Twitter by the Numbers: 2011 update

I’ve wrote before that Twitter has inspired a fixation by online marketers like myself because of how it can be measured. Since my previous post, Twitter has continued to grow its influence among newsmedia, brands, and consumers around the world.  Even among experienced Twitter users like myself, Twitter use has changed significantly over the last year as the social network broke records and even breaking news.  As of writing this blog post, marking my first 4 years using Twitter, here’s how I’ve used Twitter:

  • I joined Twitter 1462 days ago on September 15, 2007
  • I’ve posted over 16,100 tweets in four years, almost double my total since April 2010, and average 11.3 tweets per day and 328 tweets per month
  • I’ve gained 1677 followers, about 2/3rds more since March 2010, and I’m following about twice as many Twitter users (1347) as I was during my prior blog post measuring Twitter

In celebration of my 5th year using Twitter, I wanted to update my status about how I use the social network, so I created this infographic using Visual.ly to help illustrate my use on Twitter as of September 2011:

Infographic of Matthew Hurst's Twitter usage

Click here for a version of Matt Hurst’s Twitter infographic which is automatically updated based on my most current usage on the social network.

Extra credit: Follow @MattHurst on Twitter and see how I use Twitter and hear what I have to say.

Relationship status: How social media is changing weddings

Mark Welsh and Kristin Arena update their status from "in a relationship" to Married at their wedding

As social media becomes increasingly intertwined with daily lives, it seems inevitable that romantic relationships make greater use of social media. It wasn’t long after online networks were created that web users found the Internet to be a ideal medium not just for academics communicating over long distances but for developing friendships and romantic relationships as well. Perhaps the first social networks formed around dating sites during the web’s early years, and once these social networks began to take part in our online routines, the relationship status became a key part of profiles. Today many consider updating your relationship status from single to “in a relationship” a legitimate means to acknowledge their entry into a committed relationship, and sharing the news of an engagement is only a mouse click away for Facebook users.

Couples use social media to tell their story and about preparations for the wedding, and to exchange photos and share memories with wedding guests (and maybe those who couldn’t make it) after the big day. One popular trend for newly engaged couples is to make a wedding website on which couples can share the story behind their relationship and to share wedding day plans in advance with guests, not to mention making it a breeze to link to their wedding gift registry. Some even use social media to propose to their spouse, creating a unique proposal but also making it easy to share their special story. Here’s a few of the unique ways couples are using social media to share their proposals and weddings:

Introduction to Copyright and Fair Use

I can has copyright?

What is copyright and what constitutes fair use? Do I need to register a copyright for my creative work to be protected? How long is a work copyrighted, and when does it enter the public domain? Are there advantages to using creative commons licensing or copyright?

In a recent course I took at the Brooklyn Brainery, our class took these questions head on to discuss the need to protect creative work and limit the exploits of copyright trolls. Sometimes referred to as intellectual property, copyright is a kind of property right (and a Constitutional Right in the US) which protects the use of creative work. Of course creative work is unique compared to other kind of property, so copyright is created whenever it’s “fixed in a tangible form of expression” by its creators, whether it’s a written novel or a music recording. Copyright gives its owners the exclusive right to reproduce the work, derivative works, and public performances of it.

There’s a careful legal balance between protecting the intellectual property rights of their owners and promoting the free expression which is guaranteed as a constitutional right.  For example, in the music recording industry many musicians don’t profit from sales of their recordings after they cede to their labels/distributors ownership to copyright for their work, sometimes waiting years to regain the copyright to their own songs. Likewise the creators of mash-ups and remixes such as Girl Talk make a legal balancing act necessary to avoid infringing on copyrights while using elements of old recordings to create something new.

