Think Before you Speak!

No, this isn’t another post about Google + although the rapid rise and excitement of Google’s latest and greatest social network is the impetus for this post (that was originally to be titled, “Shut the F*ck Already with the MySpace Comparisons). However, with all of the recent tweets, status updates and blog posts predicting the demise of either Facebook, Twitter or both a la MySpace, I couldn’t not share my thoughts in a space that allowed for more than 140 characters. What I can tell you is that while I have seen too many big companies fail over my lifetime to not know that it can always happen again, if Facebook and Twitter fail, it won’t be for the reasons that MySpace did.

For starters, let’s clarify that MySpace did NOT fail because a newer, shinier object came along in the form of Facebook OR Twitter. MySpace failed because of several fundamental flaws in the way it operated, particularly once it was purchased by Rupert Murdoch (btw, Businessweek wrote a great article that goes into all the details of the rise and fall of MySpace).

In particular:

  • Once Murdoch purchased MySpace, there was significant pressure to deliver revenue (not necessarily a bad thing). Unfortunately, this forced MySpace to ramp up the advertising opportunities on the site which led to a lot of spammy ads for unsavory products. As a corollary to this, Twitter and Facebook are both venture backed and private. While both are feeling pressure to deliver more revenue, innovation has taken precedence over money.
  • MySpace made the fatal mistake (I’ll call this the AngelFire Boner) by allowing users to customize the background, fonts, layouts of their pages. While creativity is good, allowing for 8 billion different user interfaces (UI) across 350 million pages is not. UI 101 calls for putting things in the places where users expect to find them. Some people are good at this. Most people are not.
  • Demographics – while most companies love to attract the 18-35 set (male-skewed), there is a downside to this strategy. This demographic tends to be technology-savvy and fickle. The combination of the two allows them to pick up their “ball” and take it to a different ballpark whenever they like. You’ll notice that Twitter’s demographic came out of the gate closer to 32 than 22 and Facebook’s fastest growing (and most dedicated) segment right now are women over 40.
  • Lack of developer commitment. While Twitter and Facebook have both fostered rich ecosystems of developers, MySpace never went down this path.
  • After a few months of MySpace being the apple of Murdoch’s eye, a new “jewel” in the crown emerged when Murdoch opted to court and ultimately purchase the prestigious Wall Street Journal.
Does this mean that the rise of Googe + (which is still has only 5 million more users than photo sharing site, Instagram, and the same number of users as location-based service, foursquare) won’t kill either Twitter or Facebook? No. But if it does, it will be for different reasons than those that dethroned MySpace. To that end, I responded to a tweet by Edelman EVP and uber-blogger, Steve Rubel, regarding a post that tech-blogger, Robert Scoble, wrote the other day about how Twitter had become boring and what it could do to fix that problem. My message to Steve was that “Twitter has become like electricity. Boring but critical.” Facebook will be around for a while longer because of the “barriers to exit” it’s created with the over 40 set. What this means is that Facebook owns most people’s social graph and it has taught most parents and grand parents how to post, comment and share. For this reason, it will take a pretty significant change to get these people to leave (privacy be damned!)
What do you think?

Paid Media… Meet Social Media: The New Twitter Model

For three years, many of us skeptics have wondered aloud about the viability of Twitter. Will they sell sponsorships? Can they corporate tools help merit their billion dollar plus valuation? Would power users be wiling to pay for their services? Apparently, the answer is no (or at least not at the core). Instead, Twitter is taking a page out of the paid media book of tricks — but with a social twist.

Witness, the promoted trend. Some of you who still make your way over to Twitter.com may have noticed that at the top of the trending topics list, their is now a little yellow “promoted” box. According to a trusted source, this slot is purchased for 24 hours and as of right now, is selling for somewhere in the $100,000/slot range. While little data has emerged about the success of these promoted trends (or the accompanying promoted tweets), up to 80% of the advertisers who have tested promoted trends and tweets are repeat buyers.

Twitter also has a third product called recommended accounts which they plan to dial up over the coming months (beta tests with select brands ran in September). These accounts can include people, companies and services. What I like about this last model is that it fulfills on the promise of marrying social media (an annuity) with paid media (ongoing costs). It will also put pressure on companies to get strategic about their bio, picture and quality of their tweet streams.





