Posts tagged Twitter

What Happens When You Shrink a Tiny URL?

As you may know, there are a number of URL shortening services that help shorten a URL down to about a dozen characters so that you can include links in Twitter and social network updates. The “who’s best” jury is still out on tinyurl vs bitly vs twurl vs trim (and more…) – but all of these services allow you to enter a URL and get it shortened. 

I have been noticing that TweetDeck (and some other Twitter clients) have been giving you a preview of the final destination of a shortened URL. In other words, when you click on a shortened URL, it brings up a window that gives you the full URL that you are headed to. I love this feature. Since a shortened URL may look like this – http://bit.ly/oZBXk - you have no idea where it will take you when you click on it. It could be a website that you don’t want to visit (like MeatSpin – and, NO, I will not be linking to it). The shortened URL preview on TweetDeck looks like this:

Shortened URL Preview on TweetDeck

Shortened URL Preview on TweetDeck

But, my aversion to getting tricked into clicking on a meatspin link got me thinking. What if you could trick the shortened URL preview? What if my shortened URL only led to another shortened URL? So, I took a URL (http://mikemywords.com) and shortened it using TinyURL. I then took what TinyURL gave me (http://tinyurl.com/lcvq3d) and shortened it with Bitly (and got http://bit.ly/oZBXk). I then started twisting my mustache in a sinister fashion and wringing my hands in anticipation of the proving of my own brilliance. I had fooled the shortened URL preview! But upon closer look, the “Story Title” in the preview window still displayed the title of the final destination. See image below:

Short URL Preview on TweetDeck

Short URL Preview on TweetDeck

So, I almost outsmarted the shortened URL preview window in TweetDeck. But not quite. Which is fine, because at least I can always see the Story Title and will be less likely to end up on a site I don’t want. 

On a related side note. TinyURL will not let you shorten a URL that has already been shortened (like a bit.ly URL), neither will Trim.

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PostSecret: A Lesson in Social Media Excellence

needles  hacker  baby   

PostSecret is a very interesting entity. It calls for people to submit their secrets (some funny, some sad, some loving, some scandalous), anonymously, on a postcard and mail them to PostSecret’s founder, Frank Warren. Frank then selects a handful of postcards to share, online, once a week (Frank actually refers to PostSecret as a “community art project”). I’m not going to review the history of PostSecret (although it’s very interesting, and Frank now tours around both with museum displays of submitted secrets, and speaking to large groups about the therapy of letting go of secrets, among other things). But I encourage you to read up on the history of PostSecret (plus a pretty decent little interview on Guy Kawasaki’s blog, actually).

This post, however, is to highlight how well PostSecret has done in entering the world of social media. I know I usually complain about how awful most organizations are at participating in social media, but this time is different. I’ve been consistently impressed with PostSecret, and their ability to be true to their community and offer value to the relationship. PostSecret secrets have been simply shared on a blog for a long time now, and I feel like they cautiously moved into the world of social media. Based on what I’ve read, this was due, in part, to the PostSecret Community (those loyal PostSecret followers) begging to not “taint” PostSecret in the social mediasphere. Ironically, I feel like they didn’t want to share the secret pleasure they had discovered in PostSecret with the social media world. PostSecret moved into Facebook not too long ago, and then recently into Twitter. And it’s really their Twitter presence I’d like to applaud the most. Here’s the top 5 things they’ve done BRILLIANTLY in their Twitter community:

1. Kept It Real: Frank is at the heart of all communication. He is the face of PostSecret, he is transparent, and he is accessible. Followers feel like they have a relationship with him. He responds in a reasonable amount of time, despite having more than 100,000 followers on Twitter. He also talks about real things that are happening in his life. Sure, the tweets about seemingly mundane parts of people’s lives are what makes Twitter laughable and futile, it’s also what makes you a real person. People don’t want to talk to your brand – they want to talk to a PERSON who represents your brand well. So, it’s ok to pepper in some flavor with an occasional tweet that contains your opinion, or your joys, or your frustrations. we all have them. Use discretion, but be real. Who ever wanted to join a community of logos?

