Posted tagged ‘Twitter’

Boiling the backchannel

1 October 2013

I enjoy attending conferences.

Unfortunately I don’t attend as many as I’d like because so many of them are prohibitively expensive, are beyond my travel budget, or demand too much time out of the office.

Whenever I do attend, however, I enjoy hearing and seeing what other people have to say and show, because they validate my own ideas, introduce new ideas, and spark tangential ideas. I also like meeting new people in the industry and re-connecting with those whom I already know.

Another aspect of conferences that I enjoy is the real-time chat on Twitter – aka the “backchannel”. When I’m not at the conference, the backchannel clues me in to the key learnings; when I am at the conference, I can peruse the observations of my fellow audience members and share my own. It’s also a great way of putting a face to a name to facilitate the aforementioned networking.

Of course, healthy backchannel activity is in the interests of the conference organiser too. While it may seem counterintuitive, loads of attendees sharing their observations with the Twittersphere for free won’t discourage other people from attending (as the backchannel is inevitably an inferior substitute for the real thing). On the contrary, the backchannel is a vehicle for precious WOM that can raise awareness of the event among the Twitterati and – if it sounds appealing enough – encourage them to attend next time.

So I see heating up the backchannel as a critical aspect of the conference organiser’s role. Here are my suggestions for getting it to boil…

Pan on a gas burner

1. Inform everyone of the official hashtag.

If you don’t, your audience will splinter and they will use various permutations of acronyms and digits which will then dilute the conversation.

So tell everyone up front what the official hashtag is. Even better, include it on your marketing material to get the conversation going before Day 1.

2. Explicitly invite the audience to tweet.

Not only does this give many in the audience the moral authority they seek, but it also reminds those who might otherwise have forgotten.

3. Provide free Wi-Fi.

I realise this might be pricey, but if you want your audience to use the Internet, this is a big juicy carrot.

And if you do offer free Wi-Fi, for crying out loud inform everyone of the access details.

4. Host a charging kiosk.

Even the most ardent of tweeters can’t do much with a dead device.

5. Inform the audience of the presenter’s handle.

Tweeters like quoting the presenter, but they’re less likely to do so if he or she isn’t on Twitter. Even if they are on Twitter, the search function is so awful that it can be difficult to find them.

Putting the presenter’s handle on the last slide is comically late. Put it on the first slide instead, and in the official program too.

6. Resist dressing mutton up as lamb.

I’m constantly amazed by the number of presenters who try to pass off a product flog as a pedagogical exposition. I’m not so much amazed by the fact that they try it on, but that they think we’re dumb enough to fall for it.

Conference organisers need to know that any self-respecting Tweeter will withhold social mention of this imposture in protest.

So change its title to reflect what it really is: a product demonstration. Plenty of people will want to see that, and they’ll tweet about it in kind.

7. Join in.

The conference organiser should actively participate in the backchannel too.

Favouriting and re-tweeting others is a nice way of acknowledging their contributions (and motivating them to continue), while tweeting your own observations keeps the activity humming during flat periods.

Adding extra hashtags (eg #edtech, #gamification, #mobile) will also extend your reach.

Kid saying to his mum - How do you think my first day of kindergarten went? They didn't even have Wi-Fi.

So if you’re a conference organiser, I hope my suggestions help you improve the experience for your attendees and promote your event to potential newcomers.

And if you have a free ticket to give away, I’ll tweet up a storm!

Porn, weed and fireworks

29 October 2012

Last weekend I was privileged to contribute to the Human Brochure – a world first initiative by Australian Capital Tourism to promote the nation’s capital city, Canberra.

When I told my friends that I was going down to Canberra for the weekend, they invariably asked: “Why..?”

You see, Canberra has a reputation among Australians as being boring. As the home of yawners such as Parliament and the High Court, Canberra is associated with porky politicians and pompous legal types.

Paradoxically, Canberra is also notorious well-known for its sale of X-rated erotica, its decriminalisation of cannabis, and its availability of pyrotechnics. Yep, our very own Amsterdam.

But like most places where people haven’t actually been, its reputation is about 20 years out of date.

And the Human Brochure set out to prove it.

