Posts Tagged ‘twitter


Twitter giveth, and twitter taketh away: the new retweet functionality

This morning, when logging onto Twitter, I was greeted with news about the new Retweet functionality, which not only makes retweeting easier, but changes the way other people’s retweets appear in your timeline. I’d try to explain the new feature, but there’s already a better explanation of it in the Twitter blog post called ‘Project ReTweet – Phase One’. The new feature is a nice way to discover people to follow by seeing photos of them appear in your timeline, I have to admit – a photo always makes a difference.

Anyway, I prefer the web interface for Twitter over a desktop / mobile client (it has a single stream, it’s so simple) and the new functionality kinda messed it all up and made the very simple web interface suddenly seem more crowded. Maybe it’s just the Luddite in me, but it was all too much, so I tweeted the following:

Well, when I next went to to check whats been happening with all mah peeps, all retweets are back to appearing how they looked before the changes (the ReTweet button remained, but I no longer had strangers’ tweets turning up in my timeline). After conducting a quick poll among Twitterers, it turns out it’s just me that has had the new functionality turned off.

So either the good folks at Twitter got mad with me for moaning about the new features and took the new functionality away, or they switched it off  as part of good customer service. Either way, I think this is pretty neat – in the space of less than a few hours, they go live with a new feature, I dislike it and moan about it, and they disable it just for me (and not for anyone else)! That is really cool – well done Twitter. My hat is off to you.

EDIT: 20/11/09 10:48am AEDST – I think Twitter is messing with me 🙂 …. the new functionality is now enabled again.



More on Calcanis’ offer to buy Twitter followers: straight from the horse’s mouth

Most of you would have seen the big brouhaha around Jason Calacanis’s offer few weeks back to Twitter . He offered to pay them $250,000 to be one of the ‘suggested users’ that noobs are presented with when they first sign up for Twitter and are looking to get started. Getting on that suggested user list is a great way to significantly boost your number of online followers (if thats what you’re looking to do) but exactly how people get on there is quite mysterious.

Image Courtesy of TechCrunch

Anyway, on Calacanis’ mailing list today, he wrote about why he made the offer, the potential payoff, and then ups the anti by doubling the amount- rather than cutting and pasting the entire email, I’ve uploaded it in a HTML document for you to read – Jason Calcanis talks about his offer to buy followers from twitter.

My thoughts:

Calcanis is cunning as hell! I have to hand it to him on this, he’s probably generated alot of new Mahalo users out of the press he’s generated here, and all it really cost him in the end was the 30 seconds or so it took to thumb in a few tweets on his mobile. Now upping the anti with a higher offer will just generate more press – the dude is an animal!

But I also have to give major props to the team at Twitter for standing their ground. One thing about defining your product offering is it is very good for business to be able to add to it, but can be very detrimental to take away from that offering, particulalry if the part of the service you take away is one people find very useful. The folks at Twitter know this only too well – removing the SMS push functionality from twitter about 12 months back saw bitching and moaning from Twitterers ripple across the entire social network. If they sell a spot on the ‘suggested follows’ list to Calcanis, they potentially open the floodgates. Selling spots on this list to corporate accounts, who are only looking to build followers and not necessarily deliver good content, is a surefire way to turn new users off Twitter. Twitter are taking their time and making sure they control exactly what happens with their revenue and growth plans – and I respect them even more for not taking easy money in a knee jerk reaction.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens next… I’m guessing it’ll keep people talking for a bit and then fizz out. But I’m interested to know, what do you think? If you had $250,000 for a twitter campaign, would you blow it on a spot in the suggested users slot, or are there better ways to leverage that sort of spending clout?


Best Friends For Life costs $1… but Twitter’s profit potential is still looking shaky

You’ve probably read by now the ReadWriteWeb article today suggesting that (in stark contrast to a post I made a month or so back) Twitter may very well soon have itself a revenue stream that isn’t comprised of simply raising more investor dollars…. they’re speculating that companies may soon be able to sign up to a ‘recommended’ friends/followers list presented to new tweeters, and will pay a cost of $1 per person who decides to follow them based on this list. This suggestion was supported in part by Mahalo founder and general social media posterboy  Jason Calacanis’s tweet earlier this week. I’m not sure RWW’s speculation is anywhere near true, or if they’re potentially reading too much into a flippant tweet by Calcanis… I’m no web revenue expert, but this idea definitely raised a few questions for me.


