Something is happening to Twitter, but you don’t know what it is. Do you, Mr. Jones?
I started tweeting 8 years ago. Though I didn’t know it at the time, Twitter would turn out to be the most important way for people to discover my work and for me to connect with thousands of kindred souls all over the world who share my specialized interests. Over time, Conferences That Work grew into a website with ten million page views per year.
But as 2016 drew to a close I noticed that something was changing in the Twitter world. Here’s a graph of my follower count over time: (more…)
Friends don’t let friends give away their original content to third-party platforms
I’ve been saying this for years, but do people listen? No they don’t.
Let me be clear, by all means share your content for free on any of the gazillion social media platforms available. And if you can get paid appropriately for creating content for others, good for you. Otherwise, make sure that your content remains under your control.
Why? Well, here are a few reminders:
Geocities was once the third most visited site on the internet. 38 million user-built pages! Nothing but a distant memory now, unless you live in Japan.
Remember when your friends saw everything you posted on Facebook? Not any more, unless you pay up.
Ah, those glorious days when you posted something in a LinkedIn group and a significant number of people would read it! Long gone.
Now the blog host site Medium announces a layoff of a third of its staff. There are millions of posts on the site. Will Evan Williams pull the plug some day? Will social journalism survive? Who knows?
Get the picture? Posting your original content exclusively on someone else’s platform puts you at their mercy. Don’t do it!
Though this route involves more work and/or money than posting on a third-party platform, you:
Control your own content. You can add, edit, delete, and control comments on it at any time.
Determine how your content is presented. Want to insert an offer for your services or products in the middle of a blog post? No problem.
Retain full rights to your content. (One example: the rights to anything you post to Huffington Post belongs to them. And they don’t even pay you for the privilege of writing for them!)
Build your own brand, authority, and SEO, not that of a third-party site.
Maintain access to your content. If your web hosting service goes bankrupt or is unsatisfactory, you can transfer your content to a new host. As long as the internet is up and you pay your hosting service, your content will be available.
Seven years ago I started the website you’re reading. As expected, hardly anyone visited initially. As I steadily added content (at least once per week) viewership grew. According to my weblogs, this site is now one of the most popular websites on meeting design and related issues, with 31 million page views to date, 25 million of which were made in the last three years.
As a result, this website is now the largest source of client inquiries for my consulting and facilitating services — something I would never have predicted when it went live in 2009. And the ever-growing body of articles on this blog and the inbound links to them continue to build my brand, authority, and SEO.
If you are attempting to build social media followers by drive-by following—i.e. following a batch of new accounts every day, waiting a day or two, and then unfollowing the accounts that don’t follow you back—STOP THAT! You are trashing your brand.
I’m surprised that so many people with social media bios clearly designed to project a professional image destroy their credibility by using this “strategy”.
I suspect these are people that would never stoop to buying followers or likes. And yet ~30% of my daily new Twitter followers are drive-by followers.
Drive-by following backfires because it ensures that I’m extremely unlikely to want to have any kind of social media connection with you.
Here’s how it works on Twitter, my most important social media platform. I do my best to read the profile of every new follower. Rarely will I follow back right away unless you’re someone I know. Birdbrain, the excellent app I use to track Twitter followers, also shows anyone who’s unfollowed me. That’s where I get to notice that you’ve drive-by unfollowed me, typically within 48 hours of your initial follow. That’s when I get to make a mental note that you’re not a serious user of social media, just someone chasing a high follower count.
If you continue to follow for a bit and post interesting stuff (I admit that mentions and RTs of me are nice too!) I may well follow you back.
What’s worse than drive-by following? Repeated drive-by following! I routinely see accounts commit multiple drive-bys, usually a week or so apart. My conclusion: either you are using a second-rate automated drive-by service, or you have a memory even worse than mine (which is saying something). Either way, your attempt to get me to follow you back is even less likely to succeed.
If you want to use social media as an effective marketing platform, don’t broadcast stuff about yourself all the time. Don’t implement elaborate plans solely designed to maximize your followers. Instead, post interesting stuff (both yours and others) and interact with people. Keep doing this, and over time, if you’re doing a good job, your followers will grow and be genuinely interested in your social media presence, and your brand recognition and value will increase.
I’ve written before about the lack of information about who has access to attendee information, and I’m concerned about the ramifications of the growing trend for meeting apps to offer login via one of the established social media networks, typically Twitter, FaceBook, and LinkedIn.
