Archive for the ‘MicroMedia’ Category

Coping With Twitter’s Unfollow Bug


I originally posted this on Techcrunch, and cross-posted here on the Web Strategy blog.

If you’re like me, you may have noticed that Twitter may be arbitrarily, randomly, and haphazardly, unfollowing people you fully intended to follow. Similarly, if you’ve ever noticed your friends and contacts unfollowed you, it may have caused a sense of confusion, dread, or self-insecurity. Before one spirals into a series of apologies or deep-depression, it’s likely not your fault, (whew!).

What’s causing this? I’m not sure, so I asked my proper contacts at Twitter who responded “This is a bug, and our team is working to fix it.” They also sent me a link to their support FAQ, which indicates the known issue. I’ll leave it to the team at Twitter to get this resolved, but in the meantime, let’s discuss how we can cope with this industry phenomenon.

Imagine this bug in the physical world: Your dear Aunt Margaret wasn’t invited to your wedding due to mail parcels gone missing, or your executive wasn’t invited to your big presentation meeting because your address book deleted him, or you couldn’t call your best friend to let them know about your funding announcement because his contact info went missing.

The act of following someone in Twitter is an important social indicator for at least three reasons: 1) A follow suggests the individuals content is worthy of listening to and you want to hear their thoughts –even the most mundane ones 2) It’s an important indicator that you’re willing to engage in deeper conversations by receiving direct messages and 3) At a broader social perspective, this is a gesture this person is in your broader social clan, your kin, your affinity.

Importantly, in my line of work (and probably in yours too), direct messages have become a mainstay of communications with clients; in fact, some overloaded executives ask me to DM them, rather than email them. In more than one case has a qualified business request come by direct messages requesting my research and advisory services. Unlike the overloaded email channel, direct messages are an important opt-in business communication channel of higher quality signal.

Despite the business communication opportunity losses, there are broader social impacts that may relationships around you. Just a few days ago, one of my dear colleagues Susan (@Setlinger) pointed out that she wanted to send me some information, but noticed I had unfollowed her and half-jokingly wondered if she’d offended me. This wasn’t any passive-aggressive maneuver by me, I had full intentions to follow her, and quickly apologized and refollowed her.

Yet, I wonder how many business, personal, and casual relationships are strained by the bug haphazardly unfollowing. It causes us to give pause and question the stability of the Twitter infrastructure, usage of my personal data and social network, and what important messages I may have missed from my trusted Twitter network.

So what can you do? If you find that you’ve arbitrarily unfollowed someone in Twitter (or maybe you need an excuse to escape the ex), and you’re in a potential embarrassing situation, I recommend bookmarking this blog post, and sending it your apparent victim, explaining the situation was out of your hands. Hopefully no relationships were damaged, and we can continue happily twitter-ing with relationships salvaged.

I’d love to hear from you, have you been a victim of the bug? How are you coping?

Related Links: My findings spread to Telgraph, Huffington Post, Mashable, Verge, cnet and many others.

Witnessing Half a Decade on Twitter


This Monday, I’ll have spent five years on the microblogging service Twitter. Exactly how much of a commitment is that? Let’s do some crude math: starting with the baseline of 30,000 published tweets, (about 13 a day), I estimate this to be equivalent to writing about 4-8 books. In aggregate, that seems like a lot, but when one publishes on this micromedia network it’s hard to even fathom how it could add up.

To share how I got into this journey, let’s go way back to when I worked at PodTech, a fledgling social media network that pooted out. I did however work with some of the best in the industry, and I recall my colleague Robert Scoble coming by my cube proclaiming “You need to get on Twitter right away Jeremiah”, his eyes ablaze in geek-citement. To me, this was nothing new, as with every week, Scoble would come into the office telling me about the next greatest thing from his interviewing adventures. Yet this one had legs. It felt right. The conversation was small, there were just a few folks on from Silicon Valley, NY, a bunch of edgelings, in fact, I recall the top 100 list looking similar to the top 100 list of Google+ a few months ago, a cadre of mostly well read tech bloggers.