Human Brochure logo

The idea of the Human Brochure was to invite 250 social media-savvy people to Canberra; feed them; shelter them; and cart them around to several major tourist attractions. In return, we were asked to “spread the word online” about “all the great things” we got up to.

I joined the Arts & Culture stream. We were treated to national treasures such as the Australian War Memorial, the National Museum of Australia, the National Film and Sound Archive, the Australian National Botanic Gardens and Canberra Glassworks – not to mention lunch at Two Before Ten, dinner at Mezzalira and z’s at the Diamant Hotel.

That may sound excessive (and yes, we were spoiled out of our minds) but it all boils down to how much you value word-of-mouth marketing. The point of the exercise was for us to share our thoughts, opinions and experiences with our followers on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.

Sure, Australian Capital Tourism could have pumped the money into yet another traditional advertising campaign, but we all know how they’ve been tracking. Instead, they tapped into the power of personal influence.

Here are a few of my tweets…

I was mindful not to sound like an over zealous salesman. I endeavoured to present only genuine thoughts and share only real experiences. Luckily that was easy to do because I thoroughly enjoyed just about everything!

I did provide some constructive feedback to the National Museum (it conspicuously omits Parramatta, one of Australia’s most important historical places), and I suggested the NFSA play more of its precious footage to visitors (they have since pointed me to their excellent YouTube channel).

But miniscule gripes aside, I expect the Human Brochure will prove to be a roaring success. Not only was the glory of Canberra amplified throughout the social media metasphere, but the initiative itself was the subject of interstate media attention.

Time will tell whether ROI is achieved. My prediction is that other tourism boards will copy the Human Brochure concept, and that will be the ultimate endorsement.

Regardless, I can say hand on heart, I had a wonderful time in Canberra.

Even without the porn, weed and fireworks.

I’ve been bot-bombed!

3 September 2012

Just as I was getting excited about reaching the 2,000 follower milestone on Twitter, I suddenly jumped to 26,000 followers.

No. I’m not that popular.

Smelling a giant stinking rat, I perused my follower list and saw that I was being followed by the likes of @TAKAKOD8STIN and @ELKEg00CALL. Brilliant.

I was afraid this might happen one day. You spend years earning a genuine, mutually respectful following, diligently weeding out the free iPad merchants and the curiously single bikini models, only to be bot-bombed overnight and your follower metric to become instantly meaningless.

Cybot

Why did it happen? I do not know.

Maybe someone didn’t appreciate my social commentary. For example, I recently wondered whether Julian Assange would start publishing Ecuador’s diplomatic cables. Did a WikiLeaks fanboi take offence? Unlikely.

Another lead stemmed from Twitter itself. When I looked up the profiles of the phony followers, @DoctorKarl, @mariekehardy and @774melbourne were suggested as being “similar” to the bots. Did I upset Auntie ABC? Hardly.

Conspiracy theories aside, the only rational explanation I can think of is that someone, somewhere purchased a batch of followers, and they were mistakenly assigned to me.

Robot

Well, despite 26K looking mighty attractive, I had no intention of leaving it that way. To do so would not just be misleading, but also a bit sad.

But how does one shed so many followers?

The best free tool I could find was TwitBlock which analyses your followers and lists those which it thinks are junk (according to certain criteria). This is great, except it maxes out at 3,000 followers and you have to block them one by one. It also continues to scan your followers while you’re trying to to block them, which means the list is constantly shuffling. Very annoying!

I asked the developer of TwitBlock if he might add check boxes to facilitate mass blocking, but he politely declined on the basis that it would encourage thoughtless blocking. I found this understandable, yet my problem persisted.

The best premium tool I could find was Tweepi which enables you to do a range of follower management tasks. Tweepi only lists a maximum of 100 followers per page, and you can’t select all of them in one go via the top level checkbox (which they blame on Twitter’s terms of service), but I discovered a neat trick with the shift key that made “forced unfollowing” a hell of a lot quicker.

Having said that, you’ll notice I haven’t gotten very far.

One of my friends, @ainsliehunter, suggested I grab a nice red, spend a night in front of the TV and cull away. I’ve been doing just that – in addition to squeezing in some opportunistic blocking while on the wrong end of endless dial-in meetings.

If you have a better suggestion, please let me know…!

