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Archives: October 2009

Twitter + Rich Media = Fail

Twitter has debunked the rumours that they were about to add a video upload feature to the network.

This is fantastic news.

Twitter works because it’s text-based. It keeps things simple, but also encourages users to be creative with their updates and I think makes a lot of people think about the quality of their writing. It makes better editors out of all of us.

Twitter doesn’t need to emulate the features of other social networks like Facebook and MySpace. These guys are scared of what Twitter has started, and of what it might become. Twitter has nothing to be afraid of from Facebook. Quality over quantity.

If I want to share a video, I’ll add a link to my tweet. And if you don’t want to see it, don’t click on the link. That works, and it works really well.

If Twitter starts adding rich media features to the service, it’s toast. If I ever load up somebody’s profile and it starts playing some awful MP3 or loads up a video file automatically, I doubt I’d ever go back again. And if that became a core part of all of our timelines, I suspect a lot of people would move on.

And for good reason. Nobody wants another MySpace. Nobody.

Miley Cyrus Has Deleted Her Twitter Account. (Let’s Hope The Jonas Brothers Are Next.)

Miley Cyrus has shocked and confused her (many) fans by deleting her Twitter account. No official reason has been given, although some are speculating it was done at the request of her boyfriend.

Prior to the deletion, Miley’s Twitter feed had more than two million followers, and thanks to them the #mileycomeback hashtag is already well-established as a trending topic. Even dad Billy Ray is jumping on the bandwagon, openly asking Miley to come back on Twitter. (Obviously, actually talking to his daughter would be far too surreal.)

Other sources are suggesting that Cyrus closed her account because she was receiving too much attention, and it will be interesting to see if this sets a precedent for other celebrities on the network. It’s a two-way deal, of course, and if you’re going to use social media to publicise yourself, you’ve got to be more than a little naïve not to expect some fanatics fans to attempt to exploit that. A little under three months ago, Trent Reznor also deleted his Twitter account, and I speculated at the time that we might start to see celebrities doing this with a greater frequency.

When it comes to the internet, a lot of celebrities are pretty naive. In the offline world, they’ve learned the hard way how to keep their distance from the wackjobs and lunatics who make up the small but persistent part of their fanbase. And when they didn’t know what to do, their bodyguards did. And their PR team cleaned up the mess. And their manager stopped them making the same mistake twice.

The internet is different. Assuming the celebrity account is genuine, there is no bodyguard. There is no PR team, and there is no manager. It’s just the celebrity and a million other people, a percentage of which will be abusive and/or insane.

It hasn’t expedited quite as I would have imagined, but we have to remember that celebrities being this accessible is still something that is very, very new, and the impact of this many-to-one contact remains something of an unknown quantity.

The last thing we want to see on Twitter is more managed accounts, but you have to wonder how somebody as young as the 16-year old Cyrus would ever cope with so many replies and mentions, especially when a lot of it, certainly before the events of the past 24 hours, was far from positive. While there’s always a chance Miley will decide to give Twitter another go, I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see one or two other big names throw in their cards – or hand control over to their PR team – before the year is over.

Yes, Twitter Is Down. Again.

While you can still access the site and make updates (which will appear, but can only be seen by you), that’s all you’ve been able to do on Twitter for the past 22 minutes. It appears the site started experiencing problems around 3:26pm GMT.

Yes, Twitter Appears To Be Down

This used to be a fairly regular occurrence but it’s the first time it’s happened in this manner for a while. (Recent outages have been more terminal, with the network being completely inaccessible.)

Hopefully it won’t be too long before it’s back up and running again.

UPDATE: I’ve also noted my following and followers counts keep resetting to zero. Also, if you visit select profiles, they seem to be updating, but it’s not coming through within your timeline.

1630 GMT: Curiously, Facebook appears to be glitching as well. I’m having to post updates twice before they ‘stick’. This can only mean one thing – alien invasion. They’re using our social networks against us!

1900 GMT: Replies appear to be working and appearing in your mentions folder. Reply somebody and if they reply you back, you should see it. (Thanks to @trniii for the tip.) You can also see updates by visiting profiles directly, or by using Twitter search.

Meantime, Twitter has updated their status blog with a report on the problem and is looking into it.

Recommend A Celebrity On Twitter

I’ve ragged on celebrities on Twitter more than once on this blog, and with good reason. But here’s the thing: they’re not all bad. And in a possibly futile endeavour, I’ve set up this page to prove that.

What I’d like you to do is recommend a celebrity on Twitter that we should all follow. Now let’s get one thing crystal clear – I only want the good celebrities. Not the boring ones. Not those that only follow other celebrities. Not (and I’m stretching here) the narcissists.

And not The Jonas Brothers.

What I want is the celebrities that are fun to follow. That are interesting. Those that interact with and reply to their followers. And don’t treat them like fans.

And most importantly: I only want celebrities that write their own tweets.

