Aug 4 2011
Randi Zuckerberg, who is director of marketing at Facebook and also the sister of CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, is leaving the company after six years to start a new-media firm to help companies become more social.
In her resignation letter, which is below in its entirety, Zuckerberg said:
“I have spent my years at Facebook pouring my heart and soul into innovating and pushing the media industry forward by introducing new concepts around live, social, participatory viewing that the media industry has since adopted. We have made incredible progress, but there is still much to be done and other ways I can affect change. Now is the perfect time for me to move outside of Facebook to build a company focused on the exciting trends underway in the media industry.”
Facebook confirmed the departure and in a statement said: “We can confirm Randi has decided to leave Facebook to start her own company. We are all grateful for her important service.”
There was no comment from Mark Zuckerberg directly.
The company Randi Zuckerberg is creating is apparently called RtoZ Media, which is obviously a play on her name.
The move is likely to be much noticed, since Randi Zuckberberg has been at Facebook since its early days and has also been a high-profile and charismatic personality both inside the social-networking company and in Silicon Valley. She has been on maternity leave for last three months, after having her first child, and sources said she has told them that being away from the rapid-fire pace at Facebook has given her time to reflect on what she wants to do in the next phase of her career.
Presumably, leaving Facebook will give Zuckerberg greater freedom to work for a range of companies without a conflict. That said, it’s unlikely she’ll take on Google+ as a client.
Zuckerberg is certainly going out on a high note–she was recently nominated for an Emmy award in the category of live coverage of a current news event for her work on “Facebook Live,” a real-time news show she created and hosted for the company.
Zuckerberg, who is definitely not a geek like her brother, noted in her letter to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and communications head Elliot Schrage: “I am thankful for the strong mentorship, guidance, and support, which is empowering me to follow my dreams and show that you don’t have to be an engineer to be a hacker.”
Source: Cnet News
Jul 26 2011
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – When you think of Bono or Lady Gaga, the term “Silicon Valley entrepreneur” hardly springs to mind.
For now, at least. The U2 frontman and pop sensation join Justin Timberlake and Ashton Kutcher among the growing ranks of celebrities who, rather than employ their star power to hawk consumer products, are increasingly driving high-tech investments.
Hollywood has always held a certain fascination for the monied elite, from Wall Street bankers to Middle Eastern oil sheiks. Now, it seems Hollywood is returning the favor and dabbling in a bit of capital resource-allocation of its own.
Timberlake made waves in late June when he bought a stake in ailing social network Myspace alongside digital advertising company Specific Media. The actor-singer will play a crucial role in revitalizing the web company.
“We live in a world of brands,” said Howard Bragman, a public relations executive and founder of the strategic media agency Fifteen Minutes. “A handful of smart celebrities and their reps realize that all the areas where they can flex their marketing muscle are financial opportunities.”
Savvy celebs are trying to fuse entertainment and social networking, closing the gap between performer and fan. That may well be the key to future success, according to Bragman.
Lady Gaga — perhaps the most visible star on the social web — teamed up with Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt’s Tomorrow Ventures to invest in Backplane, slated to launch in the last week of August. Backplane — a sort of social network for rabid fans of everything from football to, yes, pop music — has raised over $1 million in funding.
“Celebrities, above all others, have to understand the importance of new media in order to survive. Social media platforms, in particular, are where celebrity careers either thrive or decline,” said Johanna Blakley, managing director at the University of Southern California’s Norman Lear Center.
“Timberlake’s bet on Myspace is a risky one, but it signals an acknowledgment that buying into the entertainment business these days means buying into new media, not old media.”
BEST AND WORST
Gaga has a double-digit percent slice of Backplane and a seat on the board, according to CEO and Founder Matthew Michelsen, who says he represents the pop diva in her Silicon Valley tech ventures.
The best way to understand Backplane is to look to football fans Michelsen calls facepainters — the ones in the stands. The site goes beta in late August among Gaga’s fans, whom she calls “little monsters,” according to Michelsen.
“You don’t know if those people are the president of a Fortune 500 company or the UPS man,” Michelsen said. “We want to provide a platform for them to interact around their love. It could be their favorite football team. It could be the little monsters. It could be Harley Davidson riders.”
Timberlake has been active in start-ups like Apple iPhone gaming app developer Tapulous and Particle, which develops micro-video application Robo.tv, through the digital investment wing of his business empire, Tennman Digital.
With Myspace, however, the former ‘N Sync member is not just putting his face on a product or bankrolling a venture. He gets an office, a staff of six, and a leadership role, according to Specific Media CEO Tim Vanderhook.
Timberlake isn’t the only Hollywood royalty either making a serious push into technology.
Ashton Kutcher, who got his start in “Dude, Where’s My car?”, has made a string of seemingly savvy investments from location-based social web Foursquare to Flipboard apps for the iPad. Most recently, his investment in Airbnb — a website that matches travelers looking for a cheap room with homeowners looking to rent out — won endorsement when venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz led a $112 million round of financing for the fast-growing company.
But while some celebrities may be eager to develop their brand by demonstrating boardroom savvy, critics say a few investments may have been misplaced.
There “arguably might be another tech bubble,” said Christopher Smith, director of USC’s Center on Communication Leadership and Policy. “Once your shoe-shine person starts talking about stock deals, it’s time to sell.”
Irish rocker Bono of U2 fame is one of five co-founders of Elevation Partners, alongside former Apple CFO Fred Anderson and Silver Lake Partners co-founder Roger McNamee. He has an undisclosed amount of his own money invested in the fund.
But in 2010, Bono was dubbed the “worst investor in America” by blog 24/7 Wall St, and his firm’s investments in Palm — since taken over by Hewlett Packard — Forbes Inc and Move.com have been roundly panned.
“Not every association works, but in the best cases they raise the profiles of the projects they are involved with, entice other investors and inspire consumers,” Bragman said.
“The key is authenticity. They have to choose associations that are credible and organic if they wish to succeed.”
Jul 14 2011
TV is battling to keep viewers glued to the TV screen, and surprisingly TV executives are turning to social media.
A new trend called “social TV” could be the key to keeping live TV audiences that the industry is looking for. Each night, more and more viewers are turning on the TV, then jumping on their laptop, tablet, or smartphone and chatting about the show on social networks.
TV operators have started to try to capitalise on the natural buzz, and Facebook is positioning itself to be the go-to solution for TV operators.
Generally, users log into Facebook to see what their friends are doing. The network focuses on personal relationships that may or may not include common interests. This means that integrating with Facebook offers TV executives a unique opportunity to personalise TV.
Facebook’s main benefit to TV comes from its extensive reach (600 million active users), and the sheer mass of data available. Facebook boasts a huge social graph: the average user has 130 friends that the user has specifically chosen to interact with. This means if a user’s friend has talked about a TV show recently, they would like to hear about it. Even if just one friend mentions the show, the comment is relevant because of the personal relationship.
Through the Facebook API, TV operators can build apps and interactive experiences around TV shows.
Additionally, TV operators are increasingly looking to use social media to enhance the EPG. Several companies such as Comcast, HBO, and TV Genius have starting experimenting with integrating Facebook into the TV experience. Comcast have included Facebook in their new Xfinity TV Guide and the logic is clear: if friends are chatting about The Apprentice, users may want to know so they can watch, too.