The 10 Commandments of Microblogging

7 February 2012

As microblogging solutions such as Yammer sweep across the corporate sector, a melting pot of social media veterans and newbies inevitably begins to boil.

And this is a wonderful thing. Loads of new people from disparate areas of the business communicating and collaborating with one other, usually for the first time ever? I’m all for it.

Having said that, many of the noobs have never microblogged before. Some don’t even have a Facebook account, let alone Twitter.

This in itself isn’t a problem. They don’t need to qualify to participate, and their views are just as valid as anyone else’s.

However, it probably means they don’t know the ground rules.

And this can be a problem, because it frequently distracts other participants, discourages other noobs from joining in, and generally makes the whole process of peer-to-peer knowledge sharing much less efficient than it otherwise could be.

So what is good practice?

Good practice is a subjective concept, but some universal principles have emerged over the years.

If we set aside the obvious – bullying, belligerence, condescendence, and generally being an a**hole – then we have what I call the 10 Commandments of Microblogging

We'll need a supreme court or something to interpret these.

I. Thou shalt use a real profile photo.

It’s really important in the workplace – especially the virtual workplace – that we know what you look like. At the very least it signifies you’re proud to be a member of the team.

II. Thou shalt respect other people’s opinions.

You might not always agree with us, but that doesn’t make you right. Consider our contexts and circumstances before pulling on your Captain Correct lycra.

A subset of this commandment is: Thou shalt not put words in other people’s mouths. Be careful of how you respond to our messages. Be mindful of what we did – and more importantly, what we did not – say.

III. Thou shalt steer clear of politics and religion.

We don’t care what you do or don’t believe in. Nothing you say in this forum will change our minds.

IV. When linking to an article, thou shalt explain why it’s relevant.

We’re busy people. We won’t click a link just because you say it’s “fantastic”.

V. When praising someone, thou shalt describe the outcome.

Saying that one of your team members was “really helpful” is really nice. If you explain how and why it matters, you’ll encourage the rest of us to be really helpful too.

VI. When running a poll, thou shalt include all the options.

If our answers aren’t options, we won’t pick another one to humour you. We’ll just ignore the poll, and you’ll be left with skewed results.

(Hint: “None of the above” is often a get-out-of-jail-free card.)

VII. Thou shalt not post many messages in quick succession.

This is known as “flooding”, and it makes you look like a douche. If your messages are truly valuable, then spread them out over time so that we can digest them and formulate constructive responses.

VIII. Thou shalt create a group.

It’s great that you’re so passionate about medieval basket weaving, but you’re polluting our feed with irrelevance. Create a group and party like it’s 1399.

IX. If you appreciate someone’s message, thou shalt “like” it.

It’s called professional courtesy, and it makes us feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside. It also shows your boss that you have a brain and you’re not afraid to use it.

X. Thou shalt answer questions like an angel.

If you don’t know the answer to one of our questions, refer it to someone who does. The point of an enterprise-wide microblog is that it generates value. If that value is not realised, then why would we bother coming back?

Revelation

Of course, I’m not going to pretend that social media veterans role model these 10 Commandments like modern-day disciples.

We’re all human, and we stray across our lanes every once in a while – sometimes with good cause.

Nevertheless, I hope they provide some semblance of order that will extract the most out of our corporate communities.

A circular argument

18 July 2011

Much has been said of the “circles” feature in Google+, and rightly so.

Google+ Circles

I really like the idea of targeting my messages to just friends, or just family, or just whomever. It makes sense.

It’s Google’s trump card against the likes of Facebook and Twitter.

Slap in the face

The achilles heel of Facebook is that its friending system is binary: either you are my friend or you are not. If you are, I’ll be sharing my family reunion updates with you, and conversely I’ll be sharing my experience of burning a police car during the Canucks riot with my mum.

Clueless Facebook update

Few of us are aware you can “customize” whom you share your updates with, but selecting individuals one by one is hardly user friendly – especially if you want to update 67 people.

Indeed, Facebook has a “friends list” feature which allows you to filter your incoming news feed. You’d think it would allow you to filter your outgoing news feed too. Granted, I’m no Facebook expert, so maybe this can be done. But that’s the point: so much about Facebook is onerous and secretive. I’ve got better things to do.