While media law is a continuously evolving field and largely a matter of interpretation for the judges, over time some precedence has emerged that provides some legal framework. As we learned in our class for general purposes, here’s the four requirements you need to meet for Fair Use of copyrighted works: Continue Reading…

Social Media 101: Why not to cross-post the same message

Don't cross the streams

At least once in your career as a social media manager you may be tempted to cross-post your marketing message over multiple social networks.  While new tools make it easy to post updates across Facebook, Twitter, and more sites you should resist this inclination to broadcast your message through social media; cross-posting ignores the unique purpose of using social media to reach your audience.

The practice of cross-posting has become increasingly common as brands build their online marketing strategy around Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and link baiting across social networks. Posting updates on each site requires sustainable commitments of time and resources, so there’s temptation to publish the same message across multiple sites with only a single update. However the acceptable rate of updates varies widely between social networks, so while it’s effective to post messages multiple times a day on Twitter, this same frequency might be viewed as spammy on Facebook and other networks. The result is often that brands lose fans/followers as well as the trust of their audience, not to mention deteriorating their brand’s value in the eyes of consumers.

In addition to making your brand become perceived as a source of spam, cross-posting also appears tone deaf to the consumers who are interested in interacting with your organization. Social Media opens up new opportunities that can help promote brands, but all too often is viewed as the platform to broadcast their own advertisements. But even a soapbox speaker will read the reactions of the audience they’re addressing, and likewise your brand should listen and interact with your audience.

Even the Ghostbusters use their TV ad to demonstate willingness to listen to consumers problems, and demonstrate how they can help provide solutions

Best practices:

  • Post updates individually to each social media site, varying the frequency for each platform; perhaps 1-2 updates a day on Facebook and 6-10 for Twitter.
  • For every 5 updates on Twitter, only 1 or 2 should promote your company, and the rest should engage your audience by sharing their ideas and answering their questions for subjects which you have expertise about.
  • Use measurement tools to note which posts resonate with each audience, and make adjustments accordingly to what they find most valuable.
  • Take advantage of the unique features of each social media site, such as @replies on Twitter and the Events or Photo apps on Facebook, to spark discussions with your target audience.

Use these unique social media tools to listen carefully to your audience and then offer them solutions to their problems, not just to sell them your products.

Being strategic in your communications means using research to focus your goals on any media outlet, including social media. Of course many organizations may not be able to commit resources to support so many social sites, and instead they should focus on one or two which best meet their goals. In many cases a poorly executed communication plan may be worse than no having no social media presence at all, so be don’t be afraid to be selective.  After all an abandoned social media profile is like a ghost for your brand, and when you’ve got the tools and the talent “I ain’t afraid of no ghost”.

Instagram by the Numbers: measuring my photo sharing via mobile

In its short history, Instagram has become very popular is crowded market of competing mobile photo apps, or at least has become my favorite among them since I started using it in October 2010.  For those not already familiar with this iPhone app, Instagram has been installed by over 1 million users who use the app to snap pics, apply creative filters to add visual interest, and easily share their photos across multiple social networks (ie Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Foursquare).  Users can follow photos by their friends using a timeline inside the app, which doesn’t have a web interface but rather exists as a social network of sorts confined within the app itself (and accessible to services using its API).
Matt Hurst's Instagram infographic
Of course the concept behind Instagram isn’t new; long before this app I’ve been been sharing mobile photos on TwitPic, showcasing my photography on Tumblr, and sharing thousands of pictures on Facebook, Flickr, and many other photo sites. Although it’s not immediately apparent how useful the service might be as a branding or communications tool, it has caught on in popularity from a consumer-generated media standpoint.  At least in my own experience Instagram offers immediate gratification and feedback that makes it addictive, with the added value of offering perspectives across a variety of social networking sites.

Matt Hurst's Top 5 followers on Instagram Matt Hurst's favorite Instagram users Matt Hurst's "likes" on instagram
Matt Hurst started using Instagram on October 24th, 2010 MattHurst's instagram infographic

Outside of Instagram, here’s a few more ways to measure the impact of mobile on photo sharing:

  • The iPhone is the most popular camera on Flickr overall, and I’ve uploaded more than 5% of my 8194 photos on Flickr from pictures taken using my iPhone camera.
  • Photos are the most used app on Facebook, and they’re rumored to be working on a mobile photo app
  • At least 2 million photos are posted to Twitter each day on average, and doubtlessly more buzz comes from image driven Tumblr posts and photoblogs

Most recently with the announcement of Twitter’s new photo sharing functions, as well as their deeper integration with Apple products, photography continues its push into mobile platforms and remains a key driving force behind social media into the foreseeable future.

