Something strange is happening in the world of Twitter. For well over a year my average Twitter impressions count has hovered at 2.0K impressions per day. (Twitter defines an impression as anytime a Twitter user sees your Tweet.) I’ve never seen that figure deviate by more than 5% (i.e. between 1.9 — 2.1K) for a long time.
And then, starting at the beginning of March, I’ve watched my daily impression count steadily rise to 2.7K per day. Every time I check, it’s gone up. That’s a 35% increase in one month!
I haven’t changed my tweeting activity in any way recently. I continue to post each day:
One tweet about my latest blog post
One tweet for each of an assorted selection of 8 of my older blog posts;
A tweet or two about my upcoming Participate! workshop; and
A few mentions or retweets of other users I find interesting.
All my other Twitter monthly count statistics: engagements, link clicks, retweets, likes, and replies are essentially unchanged.
Yet Twitter insists that suddenly, 35% more people are seeing my tweets!
I would like to think that I’ve suddenly become 35% more interesting, but I doubt that’s what’s going on.
Is anyone else seeing this? Any ideas about what could be happening?
A social media (SM) platform feed that is not a chronological list of all posts, and only those posts.
I am sick of social media platforms deciding for me what I should see. (Read this entire post for a rare exception.)
Every major social media platform started with a simple chronological feed of all the posts from all the people you chose to follow/be “friends” with.
But every platform subsequently FUBARed their social media feed. They dropped some posts entirely, and added content that you had never asked for.
Facebook’s news feed has been FUBARed since 2009.
YouTube has been messing around with search ranking of videos since 2012.
LinkedIn’s homepage feed became FUBARed in 2016, when the company folded in its “Pulse” content.
Twitter’s timeline got FUBARed in 2016. (You can turn off their adding “tweets you are likely to care about most”, but they still insert tweets “we think you might be interested in” into your timeline.)
Instagram stopped chronologically listing posts in 2016.
Google Plus has fussed around with its home feed algorithm for several years, but it doesn’t matter because — and I wish this wasn’t true — Google Plus is dead.
Here are three reasons SM channels do this. Feel free to add more in the comments. They:
Want to add sponsored paid content (aka advertisements) so they can make money.
Want to create incentives (like “boosting” your Facebook posts) to pay them to let more people see your posts.
Know that some of their users — the ones who “friend” or “follow” everyone — would quickly withdraw from their service if the resulting torrent of requested posts were actually provided.
No one likes reason #1 but we understand why SM platforms do it. They need to make money to stay in business. Fair enough.
Reason #2 is really damaging to the concept of a SM channel as a reliable communications tool. Old media doesn’t have this option: when you buy the paper or watch TV you receive the same content as everyone else. But today, two users who follow the exact same people on Facebook may see very different feeds, thanks to Facebook’s secret and ever-changing algorithm. Essentially, Facebook makes the feed unreliable so the company can make additional revenues. I find this unreliability infuriating, and it’s why I use Facebook as little as possible.
Reason #3 is understandable — but what’s annoying is there’s no way to turn this behavior off! It would be easy for SM channels to default to their algorithmic filtering but provide an option for users to say, “Just give me everything I’ve said I wanted to see. Yes, I know I’ll still get all the ads you insert, but I’d really like not to miss anything else.” I guess that they worry too many people would choose to see everything, and the incentive for organizations to pay them to boost content eyeballs would be reduced. In fact, I suspect that only a small percentage of users (like me) would pick this option.
Ultimately, I want a social media channel that doesn’t filter. I suspect I’m not alone. Let me pick what I want to see, and let me see it. All of it.
Is that too much to ask?
A reward for those who’ve read this far — an unFUBARed SM feed!
I know one way to get an unFUBARed SM feed. From Twitter, no less — use Twitter Lists! If you create a private Twitter list of people whose tweets you want to see, you can view the resulting stream on Twitter at https://twitter.com/YourTwitterID/lists/NameOfYourList or via other Twitter clients like TweetDeck and the list is chronological and unfiltered! (Please don’t tell ’em; they’d probably FUBAR it immediately.)
Do you know other ways to get unFUBARed SM feeds? Feel free to share in the comments!
The effectiveness of Twitter as a connective social media channel is declining
In July I wrote about why 2017 is a tipping point for Twitter, noting that the rate at which users follow established accounts has slowed dramatically. As the year draws to a close I’m seeing further evidence that conversations in the twittersphere are drying up too.
After years of predictable behavior, Twitter analytics reveal that something strange is going on with how Twitter is used.
Something is happening to Twitter, but you don’t know what it is. Do you, Mr. Jones?
I started tweeting 12 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:
What I’ve noticed about my Twitter analytics over the last nine months
Since I began posting in June 2009, the graph shows that I consistently added between two to three followers per day — until around September 2017. At that point, highlighted by the red circle, there was an unusual increase to ~six followers/day for the remainder of 2016, followed by a sudden flattening that has persisted through the first half of 2017 to less than one follower/day.
In 2017 I’ve also noticed a dramatic reduction in the number of retweets I’ve been receiving. Though I haven’t had time to develop quantitative statistics, it looks to me as though in 2017 retweets have been replaced to a large extent with likes, (though the frequency of mentions seems more or less unchanged).
Why are these changes happening?
I’ll begin with a caution that everything that follows is ultimately speculative. I can’t say definitively what is going on, and can think of multiple plausible reasons for these significant changes. For example:
My experience may not be representative of other Twitter users. A sudden surge of engagement with my posts during Q4 2016, was followed by a rapid loss of interest.
The US election results caused more people to visit Twitter for a few months, but attention eventually shifted to the continuous torrent of breaking news at the expense of general engagement.
Twitter user growth has been flattening for some time as per the graph below; my 2016 EOY bump is reflected in the graph’s Q1 2017 bump, but future official statistics will show little continued active growth.
In retrospect, 2016-2107 will be seen as a period when late adopters continued to join Twitter, but a critical mass of active users concluded that engagement on the platform was not for them and moved to other social media platforms (I’m thinking Instagram for one). Although Twitter seems to be doing well in percentage market share of social networking site visits, as per the statistics below, it’s becoming more a site that users visit for breaking news — engagement is moving to other platforms.
What do I think is actually going on?
I’d put my money mainly on #4 above. Perhaps this Twitter analytics trend has been accelerated by #2’s associated flood of U.S. breaking news (61% of my followers are in the United States). It will be interesting to see if the trend continues, which may help to shine more light on what, to me, are changes that are interesting and important for anyone who uses Twitter for connection, content marketing, and engagement.
What do you think is going on? Add your ideas in the comments below!
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. Don’t give away control of your content.
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. Don’t give away control of your content.
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.
Are you 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.
Many people with social media bios 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 make a mental note that you’re not a serious user of social media, just someone chasing a high follower count.
Instead, 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. 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.
There are privacy issues in meeting apps. 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.
Potential for abuse
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 you do 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 you make that access available?
Will the app developer eventually destroy the information retrieved during the event?
What are the consequences if someone breaches the app’s security? 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).
Give participants a choice
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.
There shouldn’t be privacy issues in meeting apps. 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.