example, consider the intersection of social media, augmented reality (AR), and online booking applications. If we’re connected to each other through smart phones and geolocation, it would not surprise me to have ads or referrals pushed to me when walking past shops in the future (indeed, I’m told this already happens in many places such as Asia). But what if I could then take my phone and point it at a shop – an AR overlay appears and I see that there are a few open spaces for a haircut or maybe a massage in the next 30 minutes and, lo and behold, the reviews are there too – my friend has gone here and gave it 5 stars. Because the time slots are perishable, booking now means I’ll save some money, and that’s great, because not only do I like discounts, but I also like not sitting and waiting for things. Instead, I would love to be able to book that massage instantly and then go grab a coffee or do some quick shopping instead of sitting and waiting for it.
And you know what, I’m sure that product or experience will one day exist. So it’s up to us to go make it, because that’s a better world, and that’s where the tools are telling us we can go.
Here’s another vision of a possible future:
Well, here’s what I do. I read stories, listen to the news, see what people around me are doing, and then I choose a specific area to consider. So let’s go with social media, and run it through the check-list. Is it super-hyped right now? Check. Is everyone talking about how it will change the world forever and none of us will ever be the same? Check. Has it done anything particularly disruptive so far? Not really. So what does that mean in 10 years? It means that at that time everything will have changed noticeably and we should be figuring out what that will look like right now.
So don’t restrict yourself to thinking about what the technology is right now and how we use it. You need to think in more generic terms than that. First, what is different between twitter and its closest look-alikes – text messages, blogs, and email. Well, the difference is you can only send short messages (or posts), they go to anyone who is potentially listening (generally – there are of course DMs as well), and they tell the public who you are or what you are doing or thinking about. But those aren’t the only things twitter is similar to. It is also similar to google-searching, but instead of asking an indexed set of pages something about what you are looking for, you instead are asking anyone who is listening a certain question in the total set of active and indexed brains at that moment. So, in many ways, twitter is a communication tool, but it is also a specialized recommendation engine. It is like hunch but instead of asking a cluster analyzed data-set you are literally publicly asking everyone you know socially (and people you don’t know) for advice, or a product, or help of some kind.
So, long term, what does that mean? It means that more than ever we will be connected to a greater web of people. But right now you also have to ask why are people helping each other so much through twitter? Is it because we are fundamentally helpful? I think the answer is no. I think the answer actually lies in the fact that we are fundamentally selfish, and currently, because no one knows for sure how this all will play out, you get people being as helpful as possible because they gain status by doing so (whether in the form of followers, or a higher klout score, or any other measure you can think of that exists currently). Moreover, they can get wealth – because everyone is talking about social media and why your company needs it, companies are going out and looking to hire people who can show them how to do exactly that.
Remind you of anything? Seems a lot like the late 90’s when every company needed a website and would pay practically anything to get some skin in the game. And of course we had a bubble and a crash and, lo and behold, 10 years later, you really do need a website and some skin in the game. Remember, we tend to think the world changes forever very quickly, but in truth, it takes some time for the world to become fundamentally different.
Here is one of my favourite activities: think about the future in regards to technology, and then think about where we are going, and what people will want, and why, and what they will pay for that. You can’t do this aimlessly (not productively anyway); you must have a specific area in mind.
For example, let’s consider how Apple got to its decision about pushing AppleTV more aggressively. Did they wait to see if people wanted pay-as-you-go programming? Not really, because if you wait for something like that to show up you’re usually too late to the party. They probably looked around the world 10 years ago and started thinking about what the world look like 10 years forward. How would we watch TV? What would we watch? Why? What if p2p sharing goes bigger? In 2000, it clearly appeared that the genie was out of the bottle and would not get put back in. So, barring a p2p blocking technology, the future then was always going to be in finding and stealing entertainment online. Some people would continue to pay cable operators of course, but increasingly (and young folk especially) would be questioning why they would pay $50-100/month when they only watch a few shows a month and having all-you-can-eat cable means you end up watching more shows than you want to anyway. But maybe pay-as-you-go, a model we had been seeing with some cell phone users, might do the trick. You pay only for the stuff you want and none of the crap you don’t want. And the price had to be very low or otherwise you’d be tempted to steal. So, in the future you will pay for each show and it will be streamed live to your television for $0.99. That, my friends, is the future (which is here!)
