Lately, I’ve been trying to be less of a reactionary and say something different for a change, but right now I can’t help myself. I’ve an hour to kill and this beats hoovering or washing up! Bryan Appleyard wrote an interesting piece today in the Sunday Times, one of those provocative, thought provoking pieces that speaks volumes. Continue reading
6 little things on why I <3 twitter and why you should be a part of it
Twitter is where it’s at! Geeksville has flocked
Twitter is an absolute phenomenon, it’s redefining and shaping so many things, you only have to look at its growth in trend tools like google insights or Google trends to get an idea of its ever accelerating popularity.
UK search volume index
UK Twitter use 2008
It already has close to 20 million pages within the Google search results and is growing daily.
Site: command showing number of pages indexed in Google.com
Estimates of Twitter users fluctuate wildly. In April 2008 Techcrunch estimated their numbers at 1 million + today, it’s considerably higher. I attempted to find out in Google but drew a blank and the Twitter blog wasn’t much help either, so I tweeted and asked for help, guess what…
@robwatts Twittercounter claims to be tracking around 2.5 mi llion accounts
Whatever way you cut it, 1 million 2.5 million, 4 million are all pretty big numbers with a huge potential to tip.
Celebs like Jonathan WRoss (@wossy) are also seeing the value and are threatening to take it mainstream by ‘outing’ it upon his return to the BBC on the 23rd of January.
Ross referencing @stephenfry on the 7th Jan 2008
Technorati shows that Twitter mentions in blog posts are also on the rise. The chart below shows a direct comparison between Digg (a popular geek web site) and twitter.
At the time of writing this post, in the last week alone Twitter had received mentions in no less than 240 citations on the bbc.co.uk website, 185 in the telegraph.co.uk site, 430 in the guardian.co.uk, and 135 in the dailymail.co.uk.
Newspapers it seems are almost running scared, at least those journalists who fail to understand it are, preferring to lambast and deride rather than see it for the revolutionary way of communicating that it is.
Twitter is great for brand engagement and management
The buzz generated across the social spectrum by twitter hasn’t gone unnoticed by savvy companies either. Twitter offers up an excellent opportunity for companies to connect directly with their consumers and stakeholders. Twitter has an excellent search feature (formerly summize.com) which means you can search for brand mentions and either put out any fires before they start or build a relationship with the customer or person discussing your product.
Twitter is an excellent means of using site authority too. Got a brand management problem? Get on twitter, register your brand and leverage twitters buzz to help push any negative news downwards.
A look at search for the well known search marketer Danny Sullivan shows the twitter authority factor in action.
Twitter gives access to networks
Need to find people interested in your niche? No problem, simply search for a related word in twitter search and find hundreds of people tweeting on your topic. A search for SEO as an example shows a list of people who have mentioned SEO in their tweets. With a little legwork and an examination of their followers and who it is they follow you can quickly find people with related interests. Whilst this isn’t a perfect model, it will for specific niche terms give you insight and access to people you might otherwise have had to have spent hours researching.
Twitter is a great social tool
Twitter is one of those communication tools that can be a fantastic asset in terms of building connections and enhancing relationships with those you already have. Be it with friends, colleagues, prospects or clients twitter offers you the opportunity to connect and share in ways that previously were simply not possible. You can plug your twitter stream into other social accounts, facebook and friendfeed. You can plug it in to your blog and simultaneously update your blog on the fly as you tweet. You can share pictures with friends, connect via text directly to a users twitter message account. It’s a two way process too. Most non UK twitter users can connect for free via text message in a two way interchange meaning that friends (people you’ve added) can send message to your phone via the twitter DM system.
But for me, the real power in twitter is in the opportunities it gives us all to connect to a wider range of people in a broader geographical space in a multitude of social and business environments. You can use twitter in ways that best suits you and you alone. Want to spam your network and followers? Boom, the choice is yours? Prefer to nurture and grow your network then boom, your choice again. Through being social and engaging with like minded people, you really can forge useful meaningful relationships, be they business or social.
Twitter is a great promotional tool
The final reason for the purposes of this post at least, is that Twitter is a great way of pushing a message out – It enables for direct access to the twitter streams of your followers, putting your message directly before them.
How you choose to construct your message and the relative success of your message depends on many factors of course. None of us want to do things for selfish or unhelpful people, it’s not a take take take phenomenon. Like many other social media platforms out there your success or failure to promote what it is you do, or who you are, or a service or message that you think people might benefit from is, at the end of the piece, dependent upon your ability to communicate and connect to others.
Be they power users with big networks and influence, or general users with smaller more tightly focused followings your message simply won’t fly if you don’t have presence and connectivity.
Twitter is a revolution
I make no bones about it. To me, twitter is amazing. It’s like web 3 offering up endless possibilities to break strangleholds and reshape the communications and search mould.
