Twitter really is a lot like the radio

I’m driving a different car these days. My borrowed car is low tech and forces me to listen to the radio *gasp* if I want to listen to anything on my commute. I’m used to plugging in my iPod and listening to what I want, when I want. I can rewind, fast forward and skip around to my little heart’s content.

But in rediscovering the radio, I’m practicing my listening and observing skills in a different way. 

The funny thing is that old media meets new media in a really interesting way because the radio reminds me so much of Twitter!

1) They promote.

Some stations (accounts) run promotions - whether it’s their content or advertising from other businesses. 

2) They have conversations.

Think about morning DJs that banter through the rush hour traffic between commercials, news and music. The social aspect of these discussions starts in the studio and extends outwards to callers who join in. (Sounds an awful lot like people who jump in on Twitter.)

3) They share.

It’s balanced sharing, too - human interest stories, community events, news, and all sorts of other really great content that the audience might find interesting or - even better - want to hear and know about.

4) They inspire action.

I think what I like best about listening to radio is hearing really creative commercials. There’s the usual car dealership commercials that sound the same as they’ve sounded my entire life, but other businesses are getting really creative and clever. It worked, too! I was interested in going to a couple of businesses I hadn’t previously even heard of. 

Radio is a finite interaction.

Lara has used this analogy of “Twitter is like a radio” for a long time. It helps newer users understand that they don’t have to read every tweet sent when they weren’t logged in and it’s true. Radio doesn’t allow you to pause, fast forward, or rewind - a lot like Twitter. 

However, there’s a difference with interactions. Radio is primarily one-sided and finite. You turn it off and you can’t go back and listen to what you’ve missed later.

Twitter allows you to come and go, picking up the thread of conversations as you have time. BUT you don’t have to read through everything that everyone you’re following has said while you’re logged out. And thank goodness for that, because that would be incredibly overwhelming. 

The bottom line is that old media and new media influence each other. You can find inspiration from one that can be used successfully with the other. The most important thing is to evolve and be creative. Find unique ways to grab your audience’s attention. 

Case Study: The facts about buying Twitter "followers"

About six to eight months ago, I got this idea in my head to actually buy some Twitter followers. Not because of any desire to increase my numbers, but I was genuinely curious about the process. I wanted to be able to back up my gut feelings about this practice with cold, hard facts. I’ve been hemming and hawing about it for this long because I don’t think it’s a good way to grow a following. At all. 

In a moment of late night impulsiveness, I finally bought followers. (Just saying that makes me feel like I’m confessing to some horrible transgression.) Did this change my views on the value?

Why would someone want to buy followers?

As is pointed out in this article, there is a certain perception in having a large following on Twitter. Follower count is used to determine your score on Klout, Tweet Grader, Tweet Level, and Kred uses follower count to a certain degree, but it doesn’t seem to have the same affect on scores. PeerIndex doesn’t use follower count as a variable, but maybe that’s because the CEO has allegedly bought followers.

Even if you don’t care about any of these automated influence measurement tools, when you know that people who follow you are checking out your account, a low follower count can make you feel pretty inferior. So, do you stay the course and grow organically or do you gamble on the cheap, easy tactic of buying followers to create a different perception.

The Pitfalls

I opted for a service that I could buy targeted followers from. I wanted some degree of authenticity (if possible) rather than an influx of fake followers. I wanted to buy 1,000 - a substantial number, but nothing crazy like the 27,000 the guy bought in the link above. Part of the reason is I wanted to see if anyone noticed and said anything, so the number needed to be truly noticeable. So far, nothing unless people are chatting about it behind my back. ;)

When all was said and done, well over 2,000 followers were added to my account and they were as fake as the day is long and in no way targeted by subject matter or geographic location. But yay! I have a 1-year guarantee that they won’t unfollow. (Do you feel me rolling my eyes?)

Status People made this nifty little Faker tool that tells you what your mix of followers looks like. I checked before I bought the followers. I had 93% good, 5% inactive and 2% fake. In the last year, I have been blocking obviously fake accounts, so the 2% must have followed prior to that time.

Now that I’ve got this influx of new “followers”, here’s my score:

I think it’s safe to say that my assumptions about this process were correct, despite those who still see it as a legitimate marketing practice

Other ramifications to consider

1) Impact on influence

Let’s return to the topic of influence measurement tools from above. Do you care about those numbers? Buying fake followers can actually have a negative impact on the ones that look at follower count. Because many of those accounts mass following you on Twitter are fake, you’ll undoubtedly lose followers as the fake accounts are deleted or blocked. Mass unfollowing will hurt your influene scores in the short term. 

Assuming you don’t care about influence tools, if you care about your audience, you don’t want to get caught trying to fool them. Although buying followers as a prank did amuse me, but for all the reasons I’ve stated I wouldn’t do that to someone else.

2) Financial vulnerability

There is something inherently unethical about buying Twitter followers. It’s cheating the system. Even if you buy from a service that truly targets the following to genuine accounts, it still gives an false impression to those who later choose to follow you. Even worse, if you happen to choose a disreputable service (and let’s face it, these services aren’t known for ethical practices), you could be handing your credit card information over to someone and regret that decision later.

