How Twitter Failed Me: Thoughts of a Facebook Convert

“I love Twitter.”

I smirked.  I’ve heard this so many times by 20-something year old girls I meet around campus.  These creatures, however, are the type who have visited the site once – to set up their account and link to phone.  They tweet rarely, and always about weird occurances in their day.  They follow close friends, and if they ever use an @reply, it’s to tell a friend (always a friend who has an account but has sent <5 updates) something they should have just texted – or link that they are having lunch with said person.

textually_active_ijustine

Nothing about that experience screams “I love Twitter!”  In fact, to me, it screams “I can’t stand this nuissance – I’ll text my friends instead!”.  But texting your friends doesn’t make your thoughts visible to the world.  That is, of course, the appeal of the micro blogging site.  Quick updates that appeal to our diminished attention spans and a platform that requires no logging in, no thought process, drafts or publishing issues.  Type up a text, hit send and you’re done.  Confused about the picture to your right?  Read on…there is a point.  If not, it’s always good practice to put pictures of hot girls in your posts – smaller bounce rate and longer page times.

The truth is, while NO ONE cares how your assistant principle was flirting with your mom while suspending you (or what “#WhereDeyDoDatAt” means), someone is reading.  Heck, I just linked you up on a blog – a blog that a few people actually read, no less.  All you link-sharing Twitter snobs think I’m stretching the truth?  Try protecting your tweets for a week.  I did, and the results were quite surprising.  Turns out, not as many friends were reading my stuff as I thought.

I shared 2 tech-related links – one on August 26th while my Twitter account was protected, and one September 10th while it was open.  The result?  A 300% increase in clicks when the account was open for all as opposed to it being protected to just approved followers.  Now, a lot of factors weigh heavily on statistics.  August 26th was a Thursday, September 10th a Friday.  Research shows that, while more updates are posted on Thursdays, more re-tweets are performed on Fridays.  You also have to consider the fact that more people may have been genuinely more interested in the September 10th tweet.  Regardless, a 300% increase is significant, and speaks volumes (especially when combined with similar data I gathered with the rest of my updates) about the visibility of unprotected accounts.

So what does all that mean?  Well, if you’re like me, it means you’re not as important as you thought.  It also means that your Twitter relevance is much lower than you probably guessed.  Try this out:  post a link, story or funny encounter on Twitter and Facebook.  Be sure to post it word for word at the same time of day.  Where do you receive the most (let alone relevant) feedback?  Chances are, 9 out of 10 times it’s going to be Facebook.  Even if you only receive a few likes, you at least know a few people who have watched and appreciated your video.  True, Twitter reply’s may be more in depth, but you’re not going to get near the amount of talk back that you do on Facebook.

Now, as this is a blog post, you should know that I’m just conjecturing on most of this.  I have a hypothesis (Facebook is more relevant, reliable and informative than Twitter) and I’m trying to persuade you.  Instead of taking the time to find solid arguments, I’m going to be lazy and give you my reasons.  Namely, Facebook makes stuff prettier and people spend more time on it.  Quickly (I’m imaging only 2 people make it this far in the post – if you’re one of them, leave a comment to prove my point), I’ll explain why I think this.

Facebook really does understand link sharing like no other.  That’s why things go viral on Big Blue.  Would Bon Qui Qui or the Bill Cosby Southern video be so popular without Facebook?  Not a chance.  As humans, we’re visual creatures.  Men included.  Really – you thought iJustine was famous for her tech thoughts? (checkout picture above if you’re not sure who I’m talking about).  When you share a link on Facebook, you get the option to include a photo or embed the video from the site – right onto your post.  Facebook single handedly turned the internet beeper (link SHARING), into an iPhone (link EMBEDDING).  Forget clicking off-site…you can watch the video with even scrolling down the page!  The result is a smorgasbord of funny videos and philosopher-wanna-be’s – not to mention all of the Facebook-specific posts (pictures, updates, relationship updates, etc).

(via The Oatmeal – click image for post)

As a result, people spend an unholy amount of time on the site.  Scrolling through my phone contacts (which are linked to Facebook profiles), I rarely come across an entry that does not have a Facebook.  My grandparents are on Facebook (and I’m beginning to think they are on more than I am).  Last year, my self-righteous history professor ripped the 100+ person class for not protecting our Facebook accounts.  Later that day, I looked him up and read all of his updates from the past 2 weeks.  Not interesting (he’s a jerk on Facebook, too), but still something that needed to be done.