It’s invigorated the whole tech space and has generated excitement and buzz across the spectrum. Iphone apps like tweetie, twitterfon, twitterific, twinkle all enable for constant interaction be you walking or sitting on a bus or train. if you have a bit of 3g then you can continue building and sharing or just plain having fun with it all.
Don’t get me wrong not everyone ‘gets it’ some look at it and think WTF? Like a colleague remarked the other day on my status update around sticking a chicken in the oven to feed the kids, it was hard for him to understand where the value in that lay. Heck in lots of ways he’s right too, a bit like my drunken tweets repleat with pictures and my various trials and tribulations, but yet for many this is the whole attraction of twitter. Twitter enables for access to all manner of whatever it is we choose to share – its a part of the human condition to want to know, explore, laugh and cry. maybe in todays busy busy time starved world, tools like twitter allow us to use these pauses within our lives to say something random, to put it out there, to micro blog, to micro interact even.
I can’t recall the last time I personally got so zealous and bought in to a product that is, by and large a glorified bulletin board wih pictures.
I’m reminded of a discussion with @davefreeman the other day on the walk to Sainsburys to pick up some lunch, we talked about times of old the MSN Chatrooms whereby everyone there was randomly talking to people they knew nothing about screaming “ASL” or some other less charitable form of ape cry. The history is that MSN on the back of public concerns around children and paedophilles generated by tabloids hungry for headlines on the advice of legal counsel pouring tales of grief and woe, elected to shut them down. I’m not saying that twitter is in any way a replacement; it isn’t thats clear. But if we take the enagement that msn chatrooms had and broaden the reason out a little, then we can safely draw a conclusion that people like to connect and communicate. Twitter ramps that up a little and connects the offline worlld with the on. That’s powerful.
Like this post? Follow me on twitter I’m @robwatts.
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The online space never stands still – keep raising the bar
The great thing about online marketing is that it never sit stills it’s constantly evolving, constantly shifting. Today’s billy big bollox is often tommorrows has been. Sites that don’t step up are often swept away in whatever algorithmic or quality rater review so happens to contribute to their demise.
The simple thing is this – “If you want to succeed online, then you have to make a good site” it really is that simple – add value and you’ll stand the test of time, fail to do that and you’ll perish.
I wrote a strategy document for a client about 9 months or so ago. The client happened to have a site that was related to travel. They were for all intents and purposes, a bit of a thin affiliate. To be honest at the time, I groaned about this client, in fact I sighed deeply, as I’d been there before in a past life. I’d built many a thin affiliate site adding limited value and been a little naive to think they’d all last forever.
I guess looking back, as painful as it was to see my little spam babies die a death, it taught me an important lesson about search and marketing and what’s required to keep something alive online in 2008.
I was the archetypal technology driven code solutionist, the challenge of ranking in SERPs was and still is in lots of ways all about creating the write kinds of signal, be they on the page on the domain or off the domain. My view or approach was by and large relatively simple. Create a domain and attack the aspects of the search engine systems that decided what sites lived and what sites died. The methodology was simple, look at who is there in the space and do what they do, albeit better.
Of course, that’s a simplistic overview to what is a multifaced problem – companies invest thousands of pounds paying people like me to win in the SERPs. Winning in the SERPs today on the face of it, may still appear to be a simplistic route of change the code on page and get a few links, yet when you get under the hood you realise that of course, it’s a little more sophisticated than that.
You need a site that is technically competent, that also engages your audience, without an audience you have no base, no visitors, no sales.
Create conversations get people talking
Here’s a big secret no-one knew ;0) …online marketing today is very similar to offline marketing!
You want to create a product that people want to both buy in to, and that people will keep coming back to too. You want to have products that are recognised for the value they add to the space and that stimulate debate and conversations.You want to be known in the marketplace as a leader in that field, recognised for what you give to those who buy into you.
Advertising agencies use traditional old style media to tap into our emotions and stimulate conversations and help us identify when we are out shopping in stores. Billboards, posters, leaflets all help re-enforce that familiarity created by that image of the sexy female pouting or husky hunk posing to some chilled tune in an idyllic setting using that laptop or driving that car or lounging on that new leather 3 piece suite. The idea is that we want to be those people, and that by buying those products we can. It is of course a symptom of a fucked up existence that a lot of us feel the need to do this, but it’s how it is. It’s the way society works, it drives consumerism and helps keep things ticking over – heck, why shouldn’t people get to live out their dreams, what’s wrong with a little artificially induced self actualisation, be anyone you want to be right? A huge topic in itself, yet like it or not, it’s a part of this conversation, people talk about things that are good or cool or interesting, people want to be associated with these and as a result will talk about them, be it over coffee, over a pint, at home, on the phone, the list could of course go on.
