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The Twitter Analytics Mess


A few years ago blogs became disastrous for social analytics. The blog content farms like Demand Media corrupted blogs as a source for analytics until Google changed the algorithm and cleaned it up.

Twitter is suffering from the same issue now. Bots and other high-volume oddities have clogged search results and rendered broad analytics virtually useless. Trust us, don’t trust Twitter results via social listening tools. They’re generally full of odd spam and bot-crap.

This isn’t Twitter’s only issue for use in analytics. The network increasingly feels like a PR Newswire source and less like a true environment for social exchanges. This combo of Bot-spam and Newswire-centricity has us depending less and less on the network for getting real insight into consumer point of view on a brand or a topic. I imagine us leaving Twitter out if it doesn’t get cleaned up soon.


Arianna, The New Sex Ed, and her Twitter Profile

Nice analysis from Hephzibah Anderson on how Arianna uses her femininity and Clinton-like appeal to win over new media types (as well as old).

Also an interesting assessment of how well her Twitter profile picture captures both the intelligence and feminine playfulness of Huffington perfectly.

Twitter: From Stupid to Brilliant in 12 Easy Months

In the last year or so we’ve seen Twitter go from feeling like the silliest, most irrational element of our social marketing efforts to being the most thoughtful and rational.

To a large degree this is due to the way in which the blogging and journalist community at large is using the system as a content feed. But it’s not just the pros using it more rationally it’s also the truly socially active and influential who are using the “What’s Happening Now” effect to help them stay on top of things in the world they care about. Very different than the origins of Twitter usage.

Simon Dumenco from adage covers this transition nicely in

Who’s Got Next?

In the beginning there was America Online and there were chatrooms and websites and it was good. Everyone was sending “electronic mail” which was nice and then they were sending “e-mail” which was even better but then we started sending “email”, and well, that was the absolute BEST.


Napster had a decent run there for a while there, didn’t it? But Napster of course ruined everything, by convincing people that they could have something they love, something they need, for free. And now anytime we have to pay a red cent for ANYTHING digital we are up in arms. But alas it was too good to last and Napster never really figured out a way to make it as a legit business.



Which brings us to The Book Face. Originally conceived as a way to digitally remove people’s faces and preserve them in book form, it was soon re-strategized as the world’s largest storehouse of 80s haircut photos.


In digital terms Facebook actually grew pretty slowly. Unlike Napster you heard about Facebook before you were allowed to have it. And this forbidden fruit vibe made it irresistible. Pretty soon you were using it for everything you used to use electronic mail/e-mail/email for — pictures of your kids, long-lost videos of that cool band you used to like, your cat’s super-cute fall wardrobe, you name it — you aint e’ing it you’re F’ing it.


But lately doesn’t it maybe kinda feel like we’re at a “what’s next?” phase? Maybe it’s the privacy stuff, maybe it’s Diaspora, maybe it’s natural/digital selection, maybe it’s all (or none) of the above.


Speaking of Diaspora, the open-source for the Facebook alternative is now available. Is this the FB-killer? Could be. The screenshots look awfully familiar but sometimes that’s the way it is with digital innovation. Zuckerberg even called Diaspora a “cool idea”.


I could end way wrong on this but Diaspora feels like a band-aid. It’s an open-source patched-up version of something everyone already has, which is possibly something everyone will flock to. But not for long.  I feel like the next move will be something with mobile at its core. Like some sort of Facebook/Foursquare/Twitter/Pandora mashup, built FOR mobile (rather than a mobile version of an existing dealie).


Marketers like to tell their clients to spend $ on Facebook in large part because that’s where their audience is. This is also true with individuals. Sure we all have outlier holdout friends but they’ll buy the Farmville soon enough.


But by the time they do will the party be over? Clearly there’s been a sea change at Facebook, and that Zuckerberg fella has decided that it’s as fun and challenging to figure out how to monetize the thing as it was to create and nurture it. Fine. It’s his baby. And hey, he had a pretty good run.


Don’t Blame the Tool

I would like to start off by acknowledging that yes, this is the 2nd post in a row borne of a New Yorker article. Does this mean I am bucking for a job as a (somehow, miraculously) worse-haircutted Gladwell? Nah.

I’ll paste the link to Malcolm Gladwell’s latest below. He essentially takes Facebook and Twitter to task for being lousy at fueling (the? a? actual?) revolution. It’s a good (if long) read, if for no other reason than the interesting summary of how the Greensboro lunch-counter boycott was hatched, executed, and spread around.

His contention is that Facebook is a wonderful tool for leveraging “weak ties” to, say, spread the word about some general cause or issue. But that when it comes down to something in serious need of concrete action Facebook is the proverbial knife at the gunfight.

My impulse was to jump to FB’s defense (yeah Zuckerberg, you can thank me later). But I don’t think Mr. Gladwell is entirely off-base. However I will offer that just because Facebook HASN’T been used in this way doesn’t mean it COULDN’T.

Just because I only use my sledgehammer to crack lobster doesn’t mean it couldn’t also be used to knock down walls. You don’t shake your fist at American Telephone & Telegraph for the conversation you overhear on the bus about what Mr. Whiskers has been doing all afternoon.

Is there evidence of an instance where FB was used to organize/promote/initiate a protest and it failed? Not that I know of. The problem (if there is one) lies in the lack of an event. There has been no test of FB in this arena.

And the only case-specific examples Mr. Gladwell provides are apple/orange occurrences where the Facebook efforts actually worked. Is he saying that because FB has worked in “weak ties” scenarios it couldn’t work in others? Isn’t this a bit like saying Derek Jeter couldn’t possibly be good at soccer because he’s good at baseball?

Facebook and Twitter are just part of the issue here. Not only was there no internet in 1960, there were also no cell phones or 24-hour cable news stations. If an initiative was to succeed, it depended upon old-fashioned close ties and interaction in large part because that’s all there was. You can certainly make the case that having close ties to the movement was the main thing that kept it alive but by the same token being able to reach sheer numbers of like-minded people could have provided both energy and bolster.

I’m kind of flinging arrows at the hedge here (vague Gladwell hair crack #2?), and I haven’t the research to entirely back up all this yapping. But grinding an axe at Facebook and Twitter for not saving the goll-darn whales?

Don’t blame the tools. Blame the workers.


[[  On a very-likely-only-interesting-to-me note, the article refers to AT&T as “A. T. & T”. I assume this is a mistake – ? The Greensboro students attended North Carolina A. & T., so I’m guessing the copyediting process was muddled due to several mentions of the college.  ]]

Twitter’s Growing Up?

We managed a campaign recently for a very fun and active social marketing effort in which Twitter played a big role. It played a significantly more powerful and specific role than we imagined possible.

The client we were doing work for has a very large and passionate fan base and we thought Twitter would be a place those fans could keep an eye on what our client was up to during the content distribution phase, participate in the effort as they saw fit, and basically keep a pulse on the community. And that happened for sure.

What really took us by surprise is how quickly and efficiently the professional channels became a part of the Twitter base. With only a little bit of outreach Twitter became the most efficient social press relations and retailer relations tool we used. Particularly for consistent story and content distribution throughout the effort.

Now it is possible that Twitter has been this efficient for awhile but it was hard to tell during much of the frenzy over the last year or two. As some of that consumer frenzy and volume has disappeared we’ve discovered a whole new Twitter emerge. And she’s all grown up.