Perhaps you should be too. Social check-in is touted as a plus for event attendees, allowing them to:
discover friends, contacts, followers, and followees who are also attending the meeting;
provide in-app social network functionality; e.g. the ability to tweet from inside the app; and
be notified (in some apps) when social network contacts are in the vicinity.
These features are, indeed, potential pluses for an attendee. But there are downsides too, which are rarely mentioned.
When you authorize an app to access your personal social network information, you are allowing the company that created the app access to that information. At a minimum, this includes read access to your social media contacts in that app, which may (e.g. Twitter) or may not (e.g. FaceBook, LinkedIn) be public. If the app also requests write access, it can, in principle, do things like sending tweets from your account.
There’s potential for abuse here. An app developer can copy all the information that you expose to them and keep it forever, even if you de-authorize the app from access to the network later. Some questions that come to mind:
What will be done with the information I make available to your app?
Who will have access to it? For example, unless you pay LinkedIn big bucks you do not have access to every member’s information. But an app can (and in one case I’ve seen, does) expose every attendee’s LinkedIn profile to all other attendees.
For how long will that access be made available?
Will the app developer eventually destroy the information retrieved during the event?
What are the consequences if the app’s security is breached? Can the attacker take over the compromised social media accounts?
Clear answers to these questions are rarely given before you’ve (perhaps reluctantly) given the app permission to access your social media account(s).
In addition, some apps don’t give you a choice; you can only use them if you provide the app login via one of your social media networks. And if you want to share other social media IDs with attendees, e.g. your Twitter ID, you can’t just add the ID into a data field for your information but have to give the app access to your entire Twitter account.
I understand there are more stringent data protection standards in Europe, but the state of affairs I’ve described above is common in many of the U.S. apps I’ve seen.
I think it behooves app developers to provide clearer answers to these questions, and allow us to opt out from providing forced access to our social media accounts when we use a meeting app.
Do you have fewer Twitter followers than the folks who follow you?
If so, cheer up, it’s normal, thanks to the magic of simple statistics! You are more likely to be a friend of a popular person simply because he or she has a larger number of friends. So, on average, your followers are likely to have more followers than you do.
One man’s descent into a world of blogs, Twitter, and social networking sites in the pursuit of publicity for his book.
Updated May 13, 2010 with slide deck & additional links (see end of post)
On Thursday, May 13, at 7 p.m., in the Brooks Memorial Library’s meeting room, Adrian Segar, local author of Conferences That Work: Creating Events That People Love returns to describe what he’s learned about marketing his book via social media in the six months since it was published. His talk will be of interest to anyone who wants to find out more about using social networking sites and tools to market products and services.
Adrian Segar, who ran the monthly meetings of the Southeastern Vermont Computer Users Group for sixteen years, offered to give this talk after he recently began being bombarded with questions about blogging and using services like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for publicity, marketing, and fostering connections with existing and potential customers.
Marketing with social media is a huge topic and can’t be covered comprehensively in a single session. Instead, Adrian will describe his surprising journey attempting to discover how best to use social media to publicize his nontraditional approach to conference design. His experience will be a useful guide to what you may encounter if you delve into this strange new environment. After Adrian has told his story there will be plenty of time for questions and discussion.
Adrian Segar has organized and facilitated conferences for 30 years. He is a former elementary particle physicist, information technology consultant, professor of computer science, and co-owner of a solar manufacturing company. He lives with his wife Celia in Marlboro, Vermont, is active in the non-profit world, and loves to sing and dance.
In my last post Can we measure the ROI in social media? – Part 1 I argued that it’s pointless to try and calculate ROI in social media. If you’re convinced, then you may be asking, “In that case, how can I justify the allocation of resources towards social media marketing?”
Perhaps the following will help.
As I previously explained, the problem with applying classic ROI to social media marketing is that we can’t quantify the Return monetarily, because we can’t tie increases in sales or profits directly to specific social media actions or programs. This inability blocks us from talking about ROI at all.
But wait—surely what we really want to do is to make decisions about allocating resources amongst different marketing channels? If we agree that we need to market our products and services (duh), the real question is how and where do we spend our marketing budget? Here’s David Meerman Scott again, emphasizing this point in his usual forthright fashion.
So why not use a slightly different metric, one that allows us to compare the effectiveness of different marketing channels in ways we can measure. Let’s call it the Relative Return On Investment (RROI). RROI sidesteps the problem of assigning a monetary value to Return. Instead it concentrates on providing a practical comparison between desirable and measurable marketing outcomes—like increasing traffic to websites, new product suggestions, time spent on sites, active memberships, or brand mentions, to name a few—and the Investments allocated to specific marketing channels. In effect, we’re replacing Return with the changes in concrete metrics that we believe are important to our marketing objectives. The units of RROI are then [change in metric] per unit of currency invested, e.g. increase in daily page views per dollar, or decrease in weekly customer support calls per euro.