At first glance, it seems a good idea – for marketers to pay $1 in order to reach a member of a captive audience just once is actually good value. There are campaigns I’ve seen (NOTE: campaigns I’ve seen, not ones I’ve run :D) where the cost per customer reached has entered triple figures, so if marketers can potentially reach a customer numerous times for a buck, hell yeh, count me in. That’s good value.

However, there are two problems / contradictions with this revenue model.

PROBLEM 1 – Twitter is primarily people and information

I generally don’t like following companies on Twitter. In fact, no-one likes following companies… if we look at (one measure of) the world’s top 100 most powerful Twitter users, the entire top 100 is made up of 2 types of Tweeters – ‘content providers’ (newsources, bloggers etc) and ‘online personalities’ (Chris Brogan, Guy Kawasaki etc etc). There is not a single company represented. This is because the beauty of Twitter is that it takes a massive quantity of ‘sort-of-relevant’ information and condenses it so I can pick and choose stuff to consume, making it ‘exceptionally-relevant’ – much more than being just a way to post status updates, Twitter is a great way of filtering information. Marketing messes with this – I’d suggest the companies who are most likely to buy friends on Twitter are not necessarily going to be providing compelling content in their Twitter feeds, and as such will be adding to the noise. As such, these companies won’t retain followers for extended periods. Targeted, compelling content is necessary to simply remain tolerated, let alone followed.

I don’t think Twitter will care too much about this problem though, as long as they get their $1 per follower. It is, however, something marketers should be aware of – there are no cheats or shortcuts when building customer relationships. Over time, more marketers will become hip to this fact. Which leads directly to the second problem – that there’s a work around to having to fork up the cheddar to Twitter for followers….

Cash rules everything around me


PROBLEM 2 – If you build it, they will come.

So, if you’re going to buy followers, you want them to stick around at least for a little bit. Problem 1 above states that buying friends on Twitter is simply not enough to ensure an ongoing following – to optimize your efforts, you’ll need to provide compelling content to make sure people keep following you and to make sure your $1 per potential customer reached is not spent in vain.

Let’s pretend you have a budget of $20,000 for a Twitter campaign (yeh, $20k is alot for twitter, but I did say ‘pretend’ didn’t I? 🙂 ). Anyway, you’ve just started a new Twitter account and you have 2 options – option 1 is that you can buy 20,000 followers for $1 a pop through Twitter’s suggested friend option (that is, if there’s 20,000 people out there who will follow you). But what are you going to say to these followers to hold their attention? You probably can’t just pump your followers full of your latest deals… problem 1 states that doing this means you’re likely to be un-followed.

Your other option is to start organically building a following from scratch, doing things like finding people who mention your product / competitor products through, trade link love with others twitterers with similar interests etc). Having a dedicated person using part of their work week sourcing ongoing, targeted, compelling content for your followers will make this easier, and that’s what you’ll spend your cheddar on, not buying followers from Twitter. This option represents a longer road, but ultimately if your content is right, you could easily have your 20,000 followers before long, plus have a much richer relationship with them than if you had bought them, plus, you have not paid Twitter one red cent to do it. Companies who understand Twitter and the nature of social media will do things the second way, and will succeed… and moving forward, more & more companies will fall into this category.


If Twitter rolls something like this out, they’ll make some quick bucks out of it, but I’m not convinced it’s an optimal model long-term for either marketers or Twitter. I certainly don’t pretend to have an answer for Twitter’s revenue problems (although I still think that having Twitter users backgrounds as dynamic ads / sponsored backgrounds as a default setting when a new account is opened shows promise). If you have any thoughts on it, please leave a comment below. I guess we’re yet to see what Twitter can deliver in the way of a reliable, consistent income stream, particularly in a world where everyone wants everything for free. Best of luck, Twitter.

EDIT (16/01/09) – I forgot to add, this speculation from RWW was likely encouraged by a TechCrunch post earlier this week suggesting the appointment of Kevin Thau to Twitter may be as a revenue generation specialist.