Instead of replacing the EPG, social media is provides the perfect tool for personalising the TV experience. While TV is a “lean back” medium, a significant proportion of viewers are starting to share their thoughts online while they are watching.
As of today, TV Genius has released Facebook-integrated EPG that personalises the TV Guide with your friend’s recommendations. (Give it a go here)
Facebook is suited to TV experiences that involve your friends and chosen brands, and could play a huge role in personalising TV and making it more interactive. Over the next year, expect to see the face of TV changing: it’s not just about sitting back and watching blankly anymore.
Source: World TVPC
Jul 4 2011
A TVGuide.com study found that more viewers chatted and tweeted while watching live TV during the past season and the top 10 most popular “social shows” are all aired on broadcast networks. Such social viewing is giving rise to a new metric, social impressions, that bolsters the gross ratings points. Stations are also discovering the value of tying local programming in with the Facebook and Twitter.
Have you heard about social media’s latest killer app? It’s called television.
According to a TVGuide.com study, social media discussions about television shows drove more live viewing and second-screen engagement during the 2010-11 television season and, interestingly, the top 10 “social shows” all aired on broadcast networks.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
What’s interesting is that Idol is the only non-scripted program to appear on the list. The rest are broadcast network dramas, ranging from the general appeal (Criminal Minds) to the niche audience (Fringe).
These programs all share a similar trait: they all represent “appointment viewing” for their fans. And more and more, those fans prefer to watch their favorite shows live rather than time-shifted. That way, they are able to participate in the social world of the program instantly — where they can go online and passionately discuss the program they’ve just watched without fear of “spoilers.”
Not only do these highly-rated shows deliver committed audiences, but overwhelmingly, these viewers go online and act as social ambassadors for a program. Seventy-seven percent report that they use social media to share their love of a show; 65% use it as a platform to help save their favorite shows; and 35% use it to try to introduce new shows to their friends.
But don’t look for them to be Tweeting or chatting on Facebook during a program. Only 24% of the respondents who use Facebook to talk about these shows do so during a broadcast — while 68% of them go to Facebook to discuss it afterwards. (Twitter has a slightly more active in-program commentary, with 47% tweeting during a broadcast.)
The phenomenon of social media/television interaction has not gone unnoticed by advertisers. Along with the usual statistics, a new metric — social impression — is beginning to play a role in deciding where ad dollars go.
Social impressions are more than just the number of posts on Facebook and Twitter, according to Networked Insights. The company has developed a formula that includes conversation volume, page views, frequent visitors and the traits of the posters and forums where the discussions are happening. Media buyers can use such formulas to expand schedules by purchasing multiple shows with lower gross ratings points (GRPs), but with higher social impressions.
The more dedicated the fans of a show are, the more impact their social media presence has. Maureen Bosetti, EVP of broadcast and buying for Optimedia US, recently told Media Daily News that social media considerations allow “us to tap into sponsorship opportunities across multiple platforms and amplify our client’s message where consumers are most engaged.”
The social media effect is also showing up in the strategies of television stations. Gannett Broadcasting has done a number of marketing promotions on its NBC affiliates built around late-season entry, The Voice. The result? Most of those six Gannett stations in the top 25 markets are ranked either first or second in the time period during which the show airs. And latenight local programming, for virtually all of Gannett’s 11 NBC affiliates, has seen noticeable bumps in the ratings.
Can local television broadcasters take advantage of the social media/television interaction to directly benefit one of our greatest assets: local news?
Last year, Hearst Television commissioned a local TV news study from Frank N. Magid Associates. The study revealed that local television ranked highest among all news programming in driving purchases of products and services; furthermore, the study showed that viewers were far more engaged with advertisements on local television news than with ads in newspapers or on radio.
Imagine the possibilities of marrying those already high levels of engagement for local television news with the power of social media tools.
Jen Lee Reeves, new media director, KOMU Columbia-Jefferson, Mo, did just that when the devastating tornado hit nearby Joplin. As she reported on PBS.org’s Mediashift: “When the tornado hit, our Facebook fans knew they could trust us to coordinate and share important information…. Some of the conversations I had with our Facebook audience led to our morning show coverage…. It’s an example of how a commitment to social media can help encourage ongoing conversations between a newsroom and its community.”
Broadcast TV + local news + hyper-local social media — now there’s a killer app.
Source: TV NewsCheck
Jun 28 2011
Increasingly, social media is being talked about in the context of TV. Some are even going so far as to view Twitter and Facebook as the savior of live TV, helping to draw audiences away from the DVR.
More and more shows are starting to integrate Twitter and Facebook campaigns to increase engagement, and get people talking.
Twitter and TV
Twitter has already experienced a lot of success in driving huge event TV. The Oscars, Royal Wedding, Grammys and SuperBowl are all high-profile events that have used Twitter to drive hype and ratings.
The most recent show to generate buzz around Twitter is The Voice. This show has integrated extensively with Twitter, which it attributes to its success. The show has 4 tweeting judges, tweeting contestants, on-screen hashtags, and selected Twitter messages from viewers will soon start appearing on the bottom of the screen during live episodes.
Facebook and Social TV
Facebook has started attending TV industry conferences, and raising the company’s social TV profile. Facebook’s head of International Business gave an interesting speech at MIPTV this year about how Facebook can be used as the “second screen” to enhance the TV experience and foster TV-based communities.
True Blood is a great example of a recent Facebook/TV integration. HBO’s True Blood has developed a Facebook app that capitalizes on the user’s personal social graph. The app pulls data from the user’s Facebook profile and generates a custom video starring the user, their friends, and True Blood characters. The involvement of their friends instantly makes the app more compelling, and acts as a neat marketing message.
Of course, the most important question for TV executives is if social media integration translates into ratings (and more advertising revenue).
Interestingly findings presented at Mashable Connect by Christy Tanner from TVGuide.com and findings in the UK demonstrate the most social shows on TV aren’t necessarily those with the highest ratings.But despite this, each week more TV operators get on board with social media.
Essentially, regardless of its direct impact on viewing habits today social media still serves as an excellent way for viewers to engage with TV, and builds on the natural behavior that viewers are already exhibiting.
Without a doubt, social integration can help build interactivity, personalization, content discovery, and engagement into the TV experience- all essential differentiators for any TV operator.
Jun 22 2011
First there was scripted TV, then reality television became the “it” format. But now that’s getting old and stale, and the audience wants something new. The Voice delivers that, with a highly engaging and social co-viewing experience that’s earned it a spot as the top-rated new show this season. People are ready for a change in entertainment, and The Voice is providing a nice alternative.
If you’re not familiar with it, The Voice features musician coaches Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton, along with host Carson Daly. During “blind auditions,” singers performed one at a time, and if they caught the attention of one the judges — based on voice alone, as the judges were turned around — then they would join that coach’s team. Each team started with eight artists, then were whittled down to four. The coaches, all of whom have achieved success in the music industry, are grooming the artists and developing their voices and performance skills. Each week, a few artists are eliminated, and the last one standing will be crowned “The Voice.”