My point is this: people love Facebook, and that bright red notification icon makes us feel good.  Twitter is great (heck, I wouldn’t have my current job if it weren’t for the site), but it doesn’t compare.  Short or long run.  To borrow geek speak, it fails hard in comparison – which is why, I believe, it’s on it’s way out.  In the past few months, it’s become nothing but a delayed instant messaging account and story teller.  I, Ryan Bowen, have become  a TwitterTween.  All hope is not lost, though.  I’m still clinging to the fact that I don’t know a single top 40 song.  Seriously.  I looked it up.

My Columbia Twitter Revolution

cae

Several weeks ago at Social Media Club Columbia, SC, Dan Conover (@xarker) spoke about the potential for standardized Twitter hashtags for cities.

For example,  Charlotte and Charleston have been trying to adopt localized hashtags for news, traffic, etc.  For more on this, read this post.  Thanks to search lists, Charleston natives can simply add “#chs” to their tweets to be seen by other .  Here’s a wonderful example of it’s usefulness:

2009-11-08_2315

Obviously, one hashtag for an entire cities worth of tweeting can get crowded.  That’s why the proposed plan adds includes tags for traffic, news, breaking stories, weather, the election, etc.  Genius.

Well, I’m ready to do the same in Columbia.  We have lots of people who use Twitter on a day-to-day basis, and our local news stations are getting into the game.  I keep up with weather updates and breaking news throughout the day by following the Twitter accounts of local papers and TV stations.  If we had standardized hashtags, it would be much, much easier.

So here’s my plan.  I’ve tweeted with a few local Columbia people and I’ve decided to try and start something.  Thanks for your help @cophotog, @mandiengram, @hollybounds!  The “base hash” for this is #cae.  This is the airport code for Columbia – just like Charlotte uses #clt and Charleston uses #chs.

  • #cae – A bit long, but #csc and #cola are already taken.  Add this if you need the quick attention of other locals.
  • #caenews – Pretty self explanatory – used for local news.
  • #caebrk – Breaking news.  Again, it’s longer but…oh well.  🙂
  • #caewthr – Weather updates and alerts.
  • #caetrfk – Columbia traffic updates.
  • #caefood – Local food tweets.
  • #caetech – Blogs, social sites, web contest, etc from Columbia.

Got any suggestions, additions, or proposed revisions?  Leave me a comment below.

Now here’s the important part.  I’m one person.  I can’t do this alone.  For this to catch on, I’m going to need lots of help.  It’s going to take getting used to, but I think if it ever does take off it could serve very useful.  Think about it – a live list of tweets to keep you constantly informed on traffic problems, breaking news, local food deals, and weather alerts.  All for free.

Let’s face it – this is long overdue.  People want news, and they want it right now wherever they are, right when it happens.  The great thing is that it’s a collaborative effort.  Everyone in Columbia (or Charlotte, or Charleston, or wherever you introduce these standardized hashtags) can contribute to a constantly updated stream of news and traffic updates.

Twitter Marketing Done Right – @HowiesIrmo

Often, businesses and organizations are such a nuissance on Twitter.  Let’s face it – we all get spammed by followers who only wish to promote their own business, sending out only formal updates with their advertisements.  Every now and then, however, a business gets it right.    Enter Hungry Howies Pizza in Irmo, SC.

howies_irmo

HowiesIrmo is a pizza place – an unlikely type of business to get involved in social networking.  However, if you’re a Columbia Twitter user (especially one active in link-sharing and everyday discussion on the site), chances are you’re familiar with Howies – you would probably even recognize the bright yellow logo.  What’s different about this, compared to other businesses on Twitter, many of whose logo’s you may be familiar with?  Howies is personal.

Howies engages in everyday discussion.  They participate in Follow Friday,  they help out my blog, they help me think of crazy Halloween costumes, and they help spread the word about Joupes.  In short, Howies uses Twitter for casual conversation – having 2-sided conversations and creating a quirky and fun personality that’s always fun to interact with.  And at the end of the day, their business is still advertised.  I’ve been out to Irmo for some Hungry Howies pizza and cinnamon bread – have you?

