Social Media’s Big Problem – Marketers

I hate to say it, but Social Media (and Twitter in particular) has a big problem… and that big problem is marketers.

I know, I know, marketers made Social Media – and setting aside weather or not that is true, let’s focus on the facts.

  1. Nearly any relatively popular topic is quickly overrun with marketers trying to get their message into your stream.
  2. The line between spam and marketing is non-exisitent in Social Media.
  3. Any analytical analysis of a topic is becoming more and more difficult as the topic gets filled with marketing.
  4. Traditional marketing approaches work in Social Media… get your message/link in front of enough eyeballs and some percentage will click.

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Case in point. I own a Social Media solutions company – justSignal – and we have a Signal set up to track everything people say is “great” (via a variety of term searches and exclusions using our proprietary filtering mechanism) on Twitter. We’ve just released our SignalLinks Analytic in beta (you can learn more about SignalLinks here). So today I decided to look at SignalLinks for our everything great on Twitter Signal.

The results were disappointing to put it mildly. There is no authentic user voice in this data… only marketing and/or spam (you find the line there).

Here are the most mentioned links over the last 30 days:

Mentions

URL

Domain

33511

http://www.tweeterspeed.com/

http://www.tweeterspeed.com

12098

http://www.twtfast.info/

http://www.twtfast.info

6818

http://tinify.net/5

tinify.net

5641

http://twtexpress.info/

twtexpress.info

5394

http://www.twitpwr.com/abuse.php

http://www.twitpwr.com

5032

http://twittfollow.com

twittfollow.com

3572

http://www.tweeterleaders.info

http://www.tweeterleaders.info

2904

http://followquick.info/

followquick.info

2484

http://www.prankdial.com/fclicks/fclick.php?3

http://www.prankdial.com

2212

http://WWW.TWEETERSPEEDY.COM

WWW.TWEETERSPEEDY.COM

2085

http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=304863000&mt=8

phobos.apple.com

1632

http://www.twtmax.com

1136

http://followersquick.info

followersquick.info

582

http://pollpigeon.com/what-did-you-think-of-adam-lamberts-ama-performance/t/79281/

pollpigeon.com

349

http://pollpigeon.com/did-you-see-new-moonhow-did-you-like-it/t/79376/

pollpigeon.com

346

http://4url.cc/1MM

4url.cc

306

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=305659257&mt=8

itunes.apple.com

298

http://pollpigeon.com/do-you-like-emily-osment/t/75437/

pollpigeon.com

248

http://boxcar.io

boxcar.io

160

http://www.nutritionaladvantageia.com/signup/

http://www.nutritionaladvantageia.com

silence_noise_143829_tns.png Let me make one thing perfectly clear – I belive that Social Media provides the best opportunity for opt-in targeted marketing. But when the Signal is so clogged with marketing and/or spam that adds zero value the only effect will be user apathy.

From a development/partner point of view, some of Twitter’s actions to “curate” seem rather annoying – but from an end user’s point of view they are doing exactly what they need to do. After all, at some point Twitter will launch their business model, and the two best bets are:

a) Targeted opt-in Ads

b) Analytics

Both of those revenue paths are put in serious jeopardy if users become apathetic because their Signal if full of marketing noise.

Why Twitter Search Does Not Mean Twitter is a Search Engine

canstock1336888.jpgArrington is back. And he dropped a nice post today over at TechCrunch indicating that he believes it is time to start thinking of Twitter as a Search Engine. In general terms I agree… but as always the devil is in the details.

There is one major hole in Arrington’s theory, but that hole is HUGE. The fact is, Twitter Search isn’t a search engine. It is a simple keyword search which returns results in chronological order. That is very useful in some ways, but it negates every example Arrington cites in his post.

People searching for news. Brands searching for feedback. That’s valuable stuff.

Twitter knows it, too. They’re going to build their business model on it. Forget small time payments from users for pro accounts and other features, all they have to do is keep growing the base and gather more and more of those emotional grunts. In aggregate it’s extremely valuable. And as Google has shown, search is vastly monetizable – somewhere around 40% of a ll online advertising revenue goes to ads on search listings today.

