Kevin Smith Benefits on Twitter By Being Too Fat to Fly

According to 24 hour news shows, the most important thing they could cover this past Monday morning was ongoing coverage of Kevin Smith’s Twittering of his removal from a Southwest flight for being too fat to fly. Looking back on things now, did @ThatKevinSmith’s ranting about Southwest’s policies have a positive or negative impact on Smith’s follower count?

Here’s a 3-month chart tracking the number of followers @ThatKevinSmith has on Twitter:

@ThatKevinSmith's Twitter Follower Count

Smith was steadily gaining around 3,000 followers every day of the week up until January 21st, when Twitter changed how they provided suggested user lists. It turns out that Smith wasn’t organically gaining an audience of 3,000 followers a day, but was picking up followers through the auto-adds – many of whom are spammers setting up thousands of accounts for various reasons.

After that change went into effect, Smith started losing around 1,000 followers a week. Again, these were not likely loyal fans that he was pissing off, but spammer accounts being removed or people who happened to auto-follow him out of the gate and realized later that he wasn’t what they were looking for on Twitter.

But then things changed when Southwest gave Smith the boot from a flight to Burbank. Suddenly, Smith was in the news and picking up followers at a high rate. Here’s a closer look:

@ThatKevinSmith's Twitter Follower Count

Overall, I think this has had a positive impact for Kevin Smith since the followers he’s picked up through this incident have more than made up for the followers he’s lost in the previous 3 weeks. Additionally, the quality of the followers he’s picked up surely trump the types of people he was accruing through Twitter’s suggested users list.

And what about Southwest Airlines? They’ve had a pretty good week too:

@SOUTHWESTAIR Followers on Twitter

No news is bad news?

Minnesota’s Noisiest Twitter Users

I’ve been thinking about how one could measure noise on Twitter. By noise, I mean people twittering without building an audience. If a person talks and talks and talks but no one listens, that’s just noise. At least, that’s my working definition of noise on Twitter.

Working off that definition, I decided to take a look at the MN tag on Twitterholic. That tag on that site lists people who’ve defined their location at MN, so a subsection of Minnesota based Twitterers. This doesn’t include people who use Minneapolis, MN, other cities, city/state combinations, geocodes, or Minnesotans who don’t disclose a location, so it’s really only a small subset of Minnesota twitterers.

If we look at followers, the top-5 most followed accounts right now are:

1. Steve Gewecke (mlmphonepro)
2. Mark Salinas (Mark_Salinas)
3. swamibaby (swamibaby)
4. Nicole (niclone)
5. Michelle Judd (mjudd)

That says something about the quality of their tweets, although there are ways to game follow counts, such as running follow-bots that automatically follow other Twitter users under the assumption that a portion of them will follow you back.

Turning to noise, my working definition for Twitter noise, is the Update to Follower ratio. By taking the number of times someone has tweeted and dividing that into how many followers a Twitter user name, you can get a sense for whether the user is building an audience based on what they’re tweeting. So if someone has twittered a ton but has relatively few followers, they’re noisy by this definition. On the other extreme are people who have huge following yet have tweeted few times. They’re often celebrities like Oprah.

Here is what noise looks like among the top Twitterholic ranked Twitterers who’ve labeled their location as MN:

Noisiest Twitterholic MN Twitterers

That, to me, is a lot of noise. Five Twitter users combined have published more than 479,000 tweets. What’s really impressive is that these accounts are only 6 months old. That is a lot of twittering. After twittering 100,000 times, you’d think a person could build a following larger than a few hundred.

A local Twitter measurement service called FollowCost helps determine what you can expect if you follow a particular Twitter account. Here’s what they say about the #1 noisiest Twitter account.

Followcost for @HousewarePlaza

For those of you not familiar with Scoble units, they’re named after a relatively heavy Twitter user, Robert Scoble. As the above graphic illustrates, @HouserwarePlaza is historically 31X noisier than than Scoble, although their last 100 Tweets have been a mind-blowing 42X noisier than Scoble.

By the way, the stats for these 5 Twitter accounts are already way out of date. I grabbed those numbers on December 27th, and the accounts have spewed out around 3,000 tweets each since then.

What’s going on here? Is someone really Twittering 1000’s of times per on these accounts? No. Instead, an online retailer in Brooklyn Park is auto-tweeting their website’s inventory over and over again in an attempt to show up in Twitter search results whenever someone happens to be looking for a “Range Kleen P104 P-1048″PORCELAIN STICK-FREE PAN” or “OMCAN BSB322104 104 BAND SAW BLADE 322“.

It’s going to be interesting to see how Twitter addresses accounts like this in the future. The service is under no obligation to allow thousands of robotweets into their network per day. It costs money to store all of that inventory. And, more importantly, Twitter could determine that there isn’t enough value to their network to support this sort of thing.