To all the businesses out there – study HowiesIrmo.  Be more personal, easily able to chat about things that aren’t your product.  Have fun with other users.  To all the South Carolina people – head out to Irmo.  Tell them you’re there because of Twitter.  Enjoy the pizza.  I know I will as soon as I can find another date to go (and some time that I’m not studying!).

Twitter Explains Trending Topics

For those who haven’t noticed, Twitter recently added explanations to the “Trending Topics” results.  Wondering what “New Moon Soundtrack” is and why it’s a trending topic?  Twitter explains:

The soundtrack for the Twilight sequel, New Moon, will be released this Friday (Oct. 16, 2009). It is already available to listen to in full on MySpace.

Take a look at some of these Twitter explanations.  In my opinion, this would be a pretty neat feature to someone who tends to keep up with the latest trending topics.  However, I can’t remember the last time I’ve cared to look at them apart from the occasional Google mention.

twitter_explanations

Get More Traffic with Su.pr!

For the past few days, I’ve been trying out Su.pr – the new URL shortener from StumbleUpon.  When I first heard StumbleUpon released a link shortener, I couldn’t care less.  Honestly.  I’m really, really happy with bit.ly – why change?

This is why:

supr

Now, the click counts aren’t all that impressive – I generally get between 20-40 clicks per link I post to Twitter.  The important number is what’s in the little blue box.  This, my friend, is the number of people who viewed your link through StumbleUpon.  See, when you shorten a URL using Su.pr, you have the option to “Thumbs Up” your link by reviewing, categorizing, and ensuring that it’s family friendly.  Once that’s done, it’s ready to be stumbled and is made available to other StumbleUpon users.

So the obvious reason for using su.pr is more traffic.  In the past 3 days alone I’ve received a few hundred StumbleUpon views from the few links I’ve posted.  For a small, part-time blogger, this is a big deal.

Apart from that, Su.pr offers some other great tools for link management.

Thumbnail Previews

Sure, it’s not all that useful, but I like it.  It let’s me know at a glance whether or not my link has been reviewed and it lets me know what I’m clicking on without reading the title.  This sounds incredibly lazy, but…well…yeah, it’s lazy.  But I like it.

Statistics

Su.pr offers a variety of statistics – retweets, reviews, stumbles and clicks.  They also offer the option to download your link statistics in CSV form.

Post to Twitter, Facebook

Like bit.ly, Su.pr offers the option of posting your link to Twitter, along with your message.  However, Su.pr also allows you to post to Facebook – or both!  On top of that, it allows for scheduled updates (like HootSuite).

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Promoted Websites

Once you add your domains to your Su.pr settings, you will start to see click report graphs in your sidebar.  This is useful because it shows your most popular websites and posting times at a glance.

Suggested Posting Times

Su.pr analyzes your updates and link counts to provide you with a nice visual graph of the best times to post.  For me, I tend to drive more traffic in the early morning.

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Poster Giveaway from Digital Room

UPDATE – The contest is over. Congratulations Daniel Farmer!

digital room

Thanks to the great guys at DigitalRoom, I have been permitted to give away one custom 18×24” rolled poster print. You can see more details by checking out poster printing. The contest is open to anyone in the United States, and the winner will get their poster delivered UPS Ground for free.

Since DigitalRoom is so cool, they have given me a free poster print simply for hosting this contest. I’m ecstatic. The only problem is, I’m also a horrible decision maker. While I am tempted to go with the classy and sweet choice of enlarging a family picture for my poster, I’m feeling a little more selfish and a lot more ghetto. I love graffiti. LOVE IT. Anyone who follows me on Twitter will already know this, as I am constantly TwitPic-ing my work, linking to Facebook albums, and so on. The obvious choice, then, is to put together some work (I’m thinking somethings from COPE2, SEEN, maybe some old Dondi pieces) and have it printed up and framed!

DigitalRoom specializes in high quality digital printing, so the quality reviews are fantastic – my graffiti should look great!  But that’s just me. And now that you’re a bit turned off, here’s how to enter the contest for your chance to print whatever you want.

    To be entered, all you need to do is leave a comment below explaining what you would like to have printed. Please be sure to use a real email address, since I will need to contact you for your information if you win.

