I recently turned on NPR and started listening to a special interview of Twitter founders, Evan Williams and Biz Stone, hosted by the Common Wealth club. I highly recommend that you listen to the entire interview. The conversation got me thinking about Twitter and how such a simple platform has brought so much change in how people interact with each other and how news is spread far and wide. I have summarized below some of the great points made by Ev and Biz in this interview…
Why is Twitter so great?
Put simply, Twitter is a really easy way to share information. In fact, it is probably the world’s easiest way to publish information. Forget editors, publishers, etc… users are automatically given their own voice to tell their own story which can be extremely powerful. The 140 character limit was set so that every SMS device around the world could read the entire text (160 is the standard SMS minimum, but Twitter removed 20 characters to leave room for the author’s name). The founders wanted users to reach the most rudimentary of devices and corners of the world. In addition, there are other benefits from this character constraint. As the founders put it, the minimum character limit makes tweets more streamlined and lowers the barriers to creating content.
How does Twitter monetize?
While newspaper, magazines and Google keep ads separate from organic content, Twitter is able to show advertisements within twitter streams. However, these ads can still be differentiated as sponsored content as they say “Promoted” within the text. In addition, Twitter has a relevance algorithm that shows if a promoted Tweet was successful. If the promoted tweet is not interacted with or is blocked, the client is not charged for it (note, Twitter is experimenting only with a select group of larger companies for this initial test). Twitter also recently released “Promoted Accounts” where users pay to show up for people who are interested in similar topics.
News media environment is drastically changing—what’s Twitter’s role?
Twitter can be extremely complimentary to news and journalism. Twitter is great at breaking news but what Twitter doesn’t do is provide the rest of the story, which it leaves to other media outlets. Twitter wants to create an open exchange of information that allows everyone to succeed. In a recent article in Fast Company which discusses how live tweeting has brought a conversation to television, Evan Stone one day had a light-bulb moment when he thought “Do you think that Twitter could become the interactive platform for TV?” We see examples of this now like the MTV Music Awards where live tweets were streamed on the television screen.
Biz and Evan give advice to young entrepreneurs trying to monetize their business
With a popular service, it‘s not hard to make money. Twitter understands that at the end of the day their value is the size of their network and the value they’re delivering to users. If you’re building something that people value that is unique and does something better than anyone else does it, you’re going to make money from it. Their final advice was to work on something that you love and are emotionally invested in.
Why did Odeo not quite work? – and it’s pivot to Twitter.
With Odeo, the founders agreed that they were not emotionally invested. They saw it as a good idea, but they didn’t podcast and they didn’t listen to podcasts. Evan created an environment where people could team up and create prototypes of things they were interested in creating, which brought around Twitter. Having the funding of Odeo helped foster its pivot to Twitter through the nine months where everyone thought it was a bad idea.
Similarities to Blogging?
Blogger and Twitter have similarities as both help individuals to connect with audiences. When building Blogger, the founders were always thinking of something more robust, and ironically Twitter is less robust. They loved the idea of a blog post showing up in different blogs – Twitter has this with re-tweet and Tweet Streams are just editors who re-tweet other tweets.
It’s all about a connection…
Jet Blue had mistakes at first with mini press-release tweets. Finally, they just asked “What do you want us to Tweet?” – then they started interacting with people. Biz and Evan encourage companies to be authentic and engage with people who ask questions…make the connection real!
60 second idea to change the world…
Responses by Twitter panel…
1. World is pretty good.
2. Connect more people and in so doing allow them to walk in each other’s shoes more. When you can empathize with someone, they can realize that they’re not a citizen of one nation but they’re a global citizen
3. Start with yourself—breathing deep and trying big things..big fan of entrepreneurs…focus and to think big
To my business readers:
If you refuse to recognize that Twitter is an amazing opportunity to get the word out about your company and to interact with your users, then you are greatly missing out! Back in June, Twitter announced that they have 190 Million users tweeting 65 million times a day. In addition, most users don’t tweet at all but rather user Twitter as a consumption media. It is important to dive in and understand why using the new social-powered Web is a great opportunity. …remember, Twitter is where the customers are!
Some advice for my small business followers:
- Measuring your success in a social web world is a challenge as there isn’t a single tool that will help us measure the effectiveness of our social media efforts. However, I do have some helpful metrics that will help you understand if your Tweeting efforts are making an impact…
- Measure success by desired outcomes, not activity. Just how you want a high number of relevant people to visit your website, you also want a high number of relevant people to follow your tweets.
- There are many sneaky ways to increase your Twitter follower count quickly (free iPad anyone?), but you should ignore these tactics! You want a relevant audience because success is measured by conversation, not by your number of followers.
- You will know when you Tweet something of value because others will retweet it. Re-tweeting is how your message gets spread further and wider … this is called message amplification. You should use message amplification as a metric to gauge the perceived value of your tweets.
- Take a close look at your tweets which do get re-tweeted— these are the tweets that contain value!
- The most interesting metric to me is # of retweets per thousand followers. This metric helps you to understand your degree of message amplification, and again, you can compare this metric to your competitors (you can do this with Retweetrank).
- Measuring the activity that happens around these links you tweet is extremely valuable. You can measure the success of this with the Average Shared Links Click-Through Rate. Who cares about the number of links you share—you want to focus on the response rate, the click-through rate on the links you send. You can better focus your twitter efforts by seeing which links get better click through rates.
- If you are sharing links to your ecommerce website, you can measure the conversion rate of your Twitter traffic. To enable tracking, you simply encode the links you share on Twitter with unique tracking parameters. You can measure number of visits, bounce rate, avg time on site, % new visits and average value.
- Measure the conversation. How many replies did you send today? How many replies did you receive? …this will help you understand if you are participating in the conversation (TwitterFriends is a great tool to measure this)
Start tweeting and measuring your success with some of the suggestions listed above!
Learn more Online Marketing techniques by following my on twitter @AlliStrouse