Extra credit: check for updated stats about how I’m using Instagram, and see a gallery of my favorite photos in my Photography portfolio. And of course you can look for my photos by following MattHurst on Instagram

Is Google vs Facebook is a false dichotomy?

Google vs Facebook - Why can't we be friends?

As Facebook’s latest push to highlight Google’s potential privacy concerns was revealed this past week, their rivalry was once again brought to the forefront of the public’s attention. While the two web behemoths continue to compete for ad dollars and offer increasingly similar services, the press plays up their business competition. Yet this news represents larger themes at work about how online businesses impacts the media business in particular, and the wider communications and economic paradigms more generally.

For instance, I keep reading posts that assume as common knowledge that the Google and Facebook are competing for users’ loyalty, but have yet to see evidence that this is true.  Instead I’ve noticed the large overlap of users for both services, albeit for different purposes. As far as many consumers are concerned Google and Facebook serve different functions, with the former used to search for information and the latter for relevant social links and recomendations.

From a consumer’s perspective Google and Facebook serve differing functions, even while they begin to encroach on each others core businesses through their growth. This same story about competition may be written about Microsoft vs Google, vs Apple, or vs Twitter, and so on; conflict drives the news, even if it does not reflect the unique audiences for individual businesses. While each company has different offerings, it’s fully possible for consumers to use both sites together rather than competing.

Of course this news has broader implications for PR professionals everywhere, by reinforcing negative stereotypes of the profession. Because of irresponsible, overly-secretive behavior of individuals at one of PR’s largest agencies, professionals like myself may have our reputations damaged. It’s even worse among the tech businesses, which sometimes see PR as a function only meant to earn press, and these days many startups would rather try going it alone using blogs and social media. At the very least this serves as another example of when PR can cause blowback, rather than how integral it should be in building communications strategy.

It’s my hope that the so-called “PR war” between two of the most popular global web brands will end, and both companies will find a more proactive way to continue building their own audiences. The history of the web has been of evolving and growing use, rather than competition between competing sources (as in print and broadcast media before it) for our attention, and I’d expect this to be the inevitable outcome between Google and Facebook.

More info/context about the news from Amplify, via www.wallstreetjournal.com:

May’s 11

Lauren Reid and Matt Hurst pose for a photo with Pee Wee Herman
Every month I share a list of 7 things shaping my perspective in life. It’s been a couple months since my last update, so I’m going to include a few extra for this edition.

  • Application – Instagram. Instagram has become my preferred way to share photos on Twitter, Facebook, and to make posts on my photo blog Speaking in Megapixels. It’s fun and easy using it to turn cameraphone pics into memorable photos. I find myself increasingly posting Instagram in place of Twitpic to share instant memories over the internet.
  • Blog – Geekosystem. Imagine a blog that brings together the best links from Reddit + Tech blogs + general geeky ideas in a single source.
  • Colleague – Jake Brus. I worked with Jake as a student at American University, and was impressed by his knowledge of branding and creative writing style. A midwesterner educated in DC, Jake is a pragmatic problem solver and great collaborator of projects in the classroom. And since graduating he’s started writing a blog about Place Branding which is recommended reading for anyone who wants to learn about the subject.
  • Music – Harry Nilsson. Probably the best pop musician in the 1960s-70s since forgotten, whose soaring harmonies I can’t help but sing along to myself.  He’s the consummate musicians-musician, and his exploits have since made him the subject of the documentary “Who is Harry Nilsson (and why is everybody talking about him)?”  After watching the film, it’s easy to understand why.
  • Social Network – Empire Avenue. The stock exchange game lets you buy and sell stocks of individuals on social networks, increasing their values based on social media activity. While it’s not meant to act as an social currency like competing influence ratings metrics (Klout comes to mind), it makes for addictive gameplay that effectively functions as a social network in its own right, complete with personal profiles and public comments.
  • Television – The Office. This season we wished farewell to Michael Scott, wrapping up years of plot lines into satisfying conclusion. Nostalgia for the “World’s Best Boss” was hi, and even Ricky Gervais couldn’t resist making a cameo for the character he made famous. No one knows who will play the next boss at Dunder Mufflin, but I’ll be watching along with everyone else.
  • Word Game: Words with Friends. Yes it’s just Scrabble, but by opening up to my network of friends through my iPhone changes they way we can play. Just look up “matthurst” if you want to play a game with me!