So consider all that for a moment. Consider that all of these things were set in motion at least 10 years ago. You need to also remember that we as humans tend to overstate the short-term implications of a new technology and understate the long-term ramifications of said technology. It wasn’t long ago when p2p sharing started gaining traction and many pointed to the imminent demise of all commercial recordings. Did that happen? Of course not. But certainly p2p sharing has changed the commercial music landscape dramatically and altered the way we digest music digitally, how artists share it, how they promote their work, all (in my opinion) for the better. But let’s bring it back to today’s world. Yes, all these things were set in motion a long time ago. Yes, there are disruptive technologies being shaped and created every day. Which ones will greatly affect the world in 10 years? How will they change the world? And how can you ride the wave that gets you there?
“The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?”
~ David Sarnoff’s associates in response to his urgings for investment in radio, 1920s
Maybe this title could be less provocative, but it answers to what I want to write about, which is how I have come to understand the purpose and usefulness of twitter. The quote I opened with really could have been any quote about a new technology or cultural artifact. We as humans have shown an incredible propensity to downplay just how much any given technology will affect our lives. For some reason this quote about the radio really resonated, given that twitter often seems to be about broadcasting a message to no one in particular.
Probably just as often, we believe the change to be more significant in the short term and we underestimate the long term change that the new technology represents. I don’t have a quote for that, but if you can think back to when the dot com bubble burst, you’ll get my drift. Anything internet related could return hundreds of percent in a single day, sometimes based only on an idea. Of course, if you think about how the world has changed in the past 10 years, it’s obvious to anyone that the internet really has revolutionized the way we communicate, work, interact, shop, buy things, etc. It’s not that the tech bubble craze was totally incorrect, it’s just that the value of the changes investors et al. were anticipating were 10 or more years off. We need time to absorb change. Change causes more change. It probably goes without saying that these changes that occur are non-linear and completely unfathomable 10 years prior. But all of this is relevant to twitter.1. User Growth and Network Effects. If you think back, probably only a year or so, there were a lot of news stories touting twitter and how everyone and their dog was signing up for the free service. This led to a peak in new user acquisition in July 2009 of 7.8 million users that month. This has slowed to somewhere below 6.2 million per month (I believe the last figure I found was for January 2009). However, there are conflicting reports that it the service is now growing by 300K users per day, meaning that it is acquiring 9 million users or so per month.
In any case, there are about 105 million twitter users. Depending on what measures you use to consider a twitter user active, there are probably 20 million or so active users (I’m going with the reports that 80% of users have tweeted 10 times or less. I’m calling them inactive – they may be listening but they are not sharing.) This is still amazing. If twitter were a city, it would be one of the largest, most well connected cities in the world. Much as cities grow, with each new active user twitter becomes more valuable to every other user.
2. Twitter = 1/3(Digg + StumbleUpon + Google Reader) + search + Facebook + social commentary. My equation of course depends on why and how you’re using twitter. For me it’s about navigating the web, sharing cool things, and finding cool things from like-minded people within my network. The thing I originally loved about StumbleUpon was that it would help me find things I liked that I didn’t know existed and literally could not have searched for. Twitter does that plus it comes from someone you know generally or have chosen to follow. It diggs things by retweeting them, so you have a good idea of how popular something is. Google Reader is my source for everything I follow closely, but there are not enough other people I know who use it to make it useful for me – ie, I don’t have a large enough network of Google Reader friends to find stuff I didn’t know about as well as I do through twitter.
3. The strength of weak ties. That’s the title from a 1973 paper by Mark Grannovetter that I read about in Albert-László Barabási’s How we are Linked. The great thing about twitter is that it is really a whole bunch of weak ties. What I mean by this is that even among friends in the offline world there are often not a lot of overlapping connections. The reason this is important is as follows: let’s say you and your friend are both looking for a job. Between you, you share a tightly-knit social network of friends and acquaintances. If any opportunities come up, you are both privy to them through the same sources. So first of all, that means you will compete for the same resources (in this case jobs) and you will not be able to find any opportunities through only one of you (I’ve written about this earlier on this blog).
However, if you took the same situation – you and a close friend – but instead assume that you each have a completely separate group of friends, then you have likely just doubled the amount of opportunities available to one or both of you. These weak ties are often how we find jobs. And it is this nature of twitter that makes it a great place to learn about opportunities.