For extra entries, you can:

    Tweet the giveaway:

    @rybo is hosting a custom printed poster #giveaway from @uprinting and DigitalRoom.com! http://j.mp/IAQU8

    Write a post on your own blog that links to this post and DigitalRoom.com – due to time restraints, go ahead and send me a link on Twitter @rybo or ryan at rybomedia.com.
    Subscribe to my blog – I’ll be going by the honor system, so just let me know in your comment.
    Follow me on Twitter – Leave your Twitter username in your comment below.

This contest will close September 28rd at 2pm. At this time, I will use random.org to generate a winner. For each of the 4 things you do for an extra entry, I will add your name once.

So that’s it! Good luck everybody – I look forward to reading what you want printed!

UPDATE: In an attempt to get a few more entries before the winner is selected next week, I’m adding “refer a friend”. If you refer someone and they mention your name in their comment, you will get 2 extra entries, and the person who referred you will get 1 extra entry.

j.mp

About a week ago, the popular URL shortening service announced that they are releasing a new shortener site. Why would arguably the most popular URL shortener release a brand new site? Simple – j.mp is 2 characters shorter than bit.ly. Really, that’s all.

jmp

For those who are currently bit.ly account holders, don’t worry – just login to j.mp using your bit.ly information and your links and statistics will carry over. Now, saving 2 characters isn’t a huge deal to me, but if you are constantly trying to shave letters off of your tweets, making the switch to j.mp might be a good idea.

Social Networking Gone Too Far

I have always considered Facebook as the primary social network.  You can manage photos like Flickr, you can post updates like Twitter, you can show off your cliched profile pictures like MySpace, you can sell things like eBay, and now with Facebook apps, you can add music to your page, embed RSS feeds and play games.

Since all these things are combined into one site, I (and most others, I believe) consider Facebook to be the more private network – for real friends only.  Sure, some people make it their job to collect friends, but for the most part, clicking “Friend Request” is an exciting action that is reserved for people you know – or at least people you have interacted with.

If someone likes the website, I’ll accept their request.  If I’ve emailed back and forth with the author of a favorite blog of mine, I might try and add him/her on Facebook.  Thanks to uSocial, however, all of this is changing.  Well, at least they want it to.

uSocial is a unique advertising service that sells Facebook friends and Twitter followers.  You heard me right.   For around $177, you can ensure yourself 1,000 new Facebook friends (the same prices apply to Facebook Fan Pages).  For $87, you can buy 1,000 Twitter followers.  Plans for both services can cost you as much as $11,000.  Why would anyone pay for friends?  Good question.

friends

Ideally, this service would appeal to businesses and professionals trying to market their services on these fast growing social networking sites.  However, until I see statistics on the amount of friends and followers who want to reach into their pocket and pay for your product because they are your online friend, I’m not buying it.  Why not simply pay for targeted advertising on Facebook?  It can be significantly cheaper, and it ensures that the friends and fans you get will be…well…friends and fans!

“So, how did we do this quarter, Jim?”

“Well sir, we have over 5,000 fans on Facebook!”

“Wonderful!  Now how does that income statement look?  Oh, and what’s this $650 charge?”

“Unimportant.”

To sum up, social networking has brought us around to the point that people are literally paying for friends.  Lovely.

Of iPhones and Gnomes…

Big Prize. If you’re on Facebook or Twitter, there’s a good chance you’re somewhat familiar with the name. Whether you check the fan page every hour, are constantly confused by the odd little sayings your friends write on their wall, or your Twitter homepage is sprinkled with #moonfruit tweets – you’ve seen the name.

BigPrize

In less than two weeks, and with over 140,000 fans at last check, Big Prize is taking over – by giving stuff away!  The people at Big Prize seem to understand something very basic to human nature – we like free stuff.  Want to attract a lot of people?  Give them really expensive things…for free.

Now, as with every “free giveaway” program, Big Prize has raised plenty of skepticism, especially after the consecutive winnings of Ben Scott.  Ben was one of the people I got to talk with, and he has a very interesting story about Big Prize.  Ben actually won 4 different prizes – 3 t-shirts and an iPod Touch.  While a lot of people posted some pretty rude things about him, he won it all fair and square, simply tweeting responses when he received Twitter SMS updates.  That’s not good enough for some people, and Ben gave up 2 of his shirts to calm the storm of people essentially angry over the fact that they didn’t win.