Over time, we saw it grow, and mainstream media celebs moved in, media companies, and brands. Spam started to happen, and we saw a strain on their service as fail whales emerged at great frequency –causing a migration to the ‘backup’ network on Plurk. Over time twitter continued to grow, we saw applications emerge, marketers jump on, and even political figures join into the fray. Things started to grow into a frenzy as there was a race to get to a million twitter followers between aplusk and news networks –a testament to the turning tide of people gaining power over larger corporations –and the the impact this tool had to regime change in distant countries that really don’t feel so far away now. While I could go on and on about what I saw, I’ll leave that to expert story tellers like Shel Israel, he captured the history so well in his book Twitterville, I’ll let you revisit his tome.

Now, on to the future. Where is Twitter going? As my colleague Charlene says, “Social media will be like air”. It will continue to be part of many of our digital communications. I expect automated devices to tweet on their own (from Puppy Tweets, Fridges, and Plants) it’ll spread to cars, appliances and even our heart monitors. Twitter themselves, has gone through a series of internal leadership changes, and has recently launched a new layout, and I expect them to roll-out more features similar to Facebook’s brand pages. In the end, Tweets will become a data layer, just a way to simply pass information, much how we rely on RSS, and then fade into the background as a cultural utility.

It’s been a fun five years on this network, and I look forward to the next 5, as social disappears into the background –and people surface to the front. Thanks Twitter, and all those that are using it.

Infographics are Useful –But They Must Evolve


Infographics. I love them.

Nothing tells a story better than using colorful, easy-to-read illustrations that couple important data points that justify the meaning. In fact, over a year ago, I said that “Infographics are the new white papers. Our media consumption diet has shifted from steaks to shish kabob“.

Infographics are becoming the norm –the medium is at risk to get saturated
Yet lately, I’ve started to see this once early adopter medium get saturated. We’re starting to see infographics for every topic, and I’m getting infographics sent to me as part of press releases, or you can create infographics out of your resume on demand. Heck, there’s even an infographic for infographics on HuffPo and a different one on my friend Scott’s site Laughing Squid. In fact, there are over 570,000 counts of infographic images on Google, and even one Flickr pool has over 5000 pictures.

How else could they evolve?
Well let’s think. As more data emerges, certainly we must continue to make data presentable and consumable, we a mixture of shish kabob (short form content) –and steaks (long form). Well, they could be interactive, so as you click on them, additional information appears and you can dig in to the nested data, see how Newsweek is doing this for data on World’s best countries, or how Forbes is tracking migrations across the United States or how National Geographic layers on infographics on how we’re quickly approaching 7 billion inhabitants on Earth.

I like what Joe Chernov at Eloqua did, I think he’s doing some of the most interesting stuff in this space when it comes to marketing in new mediums, he created a Probook that has elements of stories, data, graphics, in a deeper format. As one of our clients (disclosure), I worked on this project with Joe and Jess3, who popularized this medium, so much so, that many other firms are emulating Jess3. I look forward to seeing how they will continue to push the medium forward.

If you see some interesting evolutions of infographics (3D, interactive, digital books, video) please leave a comment and shout out these new projects, let’s give them some visibility.

Infographics are Useful –But They Must Evolve.

First Take Analysis: What Twitter’s “Promoted Tweets” Means To The Ecosystem


The Altimeter Group was pre-briefed by Twitter COO Dick Costolo last week about this upcoming launch, we’ve had some time to think over what it means to the industry.  Help your boss fight through the clutter, send them this post.