If that happens, Twitter could either block account like this (I believe that does happen from time to time) or perhaps they could charge a nominal fee per daily tweet over a certain threshold to help recoup their costs or slow down extraordinarily heavy users. At a penny per tweet, would it still make sense to use Twitter in this manner?

Twitter Powered Ads: Invented In Minnesota

Three months ago to the day, I posted here about a new ad format on The Deets called Real-Time Ads where businesses can update their ads at any time from their cell phone or computer by simply sending in a message to Twitter.

Since then, I can tell you that this stuff works. In fact, the top real-time ads on this site receive more clicks per month than all of the graphic banner ads combined. Yes, that is correct. Why is this? Because the real-time ads have valuable content included within them.

If you can communicate in real-time with your target audience, why wouldn’t you do that rather than serve up a logo for your business? Tell people it’s happy hour. Tell them about your open house. Tell them about a sale. Make them an offer they can’t refuse during the next snowmageddon.

Like I was saying, here were are three months later and the concept is starting to spread. The popular web 2.0 tech blog, Mashable, came out with their own version of this today called Twitter Brand Sponsors. Dapper.net has a way to syndicate tweets and other RSS formatted content into banners.

If you own a cell phone or computer and have one dollar, you can try this for yourself (first month is $1 then $100/month after that). By the way, traffic from Minnesotans to The Deets has increased 25% over the past 3 months. You can lock in at the current rate if you’d like or wait until I get around to increasing prices if you’d prefer.

Do You Have to Follow People to Use Twitter Correctly?

Social Media Consultant, Matthew Chamberlin @mchamberlin sent out a tweet yesterday that piqued my interest. In it, he scolds Senator Claire McCaskill about her use of Twitter on behalf of the Twitterverse:

Tweet

As @mchamberlain pointed out, Sen. McCaskill (@clairecmc) had 2,256 followers on Twitter at the time of his Tweet. Thirty-four hours later, Sen McCaskill now has 3,464 follower and is still only following one person.

Sen. McCaskill is picking up followers at a rate of hundreds per day, yet is using Twitter wrong?

I get the impression that Mr. Chamberlin’s expectation of Twitter users is that they must reciprocate follows. In the Senator’s case, that would mean she should have taken the time to follow back the now-3,466 followers she’s gained since joining Twitter.

Sen. McCaskill’s tweets to date seem to fit her personality well. She’s sending updates that are both job related and personal including mentioning that she’ll be on Meet the Press in the morning and that she cheated on her diet at dinner.

People seem to really enjoy her tweets based on the extraordinary number of @replies and retweets her messages are receiving:

@clairecmc Twitter @replies

If I was to offer some free consulting advice to Sen. McCaskill about her Twitter behavior to date, it would be this: Don’t change a thing. What you’re doing is obviously working for you. Your constituents appreciate the additional access you’re granting them one tweet at a time. While some Twitter follower may feel that you should follow them back, a United States Senator like yourself would be setting unrealistic expectations for constituents who may incorrectly assume you’re taking time to read every message twittered by thousands and thousands of followers.

My Least Favorite Twitter Tweets

If I had to choose one theme of Twitter messages as my least favorite, it would be messages that provide no context to me as a reader. They’re generally messages that are relevant to the sender and only one of the sender’s followers yet were sent publicly rather than as a direct tweet (or any of the many other forms of communication available for 2-way communication).

Here are three examples:

@reply Thank you.
@reply Agreed.
@reply Indeed.

The messages are positive. However, they’re also irrelevant to almost all of the sender’s followers.

Consider adding a little context to @reply messages so all followers can be part of the conversation.

Minneapolis’ Most Interesting Twitter Users?

There has been some buzz in the Twitterverse today about a new feature on Twitterholic that filters their stats service by location. This link, for example, lists the top Twitter users in Minneapolis by followers.*

Lee Odden from search marketing firm TopRank top that list.

I thought it would be fun to try to measure the interestingness of our local Twitter users. The assumption I’m using here is that people who manage to build a following over time are likely more interesting Twitterers to the general public than those who do not. Of course, this assumes that people WANT to build an audience over time, which certainly isn’t always the case. Many people use the service to stay in touch with a close group of friends and have no interest in the service beyond that.

That being said, here is a list of Minneapolis Twitter users who’s tweeted at least 100 time ranked by the number of followers they have over the number of tweets they’ve sent (followers / updates = F/U). If you’re looking for some interesting local people to follow on Twitter, this may be a good place to start:

At the top of the list are people who have more followers than tweets sent. That’s impressive. At the bottom of the list is The Current’s playlist twitter-bot that has sent out 57,690 tweets to a measly 80 followers. In fact, The Current’s account is currently suspended for “Suspicious Activity.”