To be fair to those truly wary, I was also a tad hesitant at first.  However, after doing a little reading, tweeting, Facebook stalking (and discovering that it’s sponsored by Startlike), I was (and am) sold.  So how can someone just give away iPhones, MacBooks and golf clubs?  The answer is pretty straight forward, and involves something my mom has hounded me about for years – budgeting.

As with any company, Startlike has a marketing budget.  This is how they can give away awesome little freebies that we all love so much like t-shirts and koozies (honestly, what is it about free shirts that makes us salivate?).  It’s also how they can afford to chuck out more iPhones than self-taken mirror shots on an middle schoolers Facebook.  Which do you think is more effective – banner ads, pens, and rubber key chains or TaylorMade drivers, iPhones, and MacBooks?

As Michael Scott (Regional Manager of Dunder Mifflin Paper Co. in Scranton, PA) has taught us, this is what’s called a “win-win-win”.  Big Prize experiences an exponential growth of fans (hopefully attracting partners), Startlike gets more attention, and all the fans and Twitter followers get the opportunity to win stuff.  Viral marketing at its finest, in my opinion.  Traffic, fans, and interest grows through Facebook “word-of-mouth”, with minimal-to-no direct advertising.

Ok, so all that’s fine and dandy – but why do you care?  As the end consumer, you just want to know that you aren’t getting scammed.  That’s where I come in.  Over the past few days, I’ve been gathering interviews from a few people who have been Big Prize winners.  Everyone I talked to was happy to answer my questions – I guess free iPhones tend to put people in a good mood.

Now, as Facebook is geared towards sharing information with friends, most people I talked with found Big Prize through the wall posts of friends or direct referrals.  Michelle Cramer, however, saw something about it on her Startlike homepage.  A few days ago, I wrote a post about how much I enjoy my own Startlike homepage, and it’s neat to see a winner who uses it on a regular basis.

Basically, though, I just wanted to find out if winners actually got their prizes, and if they got them quickly.  My answer:  a resounding double yes.  Everyone I talked with had great communication with Big Prize, and they received their prizes about a week after winning.

“They were really quick about it, within a week I got it.” – Binal Patel

“They told me on June 29th or 30th I would get the gift card . . . on July 8th. I got it on July 2nd.” – Benjamen Scott

“The prize . . . arrived by postal mail the following week. No muss, no fuss.” – Eric Alderman

“I received my [prize] about a week after winning it, which in my opinion is pretty quick!” – Michelle Cramer

So, after speaking to 4 completely satisfied winners, I can safely say that yes, Big Prize is giving things away – no scams, no ploys.  “No muss, no fuss.”

Now, explaining why I’m a Big Prize fan is like trying to explain to my best friend Daniel (a Celtics fan) why I’ve been a die-hard Laker for 11 years – they’re the best program in the league, backed by some terrific players (in Big Prize’s case, Startlike), and Kobe Bryant is the finest example of hard work, dedication, and fundamental perfection the NBA has to offer.  Ok, so that last one didn’t really apply at all, but it’s my blog.

Show me another company that can give away thousands of dollars in free stuff, carry on great personal customer relations, generate thousands and thousands of Facebook fans in a few days, and represent themselves with a gnome.  In the meantime, my computer’s broken, and I could really use a MacBook – so excuse me while I keep playing.

Find Your Social Networking RSS Feeds

Almost every profile you update online has some type of RSS feed that you can subscribe to. However, since most people don’t use them, they can be difficult to find. While working on my latest project, I had to find a few of mine, so I thought I’d share where they are located so you can find them easily.

Delicious

delicious_rss

Lower left hand corner of your bookmark page.

Twitter

twitter_rss

Bottom on right hand sidebar of your profile page.

StumbleUpon

stumbleupon_rss

Top right of profile page.

Flickr

flickr_rss

Bottom left of photostream.

IntenseDebate

intensedebate_rss

Top left of profile page.

FriendFeed

friendfeed_rss

Bottom left of your stream page.

I will follow this up with an explanation of how to create or find feeds for YouTube and Facebook, since they are a little more complicated.