Bye bye birdie?

Then there’s Twitter. Some commentators have heralded the death of the popular microblog at the hands of Google+ because, unlike its alleged nemesis, its messages are restricted to 140 characters.

Dead Twitter bird

I couldn’t disagree more. The 140 character limit is Twitter’s saving grace, and ultimately its competitive edge. Fellow tweeps, I love you all – but in very small doses. If I want more, I’ll read your blog.

As for targeting messages, Twitter can’t do that. However, it’s easy enough to manage multiple accounts with a client such as HootSuite.

Hammer time

Forget Facebook, forget Twitter. The one who has the most to fear from Google+ is Yammer.

Don’t get me wrong: Yammer has revolutionised social learning in the workplace. (Twitter dropped the ball big time by failing to introduce corporate accounts.)

To me, Yammer is the most similar to Google+. In particular, its “groups” feature allows you to direct your messages to a particular bunch of people. You can also assign people to groups – even if you’re not the group’s admin.

All good for Yammer, right? Wrong.

Yammer logo Google Hammer Mario Version

You see, everyone on the planet has heard of Google, but relatively few have heard of Yammer. And guess who’s shifting their attention to the business sector.

LATI: A better way to measure influence on Twitter?

23 June 2011

Twitter hero

I’ve never been comfortable with attributing digital influence to the number of followers someone has on Twitter.

To me, it’s more a measure of your longevity on the platform. The longer you have been on Twitter, the more followers you will have collected over the years.

Sure, the quality of your tweets and other variables will have an effect, but simply comparing the raw number of followers among tweeps is not really comparing apples with apples.

Three fresh green apples and one orange

I was ruminating over this when it dawned on me: why not divide the number of followers by the number of years the person has been on the platform? That will remove the variance due to longevity from the equation.

For example, I currently have 831 followers and my Twitter age is 2.1 years, so my Longevity Adjusted Twitter Influence (LATI) is:

831 / 2.1 = 396

According to convention wisdom, someone who has 1500 followers is much more influential than I am. In absolute terms that may be true, but if their Twitter age is 4 years, their LATI is 375 – which suggests I am relatively more influential than they are. That means I’m on track to becoming more influential overall.

Compare that to someone who joins Twitter and attracts 200 followers in 3 months. That’s a LATI of 800 which blows both of us out of the water.

Clock

In the short term I imagine a typical person’s LATI would follow an s‑curve, whereby they take a while to attract followers in the beginning, then they ramp up as word spreads, then they plateau out again as their target demographic is exhausted. Over time, their LATI will decline as the years rack up without significantly more followers.

In contrast, truly influential people will continue to attract followers into infinity, so their LATI will remain high.

Einstein sticking out his tongue

Now I’m no mathematician, so my logic may be all screwed up. But to me it’s more meaningful because it levels out the playing field.

Of course, the metric doesn’t recognise who is following you. Someone with 10,000 followers won’t be very influential if those people have neither the means nor the inclination to act upon their pearls of wisdom.

Conversely, someone with only 3 followers will be incredibly influential if those people happen to be the President of the United States, Rupert Murdoch and the Head of the European Central Bank.

So notwithstanding complicated and opaque measures like Klout, LATI provides an open and convenient snapshot of digital influence. At the very least it’s fun to toy around with.

20 hot resources for customer-facing social media

24 May 2011

NetworkSomeone asked me recently where they can learn more about customer-facing social media; or in other words, social media used to engage externally with customers rather than internally with colleagues.

I’ve always considered this an example of “e-learning” because – if you do it right – you are educating people. They just happen to be outside of your organisation.

So here are 20 suggestions…

Face to face

Social Media Club

Cases

Fiskateers
Bubble O’Bill
7 Australian Social Media Examples & Case Studies

Reports

Social Media Marketing Industry Report
State of the Blogosphere

Books

Social Media 101
Socialnomics
The New Rules of Marketing and PR
The Corporate Blogging Book

Blogs

The Business of Being Social
Social Media Today
Social Media Examiner
Dan Zarrella, The Social Media Scientist
Ragan Social Media
Problogger
HubSpot Blog
Waithash

Twitter

@Steveology
@wilsonellis

Do you have any other suggestions…?
 


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