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Polls, Surveys & Quizzes

How Do YOU Feel About Ads On Twitter?

Like it or not, advertisements are coming to Twitter, and they’re coming soon.

“Twitter will have an advertising business, ready in the near future, and available to partners.” ~ Dick Costolo, Twitter COO.

The company has to make money. Nobody knows how or even where Twitter is going to implement this business model – Robert Scoble speculates it might come in the form of a supertweet – but this was always something of an inevitability. It’s also a bit of a no-brainer – Twitter is becoming so huge, ignoring this opportunity would be more than a little foolish.

But here’s the thing: they have to get it right. This is art as much as it is science or technical wizardry, trying to balance an online advertising model that is effective inasmuch as people see and click on the ads, but not at the expense of millions of others who categorise it as little more than spam. (And Twitter already has some pretty major issues there.)

Google is the benchmark for this, and Facebook has modelled their own advertising system after the Mountain View giant. But both of these have the luxury of the full screen to play with (they’re not limited to 140 characters), and the knowledge that their visitors are coming directly to them, and not viewing a version of their site through any number of external software clients. Whatever ads Twitter supports need to also go out to Seesmic Desktop, TweetDeck, Tweetie, HootSuite et al, otherwise around three-quarters of the user-base will be completely untapped.

And what about disclosure? Does an ad have to clearly be labelled as such? And if so, what does that mean for the tens of thousands of Twitter accounts now that do nothing but link to affiliate schemes and ‘power systems’? Aren’t they ads, too? Or do only official Twitter ads count?

It will also be interesting to see if Twitter allows its users to participate in the revenue stream, like with Google’s Adsense program. After all – if they’re going to be making money off my tweets, shouldn’t I be entitled to a little of that myself? If not, then don’t be surprised to see a Firefox-style AdBlock bolt-on being made available to Twitter users shortly after ads are turned on.

Right, on to the poll. Let’s assume ads are a given – that sooner rather than later, we’ll start to see ads show up somewhere when we use Twitter. I want to hear how you feel about that. Please complete the poll below, and hit the comments to flesh out your thoughts.

POLL: Twitter To Charge YOU $1/month For Access. Now What?

I loosely made this point over at Chris Brogan’s blog a few moments ago in an excellent article he has written about the audacity of free – that is, how increasingly people are objecting to having to pay for things in an online world.

A while back I polled my readers about whether they’d ever pay for Twitter. As it stands, only about 25% said that they would.

This got me thinking.

If tomorrow you logged on to Twitter and were suddenly informed that it was now a premium service that was charging $1/month (ongoing) or $10/year to access the service, how would you react? Let’s say you had 30 days to make-up your mind and/or backup your stuff. After that, your account was unavailable – unless you paid.

For me, I’d gladly pay. Twitter is easily worth $1/month to me. I wouldn’t think twice about it. Twitter has an estimated 25 million users, and if everybody saw things like I do that would mean quarter-of-a-billion dollars of revenue per annum. Sure, I’d like to see that money invested back into Twitter – and by that I don’t mean Ferraris for Biz and the gang – but if it would mean the service could move strongly onwards and upwards, I’d be 100% behind it.

The pros of paying for a social network:

  • Even at a low rate like $1/month, overnight you’d remove 99% of the spammers, trolls, bots, stalkers and good old-fashioned weirdos
  • Because you’re paying for a service using a credit card, Twitter can easily verify you’re a real person. No more anonymity, and the perils that it brings
  • Twitter can re-invest that subscription rate into a world-class professional network, and importantly
  • It could remain independent

The cons:

  • It cost you $1

Really, I see very little downside. But I’m not the norm. As Chris points out in his piece, many object to paying for anything, especially if they’re used to it being free.

So, here’s my question.

Once you’ve voted, please share your thoughts in the comments area below.

PS. To clarify, Twitter hasn’t made this announcement. I’m just curious how you’d react if they did.

POLL: How Many Celebrities Do You Follow On Twitter (And Who Are They)?

This poll is simply for curiosity’s sake, and I want to share with you this hypothesis: the more time people spend on Twitter, the less celebrities they end up following.