For example – I took two friends (@loxyisme and @jagtianinikhil) from the offline world who are active on twitter and here is what followerwonk.com shows through its trusty venn diagram:
I’m actually quite surprised that we share no common connections on either side of twitter (despite the fact that Loxy and Nikhil have never to my knowledge met). It’s also phenomenal that we share so few common connections between myself and either of Loxy or Nikhil: Loxy and I share a fair number of offline friends; Nikhil and I both have MBAs from UBC (albeit a year apart). I don’t know the value of weak ties in dollars, but I would venture to say that finding a job through twitter is going to be a common trend in the future.
4. What would have to be true for twitter to become a dominant form of communication? Allow others access to your API. Check. Make it run on nearly anything (computer, smartphone etc.). Check. Get an overwhelming number of users relative to similar communication options. Not yet, as I’m sure there are more people with email and cell phones than there are twitter users, but the growth rate is looking good (and accelerating if the latest figures are to be believed). Make it easy for companies to develop products that support the use of your program or product. Check. I don’t know the total number but my mind is constantly blown about every new twitter app I hear about. Make it easy to find information. Check. 600 million searches per day. Make it reliable. Not quite there yet, but there are fewer sightings of the fail whale everyday. Make it easy. Check. Make it a small change to adopt. Maybe half marks there. I feel as if I am only getting to understand twitter and its power and I’m 1.5 years and 260 tweets in.
5. Twitter teaches brevity. As a writer, I know how difficult it is to get to the heart of the matter (see: the length of this post). Any character limit would have done, but 140 is where we are with twitter, and it seems to have hit the sweet spot. It’s just long enough to get across an idea without anything extraneous. In a world overflowing with information, the ability to cut through the noise is extremely valuable.
Twitter is here to stay. Much like earlier technologies or applications, we have overstated the importance of it over the short term (it’s this fad with 100 million users that will pass) and not considered the longer term (that people are forming smaller social networks they will use to communicate and share information and that that is here to stay). Twitter is an integral part of social media – it might change, it might mutate, but the essence of it is here to stay.
Focus on Everything (subtext: another reason to use twitter)
As I plow through my Google Reader treasure trove of awesomeness, I’ve found a few related writings, at least in reference to Grannovetter’s the Strength of Weak Ties that I really must share with you. These reads of course linked to each other, but they are each worth reading on their own. First is the difference between having a purpose and having a vision, written by one of my many idols, Diego Rodriguez at IDEO. The second is by Joi Ito, who I’m sure will become one of my idols, based on the brilliance of his writing and the clarity of his thought.
@darrennegraeff, @jagtianinikhil, @loxyisme, Albert-László Barabási, diego rodriguez, digg, externality, Facebook, followerwonk.com, google reader, IDEO, joi ito, Mark Grannovetter, network effects, Social network, stumbleupon, Twitter
This post has been a long time a brewin’. In aniticipation I created a little ‘Great TED Talks’ sidebar over there which will have a rotating (and growing) list of some of my favourites.
First, what does TED stand for? What’s it all about?
TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader.
The annual conference now brings together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).
(retrieved from the TED.com FAQ)
My friend Matty G first tuned me into these talks and I have been all over them ever since. We used them at BrainBoost Tutoring to engage students in the discussion of complex or philosophical ideas – because the presentations tend to be quite engaging, it was difficult for anyone to tune them out. They had a way of making learning fun…not that it isn’t normally, but this was like ninja-style learning, as if you really had no idea what was going on, but all you knew was that you really wanted to be part of the conversation. Your brain was always going, ‘Hey, wait a minute!’ or, ‘NO WAY!’, and you would generally have the urge to shout out something. We even occassionally had students asking to pause the video so they could say something (not a common occurence in most classrooms where videos=sleep).
In any case, because the ideals of TED (a non-profit organization) are both lofty and inclusive (i.e. ideas have the power to change the world; they are free; so please spread them!), they really encourage others to use the videos in pretty well any way they see fit (so long as you don’t profit from them directly) – there is a list of ways you can help the TED mission on the site. If you’re interested in something, I don’t know, maybe ‘urban design’, you just search for it there and at least a half a dozen videos pop up. Or maybe you need a 20 minute break, just take a stumble through their themed archives and you are sure to find something extremely interesting. Some pretty big names from just about every field you can think of have gone at some point to the annual TED conference and wowed the audience; notables include: Bill Clinton, E. O. Wilson, Dave Eggers, Jeff Bezos, David Kelley, Louise Leakey, Richard Branson, Richard Dawkins, Jill Tarter, Steven Pinker, Dan Dennett, Silvia Earle, Malcolm Gladwell, and my oh my, the list goes on.