Summary: Twitter has launched Promoted Tweets, combining paid and organic media. Brands can now advertise promoted tweets on search pages, however the community has power over which tweets will appear measured by Twitter’s new metric called “resonance” which factors in behaviors like the retweet, at, hash, avatar clicks. Brands can now purchase CPM based ads to promote these popular tweets at the top of a Twitter search term –even in categories they aren’t well known in, influencing awareness.  Marketers beware: unlike traditional advertising or social marketing this is both a combination of earned media and paid media.  For Twitter this experimental move makes sense as it taps into deep pockets of online advertisers without jeapordizing sanctity of the community as users will self select which tweets will resonate and thereby become promoted ads.

How it will work, a likely use case scenario:

  1. Twitter users will continue to interact with each other, and popular tweets will receive a high ‘resonance’ score from Twitter.  Some of these Tweets will be created by brands, and some by the users themselves.
  2. Tweets with heavy resonance can be purchased by advertisers in a CPM basis to appear as the first ‘sponsored’ Tweet on a search term. (Update: Just saw Dick’s recent video suggesting that promoted tweets will appear in other locations beyond search)  The sponsored tweets will be clearly labeled and have a different background color.
  3. These promoted tweets will only stay if users continue to resonate with them, those that don’t will disappear and a different tweet with resonation will appear.

Matrix: What Twitter’s Promoted Tweets Business Model Means to the Ecosystem
This has several implications to the ecosystem as a whole, we’ve broken down the impacts to the various players in this matrix:

Player Direct Impacts What They Will Do What No One Tells You
Twitter Finally gets a business model beyond search deal partnerships with potential to scale.  Taps into deep pockets of online advertisers. Experiment. Expect black and gray hat marketers to try to game this system, in order to obtain resonance. Twitter will constantly tune algorhythm like Google does. Expect this to cascade to their partners and grow into the ecosystem as Twitter aggregates resonation on other 3rd party sites
Twitter Users Have power over which promoted ads will stay visible Initially be shocked by changes, then learn they can help self select tweets that will be promoted.. In the real time resonace world users have a lot more power Power tweeters like celebs and digerati will be targeted by marketers to engage and resonate tweets. Twitter users that retweet tweets may be surprised to see their promoted tweets in search engine results ads.
Social Marketers The conversation is now being monetized, with changes to the outcomes of whats expected of the online conversation and engagement. Educate traditional marketers. These folks will try to increase resonance of tweets by interacting with community. Will build an inventory of top promotable tweets Don’t go overboard, make sure you think of this in the larger context of integrated marketing. Avoid shiny tool syndrome.  Must pay close attention to what terms are resonating with community to build inventory
Direct Marketers and Advertisers Finally traditional advertisers and direct marketers have skin in the social game in a way they know. Flail. Many will try to buy their way in and obtain resonation without asking why a tweet resonates.  Will fight over top searched terms in Twitter, expect a lot of contests to promote tweet engagement. Expect tension between this marketer and the social marketer if education is not completed.
Developers and Agencies A clear goal (resonation) has been put forth, with opportunity to get a cut of the incoming advertising dollars. Developers are waiting with baited breathe for Chirp developers conference this week to see how this will be tied in.  Twitter has indicated that promoted tweets will spread to clients, expect revenue sharing to be offered Don’t buy the first ‘resonation solution’ that comes around, expect half a dozen vendors and agencies to approach brands in the next quarter offering the ability to increase ‘resonance’ and case studies will show increase in resonance.
Competitors and Search Engines A new player being in town a new form of advertising is afoot changing the game. Expect nervous deals to come to the table on how search engine results can factor in Twitter’s resonance.  Expect players like MSFT and Yahoo to quickly launch their version of defining how the social web should be categorized. They will have the advantage of built in ad base of advertisers and millions more users.  Expect existing Twitter partners Google Search and Microsoft Bing will fold this in and reward resonance and combine with page rank, or will create their own metric to reward social engagement

For Resonation, Brands Must Pay Closer Attention To Users –This Isn’t Traditional Spray And Pray. Power continues to be in the hands of the users, however brands that pay attention to why tweets resonate will have a leg up.  here’s how you should approach this new space:

  • Change your mindset, as organic and paid merge: This is a combination of organic and paid ads, you’ll need skills from both worlds to be successful. Direct marketers should educate social marketers, and social marketers should explain how resonation occurs in the conversational web. Remember, this gives top tweets staying power beyond the constant stream of chatter.  In the end, remember that users have power over which advertising inventory will be created, chosen, and allowed to stay as a promoted tweet.
  • Remember Twitter users have power over which promoted Tweets will work: Remember that users they get to choose which tweets can be put into the advertising inventory as their interaction will self select which tweets can become promoted. Secondly, promoted tweets that don’t yield community engagement will also fall off the stream. is that in the real time resonance world users have a lot more power. Brands must analyze what works for users first before promoting tweets.
  • Then, carefully pick tweets to be promoted by analyzing the conversation: First, monitor which tweets are already resonating with your brand, take note of what is causing it to resonate and in what context. Secondly, recognize that these tweets should have long term impact, not a daily special as the tweet is promoted, users will interact with it, forcing it into a viral loop.  For best results, experiment with promoting tweets from your customers –not just those that you create.
  • Recognize that ‘Resonance’ is the page rank of microblogging: Advertising agencies and social marketing agencies will come out of woodwork with “resonance solutions”, yet most will do it wrong.  Instead, look for a sophisticated partner that knows the value of social conversational marketing to create an inventory and the long term experience of an advertising agency. Expect resonation to also cascade to other social networks like Facebook and even community platforms and content management systems to derive what content should surface.  Twitter has made nods to new dashboards to appear, expect your agency partners to align around resonation as the new ROI.

This post is the result of the collaborative efforts of the Altimeter team including Charlene Li (Leadership), Alan Webber (Web User Experience/Government), Michael Gartenberg (Mobile and Devices) and Christine Tran (Customer Strategy Research), learn more about the Altimeter Group. For more news, see Twitter blog, AdAge, we’ve cross posted on the Altimeter blog, and NYT for details.

Social Search: Customers Influence Search Results Over Brands


This post was collaboratively written on a wiki by Charlene Li, (cross posted) who maintains a focus on Leadership Strategy and Jeremiah Owyang, who maintains a focus on Customer Strategy. Together, we’re covering the convergence of emerging technologies at the Altimeter Group.

Twitter brokers a deal that offers search engines Microsoft Bing and Google Search access to their real time data streams.  Also, Facebook, offers up public status updates to be searched and served up to Microsoft’s Bing.  This trend towards micro media requires companies to pay attention to the real time and social web for marketing, support, and competitive strategies.  There are several impacts to the ecosystem, here’s what you should know:

  • Deal Fills In Technology and Relationship Gaps for Twitter. Twitter lacks the computing power of a premiere search engine, as their current Twitter search results are littered with spam, duplicate tweets, and are only sorted by time.   Leveraging the sophisticated engineers at Microsoft and Google affords Twitter an opportunity to focus on their platform –not search.  From a business aspect, this deal makes sense is that Microsoft and Google both have relationships with advertisers and brands, with trained sales forces to cut deals. Although the terms of the deal aren’t public, it’s suspect there was an exchange of material goods, it’s likely that Twitter will benefit from revenue share in the near future.
  • Social Search to Serve Results Based On Time, Authority. Expect real time data to merge with existing search engines, as a result we should see Google Search and Bing to serve up search results based on: 1) Real time information based on what Twitter users are saying, including memes from trending topics, 2) Preference given to links and URLs that are tweeted by users with more followers or authority, 3) Geo location of tweets to influence search results.  As users seek “Thai Restaurants in San Mateo” location based tweets could provide additional context.  4) Eventually results will be served up by your friends.  Google has given a nod to serve up information based on your social graph (your friends) using Google Profile.
  • To Compete, Facebook Must Make More Content Public. For closed social networks like Facebook, this means they need to continue to offer up more data that can be searched in public by search engines.  With default settings in Facebook set to ‘friends only’ this will continue to be a challenge as Facebook’s community prefers the filters and privacy settings that this closed social network provides.
  • Twitter’s Future: Seamless Integration with the Web. Success for Twitter isn’t about becoming a destination site, but instead about becoming a data protocol that’s embedded everywhere.    Like “Air“, microblogging features are already present in multiple applications, desktop and mobile clients, and the bite-sized information is becoming available in context wherever it’s needed.
  • Customers Influence Search Results An even more amazing impact of these announcements is that for the first time, consumers will be able to directly impact web search results. Although companies spend thousands of marketing dollars controlling their search results by using Google’s advertising services, customers and competitors can quickly and cheaply impact search results using simple tools like Twitter.  Consumers, empowered using mobile devices as a publishing platform can link to content and influence search results. Now, a simple tweet with a picture of a plane landing on the Hudson from a mobile phone will show up at the top of search results.