It’s certainly true for me. Back in the day (maybe a heady six months ago) when I was young and naïve, I was probably following fifty celebrities on Twitter. Now I’m following precisely twelve: Robert Llewellyn, Dara O’Briain, David Mitchell, Derren Brown, Hugh Hefner, Graham Linehan, Gregg Wallace, Jimmy Carr, Jon Ronson, Peter Serafinowicz, Jonathan Ross and the obligatory Stephen Fry.

(Out of interest, three of the above follow me, too. I’ll leave you to guess who that might be.)

Why? Various reasons, but most of them revolve around the fact that Twitter is a fantastic leveller. It takes more than simply being famous. That might ensure you a lot of early interest, but to keep our attention you actually have to be interesting.

I’d like you to share how many celebrities you follow in the poll below, and also to write up a little bit about it in the comments.

Which famous folk are you following, and why? Who have you unfollowed? Are you following less celebrities now than you were a few months ago?

You may know the name of every celebrity you follow by heart, but if not, here’s how you do it:

  1. Go to FriendOrFollow.com.
  2. Type in your username, and wait a few moments.
  3. The first page you see will show you everybody who you are following that isn’t following you back. Check for any celebrities.
  4. Click on the ‘Fans’ and ‘Friends’ tabs, and check for signs of any celebrities in here.
  5. Tip: if you re-sort the pages by number of followers, that usually makes the celebrity accounts easier to spot, as they’re typically nearer the top.

(You can do this with anybody else you like, too. It’s quite fascinating to check out who famous folk are following, particularly when they’re not being followed back by that person.)

If that seems like too much work, feel free to simply make a guess. Try and be as accurate as you possibly can.

I’m talking proper, old-fashioned celebrities here. People who were famous before they came on to the internet. So, for example, Robert Scoble, famous as he is on Twitter and in the world of technology, doesn’t qualify. Conversely, Ashton Kutcher, Ellen Degeneres, Russell Brand, Pearl Jam, Ryan Seacrest, Britney Spears, Shaq, Oprah and Coldplay do.

That said, the concept of celebrity remains a fairly difficult one to pin down. Lots of folk are simply famous for being famous, and many household numbers in one country are complete unknowns in another. So, here’s the thing: if they’re famous to you, then they’re famous.

And please check with FriendorFollow before voting! The numbers of people who are putting the wrong number is unreal. Yes, comedians are celebrities. Yes, famous authors are celebrities. Yes, atheletes are celebrities. And yes, anybody who is famous in the ‘real world’ is a celebrity! It’s not just the Miley Cyrus and Jonas Brothers of this world.

(Also, if you follow just one celebrity, please, please, please write about who this is in the comments below.)

Who you follow can reveal quite a lot about you, I think.

And please remember not to lie. After all, we can easily check you out on FriendOrFollow, ourselves. :)

Would You Pay For Twitter?

Would You Pay For Twitter?Over at The New Yorker there’s an excellent review today of a new book entitled, Free: The Future Of A Radical Price. The article makes some worthy points about the ‘value’ of free in light of the strong endorsement made by the book’s author and is a recommended read. (Seth Godin also recently shared his thoughts.)

I really like the observation that “free is just another price”. Twitter, of course, is a free product. It’s not too radical a proposition to suggest that if Twitter had carried a service fee from day one I almost certainly wouldn’t be writing about it now.

But Twitter needs money, and right now the business plan isn’t exactly forthcoming. One way for the platform to generate some much-needed revenue would be to charge for a premium version of the service. This would be entirely opt-in, but ‘pro-Twitter’ users might receive extras such as

  • A bigger share of Twitter’s API
  • A 30-second edit window for tweets
  • A once-daily email digest of new followers
  • Block management
  • Better personal messaging capabilities
  • Spam filters
  • 24/7 technical support

and so on. This would be billed monthly and would carry a nominal price – maybe $9.99/month. Maybe $4.99. If you cancelled your subscription or your cheque bounced, Twitter dropped you back down to the ‘basic’ version of the service. Nothing was lost except your ability to tap into those extra features.

For everybody who didn’t want to pay, Twitter would simply carry on as is; they wouldn’t see any difference in the network at all, beyond Twitter’s standard platform updates. This is critical – there cannot be an obvious void on the front-end of Twitter (the stream) that in any way penalises the non-payer.

