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The Culture of Twitter (Why Twitter Works Part II) January 18, 2009

Posted by Brian Link in socialmedia.
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booksMost people think all social networks are basically the same. Twitter is similar enough to other networks but its capabilities are severely limited – on purpose. Your profile is limited to a small snippet and your communication is in 140 character bursts. Because of this, microblogging (as it’s called), caters well to people who want to consume a lot of messages from a lot of people or catch up quickly with friends very efficiently.

You choose who you want to follow. And then you’ll see all the messages and replies from and to people that are on your follow list.  Important yet perhaps subtle note: Twitter calls these people “followers” not “friends”. This implies Twitter is more of a tool than a social network, doesn’t it? A tool to do what though? Well, to communicate, right? Which I suppose means it *is* a social network, but it’s definitely a different kind of one.

The difference is that with these bite-size pieces of information, you have some choices about how you consume them. There are also different ways people interact and participate, but first let’s discuss consuming:

  1. Some people (and I think most people actually, especially new Twitter users) treat Twitter like a new inbox. And it’s why people get overwhelmed when they first start using it, feeling like they have to keep up.  It’s a fine choice actually, because it means you’re truly interested in everything everyone has to say.  (It’d be really hard to run around a large party and hear every conversation, but that’s why with this strategy you probably keep your follow list under 200 to stay sane and not let Twitter entirely absorb your whole world).
  2. For others, 200 isn’t enough.  You need to graze more in order to find more of the stuff you like. Maybe you’re like me and you’re reading everything you can about social media. There’s a lot of people sharing links, providing advice, having conversations about it – and you might decide to follow 500-1000 people in order to throw your net wide enough to glean enough of the information you want.  At this rate, however, chances are you can’t really keep up.  When you step away for a while, there could easily be too many messages to get caught up, but you also don’t want to miss any of the good stuff. So you get good at skimming and glancing through those familiar avatars (it’s amazing how well you can retain 500 recognizable images – and notice immediately when Chris Brogan has changed his image again, but again I digress.) At this rate and beyond you become more concerned about the signal to noise ratio and to optimize you may need to unfollow people who don’t contribute enough to why you read Twitter and add others that do.
  3. Super users follow thousands of people. Similar to following several hundred people, you must skim through the tweets (or only plug in and read in short slices of time). You might focus more on @replies and individual conversations, but realistically you’ll dive in an out of the stream of conversations and likely miss much of what’s going on. At the risk of sounding like a total Chris Brogan fan-boy, I’ll reference him again and a post of his here where he talks about how he manages to follow tens of thousands of people. In real life, if you walk away from your friends sitting around talking and drinking beer, you miss that part of the conversation, but when you get back you jump right back in and don’t worry about what you’ve missed. It’s like that.

One other point about consuming. I’m often reading tweets from my phone. But mostly what I’m looking for on Twitter are great shared links but as much as I love my iPhone, it just doesn’t download web pages fast enough for me to do it frequently. So, I like to bookmark tweets to follow up on later by favoriting them. Then, next time I can afford to spend some time reading those pages, I do from my MacBook Pro. 

Which of these – or other ways – do *you* use and consume Twitter?  

More to come soon in Part III: on the Twitter culture of interacting and participating.

Above the Funnel > ROI December 26, 2008

Posted by Brian Link in socialmedia.
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There’s a lot of discussion about ‘return on investment’ with all the new social media buzz lately.  It’s decidedly hard to measure the value of human conversation. It’s not something concrete in your sales funnel.  It’s the conversation I like to call “above the funnel”. And that’s largely what we’re talking about isn’t it when we talk about social media?  Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and anywhere else you decide to make connections that may help your business. These are the conversations that someone may normally IRL have on the golf course, pause briefly to chat about on a sidewalk, leave an exchange of voice mails, chat while watching you kid’s soccer game, or have while sitting next to someone on the plane. You’re meeting people, getting to know them, talking about things both business and personal and hopeful that the connection may lead to doing business together in some shape or form, but mostly and most importantly you’re just being you – talking and meeting people, not writing a record of these exchanges or putting a dollar figure on them.

And yet it’s more than that.  On social networks, people are forming new kinds of relationships. For example, I’ve met some people in the last few months, where one of the following happened: I’ve either been given some great personal advice, pointed to a series of really helpful sources of information or exchanged a few messages that helped me decide what to do with my business.  These may seem like surface relationships to a lot of people, having barely discussed anything else and never having met face to face. But these same people I follow on Twitter and through this magical thing called Ambient Awareness I know all kinds of things about these people, have formed opinions about them, seen how they interact with other people and have witnessed many samples of their personality in different situations.  I honestly feel like I know them. And trust them. 

So, why do I conclude that “Above the Funnel *is greater than* ROI”?  It’s because that’s what social media is all about. You have to take a leap of faith that the connections will pay back. No one writes a business case for buying telephones for the office anymore, right?  Or even getting Internet access, right?  But it most certainly is a time investment.  And if you work for someone else, or if you want to decide how much time is worth it for you, as an entrepreneur, to invest in it, you need some justification, right?

So what do you do?  It’s simple really. Pick some metrics that you know how to measure and watch them. Create or unearth your companies goals and objectives.  Look at them and see where they might entwine. You company’s goal may be to get x% more visitors to your site, or attract a new client in a new market segment, or reach a new demographic.  Or you may be using social media to try to find new talent to hire and are counting resumes or emails or page views on your site.  Whatever your metric, make it specific, learn how to measure it, and see if your efforts in social media can make a dent in it.  Look at the trend before you started your social media related efforts and pick a point in time, preferably more than a few weeks later, review the data and compare.  Some organizations may be able to put dollars against some of those metrics.  1000 more page views on an ecommerce site for example usually relates to an increase of sales.

I can’t tell you who to befriend, what networks you should be on or what strategy to use in your social media efforts. That’s a whole new world you’ll have to figure out on your own (or hire a consultant to work with you personally on). But what I can tell you, because I believe it myself, is that if you focus on your “above the funnel” conversations and be transparent about yourself and your business and follow the most basic forms of online common sense and ethics, you will earn a following, create a digital identity and build your own tribe.

And then, you and your tribe will be one step closer to conquering your world. Good luck, and please let me know if I can help you with that.