Does Length Matter? Twitter’s 10K Character Dilemma

Twitter recently suggested that they might increase the length of Tweets to 10,000 characters. Unsurprisingly it created something of a Twitter storm. Social media users are passionate about their networks and rarely like change. It also happened when they changed the ‘faves’ star to hearts. But what will longer Tweets mean? Some commentators suggested that it will make the social media site no different to any other blogging platform. That points to the challenge that Twitter has an identify crisis. It doesn’t know what it is any longer. Celebrities and their audience have mostly left Twitter to go to Instagram. Perhaps they are simply driven by narcissism but it’s very telling that four of the top ten Instagram accounts are from the Kardashian clan. Twitter though, seems have become the place for politicians’ indiscretions, journalists Tweeting their own articles and the middle class moaning at brands over service failures.

That is Twitter’s broad problem. Over the last year its growth has slowed down considerably and had just over 300m active users in 2015. Well below expectations. Compare that to WhatsApp, the messaging platform is rapidly approaching 1 billion users. Since its IPO, Twitter has seen a fall in its share price, so it needs raise revenue (and investor confidence). For the mico-blogging site, that means bringing in more advertising, but it has not managed to deliver the expected revenues. Although it has grown, their advertising remains a bit-part player to Facebook’s highly successful offering. In part, it’s because they lack the reach of their competitor, but the key to Facebook’s ad success has been to create a walled garden and keep the users within the site. Twitter is trying a number of formats to address this issue. They recently launched a Conversational Ad format that with call to action options.In a similar vein, longer Tweets means that users should (in theory) spend more time in the channel. And that’s good for advertising.

But what about the users? The complaints about the changes are in part, a reflection that their audience cares about Twitter. Ultimately though, social media sites must evolve. Twitter has regularly added new features – from the (user driven) hashtag to their recent Moments. However, I think the problem for longer Tweets is that it goes against the prevailing trend. We are moving to shorter, message-based content.

Snapchat is a good example where social media this is going. The ten-second life of pictures and videos has caught the imagination of 200m+ users. The FT reported in Sept 2015 that the app had 6 billion video views per day – that’s a 3-fold increase in 7 months and rapidly approaching Facebook’s figure of 8 billion views per day. The fact is that from content to our attention spans, everything’s getting shorter (as a Microsoft study found). Certainly Twitter has to evolve but the answer probably doesn’t lie with longer Tweets.

Facebook’s Dislike Button. What’s Not To Like?

Speaking at a recent event in California, Mark Zuckerberg suggested that the social network would be introducing a new button. He said, ‘”We have an idea that we’re going to be ready to test soon, and depending on how that does, we’ll roll it out more broadly”. Although the Facebook CEO didn’t name it as such, it has been branded the ‘Dislike’ button.

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If it is implemented, this will be an interesting new step for Facebook. The current Like button, that first appeared in 2007, was famously the result of a hackathon. It was proposed as an ‘Awesome’ button. Realising that many post of cats and people’s children were less than awesome, it transformed into the Like that we know today.  The success of the button is both its binary simplicity and the fact that it is a positive acknowledgement of the post. Even when a post is more serious or tragic, the action of Liking is widely understood to be positive and supportive.

For Facebook, there is a need to move forwards. At a time when many young users are switching to Instagram and WhatsApp (both owned by Facebook), they need to innovate to encourage retention. The challenge of a Dislike button, though, comes from its very nature. It’s a negative action. In a Wired article, Brian Barrett suggested that it will create a negative atmosphere that will simply put people off posting. Given the personal nature of these networks, it’s easy to understand why users will be discouraged if disapproval is as simple as clicking a button.

The negativity of the Dislike button could, potentially run even deeper though. Unlike Reddit, one of the benefits of Facebook is that posts are not ranked. Once you have two options, Like and Dislike, there will be an inevitable sense of competitiveness on posts, discouraging yet more users.

I’m sure Facebook are aware of the challenges, but they will need to tread carefully. Posts and shares are the lifeblood of Facebook and that in turn is what drives their advertisers. So in the end, the success of a Dislike button will probably come down to money.

Some useful social media tools …

A useful list of social media tools from get2growth.com/ (see the resources section for more useful stuff).

Social / Influencer Tracking

PeerIndex – Measures social interactions across the web to help you understand the people you influence online (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Quora)
Little Bird – On demand expert and influencer discovery and engagement tool validated by their peers on any topical community (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Google+)
Traackr – Tool for finding the right influencers through social media and understanding how to engage with them.
Mentionmapp – Twitter network analysis and data visualization.
Topsy – Measurement and analysis tool for social conversations to identify key thoughts, opinion and content being shared over time or in real-time (Twitter, Google+)
Klout – Social media analytics tool that scores and ranks users’ influence using a ‘Klout Score’ from 1 to 100 ( Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Wikipedia, Instagram)
CircleCount – Google+ profile statistics and influencer measurement.
Kred – Uses social data and influence measurement to produce a personal visual stream from Twitter ID activity or hashtags based on communities connected by interests and affiliations.
twtrland.com – Visualizes social footprints to help you discover new connections, understand their impact and find better ways to connect.
Followerwonk – Twitter analytics, follower segmentation, social graph tracking, and more.
who.unfollowed.me – Check your Twitter unfollowers, see who is not following you back and who you are not following back.
Radian6 (Salesforce Marketing Cloud) – Social media monitoring tools, social media engagement software and social marketing.