There will be many features that I haven’t mentioned that are important to you. That’s how I would like you to think about the question in this poll – if Twitter introduced a premium service that had the extra features you wanted – you is italicised because that’s the key part – would you pay for it? This is a simple yes/no game – you’d either pay for these extras, or you’d never pay, no matter what goodies came with a premium Twitter account.

Please feel free to expand on your answer in the comments area. In fact, I really encourage it – I’m very curious as to whether this could ever be a viable business model for Twitter.

Me? I’d be happy to pay a small monthly fee. It’s not unusual for free online services to carry a ‘pro’ alternative and I think it would be a great way for Twitter to generate some of that essential cash. But different people have different needs, and I wonder if there are enough of ‘me’ out there to make this work.

UPDATE: I’m going to add any interesting feature suggestions to my list as and when they’re made.

POLL: How Do You Rate @Twitter’s Technical Support?

I’ll keep this short and sweet as I don’t want to lead people either way through my personal experiences, or those that have been brought to my attention. Please rate in the poll below your opinion on Twitter’s technical support.

This should be all-encompassing, and include any interactions you’ve had with @Twitter, @Spam and other Twitter support accounts, as well as your experiences at help.twitter.com and how well the support team has dealt with any help tickets you have submitted.

Also, it would be great if you could then post any of these experiences (good and bad) in the comments area below. I’ll collect all the data and write a more detailed analysis of Twitter’s support in the future.

Thanks!

POLL: Why Do YOU Block Somebody On Twitter?

In a recent article I wrote about the limitations of the block mechanism on Twitter. This is an issue because as the network grows in popularity it begins to attract more of the same kinds of ‘problem people’ we see elsewhere within the internet – spammers, trolls, nasty folk and good old-fashioned weirdos.

When I first started using Twitter, I rarely blocked anybody – now, for various reasons, I’m blocking several people each day. It’s those reasons that I want to address in this poll.

Specifically, why do YOU block somebody on Twitter?

(Please check as many reasons as apply.)

Please share any reasons personal to you that I have not covered in the comments area below.

Twitter Social Experiment: What Do Your Followers Want From YOU?

Last weekend I had a little bit of extra time on my hands and decided to use this to undertake a social experiment on Twitter I’ve been thinking about for a while.

I’m a big sharer of links on the network – about half of all my tweets contain links of some description, and the rest are made of replies (and the odd bit of fluff). I’ve noticed that when I tweet about certain things, my follower count rises and falls accordingly. Specifically, when I mention something that might be considered risqué content – sex, for example – I note I can lose a few followers, even if the article in question is in a reputable publication such as The Guardian or The New York Times.

This got me thinking – what exactly do my followers want to see from me? What do they expect to see from me? Can this be determined, and if so, can this data be used by other people to figure out what their followers want from them, too?

My Twitter Social Experiment

I decided to spend that weekend submitting 50 tweets contained a variety of linked content to my followers and then tracking the results using Bit.ly. From this, I hoped to determine:

  1. Which subjects get the most clicks?
  2. Which subjects get the most re-tweets?
  3. Which subjects get the least amount of clicks?
  4. Do people care (or even notice) affiliate links?
  5. Does submitting risqué content to Twitter lose you followers?

I decided to submit five tweets in each of the following ten subjects:

  • Twitter
  • Social Media (non-Twitter)
  • Tech/Internet (non-Twitter, non-social media)
  • Religion
  • Current Affairs
  • Entertainment (Movies, TV, Music etc)
  • Risqué Content
  • Videos
  • Humour
  • Affiliate links

I would have liked to have done more topics, and with hindsight I wish I’d have included subjects such as science and sports.

Where appropriate, I would mark the tweets accordingly (i.e., ‘video’ or ‘funny’). All affiliate links were through Amazon.com, and were tagged at the end with the letters ‘AL’ (affiliate link) in parentheses.

When I started the experiment I had 2686 followers.

You can download a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet of all 50 tweets with links to the Bit.ly info here. It’s fairly crude but will allow you to check out the data yourself. Note that the links used during this experiment are still ‘out there’ and the data is likely to change (increase in clicks) over time, so the numbers at Bit.ly likely will differ from what is on this page as the weeks pass.