In reality FriendFeed’s search is much better positioned to execute a “search engine” strategy. Why? Because they have measures of relevance, authority, and rank via comments and likes. We know these things matter when people search – how? Because Google won the search engine battle – and by no small margin – and did so on the simple idea that the results have to be ranked by relevance (i.e., PageRank). Excite, Yahoo and a bevy of other search services completely missed the boat by failing to realize that in search the relevance of the returned information to the user’s question is everything. Without that there is no revenue from ads – because if the ads are not relevant they are worthless.

Can Twitter build a relevance engine into Twitter Search? Maybe, but execution is everything. And thus far Twitter’s execution has been lacking in almost every regard. More importantly, since every Tweet is indexed by Google and (potentially) pulled into FriendFeed – two companies who’s ability to consistently execute far exceeds Twitter’s – they will face immediate and stiff competition for those search dollars.

As importantly, for companies (and “brands” – for example, musicians, movie stars, etc) search isn’t nearly as interesting as being able to take the raw data and analyze it. For what? Whatever it is they want to know. I can not predict what Peter Himmelman will want to discover today (or next week) about what his fans say on Twitter – so why would I offer him a canned report that only tells him one or two things?

So, while search will matter to Twitter in terms of revenue generation (I’ve officially boycotted the term monetization – but that is a subject for another post) – I’m not as sure as Arrington is that it is the key to selling services to brands.

And I’m not just shooting my mouth off – I’m betting I’m right by using justSignal to set the data free. justSignal will collect Tweets and make that data available to our customers. Not in a fancy report that tells you something I think is important, but in raw XML format – allowing you to analyze the data for what is important to your business. Again – the value is in the Signal – and you are in a better position to determine what Signal you are looking for today (and I know it will be a different Signal tomorrow).

justSignal Demo 09 Demo – Have your data and eat it too!

On February 25th I put up a justSignal Tracker for Demo 09. I had fun today watching the tracker (you can find it here) reel off all the tweets about Demo and the presentations as they happened.

With all due respect to Demo and Facebook the experience with the Facebook Connect widget was, by comparison, lacking.

But that isn’t what I want to tell you about. I’ve decided to make all of the data collected by our justSignal Tracker available for anyone to analyze, hack, present, mash-up and innovate against. To that end I’m putting up an XML file which you can download here containing about 3100 tweets collected through 5pm Pacific today (March 2nd 2009).

Here is the challenge – Parse the data, tell us who gets mentioned most, most good mentions, most bad mentions, most whatever. Make it enlightening. All I ask is that when you publish your site/data you give attribution to justSignal by saying we collected and provided the data for you.

This file is not complete, but will give you a chance to digest the format and begin your development efforts so that when the daily files are released early Tuesday and Wednesday you can grab them an go right to work.

Those files will be linked to in this post (at the end with “UPDATE” by them) – so check back to get the full data for today before 9am Pacific on March 3rd.

I did, just because I’m nosy, take a look at a thing or two in the data:

  • Top 5 Demo Tweeters
    1. nanpalmero – 197
    2. demochatter – 159
    3. larrymagid – 42
    4. ejosowitz – 42
    5. and the irrepressible Rafe – 36
  • Total RE-Tweets: 176
  • Most Replied To:
    1. Rafe – 11
    2. sarahintampa – 10
    3. nanpalmero – 8
    4. podboy – 7
    5. demochatter – 6

I did take a peek at mentions for specific presenters/companies… but I’ll leave that to the developers out there…

After the jump I’ll provide some info on the data file format. Show us what you can do!!!

UPDATE: Here is the first full file. This is every tweet for Demo 09 on March 2nd, 2009.UPDATE: Here is the second full file. This is every tweet for Demo 09 on March 3rd, 2009

Continue reading “justSignal Demo 09 Demo – Have your data and eat it too!”

Follow Friday – a justSignal Experiment

UPDATE 5:11PM AZ Time – I added a list of frequent Follow Friday tweeters. You can find it after the jump/at the bottom of the post.

Yesterday a little birdie told me that Jeremiah Owyang of Forrester Research (@jowyang on Twitter) was looking for a way to figure out who gets recommended the most on Twitter for Follow Friday.