2. Asked for Feedback: Frank will be publishing his fourth PostSecret book soon, and I have LOVED that he is asking his community on Twitter for feedback on the cover artwork being sent to him by his publisher (example here). Heck, he’s even asked his Twitter community to submit their own cover artwork for consideration. It’s this kind of engagement that is frickin’ gold! We don’t feel like followers of PostSecret, we feel like valuable members of a community. You should all strive to offer your community opportunities to give you feedback. What can you ask for feedback on?

3. Asked for Help: Besides asking for feedback (a form of help), Frank has even reached out to his Twitter community to ask for help with translating, decoding, understanding certain postcard secrets that are sent to him. He recently asked for help decoding a Star Wars coded secret he received (here). Think about how you can apply this to your organization. How can you ask for assistance? Make your community feel valuable. 

4. Gave Added Value: One way to reward your community for connecting with you in a social media space is to give them “more than the average bear.” What I’m saying, in a convoluted way, is thank them for being a part of your community by giving them things that the people that simply browse your website wouldn’t get. For example, a sneak peak at a new product, a discount that only your community gets, a prize giveaway or just some kind of access to something that ONLY they get. For PostSecret, it’s sharing secrets that come in the mail before they get published (and some of them never get published, making the community feel that much more special). We’re getting secrets that nobody else is getting! So, think about it. What can you offer (OF REAL VALUE!) that adds value to your community, and makes them feel special for being a part of it? It has to be more special than simply reminding people in your community of the discount that you’re already offering every Tom, Dick and Harry.

5. Sparingly Self-Promoted: Yes, you need to promote. And yes, PostSecret promotes. Frank promotes his book release, his tours and the art shows. But he does it sparingly. It’s OK to talk about the great things you’re doing with passion and excitement. Again, we didn’t join this community to be sold to. BUT, Frank gives us so much value in being a part of this community, that we don’t mind the occasional promotion of a book or a show. Think about it in terms of talking to a friend – if they had a new product, or an exciting tour, or something coming up and mentioned it, you wouldn’t consider it promotional. Well, that’s how it works here. It’s just like a buddy mentioning another exciting thing that is happening in their life. So, promote, but promote in an unassuming way that reads like another excited statement about your life. 

My hat is off to you, PostSecret (and specifically Frank Warren), for being a glowing example of how to use social media properly. Thank you for doing it right. There are so many people treating Twitter as a new ad platform, that’s it’s refreshing to see you use it as a community.

(note: images from postsecret.blogspot.com)

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Twitter Sinners

I know… “Another post about Twitter? I’m sick of it!” 

Sorry, but folks are still so blatantly abusing Twitter, I’m forced back on my platform to expose the heathens. Twitter is not a new advertising platform. It’s not a new place for SPAM. I don’t know how many times I have to repeat this VERY SIMPLE law of most all social media: treat it like a real relationship. Right now, you’re not treating Twitter right. You’re abusing it – and that makes you a Twitter Sinner. I’m here to save your soul.

1. Social Media is not about collecting friends. How many friends do you have in real life? I need an exact number. You don’t know, do you? Why not? Because you don’t collect friends. That’s not how friendship, or any relationship, works. So, why do people think that social media is about collecting friends? Do not obsess about how many friends or followers you have. You’re not a better person if you have more followers. 70,000 – oh my! There is no direct correlation between followers/friends and your worth. Deal with it!

2. Give value to your relationship. Any good relationship is symbiotic – you give to me, I give to you. Too often, Twitter relationship are parasitic – one party consumes and doesn’t give back. These are the worst Twitter sinners. Are your messages purely promotional? Or do you offer value to the relationship you’ve created? Do you share articles, insights, breaking news, anything of value? No, telling people you can make them a millionaire is not a post of value. It’s a selfish, promotional tweet.

3. Content before followers. You should post a dozen updates (arbitrary number) with some sort of value before you start hunting for relationships (followers). You’re disgusting, following 800 people with 4 updates. If you want to have a relationship with me, I want to know it will be worthwhile. This is also a rule about giving value to your relationships. 