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Hubspot’s Social Media Marketing Madness

I came across this on the HubSpot marketing blog, and couldn’t help but laugh but also feel kinda defensive. It’s hard to not read too much into the way each character is drawn – I’d consider myself a ‘marketer’, and I also blog about marketing, so does that make me a pretty blonde chick or a sleezy looking suit? 🙂 Maybe I should start tweeting about pocasters that talk about marketing bloggers so I look like an Apple user.

Anyway, this cartoon is topical, as there’s a seemingly endless volume of noise out there around marketing, social media etc. It’s getting harder and harder to find those gems that deliver real value and don’t give you 90% filler to make more ad revenue / increase page rank. So moving forward, I’m going to be doing a series of ‘RECOMMENDED’ tagged posts on this blog, giving props to marketers who are doing their thing and who are providing genuinely useful content to the marketing community. I’m also toying with the idea of a series of “NOT RECOMMENDED” tagged posts (I’ll obviously come up with a catchier tag than that), where I flame people who are just adding to the noise. But that will in all likelihood be hurtful, so I’ll let the crowd decide… feel free to let me know if you’d like to see a “NOT RECOMMENDED” tag by filling in the comments section below.

Nice work, as always, Hubspot – you get the first of my “RECOMMENDED” posts for a whole lot of reasons (see below for a few). If anyone wants to see more from Hubspot (who are probably one of the best organisations I’ve come across for driving online community / knowledge sharing for marketers), check out the following:

The HubSpot blog

The Facebook group

The LinkedIn group (17,000 members can’t be wrong)

Mike Volpe’s Twitter account (I’m slowly giving up on reading blogs… I’m finding podcasts are a much better way to keep in touch with what’s happening, and this is a podcast definitely worth checking out)

Twitter Grader (yeh, they built Twitter Grader…. and website grader….and Press Release grader.)


Magpie / Twitter ad strategy isn’t the same as a blog ad strategy

After recently following Jeremiah Owyang ( on twitter, I came across his tweets about Magpie (inserts ads into your Twitter updates as though they were actually your tweets) being similar to having advertising on blogs. Before I go any further, I need to make it clear I have great, great respect for Jeremiah (I religiously read his blog –, HOWEVER I just happen to disagree with him on this point.

Anyway, Jeremiah cited the fact that TechCrunch puts ads in it’s RSS feeds whilst retaining 1.4million subscribers as proof Magpie can work (, so I thought I’d stop twittering and break out a blog post to discuss further (there’s only so much you can discuss in 140 characters). My stance – having ads inserted in your twitter feeds is ALOT different to having ads on your blogs or RSS feeds. I’m not saying that having ads inserted in your twitter feeds will not happen, or that Magpie will not be successful in varying degrees. I think Jeremiah is spot on when he tweets “Marketers always follow crowds”. Marketers want a piece of Twitter, no doubt, and if Twitterers can make a buck out of it too, I’m sure there will be plenty of adapters.

However, what Magpie does is insert an ad as a twitter update (one ad tweet for every 5 normal tweets), which I think will bug the heck out of followers. We already know how annoying people find disruptive advertising on social network sites, so Magpie is definitely not the optimal way to advertise on Twitter, or indeed any social media, as it is completely disruptive. I don’t have the answer for effective advertising on Twitter, but if I follow someone and their every 6th tweet is an ad, their updates better be damn good to avoid me un-following you. There is enough noise on Twitter as it is, what with people keeping me updated that they are going to the gym or just back from the gym or haven’t been to the gym in 4 weeks, without more noise in the form of ads in my feed.

To further pursue Jeremiah’s point about TechCrunch’s  ads in their RSS feed, the RSS equivalent of Magpie is that you would have an entire blog / RSS update devoted to an ad. This would happen every 6th RSS update. It would be annoying. It would not fly. The ads in TechCrunch feeds are embedded within the post itself, so are much less disruptive (See pic below…) Google adSense for RSS Feeds does a similar thing.

snip_techcrunch_ad Example of an ad in TechCrunch RSS feed – not as intrusive.