This seemed like a perfect way to use justSignal – we could set up a “collector” that would – using our ability to filter out specific contexts (subjects, topics, events) from everything else being said on Twitter – to grab all the Tweets about Follow Friday, cache them and do some data analysis later.

So yesterday at 9:57:47 AM Pacific time we began collecting the Tweets.

This morning I created a quick script to parse each tweet for Twitter user names (with the @ in front).

Here is what I found:

There were 32,342 recommendations (individual recommendations for a specific user).

There were 16,083 users recommended.

The most recommended user was @mayhemstudios with 127 recommendations.

Ironically the second most recommended user was @ – not sure what that means.

There were 10,684 users recommended one (and only one) time.

Obviously I could spend all day breaking down this data, but I think you’ve got the idea.

For your viewing pleasure I’ve included a table after the jump that contains every user who was recommended 10 or more times.

If anyone would like to work on a site that displays the weekly data (query by user, recommendation trends by user, etc) drop a comment below and I’ll get back to you.

By the way – the little birdie was @lahne – If you are looking for someone to follow that is who I recommend.

You can check out justSignal Trackers in action here:

Peter Himmelman’s Furious World

UStream Studios as SXSW

US Health Crisis

Demo 09

Suns Tweets

Continue reading “Follow Friday – a justSignal Experiment”

justSignal Widgets now Offer iPhone Optimized Page

js-logov2b-nff.png Mobility matters. I know that there are times when we are not at our computers and still want to be able to connect with others about topics that matter to us.

In order to make the justSignal service even more valuable for those who want to provide their subscribers, fans or readers a way to swarm around specific topics, subjects or events we’ve added an iPhone/iPod Touch web application to the justSignal widget.

For those of you who have not seen the justSignal widget in action you can see them at:

Peter Himmelman’s Furious World – iPhone Page: http://justsignal.com/furiousworld

US Health Crisis – iPhone Page: http://justsignal.com/ushealthcrisis

About Page on My Blog – iPhone Page: http://justsignal.com/brianroyblog

These widgets will all receive a major upgrade next week which will allow user’s to post a new Tweet and reply to Tweets that appear in the widget. This upgrade will apply to all existing widgets and iPhone/iPod Touch pages.

If you are interested in putting one of these widgets on your site you can contact me directly (either check out the about page or leave a comment on this post).

More big news will be out next week. Make sure to check back to see all the latest.

Here is a screen shot taken on an iPhone:

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Being in the Conversation – Social Media and your Brand

The current trends in Social Media Brand Monitoring focus around your PR/Marketing agency. They provide tools to create nice reports telling you what the public perception of your brand is – and perhaps some alerts when something “bad” happens.

Led by Radian6 – this trend is very powerful and shouldn’t be ignored. But the real questions facing you (COO, CEO, VP of Product) are:

  1. Is there any real advantage to cleaning up after the perception is already created?
  2. If so – how the heck to we operationalize that?

The first question goes to the advantage of quickly (in near real time) engaging, participating and correcting the issues that cause a negative brand perception. As I’ve said before – the urgency is preventing the perception (and attendant backlash) from becoming the story. The real danger is having the original negative perception create a story – the story about how the Social Media universe erupted in outrage. That story will repeat and re-enforce the initial negative perception and create another, more subtle and destructive one – that you are not listening, empathetic and responsive.

more after the jump…

Continue reading “Being in the Conversation – Social Media and your Brand”

Defining your Brand – One Conversation at a Time

I’ve spent a large part of my professional life dealing with the realities of having conversations with customers. In every type and size of company imaginable. And there is one single reality that holds true:

Your brand is what your customers say it is… regardless of your best Marketing and PR efforts.

With the rise of Social Media this reality is even more true. Not because you ever really controlled you brand – but because word of mouth just got global, social and the biggest megaphone you could have ever imagined.

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It used to be a single pissed off customer might only impact 10 or 20 people over the course of 3 months. Now a single dissatisfied customer with a Twitter account or Blog can reach hundreds of people in a single day. And, as a rule, if you are doing (or not doing something) that makes customers mad, you do it to more than one per day.