For marketers, you pretty much have to check out Malcolm Gladwell’s talk on product design.
A ha! Never mind! I’ve learned to embed! Scratch that. I most definitely have not learned how to embed video. You will need to click through on the links provided. Damn you strikethrough!
And below here is one of my favourite talks that I forgot about until recently. It is weird and wacky, but completely representative of the kind of creative and revolutionary thinking that goes on in the minds of TED speakers. And best of all, it’s short if you only have a little time to relax and unwind.
Update: New TED Talk from Evan Williams on How Twitter’s spectacular growth is being driven by unexpected uses. http://tinyurl.com/ba4uu7
amazing presentations, amazing speakers, Bill clinton, Dan Dennett, Dave Eggers, evan williams, how to, Malcolm Gladwell, mind-blowing additions to our knowledge base, Richard Branson, Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker, teaching, TED, Twitter
A couple of blog posts/articles I’ve been reading over have articulated more or less what I have been thinking about twitter lately. I haven’t really used the service yet, but I’ve been ‘shadow following’ (for lack of a better term) several marketing type people and other friends in my area to try to better understand why it has the err…umm…following, that it has so far. Because to me, on first impression at least, the thing seems redundant to your average internet joe. In earlier entries I covered how some companies are using it to manage their online brand identities and to keep the conversation going with their customers – and of course, the same could be said of its purpose for your average internet denizen – after all, we are all supposed to have a personal brand that stands for who we are and what we do. And I get that. But I’m just struggling with why anyone would really want to know what I am doing all the time. I mean, I’m really not that interesting, and while it may be true that others are more interesting, I don’t want to know what they’re doing 24/7 either. I’ve already acclimated to Facebook and my friends with constant status updates (which is pretty similar to twitter) and I regularly ignore those – I mean, how much time does one have in this world? Yes, I get that it is fun to stay in contact with friends and to know what they are doing. But all the time? Really? Is that really what is going to make the world a better place? Constant conversation between everyone? Are we headed toward the hive mind after all?
I’m not done with twitter (I’ve barely even started using it). I’m waiting to see if I can get into it on a personal level and make the thing work for me in some sort of powerful way, as David Pogue witnessed toward the end of his article in the New York Times. See, I get that it could be that good. I get that it might be nice to have an army of followers who can help at your every beck and call. Maybe I’m just used to physically writing things down (you know, pen and paper) when I’m curious about something and I want to explore it later. Maybe I don’t need to blast out some request and have it answered immediately. Maybe I’m already set in my ways (that would be kind of sad considering I’m not even 30 yet). I like email, I like RSS and using google reader for my blog reading in the mornings over a cup of coffee, I like the google (anyone notice the launching of that service for the computer illiterate? Seems funny, or offensive, or both, to do it that way, but hey, I’m laughing). I can’t remember where now, I think maybe it was in Wired, but there was an article saying the blog is dead. Well I say fuck that. The blog is not dead. The blog is here, and writing is here, and that is going to stay. RSS definitely made following blogs a lot easier, and I absolutely love it, but I just can’t say that I will ever need someone to tweet to me that they have updated their blog so I can go and read it immediately – the world is full of plenty enough interruptions as it is, and very few things are so important that I would want my phone distracting me constantly. Oh man, all this complaining is making me feel so old.
For similar thoughts, better written (and funny), go here.
Ideas, ways to correct me and make me understand, go in the comments.
What we learned: How a few companies are successfully using the Groundswell Framework, and what exactly it is that they are doing.
Listening – companies must listen to what customers are saying to gain better understanding
- Starbucks: My Starbucks Idea (www.mystarbucksidea.com) – a place where registered users can provide ideas, feedback, and talk to each other about the drinks, the food, whatever; Starbucks also monitors twitter feeds and responds directly to customer complaints or questions.
- Sprint: monitors twitter feeds about the company.
- New York Times: The TimesPeople application (http://timespeople.nytimes.com/home/about/) allows users to share and recommend articles more easily than e-mail (which it also supports, though requires some fields have input).