Mashable spoke with Nicolle Yaron, the show’s supervising producer, Andrew Adashek, the social media consultant, and Alison Haislip, the social media correspondent, about the show’s social media integration and why it’s effective.
Borrowing an Idea and Making it Bigger
The Voice isn’t exactly a new show — it was adapted from a Dutch television show called The Voice of Holland. During its first season, the show began trending on Twitter worldwide, and NBC executives realized that there was something to the format. Executive Producers Mark Burnett and Audrey Morrissey were passionate about the highly social program and “stood behind us” as the American crew adapted the show, says Yaron.
The Dutch set had screens with live tweets, a social media room, a social media correspondent and a website. Yaron says NBC’s challenge was to take the format from something that serves a small country the size of Rhode Island and make it work over multiple time zones, and also create much more noise and value and push the boundaries in American TV.
“From the very beginning, the social media and digital aspect of the show was very important to us,” says Yaron. She wanted to create active engagement and offer accessibility to the coaches to mirror how the show offers access to top stars. “We wanted to create a true, real-time co-viewing experience.”
The American version expanded the social aspect to include coach tweets, as well as fan tweets, and because of the massive audience, NBC had to create a filtering program to manage the volume (something the Dutch didn’t have to deal with). So while the idea derived from Holland, the U.S. crew had to develop an entire infrastructure to manage the social media content that would be generated each week.
But what separates The Voice from other social television shows is that NBC doesn’t use social media as an awareness and marketing tool — it is core to the show as a whole, so the digital integrations are very organic. “In this day and age, digital and social media for a successful television show can’t be an afterthought — it has to be established in pre-production and developed throughout the show,” Yaron says. She and Adashek laid out a three-stage digital strategy and spent countless hours figuring out the social media strategy and how the show would leverage the judges and the artists. “All the goals we set out have been reached or exceeded, and I think it’s only going to grow and grow as we go into next season. As digital and social media change, we will change too. We set the trends now and we will incorporate new technologies as they develop.”
Casting The Coaches
The show is called The Voice, and not surprisingly the four judges all have distinct radio voices — the raspy Cee Lo Green, the belting Christina Aguilera, the high tenor Adam Levine and the crooner Blake Shelton. Christina wasn’t even on Twitter when she joined the cast as a coach, but her effusive “you go girl” tweets and diva-stacked team have garnered her more than 440,000 followers since she joined — and she has only tweeted 47 times. While Christina’s not the most active tweeter, Yaron says her fans are the most dedicated, and on the show’s premiere day, the “bionic army” had #TeamXtina trending from 9 a.m. until the premiere.
Green had a Twitter account before the show, but wasn’t very active. Levine was moderately active and Shelton was very active on Twitter. But all four coaches had to step up their game for the show, since NBC pushed coach engagement. Since the show is about the artist’s journey under the leadership of the coaches, Yaron says she wanted the coaches to live-tweet the show and broadcast the feeds onscreen in real time “so we continue the storytelling and enhance the experience for the viewers” even when the coach is not on camera. One joke amongst the crew is the “bromance” between Shelton and Levine, which is unabashedly broadcast on Twitter and followed by many of the show’s fans.
Much of the digital integration onscreen in driven by Alison Haislip, who’s no stranger to digital and social media — she spent four years at tech and gaming site G4. Now she’s The Voice‘s “in-show and online correspondent” hanging out in the V-Room with the contestants and serving as “your direct digital connection to everything” related to The Voice.
If you watch the show, you’ll notice that “#TheVoice” isn’t always on the screen reminding you to vote — it’s strategically placed onscreen at times when the producers feel the audience “would be compelled to talk about it.” And it’s an effective strategy. Yaron says that 70% of the tweets about the The Voice include the hashtag #TheVoice, a “phenomenal” rate that a Twitter spokesperson says is an “industry high.”
Last week, during the first of the live shows, tweets that used #TheVoice or the handle of the show, a coach name or an artist name appeared in the lower third section of the screen during parts of the live show. In the V-Room, Haislip is tasked with bridging the online and broadcast elements of the show, and encourages fans to take their dialogue to Facebook, Twitter, NBC Live and NBC.com. “Fans could tweet or post on our Facebook wall and then I could, on air, ask the artists the questions and fans can see the response,” says Haislip. “It really engages the viewers instead of letting them sit back — they become a part of the show.”
The challenge has been managing the sheer volume of tweets — during airtime, there are upwards of 3,000 tweets per minute. “Filtering tweets live has been really interesting because as the show is progressing, the conversation around the show really transforms,” says Adashek. “We have to make sure it fits within broadcast standards, and we want to keep the tweets super fresh and relevant to what the viewers are seeing on TV.” (In case you’re wondering, the West Coast sees a rebroadcast of the East Coast show, so the “live tweets” are taken from the initial airing. However, the West Coast viewers are activated in other ways, and Haislip encourages them to live tweet.)
NBC has been working closely with Twitter to master the live tweet process, and Adashek says Twitter has been very helpful and “really forthcoming with a lot of data and metrics,” which helps the show maximize the impact of its social media-centric platform and also measure its success.
And it is indeed successful. Adashek says that last week, during the show’s first live performances, every contestant, coach and team trended, as did song titles and “Jersey Girl” — an homage to contestant Raquel Castro, who starred in the 2004 movie of that name. “Everything trended last week, no matter how good or bad it was,” he says. “There was enough inertia that everyone was trending.”
“When we look at the graphs and data on Twitter, we can see the peaks and valleys around the calls-to-action — the tweets and the hashtags and the performances,” says Adashek. “It’s like watching The Matrix — we’re pulling massive amounts of data, and when you’re seeing that many tweets, you really can see [trends and sentiment] right way.”
“Twitter was a natural first because it’s very live and real-time, so it lends itself to events,” says Adashek. Facebook is also an important platform for The Voice, but Adashek says it’s more long-term, has different content and is building a fanbase and laying the groundwork for future seasons. Since the coaches have their own highly engaged Facebook Pages, The Voice has been able to reach out to those fans and pull them to the show’s Facebook hub. For instance, last week when Team Christina performed “Lady Marmalade,” the Page gained nearly 10,000 likes within a few minutes.
The Voice is about a journey, and Yaron says the NBC.com homepage has been focusing on “24/7 storytelling and continuing all of the reality stories and experiences of the artists and the coaches and the rivalries between them.” By cultivating the story online and providing a look behind the scenes, The Voice is becoming more than just a weekly television show — it’s nonstop entertainment online, complemented by an hour or two of live performances every week.
“The artists are not sequestered, they’re encouraged to talk about the show as much as they can,” Haislip says. “Regardless of how they do on the show, they still will come out of the competition with something that is going to help them in the future, and they’re all getting a huge leap ahead of the competition.”
That “something” Haislip refers to is digital savvy and a strong fanbase. From the minute they landed in LA for blind auditions, artists were given training in blogging and Facebook Pages and handed Samsung Galaxy Tabs and cameras to document everything from team dinners to rehearsals with photo and video. Each artist has his own hub on the site that links to a blog, Facebook, Twitter, video and photos — viewers really have the opportunity to be heavily invested in the show and the artists, and that translates to better ratings and higher engagement. Giving the artists free reign has let their personalities flourish — Beverly McClellan has started a fake talk show called, “What’s Up With That?” and Jared Blake captured his new ink session on video.