Online, it isn’t too dissimilar. Search engines are organisations run and administered by? Bingo, you got it – people. The old school way of SEO was simply about get your onsite code right and you’d rank. It then changed a little and required lots of links from wherever you could get them. It changed again and was reliant upon the quality and type of links, today it’s evolving further still.
Do search engines want to mirror societies needs and wishes?
Search engines have access to lots of metrics that tell them different things – toolbars, analytics, clickthrough rates on ads, ISP data, link graphs, bounce rates etc all contribute in one shape or form to how a search engine see’s a domain. It’s fair to conclude that a search engineer would be far more inclined to find ways to rank good content that was more difficult for SEO’s to get in and meddle with or manipulate. Only a fool would ignore the fact that search engines have accessed billions of documents and have performed numerous studies into what is a natural link graph versus what isn’t.
Whitelisting aside, you’d be a fool not to try and develop a site so that it has a natural link profile rather than one that is overtly manufactured, yet you’d be a fool if you tried to manufacture it especially when you don’t need to!
It’s not a contradictory thing, it’s simply a case of there being an effective way and a not so effective way. One way is just about links and links and links, whereas the other is about the right types of links generated in the right types of places in the right kinds of ways.
No one wants to hang in a crappy neighbourhood
If your site is shit and you really believe that you can keyword stuff or shitty productise yourself to page one of a SERP through technology and guille alone, then you are a big nutter who is wasting not only your time, but the time of every other person who lands on your sorry arsed excuse for a site, stop, build something worthy of the people who you are trying to pull. No one likes you, you are Millwall, you may not care, but others do.
People like good haunts and will tell others
If you have a good site in a niche, then you are probably adding value to that space and are already on the road to creating a good user experience. You probably already have your social share buttons similar to those you’ll see at the bottom of this post, you might already have your facebook page, your myspace page, a Bebo page – maybe you’ve gone the micro blogging route and dipped your toe into the twitter, perhaps you have a seesmic or 12second thing going on, a youtube channel, a presence in the Google Universal search serps – maybe you podcast them and stick them on itunes…
Getting down with the masses and talking with your customers
If you haven’t then what are you waiting for? Why aren’t you out there engaging with your audience? Don’t you want them to talk about your product and what it is you do? Don’t you want to develop relationships with your consumers and have them come back to you time and time again? Do you really want to be reliant on Google and the ever escalating costs of PPC for ever and a day? No of course you don’t, you want these people to come back and tell their friends, which is why you should give them the tools to do so.
Less altruistically, some businesses have discovered that Twitter is an effective way of communicating with consumers. Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) says Twitter has produced $1 million in revenue over the past year and a half through sale alerts. People who sign up to follow Dell on Twitter receive messages when discounted products are available the company’s Home Outlet Store. They can click over to purchase the product or forward the information to others.
Tools like Radian 6 are used to identfiy pinch points and conversation nodes. Opinion formers are identifed and enaged with. If a problem with a new product is identified then rather than let it grow legs and become some uncontrollable monster the social graph of the web can be quickly identified.
Companies like Google use social media in similar ways. (They aren’t just about algorithms) Matt Cutts more commonly uses his blog but also uses his Twitter account as does a colleague of his John Mueller who on occassions has reached out to users of their product, engaging with people who are having issues.
Many companies experience reputation management issues on the web, these could so often have been nipped in the bud had the companies affected had a social media plan in place. Blogs, forums, social accounts all enable for engagement with ones online user base, I’d argue that they are fundamental for any orgnisation or individual doing business on the web today.
But back to search and seo and using these signals, what do search engines get from these and why are they important?
Search Engines Signals and Social
Very recently, Google introduced a search wiki element to it’s SERPS. Lots of people have moaned and groaned and theorised so I won’t do too much of that. The point is that people can (if they so wish) change aspects of their SERPs. Personalisation has been given one more additional option.
If people like a site, they can vote it up. If a site is voted up, it’s less susceptible to any algorithmic shifts (for that user) and will therefore (for that user) have a little more stability (for that query). It’s reasonable to suggest that enough people from a diverse enough set of ISP, IP, OS and Geographical variances vote up a site on a given query then maybe, just maybe that Google too might see this as an additional signal of quality and do the same in its non personalised results. Ignoring the fact that it seems odd that people would vote up a site in a result before they clicked it of course, and you begin to see how quality really can make a difference.
Taking all of this a little step further, we only have to see the power of some sites and their ability to rank to begin to appreciate the value of social in an algorithmic sense.
If people are talking about you (linking) on platforms that are regulary spidered, then if the engines so chose to, these could be interpreted as a powerful set of social signals. That is, real people talking about real products that offer real value or the obverse as the case may be. If sites are regulary cited in social spaces be it via making the front page of social bookmarking sites like digg, or appearing in hundreds of favoutited social profiles of stumbleupon users, or via a sudden flurry of tweets from hundreds of tweeters on twitter.com the