Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

Twitter's business model & my two Twitter accounts

Monday, July 14th, 2008

I just posted a new article on The Industry Standard10 ways that Twitter could make money quickly. Please go have a read!

Twitter account
I have written quite a bit about Twitter in the past, ranging from the basic (What is Twitter?) to the dubious (I like Twitter, but it has a big problem), to analysis (The multiple personalities of Twitter). This new article takes a look at the company’s business model (more specifically, it’s lack of a business model) and discusses the ways that the company could make money quickly. The bottom line is that Twitter has a quickly growing and dedicated audience, and because of this one fact, I think that the company will ultimately be successful, no matter what business model it chooses.

The other thing that is happening for Twitter – at least for me – is that the most that I use Twitter, the more I like it and want to use it, and the more that I am discovering new ways to make it work for me. Today, I realized that I am spending too much time going to specific individual’s Twitter pages (for example, mine is here), trying to keep up on what they are doing because I am following so many people I can’t be sure to catch all of the people who I really REALLY want to follow. So I opened a second Twitter account that I don’t post to, and I just use to follow the individuals from which I don’t want to miss a single post.

Before you scoff at me because you think that it’s crazy to have one Twitter account, let alone two, take a look at this article. Apparently, I’m not alone.

Follow me on Twitter at @mchang16.

The multiple personalities of Twitter

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

A couple of months back, I wrote a post about my love/hate relationship with Twitter. In that article, I talked about what I see as being the big downfall of Twitter, which is that it is hard to quickly and easily get people using and understanding it. Twitter is hard to explain, there is no key selling proposition, people sign up and then leave, and the language of Twitter is hard to understand.

People moving quicklyBut now I am starting to grasp what I think is the real reason that it’s so hard to catch onto Twitter – everyone uses it for something different. And because there is no standard way of using Twitter, it’s hard to watch the Twitter stream (the flow of posts to Twitter) and figure out what’s going on and how you should participate. When users sign up, they have to just jump right in and start posting and participating.

The flexibility of Twitter is both its genius and its downfall.

It’s unlikely that anyone sticks with just one way of using Twitter all the time. Most people bounce back and forth between the various ways of using the service. But for me, my Twitter epiphany happened when I picked one primary way of using the service – the way that “fit” me and felt right – and stuck primarily with that. Now, about 6 months and 284 updates into my own use of Twitter, I’m finally starting to hit my Twitter groove.

Here are just a few of the many ways that people use Twitter. If you are someone who has used Twitter and quit, of if you are trying to get started, but just can’t figure out how, try picking one of these that feels best to you and go with it for a week – and see what happens.

Talking to people. If you see a post with an @ sign in it, that post is directed to the Twitter user whose name follows the @ sign. So if you write a post and include @mchang16 in that post, you’re talking to me. Not only do people use this for talking to people they know, but also to respond to other people’s Twitter thoughts and comments – it’s a way to have a conversation. Amanda Chapel (@AmandaChapel) does this quite a bit.

Promotional tool. People post links to their own stuff. The most prominent of these is probably Michael Arrington of TechCrunch (@TechCrunch), who posts a link to a new article every time one goes up on his site. My friend Denise (@ddubie), who is a writer at Network World, also does this very effectively.

Information gathering. If you see someone post a question looking for input or feedback on a specific topic, they are likely using Twitter for information gathering. Chris Brogan (@ChrisBrogan) uses Twitter to post questions fairly frequently, sometimes for blog posts he’s working on and often just to stir up conversation.

To cover events. Because Twitter is easy to use on a mobile phone, people can easily use the service to report on live events. This happens quite a bit at technology conferences (where many Twitter users converge), as well as during natural disasters (San Diego fires) or sporting events (Celtics vs. Lakers – GO CELTICS!!) Sometimes people use a # sign to indicate that they are writing a post about a specific topic/event. (Those are called Hashtags – and you can read more about them here if you’re interested in following or covering an event.)

Create a group of like-minded people. It’s possible to set up an account at Twitter that multiple people can participate in – creating a group. The one I’m most familiar with is Lyric of the Day, which was set up by Fred Wilson (@FredWilson). Members of the group submit a lyric every day, starting the message with @lotd. Check it out here.