- (Eventually listening) Comcast: Comcast began listening to and acting upon customer complaints at the customer blog Comcast Must Die (http://comcastmustdie.com/). Eventually won that user over by changing service levels and becoming a more customer friendly organization.
Talking – Through social interactive tools (blogs, forums, communities), begin spreading messages to customers
- Starbucks: gives feedback on ideas at its idea site (above), and responds to concerns via twitter.
Example: Anon. twitters: “wtf – i thought starbucks had free internets now… gotta love random open network connections.” 09:02 AM September 26, 2008. Starbucks replies: @anon a registered Starbucks card will get you 2 hours of free at&t wifi … at: http://www.starbucks.com/ca… 10:28 AM September 26, 2008.
- Sprint – responds to twitter concerns directly – see blog post from www.brandflakesforbreakfast.com attached at end of document.
- New York Times: Over 60 blogs with content updated at least daily – many with world class authors such as Steven Dubner. Also uses twitter to send out headlines to followers (subscribers.)
Energizing – Determine who the most energetic users are and leverage their enthusiasm for the brand; essentially making them brand evangelists
- Starbucks: uses a leaderboard at the idea site to recognize significant contributors of ideas; contributors and members can vote for the best ideas which are then sometimes product tested
- Lego: the LUGNET group, which meets online as well as in person, consists of 25 ambassadors for the product and these positions are highly sought after – the title is, in essence, a reward that further incentivizes positive word-of-mouth.
- Apple: uses a reputation function to identify high quality posters among the many thousands who frequent their support and help forums
Supporting – Help customers support each other; an example is Dell’s user generated support forums – people have a natural affinity to help
- BestBuy: BB took this in an inward-facing direction – they set up Blue Shirt Network – a site where employees can connect, share their concerns, and get support from one another
- Apple: has user forums where users help each other
Embracing – After companies have succeeded in the first four steps, engage customers in product development through active feedback principles
- Starbucks: At My Starbucks Idea customer ideas sometimes become reality, as with their new smoother, richer hot chocolate that was obviously in high demand; also reversed their removal of the breakfast sandwiches due to customer feedback – customers have, in turn, responded positively and feel more like part of a community.
- Dell: the Dell IdeaStorm site has promoted user ideas and embraced changes – a site admin provides updates and personally welcomes new users that become solid contributors – many user generated ideas become reality, thus providing more impetus for fans to contribute again and again.
Easy Lesson 1: Know why you are doing it and how it will enhance the user experience.
Companies and brands use a wide variety of social media and networking tools such as twitter, facebook, and blogs; not all companies should do this. A Seth Godin witticism elaborates: sundae toppings are great, so long as they go on top of ice cream. If you’re taking a product or service like detergent, adding all kinds of ‘treats’ like twitter and corporate blogs is like putting gummy bears on a meatball – at best they add nothing, at worst they clash. To most people, detergent is detergent and talking about stains online does not build brand nor enhance the experience of using Tide (Tide Facebook Fan page has 429 members – the affect on P&G’s last year sales of $76.4 billion is indeterminate.)
Easy Lesson 2: You need to have support and resources.
If you are going to turn detergent into a community, make sure you have support and resources. A quick and dirty perusal of the Tide forum boards shows a relative ghost town. For Example: a Tide Team Member responds 40 days later to a complaint about the lack of scent in a product and offers a coupon – not sure if this is exactly the way you build support for any community, large or small.
Easy Lesson 3: Make participation so simple that anyone can do it.
Web 2.0 is one of the few places where the pareto 80/20 rule does not hold – in its place is the 1/9/90 rule, where one percent of users contribute 99% of all user-generated-content (UGC), nine percent contribute the other 1%, and 90% lurk in the background surfing and reading and thinking about what the information means to them. If it takes more than one minute or requires too much personal data, you can forget about reasonable participation rates.
My name is Darren Negraeff - I'm the Marketing Director for Zafin Labs - we create pricing and billing innovations for banks and financial institutions. When I'm not at work you can find me throwing a disc for my dog Sally or staring in wonder at my tomato plants. Or poring over a book - I love to read. These days I read mostly non-fiction, but I have an extensive library of fiction as well.
I'm interested in theory of the mind and cognitive science, how ideas spread through society, behavioural economics, advertising, internet marketing, and the rise of microcredit. I will try to keep to these topics, though wandering is inevitable.
Find me at:
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