So feel free to create all the marketing material and press releases you want lauding your superior product or service and you commitment to great customer service. In the old world that might have worked. But today it simply can not compete with the conversations your customers and prospects are having about you. You are what they say you are.

If you want to really impact your brand – and how it is perceived by your customers and prospects, get in the conversation.

Your PR and marketing staff will tell you to invest in Social Media Monitoring tools like Radian6 and Techrigy to gather Social Media data to analyze for your next marketing campaign. And I concede – monitoring what is said about you is a positive first step. The challenge with this strategy is that you are still trying to control the conversation.

What you need to do, what you should be doing is participating in the conversation.

Provide Solutions, Inform, Listen and Respond

The most important branding you do (and can do) is in the conversations you have with your customers and prospects.

Think I’m nuts? Great – Let’s look at two examples:

Motrin’s Blunder:

Motrin released an ill conceived ad. And it isn’t that they didn’t realize their mistake – it was that they weren’t engaged in the conversation. Because of that there were 4 days to allow the controversy to reach significant proportions.

Links:

http://mashable.com/2008/11/16/motrin-moms/

http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/motrin_bows_to_social_media_pr.php

Exploring Social Media: The Motrin Moment Impact of Social Media

http://blogs.reuters.com/mediafile/2008/11/18/motrin-moms-and-the-perils-of-social-media-marketing/

Ford’s ScottMonty:

ScottMonty from Ford is actively engaged in Social Media. And because of that he is able to react in real (or near real-time) to negative and positive brand messages. This allows Ford the opportunity to actively engage in the conversation and refute false perceptions and reinforce positive messages.

Links:

http://friendfeed.com/e/a8d15997-12ec-eeee-921b-61c96ed66d27/Why-I-love-the-US-auto-industry/

http://friendfeed.com/e/e34bb7df-5a8c-4d1c-84cb-d16e0fa09099/I-am-watching-CNN-and-seeing-bad-employment/

http://friendfeed.com/e/b4753ec3-a123-6ef4-6671-cdd7ef10e4b5/Glohamar-Here-are-a-few-of-Ford-s-other-Twitter/

http://friendfeed.com/e/45cec2a1-17c8-3e26-3afc-4a9d3897c15a/ScottMonty-scottweisbrod-LisaHoffman-1-2-Bill/

The takeaway:

Analyzing the data and reacting is about how fast you can “clean up the mess”. It pre-supposes you can megaphone your brand message and shout down those who have a different point of view.

By participating in conversations about your brand you have the ability to prevent situations where the perception becomes the story. You have the ability to turn negative experiences into positive brand affinity moments that increase your customer loyalty and enhance your brand in the eyes of those watching. And in this new Social Media world we are all watching.

JustSignal – Turn down the noise and just get the signal.

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On Friday, November 21st cosinity released JustSignal – a combined FriendFeed and Twitter application that allows you to turn down the noise and focus in on just those topics or users you find most interesting.

As much as I love Twitter and FriendFeed, they can become a giant distraction. Too much noise, not enough signal. JustSignal is the solution. It allows you to get your entire home feed from FriendFeed and near real-time “Track” from Twitter – all in one user interface. JustSignal’s filtering solution allows you to only receive the information you care most about – in real-time.

justsignal.tiff

While that alone is a powerful solution for the individual user… JustSignal delivers so much more.

JustSignal Brand Monitor tracks your brand across Twitter and FriendFeed – allowing you to monitor what is said about your brand – and react in real time. Our robust solution queues Tweets, FriendFeed Posts, Comments and Likes that refer to your brand. Anyone in your company can log in and respond to those Social Media brand messages as they happen.

JustSignal Brand Monitor also archives everything said about your company – allowing you to analyze the data and determine what the perception is and how it is trending.

This combination of real-time monitoring and response, and historical data analysis is transformative for your company. Stop sending out surveys and start listening to your customers, prospects and influencers.

You can contact me directly for more information.