Linking to cool stuff on the Web. Many people post cool, interesting or helpful links that they find elsewhere on the Web in Twitter for others to see. This type of post is a way to share the knowledge. Steve Rubel (@SteveRubel) is a Twitter user who often posts interesting links to articles, stories, etc. (A quick aside – my one pet peeve with this type of post is that Twitter changes URLs into TinyURLs to save on space, but I like to be able to see the URL to identify what site I’ll be going to if I click a link.)

Answer the question “What are you doing?” This seems to be the original reason that Twitter came into existence – to let people comment on what they are doing so that people they know can follow them and what they’re up to. Two of my favorite bloggers use Twitter this way Dooce (@dooce) and Penelope Trunk (@PenelopeTrunk).

It’s with this last type of Twitter posts that I’ve mostly settled. You’ll see the occasional promotional Twitter, or conversational Twitter, or link to something cool and interesting Twitter coming from me. But the majority of my posts now answer the question “What are you doing?”

Follow me at @mchang.

Photo by sonictk

"You should write about this on your blog"

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

One of the best ways that I get new ideas for businesses is to listen to what people suggest I should write about on my blog.

The following scene happens all the time. 

wine glassI’m out with friends, having dinner, a couple of glasses of wine. We start talking about something, which leads to something else, which leads to a topic of interest that everyone at the table knows a little bit about – but not enough to be a real authority on the topic. Once that happens, someone usually pulls out an iPhone to look some stuff up. We either find out the answer to the question and it’s incredibly interesting, or we don’t. Either way, someone turns to me and says: “You should write about this on your blog.”

Sometimes I manage to figure out a way to work the topic into my blog – such as when I wrote about avatars, Web 2.0 and Twitter. But most of the time I don’t because the topics are so random that I can’t immediately figure out a good way to incorporate them – or I don’t have the time to do the research to write an adequate blog post.

And sometimes, when everything comes together perfectly, the topics get turned into ideas for businesses.

Think about it – the ideas that are coming from your friends and family and acquaintances are ideas that are coming straight from your future target audience. And one of the best ways to come up with an idea for a new business is to discover a need and work to fill it. Or to determine an area of widespread interest, and attempt to provide information or a tool or a service to fill in the gap.

Of course, the kernel of the idea isn’t enough substance around which to start a business. And I am certainly not suggesting that anyone should quit their job and start a company after a night out on the town with friends, based on a harebrained scheme cooked up over cocktails. My only point is that if you listen, and filter, you might be able to glean some really good ideas – not only for your blog, but also for your business.

<<As a side note, here is one random thing that someone suggested I write about on my blog, which came up recently during a discussion about the outrageous price of gas. If you look at your dashboard, where the gas gauge is located, there is a small arrow that points to the side of the car that the gas tank is on. No more straining to look in your side mirrors as you pull up to the gas station. Anyone see a business idea here? I didn’t, which is why I picked this one to share. >>

Gas gauge

 Gas gauge 2

Wine glass photo by emdot

Slow technology adoption = adoption nonetheless

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

I spent the weekend in my hometown with my family. It was a great weekend filled with events. Not surprisingly, the hot topic of conversation was my cousin’s newborn triplets.

Anytime someone has three babies in one shot, it’s probably big news. But the conversations about my cousin and her babies were incredibly detailed and informed – because she and her husband kept a blog about their experiences. Every event I attended this weekend, another family member was asking me to pull out my iPhone to show pictures of the triplets “on the blog.”

Blog. My family now uses the word “blog” in everyday conversation. I have a very smart family, but not one that is at the bleeding-edge of technology adoption. But they now use the word blog (and know how to scroll through a Web page on the iPhone).

Book coverI have one other cousin with a blog. Hers is about writing romance novels. (By the way, her latest book was just released, please go buy it, read it and somehow give me the credit. This weekend she was signing autographs and happened to mention that I wasn’t her favorite cousin and I’m on a campaign to correct that terrible error.) At the family’s Memorial Day picnic, a conversation about “stripper names” broke out because of this post on her blog.

Blogs are beginning to become more mainstream. This will happen more and more quickly as people’s sisters, friends and fathers start blogging, and as more and more people see the benefits of being able to stay connected to each other – and involved in the conversation – by reading what each other writes.