“This is something that every other reality show has kind of shied away from, but we feel really strongly about it,” says Yaron. “We are giving the artists the same platform that real musicians have. We’re training them and mirroring the new ways in which the music industry works. We’re giving them the tools to be the next Lady Gaga. It will help them stay in the competition and become successful music stars. We felt that it was time for a reality show to do that.”
While traditional shows like American Idol — and even The Voice of Holland — rely on calls and texts (Idol only recently launched Facebook voting) to log votes for contestants, The Voice has emphasized digital. Of course there’s the old standard of voting by phone, but there’s also an NBC Live app, NBC.com and an iTunes-driven voting platform. Instead of texting to vote, you can vote with your wallet and purchase your favorite songs, available from Universal Republic Records. Viewers can vote up to 10 times with each method, so the show encourages cross-platform engagement.
“The iTunes component was a huge part of the digital strategy — it’s an active vote,” says Yaron.
“The story of The Voice is not just an hour or two every week,” Yaron says. “It lives online all day and all week long, and it will continue all year long. This is a living, breathing entity, it’s not just show-based.”
And it might just be the future of television.
Jun 14 2011
Charlie Sheen’s meltdown took many forms: a cocaine-fueled rampage in a New York hotel room, an erratic radio rant, a vulgar one-man comedy tour. But his biggest contribution to current culture may have been more subtle.
With a simple Twitter phrase, #winning, known in the parlance of social media as a hashtag, Sheen underscored one of the newest ways technology has changed how we communicate.
Hashtags, words or phrases preceded by the # symbol, have been popularized on Twitter as a way for users to organize and search messages. So, for instance, people tweeting about Rep. Anthony D.
Weiner might add the hashtag #Weinergate to their messages, and those curious about the latest developments in the scandal could simply search for #Weinergate. Or Justin Bieber fans might use #Bieber to find fellow Beliebers.
But already, hashtags have transcended the 140-characters-or-less microblogging platform and have become a new cultural shorthand, finding their way into chat windows, email and face-to-face conversations.
This year on Super Bowl Sunday, Audi broadcast a new commercial featuring a hashtag, #ProgressIs, that flashed on the screen and urged viewers to complete the “Progress Is” prompt on Twitter for the chance to win a prize. Then, in Canada’s English-language federal election debate in April, Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party, set the Canadian Twitterverse aflame when he attacked Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s crime policies, calling them “a hashtag fail.”
And when Chris Messina, a developer advocate at Google, wanted to introduce two friends over email, he wrote #Introduction in the subject line. No need, he explained, for a long preamble when a quick, to-the-point hashtag would do.
Then again, Messina is no ordinary Twitter user. The self-described “hash godfather,” he officially invented the Twitter hashtag in August 2007, when he sent out a Twitter message suggesting that the pound symbol be used for organizing groups on Twitter. (For example, if attendees at the South by Southwest music and technology conference all add #sxsw to their messages, they can more easily search and sort themselves on Twitter.) Though the idea took awhile to catch on, it quickly snowballed – on Twitter and offline.
“At first, people who weren’t using Twitter were saying: ‘What’s this pound sign? Why am I seeing it?’ ” said Ginger Wilcox, a founder of the Social Media Marketing Institute. “I would say 2010 was really the year of the hashtag.”
Soon, people began using hashtags to add humor, context and interior monologues to their messages – and everyday conversation. As Susan Orlean wrote in a New Yorker blog post titled “Hash,” the symbol can be “a more sophisticated, verbal version of the dread winking emoticon that tweens use to signify that they’re joking.”
“Because you have a hashtag embedded in a short message with real language, it starts exhibiting other characteristics of natural language, which means basically that people start playing with it and manipulating it,” said Jacob Eisenstein, a postdoctoral fellow at Carnegie Mellon University in computational linguistics. “You’ll see them used as humor, as sort of meta-commentary, where you’ll write a message and maybe you don’t really believe it, and what you really think is in the hashtag.”
So, for instance, a messages that reads “3 hour delay on Amtrak #StimulusDollarsAtWork,” likely implies that the user does not, in fact, think that their stimulus dollars are hard at work.
Hashtags then began popping up outside of Twitter, in emails, chat windows and text messages. When Adam Sharp was hired as Twitter’s Washington liaison, he said he received a number of emails wishing him well – and, of course, #congrats.
In a time-crunched world, the hashtag proved itself a useful shorthand. “If Twitter is a compression of ideas and a compression of expression, then hashtags are just an extension of that, so of course it bleeds over into other forms of communication , because our time is compressed, our thoughts are compressed and our space is compressed,” said Tracy Sefl, a Democratic strategist. “In Washington, it’s a very happy extension of an acronym-happy culture.”
Using a hashtag is also a way for someone to convey that they’re part of a certain scene. “You kind of have to be in-the-know,” Messina said. “So it’s one of those jokes where you’re like, ‘Oh, I see what you did there, because you’re on Twitter and I’m on Twitter.’ ”
To deftly deploy a hashtag, after all, you need to understand the culture, said Susan Herring, a professor of information science and linguistics at Indiana University-Bloomington.
“It’s initially used self-consciously in a way that says, ‘I’m on Twitter, I’m cool, I know that this is used on Twitter so I’m using this someplace else,’ so it’s conveying a meta-message that you are a Twitter-savvy person,” Herring said, adding that it’s “almost as if there are air quotes around it.”
This is not your father’s social media, hashtags seem to say. “If I was talking to my grandmother, I wouldn’t say, ‘I’m having a hashtag bad day’ because she wouldn’t understand,” said Matt Graves, a Twitter spokesman. “She’d be like, ‘Why is there a number there?’ My mom would be like, ‘I’m number winning.’ If my mom was trying to be hip, that’s the kind of thing that would happen.”
Hashtags have also made their way into the vernacular.
“Because of the use of hashtags, you can use one word to describe something, and it’s kind of a mental hashtag,” Wilcox said. “So it’s like, ‘Awkward!’ or ”Winning!’ And yes, definitely ‘Fail.’ For that one I often hear ‘Pound fail.’ ”
Jane Olson, the senior vice president of marketing and brand strategy for Oxygen Media, said her network began using hashtags in their advertising in late 2010. “It’s a nod to ‘we know you, and we live in your world,’ but it’s also a way to get a conversation started in our advertising,” she said, adding, “The other funny thing that’s been happening is that people around the office have started to talk in hashtags – ‘Hashtag sorry I’m late,’ or ‘Hashtag bad day.’ ”
There is also the unofficial Hashtag Mafia, people who flash one another the hashtag sign – crossing their index and middle finger of one hand over the same two fingers of their other hand to create a physical hashtag. #IronicGesture #WeHope
“I have pictures of people actually using the actual hashtag symbol, and it’s like they’re flashing a gang sign, but they’re doing a hashtag,” Wilcox said. “That gets really geeky.”