I’d also like reasons. If you think we should be following this individual, then please provide us with the courtesy of an explanation. You being a huge fan isn’t really good enough for our skeptical minds. We need to know why.

So, go ahead and recommend a celebrity. Heck, recommend a few. I promise I’ll check them out, and if they look cool, I’ll give them a go. And I recommend everybody else does, too. (Remember: the unfollow is the most powerful action on Twitter.)

README: For the purposes of this article, ‘celebrity’ means a person who is famous in the ‘real world’. Not just on the internet, and not just those who make Heat! magazine. If they’re famous to you, then they qualify as a celebrity.

To get us started, here are my recommendations:

Graham Linehan (@glinner)

Graham Linehan

Graham is a writer and actor, most noted for his work on Brass Eye, Father Ted, Big Train and The IT Crowd. In my opinion, he’s arguably ‘taken’ to Twitter better than any other well-known person I’ve seen. He just gets it.

Peter Serafinowicz (@serafinowicz)

Peter Serafinowicz

Serafinowicz, a comedian and impersonator who is a regular on TV panel shows and possibly most famous for providing the voice of Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace, is quite simply a hoot.

Sarah Silverman (@sarahksilverman)

Sarah Silverman

Sarah’s Twitter stream is just flat-out funny. She’s not to everybody’s tastes and a lot of the material is on the wrong end of risqué, but most of the time it’s laugh-out-loud good.

Jimmy Carr (@jimmycarr)

Jimmy Carr

Bit of a cheat putting Carr in here, really, as while he follows quite a few people on Twitter, he doesn’t actually engage with them all that much, certainly when it comes to replies. But he shares an enormous amount of himself within his timeline, often with accompanying Twitpic photographs, and seems to almost use Twitter as a testing ground for his (often very funny) material. Definitely worth a moment of your time.

You’ll notice that everybody I’ve recommended is a comedian. There is of course a clear and valid reason for that – they’re naturally funny, and that makes them interesting. I’m sure there are some non-comedian celebrities on Twitter who are worth a follow. I just haven’t found many… yet.

And that’s where you come in: which Twitter celebrities do you recommend, and why?

Why Do YOU Protect Your Profile Updates On Twitter?

This is kind of an open poll. Increasingly I’m seeing people in my Twitter network protecting their status updates. When you protect your updates on Twitter, only people whom you authorise can read your tweets. They don’t show in Twitter search, and nobody who isn’t following (and authorised by) you can see your replies.

If your profile was previously open and you now decide to protect it, everything you now publish to Twitter goes private, and Google will stop indexing your updates (although your old tweets will remain on both). If you unprotect, while your new tweets will again be visible to all, everything you wrote while protected stays hidden.

Lots of people have a ‘real-life‘ history. Maybe you’ve had problems with somebody on Twitter, or people in other social networks or bulletin boards. Maybe there’s somebody offline who you don’t want to be able to access your Twitter stream, like a boss, ex-partner or good old-fashioned weirdo. All of these are legitimate reasons to make your account private.

At least, theoretically. You see, when you protect your updates on Twitter, you’re going to limit your experience on the network. You’re making yourself less a part of the community. This is an inevitability. People can’t read your timeline, so they can’t get an idea of who you are or what you tweet about, so they’re less likely to want to follow you. For me personally, if somebody follows me and I visit their profile and it says it’s protected, I rarely click on the follow button. And if I happen to stumble across a protected profile, I never click on the follow button. Why would I? I have no idea what to expect. There could be any manner of lunatic hiding under there.

I’ll go into more detail about the implications of choosing a private account on Twitter in a follow-up post, but I want to hear from you guys, first.

Those of you who protect your accounts, please share your reasons with us below. You don’t have to be too specific – I certainly don’t want you in any way to ‘out’ yourself – so just a general reason will do. But please be as honest as possible.

I’d also like to hear from anybody who previously experimented with a protected account but decided it wasn’t for them for whatever reason(s).

And if you’re considering protecting your account, but are currently public, feel free to share your thoughts, too. As said, I’ll put everything together for a follow-up post, and we can have a closer look at the pros and cons of a protected Twitter profile.

A Viable Business Plan For Twitter: Keep An Eye On Spotify

My recent article that asked readers how they would react to Twitter announcing a one dollar per month subscription rate raised many interesting responses and questions. At the time of writing, about 63% of voters said they would pay this low subscription rate for a better, more professional service, which for Twitter is, I think, encouraging.

Many readers felt that Twitter would be better if they implemented a premium subscription service on top of the existing free platform. Those who subscribed could receive additional features and tools, such as

  • A bigger share of the API
  • Spam filters
  • A better personal message system
  • A way to edit posted tweets

and more. By investing directly into Twitter, we’d be endorsing our confidence in the future of the system, and as a result Twitter could remain independent – the importance of which should not be underestimated – because of the monthly revenue stream.