There was an article in Business Week last week titled “Beyond Blogs,” about the social media phenomenon and how it no longer involves just blogs. I have written in the past that Twitter might be too difficult to use to get mainstream adoption. But after this weekend, I think that I’m changing my mind. My family might not know what RSS is yet, but they know what blogs are. And many of them were talking about how they visited the triplet’s site multiple times per day to find out what was new – they are only a small step away from finding out about the joys of RSS. From there, it’s not too far to Twitter and FriendFeed. Granted, the services will have to exist for many more years for widespread adoption to happen, but if the services make it that long, I predict that the masses will catch on.

Because my family is interested and informed, they will follow the conversation, wherever it takes them.

Which brings up another point about conversations – they aren’t just happening online. Conversations are happening on blogs, on Twitter, on FriendFeed, as well as in bars, at grocery stores and on walks through the woods. People who try to own or control the conversation, whether by requiring a complicated registration processes or demanding that the conversation happens when and where they want it to, are going to fail.

I like Twitter, but it has a big problem

Friday, April 11th, 2008

Really, I’m sure that Twitter has more than a single problem – most companies/concepts/new technologies do. But I think that the main issue with Twitter is that it will never gain mainstream adoption until there is an easier way to get new people understanding and using the technology – a quick and easy way.

Twitter logoHere are the issues that I think make Twitter so difficult to start using:

1) It’s hard to explain. I have been in a number of business meetings in the past month where the topic of Twitter came up. In one meeting (about social media) the person doing the presentation hadn’t heard of Twitter and everyone in the room looked at me like I had two heads when I brought it up. In another meeting, the president of a content creation company told me that his company “Looked into Twitter, didn’t get it, and figured that it would never have mainstream adoption.” I tried to tell these people why they should care about Twitter, why people telling each other “what they’re doing” in 140 characters or less was important, but they just didn’t get it. And I’m sure that was my fault because I did a terrible job explaining. There MUST be a better way to explain. I think this video was awesome and helpful, but what about when I don’t have a video handy?

2) There is no “key selling proposition.” Lovers of Twitter will tell me that I am crazy, that Twitter is so great because it does so many things for so many people. But I would tell you that to get mainstream adoption, it needs a key selling proposition. How do I get people to use Facebook? I tell them that it’s a low-key way to connect with friends I’ve lost touch with (and I give examples). How do I get people to use Tumblr? I explain how I can link to things and pictures and stories and all the stuff that I find interesting on the Web and that I can set it up in about 1 minute.

I don’t have ONE good way to get people to start using Twitter. Some people say that they get immediate and great input on restaurants when they are traveling. Twitter birdOthers say that they use it when they’re lost or to get answers to questions. But I haven’t effectively used Twitter in any of those ways (although I’ve tried). I am not sure if that is because you have to have a certain number of people following you, a certain level of celebrity within the group that is following you, or if you actually need to know the people in your Twitter network, but those uses clearly don’t work for everyone. I am left without a great way to convince everyone that I know that they should use Twitter (and people I know using Twitter would be the one way that the service would actually begin to be extremely useful to me).

3) People sign up and then leave. This almost happened to me. I started using Twitter, had a bad experience, left, came back and managed to stick with it (although I’m hardly a Twitter power-user.) Here’s my embarrassing story:

I started using Twitter on October 18, 2007, with this Tweet: “Joining twitter, trying to figure out how it works” 

My fourth Tweet was this: “There’s never been a better time to do a startup http://www.scribemedia.org/…” Followed quickly by my fifth Tweet: “I should get a tatoo”

Of course, I meant for my fifth post to be connected to the fourth post, but I got tripped up by the 140 character limit. So I quickly went in to try to delete the fifth post and couldn’t – there’s no delete. So then I was horrified because I was trying to establish my professional Internet presence and not only did my Tweet say “I should get a tatoo” but I didn’t even spell tattoo correctly. I quickly made a couple of other posts in hopes of covering up the embarrassing post, and then bailed.

I came back again on January 4, 2008, with this message: “Trying Twitter again. I wish I could get into it.”