Extra credit after the jump: Continue Reading…

Foursquare by the Numbers: Measuring my social life by location

Heatmap of MattHurst's checkins on Foursquare Since Foursquare was created in March 2009 its social network which connects people and places into an addictive public game has motivated millions to continue checking-in. Whether your friends use the social network to unlock badges for brands and special events, compete on the leaderboard, and of course become “the mayor” of their favorite venues. Location-based social networks like Foursquare have created new opportunities for friends to connect IRL (or allegedly to stalk each other), while opening individuals to new connections more like they do online.

Of course Foursquare was hardly the first location-based social media; by the time I signed-up in March 2009 I had already been checking-in for nearly a year, using networks like Brightkite and Loopt. Indeed the founders of Foursquare were well ahead of the competition, having set up the SMS-based location network Dodgeball years earlier which had been bought by Google, only to revisit their idea with smartphone technology. By mixing game elements and unlockable rewards, not to mention the right timing to take advantage of the burgeoning social media scene, Foursquare has created a unique application that has proved popular by 2010 and beyond.

In the process of the gameplay and deals that attract users and brands to use the service, one of the byproduct of using Foursquare is the data that’s created about individuals who use the service. Here’s some perspective on how I’ve used Foursquare over the past 2 years:

Thumbnail of Foursquare infographic - click to enlarge

click image to enlarge the Foursquare Infographic

  • I was the 3,820th user to register on Foursquare, making me an early adopter of the location-based network that now tops 8 million members.
  • My first check-in was on March 17, 2009 at Breadsoda in Washington D.C., and have checked-in another 669 days since
  • In my first two years I’ve checked-in over 3000 times (3241 as of April 15, 2011) at 723 different venues.
  • I’m currently mayor of 7 venues, and have earned as many as 13 mayorship at any one time, earning me the Supermayor badge
  • So far I’ve unlocked 61 badges so far: 38 official Foursquare badges, and 23 more branded by their promoted partners

Of course Foursquare is much more than a means to broadcast your location, although the network has that reputation since many early adopters (myself included) had their service configured to tweet their check-ins automatically. However I’ve found Foursquare is best experienced not just as social media, but as a tool to connect people with places. Their service aids the discovery of new places to visit by using the suggestions and tips of friends, and on several occasions has helped result in the social media serendipity that has connected me with new friends and enabled impromptu rendezvous with friends who check-in right around the corner.

Continue Reading…

Why Brands shouldn’t have Interns Manage Social Media

Perhaps no one better embodies the pitfalls of taking your brand into social media without a strategy better than Charlie Sheen. Last week the celebrity made headlines by joining Twitter and broadcasting his own professional (and personal) meltdown in this public forum, much to the delight of internet denizens and entertainment media. After attracting this considerable attention, Mr. Sheen must have realized he might need more resources and time to create a sustainable Twitter presence, so he did what many brands before him have tried: he asked for an intern to help out with social media.