Based on F/U rate, it looks like MinnPost is ~80x more interesting than the StarTribune. In this case, it looks like the StarTribune is pumping out automatic tweets on everything hitting their website. People don’t seem to enjoy subscribing to fire hoses. MinnPost’s account is hand-edited, showing that some editing can pay off when it comes to picking Twitter-worthy news.

* It’s worth noting that there are certainly local Twitter users missing from this list. This is based on people who used the term “Minneapolis” within the location field of their Twitter account.

In-Store Price-Check Options

Every year, a new company attempts to make a cell phone application that can read barcodes, transmit that information across the web, then return comparative price information. Overall, it’s a great concept, but I think companies are overthinking this one.

Companies are creating a ton of hurdles for themselves as they attempt to solve this problem. By framing the problem as a bar code scanning, reading, and transmission problem, they need to solve photo quality issues caused by humans who are very inconsistent when it comes to taking pictures.

They also have to overcome the software installation hurdle, which means they have to write software that runs on multiple platforms, convince people to install it, support the various versions over time, get people to upgrade it, etc. That’s a lot of work.

With that in mind, I think a new service called BooksPrice is going about solving this interesting issue in a much smarter way. Forget about mobile software. Instead, use SMS to communicate.

People are pretty good at texting compared to taking pictures. And it’s not that hard to find an text an ISBN number.

In BooksPrice.com’s model, they’re using Twitter to make this all happen. You follow BooksPrice on Twitter. They follow you back. Then, the next time you want to look up a book’s price, just send a directly tweet to booksprice like this:

BooksPrice.com Examples

To generate a response to your phone like this:

BooksPrice.com Examples

No mobile software required. Free to consumers. Available on all mobile devices that can send/receive text messages.

Very cool.

Scaling Beyond Grad School

Laurel Hart, Senior Fellow at The Logos Institute, brought up an interesting point on Twitter after giving a talk about social media to a group of grad students at NYU:

Twitter and Time

First, I don’t know if Laurel happened upon a group of Luddites, but I’m going to assume for now that the situations she describes isn’t unique.

If that’s the case, I would imagine the reason why grad students aren’t big on Twitter is that their word’s current judges – their professors – are their key audience and they don’t need to use Twitter to reach them. Email, phone, or physically visiting their professors in class or during office hours is probably sufficient.

But when they’re out of school and trying to reach a much larger audience, they may find more use for communication technologies that scale. All of a sudden, it becomes physically impossible to email, phone, or physically visit everyone you’re trying to communicate with.

Hopefully, the students realize that their lack of need is situational and will likely change over time.

Qwitter: A Twitter Unfollow Notifier

Qwitter: Catching Twitter quittersI’ve mentioned previously that it would be helpful if Twitter users received better feedback on unfollow requests. Basically, let people know when their followers are dropping so they can at least know that they’re burning people out, pissing them off, or underdeliverying in some other way.

Well, now you can do with with Qwitter. After signing up with the service, you’ll receive an email alert every time you lose a follower. In addition, it will send along a copy of the last tweet you sent before being unfollowed, which may give you an indication of what it is that you said that generated the unfollow request.

The last post may not be the final straw, but I doubt many people lose followers based on a single tweet. More likely, the follower wasn’t getting the type of content they were expecting for a while and they just happened to be near a computer (where it’s easier to unfollow) at the time.

Personally, I think this is a great new feature that should help improve the quality of Twitter over time. A little negative feedback can go a long ways.

As far as positive feedback goes, check out Favrd, where you can track the “most favorited” tweets on Twitter.

How to Improve Twitter: Unfollow Notifications

Twittter is all about positive reinforcement. They make people feel good by sending out new follower notications like the one below every time someone new signs up to follow your Tweets:

New Twitter Follower Notification

That’s cool, but I think it’s also one of the things that causes Twitter abuse.

Why?

Because people only see the positive. They’re offering carrots with no corresponding stick.

If people received an immediate notice everytime they LOST followers, they may use that feedback to increase the quality of their tweets over time.

Twitter today is all about self-esteem building rather than providing real, objective feedback on what others think of the tweets they send.

While there are certainly people who could care less about this, working under the mindset of, “I’ll tweet about whatever I want and if people don’t want to follow me, that’s fine with me,” there are also people who do care about their followers more than themselves. These are people who are interested in building large, valuable, audiences who would appreciate knowing when they’re pissing people off with overly offensive tweets or burning out their followers with heavy tweet volumes. Unfollow notifications would provide this information.

And I’d also like to see someone figure out how to generate a list of MOST UNFOLLOWED Twitter users. This, to me, would be extremely valuable since other Twitter users could study those users to figure out how they’ve managed to churn through so many followers.