Social Media / Content Management & Marketing
Buffer – Tool for collating and sharing online content via social feeds throughout the day.
Hootsuite – Social Media dashboard to manage and measure across social networks.
Tweetdeck – Twitter management and insights dashboard for power users.
Ning – Online platform to create custom social networks from scratch or to integrate with current sites; also integrates with Facebook, Twitter, Google and Yahoo!
AddThis – Social infrastructure and analytics platform with personal and social web sharing tools.
DivvyHQ – Content editorial planning and production tool.
Kapost – Software platform for organizing content marketing into a structured business process with calendar, workflow and analytics.
Compendium – Orchestrates all of the content necessary to maintain a consistent message for your brand from both inside and outside your company.
WordPress Editorial Calendar – WordPress plug-in allows you to set up all your posts in a simple calendar format with clean interface that allows you to drag and drop blog posts to better manage your ideas.
Publicate – Easily organise your content or content you’ve discovered to share, publish and showcase.

SEO / SEM & Keyword Research
Google Keywords – Enter keywords or phrases to see what related word searches your ad will show on.
Wordtracker – Keyword research tool to discover high performing keywords based on your subjects and messages.
SEMrush – Keyword and competitor research tool providing ad copies and positions, organic positions for domains and landing URLs, search volumes, CPC, competition, number of results, and more.
WooRank – Website review and SEO tool for tracking and optimizing your site.

 

 

Why I’m not on Facebook (pt 3)

In my ongoing need to justify whey I’m not on Facebook, I have a couple of quotes that aptly explain some of the reasons:

Social-networking sites present a different kind of problem. Facebook, LinkedIn, Friendster and others typically provide value by capturing information as you enter it: your birthday, your e-mail address, your likes, and links indicating who is friends with whom and who is in which photograph. The sites assemble these bits of data into brilliant databases and reuse the information to provide value-added service—but only within their sites. Once you enter your data into one of these services, you cannot easily use them on another site.

And,

Your social-networking site becomes a central platform—a closed silo of content, and one that does not give you full control over your information in it. The more this kind of architecture gains widespread use, the more the Web becomes fragmented, and the less we enjoy a single, universal information space.

Who said that? Tim Berners-Lee. I’m not saying that we should make all of our personal details available on the web, but what I do think is that using our personal information as a currency for advertisers is not good. It is inevitable that such data has to be kept behind a walled garden, which is entirely against the core principles of the web.

 

Google Wave: rising from the ashes?

Following Google’s announcement that Google Wave would shut down at the end of this year, they have changed tack slightly and now announced Wave In a Box. They have open sourced some of the code and the intention is to get developers to include the Google Wave features via an API. The orignal Google Wave was deemed a failure, as in spite of wide promotion, few people took up the product. This, however, is simply an indication of Google’s general problem entering into social media.

The problem is this: Google are basically a search company NOT a social media company. They do search brilliantly: web search, map search, image search, paid search. Even YouTube is fundamentally a search engine for video. In fact, their own Google Video never took off and it was the acquisition of an existing successful site that saw YouTube become the second largest search engine.

On the other hand, their entry into social media has largely been a failure: Google Wave, Google Buzz (does anyone actually use it?). I think that Latitude was a good concept, but it was immediately met with privacy concerns and never took off. I blogged at the time that Latitude had potential if they opened up an API for it. They have finally done that, but not before new upstarts like Foursquare and Gowalla claimed the location social media space. And they had APIs from the word go.

So, it doesn’t take a genius to see that Google are successful when they stick to search and unsuccessful when they try social media. And Google are a very bright bunch of people, so I’m sure they also know that. So why do they persevere? From Google’s perspective, why not? Afterall they make gazillions of dollars from their advertising so they can happily put out applications and projects to see if any of them take off. Not only that but Google empolyees are developing side projects all the time, so if someone’s got a good idea, why shouldn’t they put it out there?

All credit to Google for sticking with social media, but in the end it will be simply a niche against what they really do well. Search.

Facebook privacy concerns may scupper their advertising

From an advertising perspective Facebook is a dream. With the data it has no it’s members it can offer a very accurate behaivoural targetting of it’s ads. And Facebook has made a great success of it. Whilst it was struggling to make money last year, in 2010 their advertising revenue has sored. Comscore measured Facebook as offering over 16% of all ad impressions online.
However, to the Facebook member, behavioural targetting, and more importantly, privacy issues are not a dream, but actually a nightmare. Many of the recent changes in profile status etc are aimed at improving FBs appeal to advertisers. This blog here, expresses some of those concerns. We may see a situation where FB is loosing as many members as it gains with it’s changes to their privacy and user settings. And I’m not making it up. Look at the huge traffic surge on wikiHow on how to delete a Facebook account.
Long term, if I was Facebook I’d be worried.