What Mr. Sheen hasn’t learned through his own use of social media is true for many other organizations who want to promote their brand and protect their reputation using social media: you’ve got to have a communications strategy.  And no, “going viral” is not a strategy, it’s only a goal (which can sometimes backfire).  To that end Charlie Sheen captured the attention of the online world, but without a strategic approach his haphazard embrace of social media seemingly hurt, rather than helped his reputation.  In contrast with individuals who have developed their personal brands, Sheen lacks personal experience to cultivate the tremendous interest in his brand in the best direction, which seems justify his search for a third-party who can give his Twitter account a positive spin.  Yet instead of looking for an intern, he should take a page from the many established brands who’ve successfully managed their social media presence, either though hiring online marketing and PR agencies or developing internal resources to plan their communications strategy.

Of course many brands didn’t always feel this way; when I started this blog in 2009 I wrote about my own experience using Twitter as a tool to find internship opportunities. At the same time agencies turned to my generation of recent grads and millennials to help them understand social media, so many were receptive to the idea of an interns helping out with a niche website like Twitter or Facebook. Especially because many businesses still considered social media a new fad (and not an important emerging platform) many were willing to let interns manage accounts for their brands; after all many simply assumed it was only kids using new media.

What seemed true in 2009 should not be assumed in 2011; social media have emerged as core platforms not only for promoting brands but for building businesses. With 600 million members on Facebook, and an established user base on Twitter that averages over 30 years in age, no brand would risk putting their reputation in the hands of an inexperienced graduate, much less an intern.  Instead organizations who want to build their brand through social media should hire professionals who’ve developed their strategic approach through experience, especially those who have tactical experience using blogs and social media to promote another organization.  Brands should look for professionals who’ve learned about social media through broad online experience, not necessarily specific skill-sets related to individual platforms like Twitter, because it demonstrates their ability to adapt and learn as new platforms emerge.

For prospective interns and job candidates, Twitter continues to stand out as a great tool to network and find job opportunities like my own Twitter internship. It’s also an excellent platform to share ideas and build your online reputation as a knowledgeable professional, particularly for social media marketers like myself, in a forum that’s highly visible in search results for those screening applicants. Likewise for job recruiters, social media offers a unique opportunity to screen potential employees and get a fuller picture of the people outside of their resume.

While it’s yet to be seen what the outcome of Mr. Sheen’s search for an intern may be, it seems likely that the same lack of direction that stifled his own social media efforts will sabotage any intern’s efforts.  At the end of the day a brand is only as strong as it’s own commitment to their unique offering, and that comes only through the knowledge and experience all members of an organization share.  To be sure, Charlie Sheen has earned America’s collective attention fixed on his social media presence, so what he is able to achieve depends not only on what he says but also who he chooses to manage his brand’s voice online.

Update: Continue Reading…

February’s 8

I started 2011 fresh by listing the things I could live without from 2010, but have found many more worthwhile ideas to share over the last month.

Application – IntoNow. I’ve been trying a half-dozen TV check-in apps, to share the shows I’m watching with friends and to chat with other viewers, but they’re all are kind of the same. This app stands out by becoming the Shazaam for TV and Movies, recording an audio-fingerprint which instantly recognizes the show I’m watching with a single push of the button (even if it’s a live broadcast!). So it fits into the lean-back experience of TV viewing, almost like you’re not using an app at all.

Blog – The Atlantic. As a long-time reader of the magazine, I’m surprised I hadn’t been reading their blogs earlier, especially since their editors seem to have fully embraced the medium. My favorites include Alexis Madrigal for literary tech analysis (rather than reporting/punditry) and a handful of contributors behind their Culture blog.

Colleague – Alhan Keser. I worked with Alhan at Blue Fountain Media, and he impressed me immediately not only for his understaning of SEO and social media (what he hired me for), but for his insight into a consumer’s behavior as they use the web. He effortlessly combines thoughtful web design with online marketing tactics, to create successful websites that build business for his clients. It’s a rare talent in the business to wear both hats. Fortunately Alhan is more than a talented co-worker, but he’s also a nice guy that I’m glad to count among friends.
Continue Reading…

Page 3 of 8«12345»...Last »