3) Biggest red flag of all - it’s not allowed

Most articles I’ve read about this topic would lead you to believe that there’s nothing in Twitter’s terms of service that would prevent you from legitimately buying followers. Unfortunately, they’re incorrect. The terms of service state:

Spam: You may not use the Twitter service for the purpose of spamming anyone. What constitutes “spamming” will evolve as we respond to new tricks and tactics by spammers. Some of the factors that we take into account when determining what conduct is considered to be spamming are:

  • If you have followed a large amount of users in a short amount of time;
  • If you have attempted to “sell” followers, particularly through tactics considered aggressive following or follower churn;
  • Creating or purchasing accounts in order to gain followers;
  • Using or promoting third-party sites that claim to get you more followers (such as follower trains, sites promising “more followers fast,” or any other site that offers to automatically add followers to your account);

Like others who’ve performed this experiment, I don’t have any intention of hanging on to my new “followers”. Thank goodness there are many tools I can use to force them to unfollow!

What do you think of people/businesses buying followers on Twitter? Should it be allowed?

Klout. Does it matter?

Lara and I recently had this question posed to us regarding Klout - a topic that can be quite controversial and for new social media users, confusing.

Klout. Does it matter? Who does it matter to? Why did my score recently change dramatically? It seems to me if “scores” can change that widely, that they can’t be very accurate.

Klout is a tool that claims to measure online influence. There is only one problem with this: influence is inherently unmeasurable. A person may be perceived as influential, but many factors can have an impact on why. 

Klout is not:

  • A social network
  • A broadcast tool
  • A big deal 

Does Klout matter?

Absolutely - to some people. This is especially true for those who may be:

  • Working with brands
  • Building thought leadership/expertise on a topic
  • Job searching
  • Student grades

For others, Klout is just something that is there. Casual users with no professional tie to their social media use likely don’t have an interest in knowing how influential they are. For this group, there’s no benefit in knowing.

Recently, Klout rolled out its second algorithm change in the last year. The first occurred last October and scores fell dramatically (mine dropped from 68 to 58). The latest adjustment to the algorithm caused startling changes in scores, though supposedly they were mostly increases. Very few dropped compared to the adjustment last October so the fallout has been minimal.

Is it dependable?

It’s a fair point that if the algorithm keeps changing that it can’t be very accurate. However, prior to last October, it was ridiculously easy to ‘game’ the system and artificially inflate your score. As long as there’s an automated measurement, people will test and figure out how to “game” it.

Accuracy of influence measurement is hard to judge anyway. This is where we have to go back to the question of how to measure something (true influence) that is inherently unmeasurable.

The updates are actually meant to reflect  the influence that users have more accurately and prevent (as much as possible) score manipulation.

Should Klout matter to you?

Not necessarily. I check my Klout about once a month out of curiosity and outside of that I just continue to do what I would normally do on social networks.

What should I do about Klout?

Klout (and others like PeerIndex and Kred) can give you a snapshot of whether or not your efforts are getting a good reaction from your audience. A stagnant or dropping score can be a signal to make some tweaks. A score that is steadily increasing can be an indication that you’re doing the right things. 

The way you improve your Klout is the same way you create an engaged community:

  • Focus your content.
  • Be engaging with followers and those you follow.
  • Add value - help with a problem, provide information, etc.

Klout can be a major distraction if you consciously try to increase your score.

Always remember that if you’re curious about how effective your efforts are, Klout is just one indicator among dozens. It’s good to know, but definitely not something to worry about.

What ways have you used Klout to help tweak your social media use?

Do you check your Klout? Have you noticed the number changing?

Guest post: Social Media Numbers

So your Klout is 57.  You have 1200 Twitter followers.  130 people like your Facebook page.  87 people subscribe to your blog. You have 98 connections on Linkedin and 400 people in Circles on Google+.  Now what?

Unfortunately, it’s easy to get lost in the numbers when it comes to Social Media.  There are systems that are dedicated to measuring influence in the online world, but sometimes those numbers don’t tell the full story.  

Feeling stressed about the numbers? You aren’t alone.  People are wondering how their vacation will affect their Klout scores, or how to increase their Twitter followers.  Social Media Strategies are put in place and ultimately everyone want to know how to get those numbers up.

The numbers can be useful.  Analysis and measurement can tell real stories and help guide future decisions.  Your numbers can be used to obtain new clients or advertisers.   Larger numbers can mean more impressions for your business or writing.  I would be remiss to completely dismiss these numbers.
But numbers aren’t everything and shouldn’t dictate what you do online.  If you target your social media profiles to be only avenues to increase your numbers, you are completely missing the point of social media.   

How do you recognize the numbers and avoid the stress?

  1. Remember that they will fluctuate.  Sometimes life gets in the way of being online and that’s ok.  These numbers will go up and down but as long as you keep a fairly consistent presence (and message), it shouldn’t be a concern.

  2. Be proud of your numbers, no matter how big or small.  Some of the best blogs I read don’t have a lot of twitter followers, but that doesn’t make them any less influential in certain social media circles.   

  3. When setting out your social media goals, instead of looking at increasing your numbers by a specific amount, try focusing on how you will be increasing them.  Then, you can measure success not only by what the numbers are telling you but by what worked to get there.

  4. Find ways to track your numbers without going crazy.  Do you want to see them weekly and compare? Monthly? If you check them every day it will become an obsession and not a productive one.

  5. No matter what, the quality of your content, posts, discussions and level of engagement will ultimately be what impacts your numbers.  So have fun with it and try to enjoy social media for what it is - a way to learn, share and engage.

Rebecca blogs about family and motherhood, is a self-professed foodie, and dabbles in online engagement and community giving.  She has a strange love for maple syrup that can possibly only be matched by her love for chocolate and coffee.

My BlackBerry Wears a SuperHero Cape

Enhanced by Zemanta