Messina takes a more philosophical, albeit lighthearted, view. “The great thing about hashtags is that anyone can join the Hashtag Mafia by using hashtags,” he said. “You’re not really in the mafia unless you do air hashtags.”
Jun 9 2011
Many second-screen experiences these days are rather elementary — after all, we’re still in the early throes of social TV. But in collaboration with AttractTV, MTV.com served up a compelling second screen site that corresponded with the MTV Movie Awards.
The MTV VIP Pass was a feed of a variety of behind-the-scenes cameras with a picture-in-picture of the actual broadcast (the audio corresponded with the behind-the-scenes cams). Above, you’re seeing an aerial view of Reese Witherspoon accepting her 2011 MTV Generation Award. Then over the top, you could layer a social chat, live polls, MTV’s Instagr.ram photos and my favorite — a “share this first” window.
The “share this first” feature is ingenious. It highlights video clips from the broadcast shortly after they air, prompting users to share them on Facebook or Twitter. Above, a replay of the Foo Fighter’s live performance popped up over a behind-the-scenes cam of Justin Bateman, urging second-screen viewers to share it. Other clips included the “Breaking Dawn” trailer and an exclusive look at the upcoming Harry Potter movie. It’s a great way to kick-start content sharing right at the moment people care the most.
The social chat worked rather well — Facebook or Twitter — and a window across the top of the screen displayed tweet-like prompts from MTV. At times, it was a lot going on, but MTV is targeted to teens and 20-somethings who can juggle it. Plus, the windows were draggable, so you could position them (or close them) as you please. The only missing piece: MTV News’ iPad and iPhone apps only showed the behind-the-scenes feed, without the interactivity.
It’s all powered by AttractTV, which “adds a layer of interactivity to online video, live or on demand, with a self service web based authoring tool to manage and control the experience,” explains Guy Tomer, founder and CTO of Attractv. Called “Vidgets,” or video widgets, Attractv layers them over an existing media player.
Here’s the “Share this First” Vidget in the Attractv authoring tool. “Right now we have a fully functional Flash solution and HTML5 client is in its alpha phase,” he explains. “I expect the first commercial version to be out in a few weeks – this way iPad viewers could enjoy attracTV as well.”
Just like with the Video Music Awards, MTV brought back the Twitter Tracker, parsing a barrage of tweets in real-time to come up with the top trends of the event, from the top actors and actresses to the most-talked-about movies. Like last time, the Tracker design was powered by Stamen. Throughout the broadcast, MTV plugged various hashtags to correspond with the moment, with #MovieAwards being the predominate theme.
Jun 2 2011
Twitter Inc., which started as a short text-only service, on Wednesday said it will roll out a new way to directly share photos and videos in a tweet.
The San Francisco microblogging service also said it is revamping the way users can search for tweets, including through the Web address bar in the Firefox browser.
The announcements continued the company’s moves to expand the ways its 200 million registered members use Twitter – even though the moves put the firm in competition with some of the third-party developers that helped make Twitter popular.
It’s been a busy week for Twitter, and bringing photo sharing in-house is part of a strategy to prove the company can build a sustainable, profitable business.
“If you use a Twitter photo service, you’re staying within Twitter and its more activity and more page views that advertisers care about,” said Debra Aho Williamson, senior analyst with eMarketer Inc.
Twitter streams 140-character-or-less text messages, called tweets. But developers of apps like Twitpic and Yfrog made photo sharing via Twitter popular.
For example, the world learned of the 2009 miracle plane landing on the Hudson River through a photo tweeted through Twitpic. Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., is embroiled in controversy over a photo reportedly tweeted using Yfrog.
But Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey – who tweeted a photo Wednesday using a third-party app called Instagram – announced the company over the next several weeks will roll out a new feature that links photos and video directly into a tweet, without the user having to leave the Twitter website or one of the company’s official mobile phone applications.
The service is a partnership with Denver’s Photobucket Corp., which is backed by media conglomerate News Corp. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
In a blog post, Dorsey called it “140 characters, now worth 1,000 words.”
“For users without smart phones, we’re working with mobile carriers around the world so you can also send photos via text message,” he said.
However, Twitter spokeswoman Jodi Olsen said in an e-mail that the company will still support other photo services for users of mobile devices and desktop computers.
Twitter also is revamping its search functions, including the addition of a Firefox browser plug-in that lets users type a Twitter member’s name or a topic marked by a hashtag directly into the address bar.
“Not only will it deliver more relevant Tweets when you search for something or click on a trending topic, but it will also show you related photos and videos, right there on the results page,” Dorsey said.
On Tuesday, Twitter introduced a “Follow” button, which links to a particular Twitter account.
Like Facebook’s “Like” and “Share” or LinkedIn’s “InShare,” the new button is one more way of extending Twitter’s reach around the Web. The button can be found on more than 50 partner websites, including AOL, TV Guide and the Wall Street Journal.
Source: SF Gate
May 26 2011
Research reveals what personal information Facebook users disclose, and who discloses the most.
When communicating over the internet people don’t feel the same pull towards social conformity as elsewhere. Online, people cast aside their inhibitions, worry less about the consequences of their actions and let it all hang out. Sometimes literally.
Psychologists call this the online disinhibition effect and its upshot can be seen everywhere.
For example, in online support groups people find they can discuss issues they would never broach face-to-face.
In blog posts and comments people spew invective on matters political, religious and personal. On social networking sites they list home numbers, friends, even add pictures of themselves blind drunk. Yet, meet them in person and they’d be reluctant to volunteer their own name.
For good or ill, people act more freely online.
Since 700 million people worldwide are now on social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, what does this mean for our privacy, safety and for how we are viewed online?
What people disclose on Facebook
To make a start at answering these emerging questions, we examined how much Facebook users disclose and what types of people are likely to disclose the most.
The researchers examined a sample of 400 randomly selected Facebook users to see what types of information people displayed to all comers. Here are the percentages of people who disclosed information in some of the categories:
Profile picture: 92% (although not always just of themselves)
Friends viewable: 88% (i.e. visitors can see who someone’s friends are)
Photo albums: 70%
Relationship status: 63%
Sexual orientation: 55%
Favourite movies: 50%
…and from the bottom half of the table:
Email address: 43%
Favourite books: 41%
About me: 31%
Mobile phone number: 5%
Former name: 5%
Home address: 4%
Land phone: 2%
Who discloses the most?
When the researchers analysed the demographics, they found that top of the online disclosing leagues were single people, who disclosed more sensitive information than those in a relationship or those who didn’t specify their relationship status.
This ties in with the finding that compared to face-to-face daters, online daters disclose more personal information, more quickly. The online disinhibition effect seems to accelerate disclosure between people.
They also found that younger people tended to disclose more online while older people were more cautious, as might be expected.
Finally, and somewhat surprisingly, men and women did not differ in the amount disclosed online. The research generally finds that women disclose freely to each other while men keep schtum about their private lives. Online, though, perhaps men feel less pressure to conform to social norms.
The fact that people disclose so much information about themselves on Facebook shows the online disinhibition effect in action. What this research reveals is that young people and those looking for connections online are likely to disclose the most information.