4. Be upfront with who you are. Are you a company that will be posting promotions, sneak peaks, extras, etc? Are you a person, who will sprinkle tweets with updates about your personal life? It doesn’t matter what you are, I just need to know. I need to know what kind of relationship I’m getting into here. 

5. Do more than re-tweet. Look at your stream of updates – how often are you beginning it with “RT” (ReTweet)? You’re just an aggregator. Have an opinion. Generate your own stuff. Sometimes it’s nice to have somebody passing info along from multiple sources – so I understand if my position on this is controversial, but you’re asking me to have a relationship with YOU. You are the guy at the party, who, when asked his opinion on a matter, quotes somebody else. You’re Matt Damon‘s character on Good Will Hunting. And nobody likes Matt Damon. (OK, just kidding. That was a cheap shot at Damon). 

Here’s a few Twitter Sinners I’ve collected just today. Repent, and change your ways…

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Daily Show Realizes Twitter’s Awesomeness

Been meaning to get this posted after seeing it a while back. Some of you may have already seen it, but I think it’s worth sharing. It’s hilarious. If you don’t think so, you’re too tightly wound. It’s The Daily Show‘s take on the Twitter phenomenon. 

LINK TO VIDEO (couldn’t get the video to embed on WordPress for some reason)

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Twitter adds 4 million users in 2008

Twitter numbers are in for 2008 (well, Dec 07 – Dec 08), and they exploded! They boosted their numbers from about 500,000 in December 2007 to about 4.5 million in December 2008. In fact, they gained one million unique visitors in December 2008 alone. This reinforces my anecdotal observations. I, for one, LOVE Twitter. I think it’s great, and will continue to get better. Some people hate it. It will interesting to see how it progresses from here. (btw – @mikemcdowell if you’re not already following me).

Anecdotally, again, I have really seen an increase in the number of brands that are using Twitter now. Sadly, I feel like many brands are f’ing things up. They start following people based on keywords. Yeah, they use automated services that “auto-follow” people on Twitter based on keywords. This feels a little like phishing to me (I know, not the same, but kinda the same concept). What’s equally unbearable, is that once they follow a person, they don’t use Twitter effectively as the communication medium it is. They use it to blast promotional messages, offer nothing to their followers, etc. I rant more about this in a previous post.

The other interesting trend to look at (which I saw at Mashable), are the trends for social network giants Facebook and Myspace. Facebook has now caught up, and in fact, passed Myspace. They both trump Twitter’s 4.5 million, as they are bringing home about 60 million. Eiher way, interesting trends. Take a look at the graph:

Also, big props to Compete.com, a pretty nice website analytics website (that’s where these charts came from).

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You’ve Got to Treat Her Like a Lady

I was prepared to write about brands on Twitter. I was going to argue that brands definitely should be on Twitter (based on a recent discussion that I read on MashableExhibit A, Exhibit B). While I still support brands on Twitter and other social media, I have seen so many bad examples, that I need to air my grievances about fellow marketers who are rushing to use this shiny new toy they heard about (for fear of being left behind) called social media. And, in doing so, are treating it like advertising, and tainting the landscape for everybody. 

Ahh – Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose – you were so wise when you wrote “Treat Her Like a Lady.” You and many other romantics truly understand social media. We marketers should pay attention to those beautiful songs to have an equal understanding of how to interact in social media.  

Some marketers are like that guy who is verbally or physically abusive to his girlfriend. Sure, she trusted him at first – she may have even believed she could change him. But, what he did was jade her toward other men; perfectly good and well-intentioned men who just want to talk or listen. But she has every right to be jaded. Why should she trust you, or me, or any other guy (brand) from here on out? Why welcome them with open trusting arms, only to be blasted with abusive, one-sided messages, and unwanted garbage? 

Do you see what you did, jerk-faced marketer? You’re ruining it for the rest of us! We could be good for her. We could give her what she wants and needs out of a relationship. But you ruined it! Here’s what you did wrong.