Coming Soon

While I’m still not 100% sold on the value of the sponsored tweet (apparently they are sold on a cost-per-click basis), I do like the idea of the trends and follower recommendations, especially as things like geo, demographic and day-part targeting come into effect (I’m assuming that Twitter has plans for those in the works). All of a sudden, brands will have an opportunity an amazing opportunity to present relevant content via links based on location, profile, current trends and past behavior. And most important of all, this gets done in a place that’s become a regular hang out spot for millions of regulars.

Where things could get really interesting is when tools like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite are fitted for these same types of paid media opportunities. I’m just guessing here but I have a hunch that Tweetdeck’s launch of their latest version that includes real time updates is signaling a tighter integration between Tweetdeck and Twitter (otherwise, I can’t imagine that Twitter would allow Tweetdeck full access to its API). It’s this kind of integration that will prevent Twitter from being disintermediated from itself by the ecosystem of tools and clients that have cropped up over the last three years.

Which brands will be most successful using Twitter’s new paid offerings? I guarantee that any kind of travel and entertainment business will benefit from this. Retailers — particularly around the holidays — should also benefit from the opportunity. B2B will definitely have a tougher time cracking this nut but then again, many B2B companies are more niche advertisers anyway.

What do you think? Will Twitter truly realize it’s billion dollar plus potential this way? I have a feeling that they may just be onto something.

How Important is Your Twitter Bio?

It’s funny. I’ve been on Twitter for almost exactly three years to the day. During that time, my Twitter bio has evolved ever so slightly. I’ve always included my title and company name. In addition, I’ve made it clear that I’m married (happily) and have three beautiful children. Recently, I included the fact that I am the co-host of the Quick’n’Dirty podcast show. That’s it. I think at certain points in time I included the fact that I’m a huge Redsox and Patriots fan. But while I waiver on whether or not to add that back, I like my bio clean and simple.

Why do I do this? For a few reasons. Over the course of my three years on Twitter, I’ve had a chance to go through at least 14,730 people’s Twitter bios. Yes, I look at every single one before I follow back. I also check and see if they have a picture and will try and get a sense of what they tweet about. I like real people… not robots. In that process, I’ve found that some people say a whole lot of nothing in their bios. And that’s okay. It just likely won’t get me to follow back.

To that end, is it okay to mention the fact that you like a particular sport, type of food, wine, sports team or music? Of course. Personal is good. In my case, my family is my “personal” part. And while I’d like to connect with other people that like the Redsox, the Patriots, BBQ, Tool or the Black Keys, I already know who a lot of these folks are. Why? Because they respond to me when I talk about them on Twitter. And if we find mutual value in each other’s tweets, we start to follow each other.

So while I’m up on my soapbox, here are a few other tips I’d recommend if you’re interested in getting more out of Twitter.

Tip One
Here are twelve thirteen fourteen* people/organizations that I’d recommend following (high signal to noise ratio):

  • Ann Handley – Author and chief content officer at MarketingProfs.
  • David Armano – SVP at Edelman Digital [*shame on me for leaving him off the first go around]
  • Brian Solis – Two time author and principal of FutureWorks
  • Marshal Kirkpatrick – Co-Editor of ReadWriteWeb.com
  • Robert Scoble Rackspace employee who provides tech news, videos and opinions
  • eMarketer – Digital intelligence for marketers and advertisers on social media, mobile, media, advertising, retail, consumer products, and more
  • Brian Morrissey – Digital Editor at Adweek
  • Simon Mainwaring – Ex-Nike/Wieden creative, former Worldwide Creative Director Motorola/Ogilvy, branding/advertising writer, author/speaker/blogger
  • Augie Ray – Sr. Analyst of Social Computing/Marketing @ Forrester, tracking Communities, Twitter, Influence, Facebook and WOM
  • Joseph Jaffe – Three time author and chief interruptor at Powered.
  • ANA Marketers – Official account for the ANA. Provides info on events, insights, advocacy, training workshops, and news.
  • Jeremiah Owyang – Partner, Altimeter Group
  • Brett Petersel – Business Development, Community and Events at Mashable
  • Ad Age – AdAge the magazine’s Twitter presence. A great source of news, intelligence and conversation for marketing and media communities.
Tip Two
Don’t be afraid to mix fun with business. I try and add value to everyone that has decided to follow me. Sometimes this is through sharing useful news/links.  Sometimes through snark. Sometimes by expressing my feelings — happy, sad, angry or Zen. While I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, I think the people that have stuck with me over the years would agree that I’m more valuable than not. Those that disagree vote with their feet.
Tip Three
Don’t be discouraged if someone doesn’t follow you back. Some people don’t like to follow anyone but people they know well. Some will follow after you’ve engaged them in dialogue a few times. But the way I go into it is that if I follow someone, I don’t expect that they will follow me back. I follow them because I find what they say interesting enough not to care. With that said, I know part of the reason I’ve been lucky enough to have nearly 15,000 people follow me is because I mostly reciprocate when someone follows me.
Yes, there are hundreds of other good Twitter tips. But hopefully these will help. If you’ve got one you’d like to add, that’s why God invented comments.