You’d sign up with a credit card, or pay via system such as Pay Offline. This would allow Twitter to verify everybody with a premium account, and not just celebrities. It would also add credibility to these accounts, because they would be accountable through their lack of anonymity. (You could still tweet under an alias, but because your account had been verified other users would have confidence that you were a real person saying real things.)

A one-time, free trial would be available to those who wanted to taste the premium service, perhaps over 14 days.

Businesses who have many of their employees on Twitter could buy a license, which allowed them to have X accounts (and was perhaps invoiced). Individuals could do this, too. This would be competitively priced, but perhaps businesses would pay a little more, and in return Twitter would group these accounts together in some way.

Otherwise, it would be one credit card per account. This would further eat into the spam problem on Twitter, which mostly exists because it’s easy and free to set up a disposable email address, and therefore easy and free to set up a disposable Twitter account.

And what about those who didn’t want to pay? For these guys (of which I’m sure there would be many), I think Twitter needs to look closely at Spotify‘s business model, and how well their premium subscriptions take off.

Spotify has about six million songs on their database, all of which you can access for free. The catch? You have to listen to the occasional advertisement.

Or, you can pay 99 pence for a one-day, advert-free pass (which is fantastic for parties). Or you can pay £9.99 per month, and have full access to Spotify’s premium service, which includes the much-hyped and possibly game-changing mobile access, better sound quality, exclusive access to pre-releases, and absolutely no ads whatsoever.

Much has been made about advertising within Twitter, but the size restrictions on a tweet means that anything punched into there is going to look awkward and feel intrusive. Much better for ads to appear within timelines. I think Twitter could copy Spotify’s model and send one advertisement every 25 tweets (for example) to those who wish to use the service for free.

It might look a bit like this:

A Viable Business Plan For Twitter: Keep An Eye On Spotify

(ÃœberTwitter does this now, but only ÃœberTwitter users see the adverts.)

These ads would push out to all the Twitter clients, too, and would work exactly like Google Adwords, scanning your Twitter bio, the things you typically tweet about, trending topics, and the tweets within your timeline, and be as relevant as possible. The goal is, after all, for you to click on them.

Delivering ads based on trending topics alone could be a hugely successful – after all, they are trending for a reason – although Twitter would need to work harder to stop spammers gaming the trending topics feature.

Every 25 tweets might be too often, or it might not be often enough. It might have to be impressions per hour. A little experimentation is in order. Some coding wizardry would also need to be implemented so that ads didn’t just scroll off your screen if you’re following a gazillion people.

Don’t like the ads? Pay your dollar, or whatever rate Twitter decides is fair.

This gives us two monetisation streams for Twitter.

  1. Subscriptions, and
  2. Advertisements

As with everything else in life, more subs means you can sell more ads. And business needn’t worry too much about those paying customers, because an awful lot of people, and all newcomers, would choose to access the service for free.

I’d also like to see Twitter incorporate Reddit and Facebook’s stance on adverts and let you vote them up or down accordingly, querying your reasons why for the latter. This would further improve the quality of the ads that you see.

And if you decided you no longer wished to pay (or couldn’t pay), you simply dropped back to the free version of Twitter, and lost the extra features. All your tweets, etc, would be unaffected.

All of this means that everybody wins. Twitter wins, because they have a viable business model and two income streams. The users win, because Twitter could remain independent and continue to add features and grow. The power-users win, because they get to pay for a bigger slice of the pie and better stuff. And the casual user wins, because they can continue to access Twitter for the asking price of just a few adverts per day.

If Spotify really takes off, and there’s every indication that it will, Twitter doesn’t need to look much further for a very workable and network-acceptable business plan. It’s all right there, happening in front of our eyes.

I don’t see much of a downside. You?

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.

Your Twitter Homework Assignment: Start A Conversation With A Stranger

I recently used this slide for a presentation I gave about good practices for business accounts on Twitter. It makes an important point and I’d like to share it with you.

Your Twitter Homework Assignment: Start A Conversation With A Total Stranger

It’s a variation on a well-known quote, of course, but whether you’re talking about friends or clients, the observation stands. The ‘social’ part of social media is engagement. And if you won’t speak until spoken to, you’re missing out on an enormous opportunity.

This is an awkward concept for many businesses to accept. Individuals, too.

“Start talking to random people I don’t know? Are you mad? What if they talk back?”

What if they do? You might make a friend for life. It happens to me all the time. It can and will happen to you, but only if you’re proactive.

And there are leads out there, too. Good leads. Don’t wait for them to come knocking on your door. That isn’t going to happen all that much. Chances are, they’ll end up going to your competitors – likely the ones who actually seem like they’re listening, and they care.

I started this article with a spin on one cliché so it seems fitting to end with another, and again it’s paramount to social media success, especially for brands: you’ve got to be in it to win it. Completely, not halfway. If you’re using (and seeing) Twitter as a one-way soapbox, you’re doing it wrong.