YOU ACTED LIKE AN ADVERTISEMENT.

Yes, that is shameful in the social media arena. The one thing that SO MANY marketers (be they agencies or independent) forget is that social media is really quite simple. Lean in closely as I tell you the secret to unlock the true power of social media…

TREAT SOCIAL MEDIA LIKE A GENUINE, TRUTHFUL, CARING RELATIONSHIP. (sorry for the all-caps again, I’m getting irritated)

I know that for many of you, maintaining a relationship is one of the most difficult endeavors you’ve ever encountered. If that’s the case, you can use this blog post to improve your success in social media, and in your love life. You’re welcome. 

Treat her like a lady

Treat her like a lady

1. Offer some value to the relationship. What do you offer her? Seriously, think about that question. Don’t tell me periodic discounts and links to your blog, Casanova. What does she get out of the relationship? Is the relationship all about you – all about what you can get out of her? For shame! Do something for her without concern of how it benefits you.

2. You must listen to your lady. This is HUGE! Would you want to stay in a relationship with somebody who just talks and talks and talks about themselves? Hell no. Nobody does. You aren’t that interesting – admit it. This is another example of a one-sided relationship. Listen to her talk about her day. And don’t listen with an eagerness for her to finish her sentence so you can talk about yourself again. Listen with genuine concern, because you care about her and you care about what’s important to her. Then talk to her about the things that are important to her. 

3. Let her get to know you. Be a person, not a character. Open up – let her know what makes you tick. Let her know what makes you happy and sad. Share your life with her. Be vulnerable. Be sincere. It’s easy to act like you care for somebody when you actually care for them. She will love you for it. She will be loyal to you.

4. Do something nice for her, just because. Unexpectedly, do something nice for your lady. The pre-requisite here is that you’ve listened to her, and you know what she wants. Trust me, this gets you a long way for a long time. But you can’t give some thoughtless gift, like that little stuffed teddy bear holding a heart that you grabbed at the gas station 5 minutes before you got home. 

5. Never think you’re better than her. Do you really think she should be grateful to simply be with you? You’re God’s gift to her, huh? Nope. A relationship is about mutual respect and understanding. A relationship is about love, trust and openness. If you want her to think you’re special, treat her like she’s special to you.

6. Continue to court her. Once she says she’ll date you doesn’t mean you’ve locked her in, and can do what you want. It will be much harder to try to get her back once you’ve lost her. So don’t lose her – keep showing her how much you want her. 

7. There is no blueprint for romance. Romance is about knowing the other person, knowing what is important and special to them, and knowing what will excite them. If you don’t know that, you’re not in a strong relationship.

So, remember, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the like are not new billboards for you to place your ad. You don’t have a right to be with the people here. But, you can be here. Be a person first (brands can be people with attitudes, feelings, convictions, etc), then seek relationships. If you can prove that you’re here to foster relationships, rather that extort them, you will be welcomed with open arms, and you will be loved. But don’t you dare make the mistake of thinking you can keep a relationship here without putting in the time, effort and care that any real-life relationship require. That’s right, a real relationship. And this time, make sure you treat her like a lady.

Good example of a BAD BRAND on Twitter

Good example of a BAD BRAND on Twitter

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Twitter for Business

I have read a TON of articles about using Twitter for business. Most of them pretty good. I think it is a brilliant tool for the businesses that are willing to participate. That keyword needs to be repeated – PARTICIPATE. Use Twitter like it isn’t just another outlet for your promotional message. Are you the kind of tool who goes to a dinner party and tries to sell something to everybody you meet? That’s how some businesses use Twitter. BUT – the businesses that treat this like an opportunity to have a conversation and a relationship that is valuable to its followers, they WIN.

Below are the slides from an Ogilvy Twitter for Business presentation. Not brand new, but a good collection of tips for businesses that want to use Twitter to engage their end users and to listen to unfiltered conversations about their brands. 

Ogilvy Twitter for Business

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