Quick-n-dirty Podcast Recap 33: Reunited Edition!

It’s been a few weeks since my podcast partner in crime, Jennifer Leggio, and I have been able to do a Quick-n-Dirty podcast together. For two weeks in a row, travel prevented me from joining her on our weekly show. Fortunately, we had a couple of more than capable substitutes in Brian Solis (author and principal of FutureWorks) and Greg Matthews, director of innovation at Humana. Write ups from the shows with Brian and Greg can be found here and here on Jennifer’s ZDNet blog.

This week, Jennifer and I were back in the saddle again with me broadcasting live from Jackson Hole, WY (yes, I took one for the team). We had an action packed show starting with our featured social network of the week, Hollrr. Neither Jennifer or I had had much of chance to play with Hollrr but saw some decent potential in this site that Mashable likens to “Foursquare for product discovery” (full review here). Both Jennifer and I appreciated Hollrr’s off-the-shelf integration with other social networks like Twitter and Facebook and I personally look forward to getting product recommendations from friends and connections. Oh yeah, they have a pretty cool logo too.

Next up was our featured guest (and former “Twitterer of the week,”) Simon Mainwaring. If you don’t know Simon, you should. Officially, he is a branding consultant, advertising creative director, blogger, author and speaker. A former Nike creative at Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, and worldwide creative director for Motorola at Ogilvy, he now consults for brands and creative companies that are re-inventing their industries. During this week’s show, Simon shared some fascinating updates from a recent trip he took to the Middle East as a guest of the Brookings Institute. The focus was on social media and foreign policy, two disciplines that traditionally don’t share the same space. I won’t pretend to do Simon’s interview justice so just this one time, I’m MANDATING that you listen to at least Simon’s portion of the show (starts about 7 mins in and runs for aproximately 25 minutes).

Speaking of “Twitterers of the week,” this week’s choice was principal of The Community Roundtable (and close friend), Jim Storer. As I mentioned during the show, nobody has done a better job at taking community management skills to Twitter than Jim. Regularly mixing helpful tips, humor, love of bacon and Red Sox commentary into his stream, Jim is a “must add” to anyone’s Twitter follow list irrespective of what industry they are in.

Last but not least, our point/counterpoint focused on one of Jennifer’s recent blog posts, Twitter: Becoming Nothing Special. Jennifer’s post theorizes that the recent announcement of Yahoo’s partnership with Twitter pushes them from “new shiny object” into the merely “ordinary” category. While Jennifer didn’t see this as all bad, she wondered aloud if this might hurt Twitter’s future potential. Taking the opposing side of this issue, I argued that this is exactly what Twitter (and social media) need. Making Twitter and other social networks like “electricity” — something we don’t ever even think about in spite of the critical role it plays in our daily lives — is a good thing. To me, this means that it’s so ingrained in our daily lives, personal and professional, that we can’t live without it.

Looking forward to next week’s show, Jennifer and I will switch places and I will be working with friend and founder of Oneforty, Laura Fitton, as my guest host. Jennifer will be attending the RSA Conference and thus will be out of pocket for this week’s Quick-n-Dirty. I’m sure she’ll want to listen to the show (as will you). Fortunately for her, our shows are archived here and on iTunes (search on “quickndirty”).