Key Takeaways: Customers Impact Brand Search Results Using Twitter
Even if your company is not active on Twitter, your customers can influence the search results related to your company –you must pay attention to this trend.  Just as your company likely already has a search strategy through search optimization or paid search terms, you’ll need to extend micromedia to your strategy.  In order to be prepared for this change, companies must:

  1. Develop a Listening Strategy That Starts With Roles and Process.  Every business and market is now moving faster and faster as information spreads around the globe in minutes –if not seconds.  Companies must be ready to quickly identify flare ups, be ready to respond, and correct incorrect information.  Develop a listening strategy that has internal roles set in place, a process to respond and the right tools like Radian 6, Visible Technologies, BuzzMetrics, or Cymfony.
  2. Change The Marketing Mindset –Legacy Methods Ineffective. Search marketers must understand that blasting marketing information through Facebook or Twitter won’t be effective, as search engines will filter out irrelevant messages that nobody listens to. Instead, marketers should allow content on all web properties and email marketing to be easily added to Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites by offering icons that encourage people to share. Providers like ShareThis and AddThis make this simple to do.
  3. Develop Influence Marketing Programs. Since these search engines have all noted that they will rank real time information on a person’s authority and not just traditional page ranking, marketers must double down on building these relationships.  More than ever, brands will need to foster discussions within Twitter as retweet, replies, and linking behavior will influence what is served up on results pages.  It takes time to build real relationships that develop into public conversations so get started now.

Related Links:
For a list of social networking stats (including Twitter) we’ve a 2009 collection we keep up to date.

Twitterville: A Desktop Reference for the Social Strategist


Altimeter Group Logo Shel, a contemporary, a friend, a mentor,  knocks it out of the park yet again with this follow-up book on the next set of smaller faster tools: microblogs.  Twitterville is a collection of stories that tell how the protagonist overcomes challenges from organizations, cultures, or crises.

One of the challenges of writing a technology book is that  the tools and technologies change faster than the ink can dry.  Shel Israel’s Twitterville overcame this challenge with ease, as he focused not on just the tools, but instead the stories about how people were connecting to each other –not just a focus on the technologies.  I noticed the same crafted stories in his first book Naked Conversations, which focused on the impacts of blogs to business.

If you’re a social strategist at a corporation or agency and are trying to develop plans, efforts, or programs to connect with customers that are on these microblogging tools you should have this book.

Why?  You should keep abreast of all the different tools, tactics, and deployments in your toolchest  –this book has 15 major sections, each with multiple case studies.  Such as Rubbermaid’s lethal generosity, IBM’s thousand twittering experts, and the growth of personal brands (page 170 has a case study outlining how I use Twitter).   In the end, you’ll find practical steps to getting started, best practices, and the nuances of online twitter etiquette.

I still talk to the press about the emerging technologies and their impact to business, and will keep Twitterville at arms length, it’s a desktop reference to quickly find case studies of how people have used simple technologies to connect to each other.  And thanks to @shelsisrael who gave me the first signed copy.