Using RROI we can do experiments and make decisions about where we want to allocate marketing resources. Our experiments won’t be as precise as those possible in the old days, when only targeted audiences saw our broadcast marketing. But by using tagged indicators of traffic origins and existing analytics we can probably get a good sense of the relative effectiveness of alternative marketing strategies. That’s useful.
Be aware that using RROI in this way won’t tell you how much you should invest in marketing—something that, in principal, can be answered by ROI analysis performed across potential profit opportunities available to a business. But if measuring ROI in social media is a fantasy, perhaps using RROI in its place is an honest reflection of what’s practically possible.
Is RROI a useful, relevant way to think about investments in social media? Or am I just blowing smoke? As always, your comments are welcome!
Last month Samuel J Smith moved back to the U.S. from Switzerland and, needing to buy some insurance, asked for a recommendation on Twitter. Having had car insurance with Progressive Insurance for a number of years, and liking the ease of accessing my policy and payments online as well as the competent Vermont representatives I worked with when dealing with several claims, I tweeted Sam this information.
Five minutes later I was pleasantly surprised to see the following tweet from @Progressive:
@ASegar Saw your tweet – we appreciate you spreading the word ; ) Glad you’ve had such a positive experience.
What can we say about the Return On Investment (ROI) for this little social media interaction?
A quick Google search finds this article which explains how Progressive has monitored mentions on Twitter and other social media channels since 2008 and has a dedicated team in its call center that responds to reported customer service issues. Obviously this initiative costs Progressive money, and the company surely knows how much. So the Investment part of ROI is known in cold, hard cash.
But what about the Return? I was tickled to receive the tweet, and it increased my positive feelings about the company and the likelihood that I would recommend it to more friends and acquaintances. In addition, anyone looking at Progressive’s Twitter stream (which has ~5,000 followers) might see that I made a positive comment. But wait, there’s more! Now I’ve written a favorable blog post that will be read by more people (including you!), possibly influencing more purchases from the company in the future.
Clearly a small but classic social media success story for Progressive.
But can Progressive quantify the value of their tweet in dollars?
I don’t think so.
ROI was originally a financial term, but it’s become common to see it used in areas where there is no simple way to connect what happens with a financial value. We have no idea of how much more likely I am to recommend Progressive as a result of their unexpected tweet, or how many other people will ever see or be influenced by the tweet, or how many people will be influenced by reading this blog post.
And yet, there are plenty of people writing about measuring ROI in social media.
For example, in February Brian Solis posted ROI: How to Measure Return on Investment in Social Media. This sounds like a how-to article, but Brian’s article just contains a lot of statistics that businesses have reported about their experiences, beliefs, and predictions about their use of social media, plus one (in my view, see below) weak example from Dell about its claims of increased sales through connecting with customers on Twitter. There’s no how-to, though Brian states that “2010 is the year that social media graduates from experimentation to strategic implementation with direct ties to specific measurable performance indicators.”
The problem, as exemplified by Progressive story above, is that the monetary Return on social media marketing cannot be tied directly to the efforts that are made. Now this is not true for many older forms of marketing. For example, it’s possible to test the effectiveness of mail campaigns by sending different coded promotions to randomly chosen subsets of a mailing list and analyzing the response rate. But because social media is, well, social we can’t do this kind of segmented marketing experiment!
If I want to buy a computer from Dell, once I’ve decided what I want I go online and look for a good deal. And that includes checking Dell’s Twitter stream. I do not follow Dell and get convinced to buy; I buy from them when I’m ready. Dell counting a sale to me through a Twitter promo as a Return on their investment in Twitter is not a justification for their investment in social media, because I would have bought from them anyway after finding a satisfactory deal on their website or over the phone. So for Dell to say, as quoted in Brian’s article, that “Dell’s global reach on Twitter has resulted in more than $6.5 million in revenue” is disingenuous at best—there’s no way the company can claim that a sale would not have occurred if it hadn’t been featured on Twitter.
So should we throw out the idea of calculating ROI in social media? No, not entirely. I think there’s a better way to think about what we are trying to do when attempting to decide where and how we expend time, effort, and resources on social media marketing. I’ll explain further in my next post.
Do you think you can measure the ROI in social media? I’d love to hear what you think!