Despite these debates often being couched in terms of fear of others and transgressions of privacy, what’s often forgotten is the simple fact that self-disclosure is the first step towards intimacy, something we all need. Still, it’s a potential vulnerability that relationship seekers might bear in mind.
May 24 2011
It’s pretty clear: TV is no longer about every family sitting down to watch “Ed Sullivan” at 7pm each night.
The lines between digital media are starting to blur: TV can be accessed anywhere, on any connected TV. Additionally, the amount of available TV content has exploded with the birth of OTT, VoD, catch up, and streaming media. Social TV is the natural child of this revolution: suddenly people are consuming content in new ways.
Social TV essentially makes everyone a curator, and empowers viewers to filter and recommend TV content themselves. By voicing their opinions on Twitter and Facebook, suddenly viewers have a much bigger say in how content is curated, and what shows rise to the top.
Social TV is still a growing and important trend. Key value is created by inviting everyone – not just the experts- to curate content, generating buzz and chatter. And socially curating content is becoming an increasingly popular activity – even if consumers don’t directly know they are doing it. And as a result, people are turning to Twitter and Facebook to find out what’s hot on TV that night.
However while many viewers are actively curating content with their Tweets and status updates, does it have the desired results?
Social TV…with a caveat
However, while social is the buzz word of the moment, there is some evidence that social networks are actually starting to lose some of their holds over the hearts and minds of consumers.
Surprisingly, the typical Facebook user doesn’t even know 20% of their friends, and the authority of peers has notably declined 4% since 2009. Instead, consumers have increasingly placed their trust in the advice of experts.
Social TV also doesn’t always operate the way we expect to it. According to new research presented by Christy Tanner from TVGuide.com, the most social shows on TV aren’t necessarily those with the highest Nielsen ratings:
Top 10 Most Social Shows of the 2010-2011 TV Season
2. American Idol
3. Criminal Minds
10. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Although some of these shows, like NCIS and American Idol, are also extremely popular in the Nielsen ratings, most TV shows in the list buck the trend. Programs like Glee, which have huge social media followings and a great web presence, barely rank in Nielsen’s Top 40.
This means that while social TV may not be driving new viewers to the show, it’s a great measure of audience engagement. In particular, 27-33 year old women on Facebook are the most active sharers, and drive the highest conversion rates.
Unsurprisingly, Twitter beats Facebook when it comes to engagement while a show is airing. 50% of users said they tweet about the show they are watching, compared with only 35% who said they post to Facebook.
Content Curation is King
During Mashable Connect, Steve Rubel, EVP of Global Strategy and Insights for Edelman, took the stage to talk about how consumers are dealing with consumer overload.
According to Rubel, consumers use a variety of sources – not just their social networks- to discover what’s personally relevant.
So in an era of content overload, how can TV operators get attention?
It’s essential to remember that each viewer decides what to watch a little differently; while some viewers know exactly what they want, others are simply browsing for something new to watch. Rubel pointed to Richard Edelman’s “Media Cloverleaf” as a solution. The Media Cloverleaf features four distinct spheres of media which should all be utilized to engage the public on a regular basis.
In other words, multiplatform strategies that include social TV are essential. Viewers are already actively curating TV content whether operators like it or not. It looks like social TV behaviour is only set to grow- how TV operators capitalise and innovate around the trend will determine their success.
Source: World TVPC
May 23 2011
Want to see how influential you are on Twitter? A new app called Sneak Peek not only does that; it also tells you how influential everyone else is.
Visibli, a web analytics firm, aims to be a “Compete for social sharing” with the app, which went live on May 17. Sneak Peek makes a couple of metrics publicly available: clicks on links and clicks on reshared links. The former are original links, while the latter are retweets, though Visibli CEO Saif Ajani says he avoided that term since many users don’t use the “RT” designation when they retweet.
For instance, a look at Ashton Kutcher’s Twitter stream over the past two weeks shows a big bump on May 11, when he retweeted Amazon’s announcement that the movie No Strings Attached (which he stars in) was available on Blu-ray and DVD. That retweet yielded 2,402 clicks.
A person’s Twitter stats can be found by typing in his or her handle. Ajani hopes to get ad agencies and marketers to sign up for the paid version of Visibli, which provides data from a much longer period. Right now, a look at the past 14 days is free without registration. Users must register to see stats from the past 30 days — or what’s happening in real time.
The app uses information compiled from Twitter’s API as well as APIs from Twitter apps like Bit.ly and TweetDeck, among others. Visibli is not the only firm to measure Twitter influence, of course. Klout, for one, does the same thing.
But Ajani’s plan is to offer the same visibility that Compete offers for website traffic (even though many dispute Compete’s numbers) for sharing in all of social media, including Facebook. “We’ve got some kickass analytics that track in real-time everything you share,” he says.
This app will set to rock how marketers gather information from users and use it to their advantages.
But will this compromise our accounts’ privacy?
Additional input by Ada
May 20 2011
LinkedIn Corp.’s founder Reid Hoffman and its three top venture backers own a combined stake of about $5.14 billion after an eight-year wait for the first initial public offering by a major U.S. social-media site.
Venture capitalists have led more than $100 million in investments in Mountain View, California-based LinkedIn since 2003, with Sequoia Capital amassing a holding now worth $1.59 billion, and Greylock Partners, a $1.32 billion stake. Hoffman, LinkedIn’s chairman and biggest shareholder, holds $1.8 billion and Bessemer Venture Partners has a stake worth $431.5 million.
The almost decade-long wait for a LinkedIn windfall compares with less than five years for the biggest investors in Google Inc. and just a year for top backers of Yahoo! Inc. and EBay Inc. (EBAY) LinkedIn’s debut on the New York Stock Exchange today at $45 a share, or a valuation of about $4.25 billion, brightens prospects for the venture capital industry, which has lost money over the past 10 years amid a dearth of IPOs.
“Any solid returns like this are clearly a great thing and there’s been too few of them in the past decade,” said Eric Risley, founder of Architect Partners, a technology merger-and- acquisition advisory firm in Menlo Park, California. “This was not an overnight success by any means.”
LinkedIn more than doubled, rising $49.25 to $94.25 at 4 p.m. New York time, after earlier soaring as high as $122.70. At the stock’s closing price, LinkedIn’s market valuation is $8.91 billion.
LinkedIn was valued at about $15 million when Menlo Park, California-based Sequoia first invested in 2003, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Venture investors are barred from selling shares during a so-called lockup period that lasts for six months after an IPO. Venture capital firms typically keep 20 percent to 30 percent of profit for their partners after portfolio companies get acquired or go public. They distribute the rest to the pension funds, endowments and foundations that invest in their funds.
Hoffman, a former PayPal Inc. executive, is selling less than 1 percent of his stake. Hani Durzy, a spokesman for LinkedIn, declined to comment, as did Mark Dempster, who heads marketing for Sequoia.
Venture capitalists are counting on gains from LinkedIn and other Web companies such as Pandora Media Inc. and HomeAway Inc. Social-media companies Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc., Zynga Inc. and Groupon Inc. have yet to announce IPO plans, even with multibillion-dollar valuations on private markets.