My next Tweet: “about to throw twitter out the window. just tried to send a direct message, dont think it worked. grrrr ”

Thank God for @tylerwillis who quickly replied “it worked if it was the one to me.” He might have saved my Twitter life. I kept going.

Everyone was writing about Twitter. I knew that I had to figure out how to use it, but I was struggling. I personally knew only one person who used Twitter. My friends (mostly non-techies) and business colleagues (behind in Web 2.0) weren’t using it. So I started “following” people, just in an attempt to see how Twitter worked. I currently follow 585 people, most of whom I started following on January 4th or 5th.

Then I started getting input from people about how I shouldn’t follow so many people and how I was incorrectly using Twitter. This is a gem that I received that day (via email):

“Saw you follow me on twitter, and you seem really interesting but.. can I respectfully refer you to this document http://www.caroline-middlebrook.com/blog/twitter-guide/ . ( i.e #3). Sorry just telling it like it is :-(

I had no idea what this guy (who I didn’t know) was talking about. I went to the link and this is what the link said:

Twitter Guide Part #3: Using Twitter Properly

So I figured that I made a mistake, that I broke some “Twitetiquette” but I had no idea what. So I wrote my new email buddy back to ask what my issue was. This is what he told me in reply:

“I know from your blogs that you are a top person. intelligent and info source. When I looked at your twitter follow I checked it out and simply you were not someone I would want to follow. … Bottom line, would you want to read and follow your own twitter posts? Maybe you would? …

With twitter you get flooded with feeds and if feeds are pointless crap, then people don’t have the time to follow them, unless they already know and are interested in the pointless crap of that person….

I can only tell you that when I looked at your twitters, you offered me “nothing” of interest.”

OUCH. I was a brand-new Twitter user being shown the door for writing “pointless crap” on Twitter.

I clearly am someone of outstanding stubbornness (or stupidity) because I stuck with Twitter. And I still use it, although not as much as some people. But I have a feeling that this experience that I had, this barrier to entry that was almost impossible to overcome, is probably holding people back from adoption.

When I went through the phase (lasting 2 days) of trying to add a lot of people at once, I had some strategies. One of those was to add all the people named “Melissa.” I typed the name into the search box and found that most people named Melissa have quit on Twitter after joining. Here’s the “Recently” timeframes of the first 19 Melissa’s that show up:

2 days ago
about 1 year ago
7 months ago
11 months ago
about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago
protected
3 months ago
15 hours ago
11 months ago
protected
9 months ago
10 months ago
protected
21 days ago
9 months ago
9 months ago
4 months ago
13 hours ago

If I consider “current” Twitter users as anyone who has sent a message in the past month, and I eliminate the Melissa’s who have protected updates, only 3 out of 16 (19%) are still current users of Twitter. I thought this might be an issue between female/male users of Twitter, so I did the same thing with my husband’s name (Christopher). I found this:

about 1 year ago
5 months ago
3 days ago
8 months ago
10 months ago
19 days ago
protected
2 days ago
20 days ago
about 1 year ago
7 months ago
2 hours ago
about 1 year ago
protected
about 1 year ago
11 months ago
10 months ago
10 months ago
protected

The results were a little better – 5 out of 16 (31%) were recent Twitter users. But in my unscientific study, there is clearly a huge drop off from the number of people who sign up to Twitter compared to the number of people who continue to use the service.

4) The people who don’t use Twitter don’t understand the language of it. Anyone who reads this post who doesn’t use Twitter will not know the following terms and what they mean to Twitter or how to use them:

@mchang16 (the @ symbol is the biggest because it’s all over Twitter, and not intuitive)
Follow
Tweet
Twitetiquette
Recently

Something needs to be done to make it easier to get people to use Twitter, and to get them to stick around to learn how to use (and keep using) it after signing up. If that doesn’t happen, there will be no widespread future for the service.

Follow me on Twitter (if you dare!) @mchang16.

(As a footnote to this story, my email buddy and I became Facebook friends, although he still doesn’t follow me on Twitter.)

