Tag Archives: Twitter

Whose Camera Never Lies?

c1860-LincolnAlthough “the camera never lies” is a well worn cliché, we – and  our customers – know it can. Unsurprisingly fakery is in the public consciousness. Coursera, the popular free online university, is currently offering a course with this title, documenting how commercial, journalistic, and historical images have been distorted. A recent exhibit at New York’s Metropolitan Museum, aptly titled “Faking It,” celebrated works where illusion trumped reality. A sister exhibit, “After Photoshop,” displayed the ubiquity of altered photography.

Even in this cynical age, it’s not always clear what is fake. For example, the iconic image of Lincoln on the right, is in fact a composite photo of John C. Calhoon, with Lincoln’s heade superimposed.

Even if your audience doesn’t know how to use Photoshop, Gimp, or other image editing tools, they are aware that images and video can be manipulated. The resulting “enhancements” in product shots and collateral can range from fibs to whoppers. Websites such as Four and Six rhetorically ask, “can any photo be trusted?”

But what happens if the customers’ cameras do the lying? Online sites such pixlr, picMonkey, and iPiccy, and many many others make photo enhancement – or as one site euphomizes it, “embetterment” –  cheap and easy. In a climate where marketers encourage and reward social media sharing of images via Instagram and Twitter, how many are bogus? Perhaps more to the point, how many which make your competitors’ offerings look better are biased?

What would you do, if an alienated customer posted an “enhanced” image showing how your product is inferior or injurious and the image became popular on social media?

Reputation management is problematic and there is no perfect defense. You should be monitoring what social media say about your organization. To this, you may also want to track what they’re showing as well.

Skewed Sentiment in the Twittersphere

Twitter, the popular micro-blogging and messaging service, has become a big deal – and twitter-bird-blue-on-whitenot just among social media. By its sixth birthday in 2012, it had an estimated 500 million “active” users worldwide, 140 million of whom are in the US. Based on its latest round of financing, its implied market capitalization would be $ 9.9 billion.

Activity on Twitter has become a leading indicator and Twitter sentiment is often reported in newscasts. The very volume of Twitter activity has become newsworthy. For example, the Academy Awards telecast generated 8.9 million Tweets and the Super Bowl garnered 24.1 million. Of course, many minor events are tweeted about – it seems that every conference, meeting, or presentation I attend – begins with announcing its hashtag.

A number of services such as Twitturly, Twitscoop, and Monitter allow you to track Twitter activity about your brand, organization, or cause. This can be interesting, but how relevant is it? Twitter measurement is relatively cheap and easy. Still, should you judge a marketing campaign or prospects for your latest product by reception on Twitter?

The folks at Twitter seem to think so and want to sell you a “promoted account,” which solicits more followers for you. Presumably, more followers will lead to more mentions.  If that won’t prime the pump, you can also pay for Promoted Tweets, which you can send to audiences who don’t follow you.

The question still remains, is Twitter sentiment a good proxy for what the Universe thinks about your organization or product? An interesting study just released from the Pew Research Center points to significant selection bias in  reactions on Twitter, compared to responses in statistically representative surveys. For example, the 2013 State of the Union Address was substantially more positively rated in polls (42%) than by Tweets (21%). According to the Pew researchers ” Twitter users are not representative of the public.”

This may not be shocking, but it should give one pause. How many of your users not only have Twitter accounts, but are actively engaged. Unless you’ve restricted your market to Twitterati, you may be wise to do some of the heavy lifting involved in market research.

Please Tweet me your thoughts @4ourth.

Message In A Bottle

message in a bottle

Content on the Web has always been (relatively) easy to share. If you find something you think worth sharing, you often need do no more than copy the contents of the address bar in your browser (the place where the URL goes and where you see “http://www…”) and paste it in an email or text message.

With the explosion of content and the use of dynamically generated web pages, the URL may get longer and longer. The length can crowd or even exceed the maximum length of a Tweet or text message and be cumbersome to deal with in the body of an email message.

The problem is common enough to have a number of solutions under the category of “URL shorteners” (which might use some shortening of its own). Common solutions include doiop.com, tinyurl.com tr.im, om.ly, memurl.com. and bit.ly. They are all free web based services.

For example, the rather ungainly URL


can be shortened to http://bit.ly/3g1MUk by visiting one of these web sites, in this case bit.ly, pasting the long URL into a window and clicking the shorten button. The new short URL takes you to the same page as the long one.

All of the services shorten URLs as claimed, but have other differences. These can be decisive.

In my work, I tend to use bit.ly. I prefer it because of the perspective it gives on what happens to your shortened URLs. As a marketer, I want to know what happens when we send messages with these URLs. Bit.ly makes it easy to see how many clicks a short URL received as well as how many conversations in Twitter and FriendFeed refer to it.

Bit.ly can also search Twitter for tweets containing a desired search topic and a bit.ly link. Bit.ly search is interesting in that it reveals both the number of clicks your shortened URL received as well as the total number of clicks generated by other shortened URLs to the original URL. Thus you get a measure of popularity and your share of voice.

So, even if less picturesque, bit.ly is better than a message in a bottle.

Can’t Buy Me Love

This July, the upscale grocer Whole Foods ran a promotional contest designed to increase its Twitter followers to a million. The contest is over, but here is a summary. The promotion gained (social) media attention – it was cheap, ambitious, and apparently successful. The winner, the millionth follower, and ten runner ups would each receive a million grains of quinoa (about 5 pounds) and a $50 Whole Foods gift card. Whole Foods did in fact reach a million followers on July 14 (just a coincidence that was Bastille Day, you decide).

In little more than a month at a cost of less than $600, Whole Foods gained a quarter of a million followers. This works out to be a cost per acquisition of less than a quarter of a cent per follower. On volume alone, this would seem to be a most impressive promotion.

As of this post, Whole Foods had 1.17 million followers. This the largest following of any consumer business, though less than that of media organizations such as the New York Times and NPR or of current Twitter king Ashton Kutcher.

Whole Foods Twitter Followers

Whole Foods Twitter Followers

How much of an effect did the promotion have in gaining followers? If we look at the growth in Whole Foods followers, before, during and after and during the promotion, we see uniform growth. That is, there is no indication from these data that the promotion had any effect.

Growth In Total Twitter Users

Growth In Total Twitter Users

Indeed, data from ComScore indicate that the rate of growth of followers for Whole Foods is no higher than of Twitter users as a whole during comparable periods (see the shaded region in the chart above). It would seem that a rising tweet lifts all boats.

Anyone have a good recipe calling for five pounds of quinoa?

When What We Can’t Live Without Ain’t There

What you saw at twitter.com the afternoon of 5/13/09

What you saw at twitter.com the afternoon of 5/13/09

If you use Twitter, you may have noticed it wasn’t there Wednesday afternoon May 13th. Conspiratorial theories, notwithstanding, this probably was not:

  1. Satanic hackers observing the 13th
  2. A cyberattack war game
  3. A ploy from Twitter to start charging for the service

As I write this, even Google appears to be temporarily unavailable making me wonder about option 2.

This is not the first Twitter outage and, unlike more common intermittent failures, appears to have been controlled. Given Twitters remarkable growth, as the chart below shows, occasional service disruptions are understandable.

Growth in Twitter traffic

Growth in Twitter traffic

What’s intriguing is that fervent Twitter users did not seem to be very upset. Of course without Twitter, they’d have to complain the old fashioned way. What bartender wants to hear such a tale of woe? Let’s declare a happy hour next time Twitter goes down.