Magpie is a cute service, don’t get me wrong. People are already adopting it – I’m sure others will follow suit. However, it is going to be annoying, and it is not the same as having ads on your blog, which by and large are now less intrusive. Jeremiah may well be correct in saying we’ll get used to ads in our twitter feeds – but until we start to see more people adopting Magpie and maybe some Forrester research into the effects (:D) I guess it’s all theoretical really.

Q: To anyone out there using Magpie, or who have anyone in their Followed list who uses it, what feedback do you have? Please comment below…


Microblogging is still unprofitable: Why Can’t Twitter turn a profit?

Yammer has managed to start monetizing and is turning somewhere around the area of $200 a month in profit…. not exactly setting the world on fire, but they’re doing a damn site better than Twitter, who are still burning through venture capitalist’s money & are yet to turn a profit. With what are probably now the world’s 2 biggest microblogging platforms both unable to turn a reasonable profit, one has to ask – What is the best way for a microblogging service to turn a profit…

// first thought that pops into one’s head is “Ads”. Seems every man-and-dog wants to give people something for free / have it ad-funded these days. Which is great, but free (or more specifically, ad-funded) services have a snag – despite common perception, there is simply not a bottomless supply of Internet ads for us to roll out anywhere we like. The boom days of adding some adserver script to your blog / page and watching the dollars roll in are coming to a close. With tough economic times ahead, advertisers will move to either (1) online places where click-through rates on ads are proven to be the highest, or (2) where they can deploy a pay-per-click arrangement so they are not paying for ads that don’t work.

Twitter is neither of these places… firstly, Twitter’s user base tends to be cool-as-ice Gen-Y (see the graph I ‘borrowed’ from the Compete blog) who we know are skeptical of non-targeted advertisements. They have also been shown to modify their surfing behaviour in order to avoid / ignore ads. There goes the pay per click idea – click through rates will typically be pretty low, so Twitter’s income is limited if they choose pay-per-click.

Secondly, Twitter does not keep anywhere near enough data on it’s users to build user profiles robust enough to serve targeted ads well… if you have a look at your Twitter profile, the information they have actually collected is incredibly sparse. However, this second point is perhaps where Twitter’s opportunity for monetisation lies. Should it partner with someone like Microsoft or Google to do a meta-analysis of what individual users tweet about and then try to build profiles of Twitterers based on that, the targeted ad idea may yet work – at the very least, it will give Twitter and advertisers a good idea of products individual Twitterers might be interested in, and allow them to serve ads accordingly. The only problem is, it will take a partner the size of Microsoft or Google to supply the computing power required to make any sense of the tens of millions of tweets per day. I’m sure both companies would jump at the chance though (if anyone from MS or Google reads this and runs with that idea, you can check my about page for contacts details so you can send me my check:)).

Then, there are a whole host of other ideas… sponsored backgrounds like Photobucket have done, fees for additional/premium additions to your free service a la Flickr, subscription fees a la some of the premier tech support forums… or does Twitter even really need to turn a profit? Interested to hear other ideas…

UPDATE: there’s more on this topic in one of my more recent posts at


‘Marketing is a Dirty Word’ ranks 74th in the Australian Marketing Pioneers Blog Top 100

Wow, that’s one hell of a heading huh? Will never make my living as a journalist (or a copywriter)… It’s been 3 months now since I started this blog. The posts seem to come to me thick and fast at times, whilst they trickle through at others. Interestingly, the comments actually started coming in remarkably quickly for my first few posts, which means someone was reading! Now, due to the miracle of the interwebs, it seems more than just readers of my twitter feed and Laurel Papworth’s post on TwitterAgency have come across my blog – I found out today that the blog is number 74 in the AdSpace Pioneers Top 100 Australian Marketing Pioneers Blogs .

Whilst this is a kinda weird thing considering I hadn’t done any work promoting the blog (and so am pretty surprised it was even found), I am absolutely chuffed at being recognised… I have no idea if this ranking carries any weight, but I am now concerned with working my way up the ranks… At any rate, it must help the AdSpace Pioneers blog move up the Technorati scale 🙂 Big thanks to Julian Cole for including me in the list.

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