Micro-Messaging – Data Interchange Standards and Track

200811151422.jpg
I’ve been hard at work over the past week. Having your own company which you are attempting to bootstrap in this economy and sponsoring an academic project with ASU Polytechnic and – in my spare time – working on the challenges of real-time information discovery and participation is exhausting. Never-mind the two children under 6.

I’ve listened to what everyone has had to say regarding the “fire-hose” – or as I tend to refer to it – the question of trackable scope. Karoli took the time to write a very persuasive and passionate post – which you can read here. While we still may not agree weather or not the “fire-hose” is required to make track – I think we understand each other’s point of view. We agree on what is important – if not in which order and why. That is enough for me.

Apparently I was mentioned on the Gillmor Gang on 11/11/2008 – I’ve included the podcast below:

PodCast courtesy of The Gillmor Gang

icon for podpress Standard Podcast [60:12m] Download (746)

The discussion turns to track for the last half or so of the hour. After sitting with my latte this morning and listening (to some parts more than once) I believe I have a clearer understanding of Steve Gillmor’s perspective on the issue.

I completely agree with Steve that establishing a base mechanism for data interchange between real-time/near real-time social media services is going to be critical to the ultimate value delivered. As I’ve discussed on identi.ca we need a real-time data “bus” which moves data in real time from publishers to subscribers. Much the same way an electrical bus moves electricity from generators to consumers. At some point that bus – when widely adopted – will become a standard.

I’ll be posting more about the bus early next week.

I believe – and I am quite certain history bears this out – that standards develop because they benefit the services that implement them. In most cases this is because the interchange of data in some structured way is required to unlock the full value of a particular service or solution. We’ve seen this evolution in the past – email is an excellent example. Prior to SMTP every major producer of email systems had a “standard” for routing email between users. SMTP became dominant because it became more valuable to have email that could be exchanged with anyone than to have email without that capability. As a matter of fact it became a deal breaker if you couldn’t send email to anyone.

A counter example can be found in the world of Instant Messaging. After nearly 10 years there is no dominant standard. Each network implements it’s own standard and perhaps bridges messages to other standards. AIM uses OSCAR, GTalk uses XMPP, MSN uses SIP/SIMPLE. You want them all – you need a clever developer who creates a client that can talk to all 3.

There are many reasons that these standards either emerge or fail to emerge. But I’m fairly certain that it has rarely been the case that the standard was implemented because a small, vocal community of users insisted on it. I am very certain that the majority of standards become dominant is because there is a business imperative which makes using a standard more valuable than not.

Call me cynical – but that is how the world works. The question isn’t should there be a widely implemented standard for real-time micro-messaging, the question is what is the win-win? What is the business imperative that will drive widespread adoption? Specifically – how does it benefit Twitter to publish everything to the real-time messaging bus?

My contention is – as I’ve said before:

When compelling and broadly adopted services exist, which demand real-time un-scoped access to multiple underlying services, the individual services will have no choice but to “open their kimono” or face massive user defection.

The key part of that statement is “broadly adopted services exist“. My opinion is that we have to focus on the value proposition. What are the problems being solved and why are the valuable to users?

There are many – and some can be solved today (and as Karoli knows – some that can’t) – without the fire-hose. If I did not believe that to be true I wouldn’t be attempting to solve them. Will they be imperfect? Yes – but the goal isn’t perfection on day one – it is making a situation incrementally better by solving the important problems facing the user.

FriendFeed offers an interesting case – since they base their business model on being an aggregator. And, at least in theory, aggregation is one way to establish a real-time messaging bus and standard. It, however, requires not a network of peers but a single massive aggregator serving as the gateway/hub for access to information.

What I know – with complete certainty – is that the marketplace has ways of working these types of issues out. There will be a winner (or winners). They may or may not be the best technical solution. The real-time micro-messaging bus will be created to support the solutions that gain traction in the market. The solutions will not constrain themselves to 140 characters or any other standard which impedes the ability to solve important problems.

In short – until we hash out the types of services and how they deliver value AND the business imperative which drives a broadly implemented standard… there will be no standard (beyond paper standards).

So I’m going back to work creating value and solving important problems using the power of real-time (or near real-time) information discovery and participation… you in?