Among the venture firms, Sequoia stands to be the biggest winner from the LinkedIn IPO. The firm led a $4.7 million investment in November 2003 and increased its funding later to accumulate a 21 percent stake.
Mike Moritz, who led Sequoia’s early investments in Google, Yahoo and PayPal, joined LinkedIn’s board in January. He replaced Mark Kvamme, who left Sequoia for a job at the Ohio Department of Development.
Greylock Partners led the second round of funding, a $10 million investment, in 2004. Greylock’s David Sze, who’s also an investor in Facebook and Pandora, is a LinkedIn director. Hoffman joined Greylock as a partner in 2009.
Bessemer, a century-old firm that made an early bet on Skype Technologies SA, led a $12.8 million round in 2007.
Buyers of LinkedIn shares on the secondary markets are also poised to profit. A $1 million purchase of LinkedIn stock on Dec. 10, 2010, would now be worth more than $2.68 million, based on the median secondary bid price that day, according to a report today from Nyppex LLC, which specializes in secondary transactions.
Nyppex, based in Rye Brook, New York, tracks the value of LinkedIn, Facebook, Zynga, Twitter and Groupon, which have surged in the past year as some early investors and employees sold equity. The valuations of leading consumer Internet companies surged by a combined 51 percent in the first quarter from the previous three months.
“The LinkedIn IPO valuation thus far is a good omen for secondary buyers in certain other privately held social-media companies,” Nyppex said.
LinkedIn trades under the ticker symbol LNKD. About 62 percent of the 7.84 million shares in the offering were sold by LinkedIn, which said it plans to use the proceeds to fund existing operations and to expand the business, possibly including buying other companies or technologies.
May 16 2011
Everyone has an opinion, and when it comes to TV shows everyone can now air that opinion. And the reason? Facebook and Twitter, the two most influential social platforms. Social networking and TV watching go together like ham and eggs, but a new report goes further, saying that the two powerhouses are also becoming the power brokers for the new global, digital TV landscape.
The report by Futurescape, a digital media research company says in their report on social TV that “Facebook and Twitter are now power brokers for the global television industry,”
he report looks at the ways social networking are permeating pretty much everyone and everywhere, “Their ability to create new business opportunities and engage viewers, boosting advertising and pay-TV revenue, gives them a significant and increasing influence over all aspects of television.”
In effect, social networks can now make or break a show. They can propel a niche show on a minor channel into the mainstream. And also kill a multi-million budget show after an episode.
There are some more interesting points coming from the report, including the fact that electronic program guides (EPG’s) are now incorporating Facebook and Twitter, allowing users to send an instant recommendion. And the important bit, “encouraging them to subscribe to pay-TV channels for particular programs.”
Big companies are seeing the power of social networking. Yahoo recently brought the social TV company IntoNow.
It may be seen as an interesting shift of power from the big Pay TV operators, but then it could just be seen as an extension of the TV review and critics who can also make or break a show.
Source: World TVPC
May 12 2011
We can all use some some common sense and courteousness to maintain decorum (avoid drama) and generally keep things classy.
1. When a friend has tagged you in a status, it is customary to like it, regardless of whether it’s actually funny or not.
2. It is unacceptable to like one’s own status or photo, unless a) one is trying to be ironic, or b) one is trying to look like a self-important douche.
3. If you choose to have a long conversation with one or more persons on a status, be prepared for everyone who liked said status or commented on it in passing to hate you forever.
4. It is impolite to wait more than 24 hours to reply to a wall post or message; if one waits longer than that in order to create the illusion of having a life, keep in mind that no one is buying it (no one else has a life, either).
5. Since Facebook’s founding, poking has evolved from meaning “Hey there, you!” to “I just got a facebook and I’m probably old; aren’t I hip?” Therefore, if one wants to be friendly or flirtatious over Facebook, poking is no longer the best option to attract the attention of your heart’s desire.
6. It is perfectly acceptable to link one’s Facebook account to one’s Tumblr. However, keep in mind that posting 6,000 things a day to Tumblr and thus blowing up all your friends’ news feeds is grounds for de-friending.
7. Remember: your status box is not your therapy couch.
8. It’s only when one doesn’t own up one’s Facebook creeping that one is creepy.
9. Do not reply “Yes” to an Event RSVP unless you are abolsutely 100% positive you will be attending. However, if an event even seems mildly interesting, it is acceptable to reply “Maybe”.
10. Pick and choose your song lyric statuses. Pick and choose
Note: Remember, watch what you say about yourself online, you never know who’s taking notes.
May 3 2011
by Beyond-TV • Social Media Comments Off
Love it or loathe it, Facebook is everywhere, and will continue to be everywhere as the film describing its genesis—The Social Network
To help you cope, here are 7 research-based tips for total Facebook domination. If you don’t use it, these should at least help you pepper Facebook-related conversations with compelling observations from the psychological research.
1. Get between 100 and 300 friends
It doesn’t look good to have too many Facebook friends, or too few.
It has been suggested that humans can maintain relationships with 150 people. Facebooker’s social attractiveness peaked at around this number. Go much above 300 or below 100 and social attractiveness starts to drop.
2. Court attractive friends
Make sure your friends, or the people who post on your ‘wall’, are good-looking. Attractive friends boosted the perceived attractiveness of participant’s profiles.
Keep the uggos away, unlike the offline world, it won’t make you look better in comparison.
3. Understand the 7 motivations
If you need to lure more people in as Facebook friends, it’s handy to understand its attraction.
The basic motivations for using Facebook:
- Connecting with old or distant friends.
- Social surveillance (see what old friends are up to, but without talking to them).
- Looking up people met offline.
- Virtual people watching.
- Status updating and content.
4. Don’t let your partner use Facebook
Users who spent more time on Facebook were more jealous of their partners. This is probably because they are finding out things about their partner—who they know and where they’ve been—which, in the days before social networking, could have been kept quiet.
So, don’t let your partner see your Facebook profile. Unless you want them to be jealous. In which case, carry on.
5. Guard your privacy
Privacy is a big, controversial topic on Facebook because many people’s social networking profiles do say too much.
Young, single people were particularly likely to disclose sensitive information about themselves. It’s the online disinhibition effect writ large. But, according to Boyd (2010), more young people are using the privacy settings than a year ago, so the message is getting through.
You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again: watch what you say about yourself online, you never know who’s taking notes.
6. Display your real self
Remarkably, you can often trust Facebook profiles; Facebook profiles generally reflected their owner’s actual rather than idealised selves.
Facebook users may not personally know all their Facebook friends but they probably do like the movies, books and bands they claim to like.
7. Use Facebook to get a job
Because we move huge distances nowadays, away from home towns and old friends, it’s easy to lose contact with people who might be able to give us a leg up in life. Facebook to the rescue…
Facebook users had higher levels of ‘social capital’. In other words: people are using their Facebook contacts to get jobs or other opportunities.
See, Facebookers aren’t just surfing for photos of people they know and people they’d like to know, they’re building social capital.
At least, that’s the excuse I’ll be using from now on.
May 3 2011
Apr 27 2011
Apr 20 2011
There are now 190 million Twitter users around the world producing 65 million tweets each day. 19% of US internet users now say they use Twitter or a similar service to share updates about themselves.