The Small Print

First of all, I feel I need to point out that this isn’t hard science. It was interesting and fun to undertake and I’m not in any way claiming this is the definitive study. But there is some data of interest here, and it does encourage further thought.

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On Twitter, 10% Account For 90% Of All Tweets, The Rest Barely Tweet At All, And Men Like Other Men

There’s been a little bit of buzz the last couple of days about a new Harvard study that makes some very bold statements about Twitter.

The study was certainly broad – 300,542 Twitter users, collected in May 2009, were sampled – and this gives the claims some weight. However, when you think about the results, it’s not too difficult to put the pieces together. That said, there are a few ‘hard truths’ in here, and you may not agree – I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments area below.

1. The Top 10% Of Prolific Twitter Users Account For Over 90% Of Tweets

At first, this seems like a staggeringly disproportionate number – as the article states, on a typical online social network, the top 10% of users account for 30% of all production. So why is Twitter any different?

First of all, it should be fairly obvious by scanning your own feed that 10% of the people you follow – at most – are responsible for nearly all of the tweets you see. You’ll see the same few faces again and again in your stream, irrespective of how many people you follow. In fact, I’d suggest that 10% seems a little high. I think I’m responsible for 1-2% of that number myself. :)

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POLL: Twitter Plans To Add Location-Based Information To Every Tweet. How Do YOU Feel About That?

Over at ReadWriteWeb there’s an interesting piece about the 140 Twitter Conference which reveals more of Twitter’s plans for the future, courtesy of API Lead Alex Payne. (See my article yesterday for more on this.)

As told to Robert Scoble, Payne states that Twitter may soon be adding location-based information to each and every submitted tweet. Currently, users can enter their location information in their profiles but it’s hardly scientific – you can put whatever you want – and this ‘geo-referencing’, or geotagging, will allow users to find specific information on anything that is area or location-based – for example, restaurants, museums, art galleries, pubs, and so on.

As is usual with many vague Twitter announcements, the news hasn’t been taken particularly well. The primary concern is whether we’ll be able to opt out of such a feature, or if Twitter will force geo-referencing into every tweet whether we want it or not. Yes, it’s very much a matter of privacy. The idea of location-based tracking is fine in principle, but it raises concerns for everybody, and not just celebrities. Some of us like the idea that our friends and followers can find us wherever we are, or have been; others do not.

Yes, this is a ‘might’ idea from Twitter, but it seems a fairly logical one if they’re going to pursue this dream of being the all-purpose utility. It is, after all, already a feature on the iPhone and many other websites and applications.

So here’s my question:

I’m going to leave this poll open until more data arrives from Twitter, so check back regularly for updates. :)

UPDATE: Security expert Graham Cluley has a must-read post about his concerns on his blog.

Only 5% Of Your Followers Don't Care About Your Avatar

Earlier this month I ran a poll on Twittercism that asked my readers, “What Kind Of Twitter Profile Picture Do You Like To See?”

The survey had 130 responses which perhaps isn’t quite suggestive of the entire Twitter populace, and I’ve possibly been a trifle exaggerative with my title, but it’s enough to make the results of some interest.

There were three options available to voters:

  1. I like to see a real photo the person
  2. I don’t mind, as long as it’s not the default avatar
  3. I don’t care about the profile picture at all

You can check the results on the poll page, but the only number that I think really matters – it was, after all, my reason for submitting the question in the first place – was that only 5 per cent of voters stated that they did not care about the profile picture. This means, obviously, that 95 per cent do care, one way or another.

I invited readers to share their comments, both within this blog and on Twitter, and here are some of their thoughts. Note that unless they stated specifically commentators may have actually voted somewhere else, but their text was relevant to the designated area.

I Like To See A Real Photo Of The Person (58%)

“Prefer to see a real photo as I like to have a picture in my mind as to who I am talking to. Makes it more “real”!” (@snowleopardess)

“Re avatar, clear shot of head, but quite a obscure ones like @jackschofield or @jasonbradbury are good.” (@Thedrury)

“An honest looking photo (i.e. not a impossibly attractive portrait as the spammers prefer) as an avatar definitely sways my decision to look further, but ultimately it’s the bio and any recent tweets that determine whether I will follow or not. The use of “marketing”, “free” or “just seeing what all the fuss is about” in the bio results in being looked over though.” (@mattimago)

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