FriendFeed: Feeds, feeds everywhere

Friday, March 14th, 2008

I don’t yet have an opinion about whether FriendFeed is good, bad or indifferent (although I know there are a lot of other people who do). I joined yesterday and very few people who I “know” are using it, so I didn’t take a long time looking it over just yet. But what I did see is this potential issue of many feeds feeding the same thing (via my Facebook mini-feed):

FriendFeed on Facebook

It appears that the way I set things up, my blog is updating my Tumblr is updating my Twitter. And all are updating FriendFeed, which is updating Facebook…this could get ugly. Couldn’t it? And I am not even using all of the social networks. But I imagine that the same thing would happen if I update Flickr – or any other service that I use that feeds to multiple sites.

How do I manage all the feeds that are feeding and cross-feeding everywhere? I don’t think that this is really a FriendFeed problem, per se, it just brought the issue to light for me.

What is Twitter?

Thursday, March 6th, 2008

I have been wanting to write about Twitter for quite awhile, to try to explain it to all the (many, many) people who I know who don’t use it (and probably haven’t even heard of it), but now I don’t have to thanks to this video by Common Craft.

If you want to know what Twitter is, watch the video. You still won’t really get it until you join, but at least you’ll have more of an idea as to why people sign up.

I currently use Twitter to find out what’s going on in the industry. I would like to use it to follow friends and business partners, but when I initially checked to find out who in my address book was on Twitter, only one person showed up.

Of course, I have “met” many other people through Twitter, and I am able to follow many of my favorite bloggers who use the service. I also find that Twitter is a great way to stay informed when something big is going on, or when I want to find out specific information about a city I am visiting, or if I need to get feedback about a story that I’m working on. But it would be really cool if I actually knew people who used the service.

I kind of doubt that is going to happen anytime soon.

But if you read my blog and use Twitter, add me and I’ll follow you! @mchang16

And if you don’t know what the @ symbol means, don’t worry – you’ll catch on!

Twitter + Google maps + Super Tuesday = cool combo

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

Google and Twitter icon on TwitterI have seen this written up in a number of places, but I just wanted to chime in to tell everyone about the Google/Twitter mashup that’s displaying political tweets real-time on a map of the United States. I first found out about it when I logged into Twitter today and saw the little image pictured above.

Twitter is a “micro-blogging” tool that lets users send “tweets” up to 140 characters long to the Twitter Website. All messages are saved to the user’s profile page and sent to anyone who is “following” that user. Today, all messages that are posted to Twitter that are related to politics, voting or the Super Tuesday primaries are being superimposed on a map from Google. It’s pretty cool to watch.

Here’s a screenshot, and again, here’s the link:

Google Twitter mashup screenshot

By the way, I’m planning to write more about Twitter soon, but if you are a Twitter user, feel free to contact me there or follow me: @mchang16.

Rubel's ramblings on Web 2.0 are getting old – and more dramatic (if possible)

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

I don’t personally know Steve Rubel, but I do read his blog, and enjoy his perspective on things. As a former technology editor, I realize the fine line that PR folks (or people who are senior vice presidents at the world’s largest PR companies) have to walk with journalists, as Rubel experienced first hand when he pissed off Jim Louderback by posting a negative comment about PC Magazine on Twitter earlier this year.

However, I have to say that the recent over-the-top posting by Rubel about the death of Web 2.0 – all stemming from his post that featured the image of a drunk kool-aid guy – is getting out of hand. Not because of the point he is making, but because of the terrible turns of phrase that he is using to stir up drama. Here is a small sampling:

-The Web 2.0 World is Skunk Drunk on Its Own Kool-Aid (10/29)

-Advertisers, Only You Can Save Web 2.0 (10/31)

-Five Simple Sobriety Steps for Web 2.0 Kool Aid Boozers (11/5)

-Help Wanted: Warm Bodies That Can Spell Web 2.0 (11/13)

It was this last post that pushed me over the edge. Not because of the point he was making or even the title. But because of this quote:

“I will leave this to you to decide if this is a sign of a bubble or not. However, on the surface, it all looks very reminiscent of a bygone era. To quote Prince, ‘Tonight we’re going to party like it’s 1999.’ “

I can’t believe he pulled out Prince.

One thing I do have to say, though – hire Rubel to do your company’s PR. He’s clearly demonstrated a talent for finding a successful angle and going with it. These posts have been incredibly popular.