So who tweets? Why? What are they talking about? And what is so engaging about all those little textual transmissions?
Since Twitter didn’t exist until 2006, psychologists have had little chance to explore it, but some of the early research suggests a social network unlike those that came before.
Here are 10 favourite insights from this research, some less obvious than others.
What is Twitter?
Twitter is a cross between a social network and a blog. The blog part is that users read and write 140 character ‘tweets’ which are largely public. The social network part is that people ‘follow’ each other then become part of each other’s Twitter conversations, they can also ‘retweet’ or retransmit other people’s messages to their own followers.
1. Twitter is like a game of broken telephone
Because messages are short and can be broadcast quickly and easily, Twitter can feel to its users like a fast-paced conversation. The difference from a normal conversation is that people are taking part in a whole range of different interactions. It’s like being at a party and talking to 10 different groups at the same time.
All sorts of processes that you would recognise from conversations are also going on in Twitter: much information is simply repeated (retweeted) but messages are corrupted over time, like a game of broken telephone (UK: Chinese whispers), as people re-evaluate, re-interpret or misinterpret the meaning of the original tweet.
But Twitter doesn’t always feel like a conversation as people use it in different ways. In the same way that talking isn’t always conversation, sometimes it’s a command, an expression of surprise or an aid to thought. In other words, Twitter isn’t just social, it has a big informational component, which we’ll come on to.
2. People join Twitter to follow their friends
Network analysis of Twitter users in the early days by Java et al. (2007) suggested that people join because their friends are already using it. The networks resembled those seen in the analysis of cell phone networks.
The huge number of users is just what we’ve come to expect from the internet: people can easily conform to the technological norm because services are often free, and it’s well-known that free is a special price we can’t resist. The number of users is less interesting than what people are using it for and why.
3. Most tweets are babble
While not academic research, some insight into what people are talking about on Twitter comes from an analytics company who categorised 2,000 tweets collected over one week. They fell into six categories:
Pointless babble: 41%
Pass-along value: 9%
What they call ‘pointless babble’ might better be called social pleasantries, social grooming or at least just babble. Like when someone says “How are you?” and you say “Fine.” It may be low-level, but it’s not pointless.
4. The average age is 31
The average (median) age for a Twitter user is 31, older than the median MySpace user who is 26, but younger than Facebook which is now 33. LinkedIn has the oldest users with the median being 39. Predictably the strongest growth in Twitter use is amongst those aged 18-24.
5. Men are Twitter leaders
Some suggestions of sex differences come from Heil & Piskorski (2009). They found that there were slightly more women than men on Twitter (55% women), but that, on average, men had 15% more followers than women, with men twice as likely to follow another man as they were a woman, and women 25% more likely to follow men. Both men and women, however, were found to tweet at the same rate.
This finding is unusual given that it’s normally women who are the focus of attention on social networks, from both other men and other women.
I’m always cautious about reporting sex differences and keen to point out that psychologically men and women are very similar. But perhaps there’s something about Twitter that, on average, fits slightly more with men.
6. 20 per cent are ‘informers’, 80 per cent are ‘meformers’
After examining 350 messages collected from Twitter, Naaman (2010) found two different types of user:
Informers: 20% shared information and replied to other users
Meformers: 80% mostly sent out information about themselves.
Informers tended to have larger social networks, perhaps because they passed on more interesting things and weren’t talking about themselves all the time.
This split hints at the different ways that people use Twitter. It also suggests that the conversational aspects of Twitter may have been overstated. If 80% of users don’t reply to others then it’s not that social.
7. Trends are one-time and short-lived
Tweets on a particular topic (Twitter trends) rarely last longer than a week and usually no more than a few days. Most topics only trend once, then die, usually never to return. 85% of these trends are news-related.
Perhaps the reason for this is that trends, which are attached to the use of particular words or phrases, are often very specific.
8. Average tweet frequency is 1
The average (median) lifetime number of tweets for a Twitter user is 1 (Heil & Piskorski, 2009). This means most people who sign up are just following others or don’t use it at all. Once again, the power of ‘free’ and very low barriers to entry.
At the other end of the scale 10% of Twitter users contribute 90% of the tweets. This finding is unusual compared to other social networks where the use isn’t nearly so top-heavy. Heil & Piskorski note that in this respect Twitter is more like Wikipedia, which has a similar rate of top-heavy usage. Many but not all of the most-followed Twitter users are, unsurprisingly, celebrities.
This top-heavy usage reflects the fact that being interesting is a talent that not everyone can acquire (without relying on the halo effect of being famous that is). Occasionally, though, some manage the trick of being famous and quite interesting, e.g. Stephen Fry.
9. Existential angst can motivate users
Twitter is often uncharitably said to be perfect for our narcissistic age. It enables people to gather followers, talk about themselves, all without having to listen to anyone else.
A small study conducted by Qiu et al. (2010) has suggested that amongst the extroverted it really is existential angst that motivates tweeting. The same wasn’t found, though, for those who weren’t so extroverted.
Twitter is simply a fun toy that’s easy to use. It’s much easier than blogging, you can mess around, you don’t have to say much and it makes the web a little more homely. At the same time it’s not as obsessed as Facebook and other social networks with gathering and displaying huge amounts of information about you. It’s less social than Facebook, which people seem to like.
10. Twitter is less social and more informational
Support for the idea that Twitter is more informational and less social than other social networks comes from Johnson and Yang (2009) who found that people treat other Twitter users primarily as interesting information sources.
In this study people also gained the most gratification from information they had found through Twitter. The social aspect of it, however, participants didn’t find particularly gratifying, despite a positive expectation.
Network analysis also tends to play down the social aspects of the site. Twitter shows relatively low levels of reciprocity compared with other social networking sites. Only 22% of Twitter users have reciprocal links between them, compared with 68% on Flickr and 84% on Yahoo! 360.
Kwak et al. (2010) found that the average path length is 4.12 with 93.5% of people within 5 or fewer hops of everyone else. This is mostly because Twitter is dominated by a small number of celebrities, making many more big nodes than would be expected in a social network.
Of course these are only the first insights emerging from the research and people are evolving new and interesting ways of using and analysing Twitter all the time.
Hughes and Palen (2009) looked at the use of Twitter in mass and emergency events. Tweets during two hurricanes and two political conventions suggested that people are increasingly using Twitter to share information with each other.
Here’s another way in which the informational nature of Twitter has come to the fore. Twitter is perfect for a crisis when information needs to be moved quickly and efficiently around social networks. Indeed researchers can detect emergency events like earthquakes by monitoring Twitter (Sakaki et al., 2010).
Twitter has also been used to measure the mood of the nation. Alan Mislove and colleagues collected 300 million tweets from the US, analysed their emotional content, and produced a ‘mood of the nation’ video. It shows how the emotional content of people’s tweets changes over the day (red is negative and green positive):
Interestingly their Twitter analysis backs up a finding covered previously that Monday is not the most depressing day of the week using a radically different method.
Twitter is even starting to be used by researchers as a health intervention (e.g. Young, 2009).