Twitter strategy revisited

It’s been fun to, ahem, follow all of the rather serious Twitter research (isn’t The Science of ReTweets just the best title?). The studies that seem to get the most attention are those that examine the ego-boosting or deflating number of followers – what’s too many, too few or just right.

In Praise of Obscurity,” Clive Thompson’s column in the Feb. 2010 issue of Wired, states the obvious to anyone who’s ever been in a class of 15 people and then in one that has 500:

“Once a group reaches a certain size, each participant starts to feel anonymous again, and the person they’re following — who once seemed proximal, like a friend — now seems larger than life and remote….Social media stops being social. It’s no longer a bantering process of thinking and living out loud. It becomes old-fashioned broadcasting.”

At his Twitter Boot Camp last June, Tim O’Reilly chided the New York Times, saying that “just using Twitter as an RSS feed for your site is a missed opportunity.”  Twitter’s supposed to be all about building communities by having two-way conversations between the followers and the following.

At the time I instantly agreed with him.  But Twitter is no longer an amusing recreational hobby.  It’s now a business juggernaut – and that implies a company should use it tactically any way that it wants.

The NYT has 2.3-million-plus followers, is supposedly following a measly 193, and doesn’t ever seem to retweet or respond to a follower.  But every tweet has a link to the NYT site.NYT Twitter 2-4-10

The NYT doesn’t claim it wants to be your friend and talk to you.  Its Twitter bio states right up front that the NYT is “Where the Conversation Begins.”  It’s not where conversations continue, are facilitated, passed on or anything else connected to being a personal relationship builder.

I do think news orgs must build closer relationships with their audiences.  But Twitter isn’t – and shouldn’t be – the only way to do it.   What is important, however, is transparency in how a news org is using its main Twitter handle.  If a news org is just not that into you, it should say so.



Is your “in” crowd big enough?

Defining success in Twitter, Facebook and other social media services starts with identifying distinct niche communities based on shared interests and beliefs.  Each community member has different levels of participation and prominence.  And in each community there’s an “in” crowd whose actions determine whether others stick around.   Incrowd1sidOrg

How do you know who these influencers are and whether you have enough of them to keep a network alive and thriving?

Success in social media depends on both listening and doing.  It’s difficult to measure the listening part, but you can definitely measure how many people are doing something, and what they’re doing.

Success also depends on who is contributing.  However, a prominent person’s mere presence doesn’t mean he or she is an influencer.  A true influencer posts content, starts conversations, organizes meet-ups and otherwise engages community members.

For a metric to be useful, you need to have a starting point and a goal.  Setting a goal can start with a pure guess that you adjust once you have some data.  Or, your initial goal can be based on benchmarks from a source that makes sense for your strategy and objectives.

This eMarketer story, “Harnessing Active Brand Advocates,” summarizes findings from a social media survey done by Synovate, a research company.  The findings can help you determine whether you have a healthy number of influencers.

The survey found that 26 percent of U.S. Internet users posted online ratings or reviews.  Twenty percent contributed to online forums.  Meetup Eighteen percent attended a meet-up that originated online; almost 6 percent took an active role in organizing one.   The numbers didn’t vary much between men and women, but they did vary by age group, as you would expect.

It won’t be easy to gather this info from all of the multiple accounts you have on Twitter, Facebook and other services.  Measuring social media is art and science grounded in a thorough knowledge and understanding of what and who makes a particular social network work.

Before even counting influencers, I’d start with coldly assessing whether your news org is in–or out.200904_Project-Runway-lawsuit-settled What would it take to be in–and stay there?  Will it ever be possible?

I’m not sure it’s worth the time and resources for a news org to be in a network if it’s not an influencer.  Does just being a follower help or hurt?  Or do community members feel insulted if they perceive a news org is just putting in a half-hearted, token effort?

I suppose it would vary by community and news org.  Oh, great – that’s one more thing to measure and track.



“Value” of a Twitter or Facebook follower

Is a Twitter user worth 10 cents a month; a Facebook user, $2.75 a year?

As reported by the BBC, USocial, an Australian company, is "offering a paid service that finds followers." 

The estimate for a Facebook user comes from a comment from Jonathan W on a Silicon Alley Insider story that reports Facebook's annual revenue at $550 million.  If Facebook has about 200 million members, it works out to $2.75 – a year.

You can quibble with the methodologies, but to me the message is clear:  Social media objectives should be focused on building communities, not revenue.