Of course Twitter is not representative of America

A new Pew study finds a gulf between the general population and Twitter users.

This report is interesting because they interviewed actual people. There is one fundamental statement in it but it’s not mentioning a fundamental piece of context.

The one interesting piece of data by Pew is that 10% of users create 80% of tweets, unsurprisingly. Twitter struggled for years on this and only when Dick Costolo came aboard I remember him saying this is a fact and designed the Twitter experience around it.

The most fundamental context worth adding is that Twitter audience is 9-15% made of bots and these bots are programmed to amplify those 10% top users. It’s worth repeating this fundamental fact every time social media channels are mentioned: robots are an important part of them, algorithms decide what’s published, when and what humans see at what time.

Twitter is the dumpster fire near Facebook’s radioactive wasteland.

Source: Twitter Is Not America

Be careful about how much efforts you put on Twitter

After many experiments to increase engagement with brands on Twitter, I have collected enough evidence that Twitter is not worth much. From now on, the main focus of my social media marketing efforts will be other channels like Reddit, Hacker News, LinkedIn and other well targeted forums. My Twitter efforts are now down to the bottom of pile, down with Facebook (which doesn’t drive anything for the brands I’ve managed).

Massive increase in acquisition from social, most from Reddit and Hacker News

When I managed the launch of DreamHost DreamCompute, Twitter was a crucial part of the social media mix. We ran a small ad campaign on it with the objective to drive early signups to the cloud. Another ‘organic’ campaign revolved around  DreamCompute’s nomination as finalist in OpenStack Superuser Awards, with hashtag #makecloudgreatagain and a micro-site cloning what looked like a joke towards a political campaign (in hindsight, not funny). The results of the Twitter campaign were impressive by Twitter standards: lots of retweets and comments, DreamHost account gained new followers. But from the business indicators, we got almost nothing: the high Twitter engagement drove little spurs of traffic to web properties and no conversions. I blamed the website for being poorly optimized for conversion and concluded that Twitter can be useful to drive traffic and that call to actions need to be optimized for mobile in order to get business results.

In my next experiment at DreamHost I played with Hacker News. After a couple of attempts, I lucked out and got a blog post on HN front page for a few hours: that drove traffic! Lots of traffic and a much better conversion rate than other sources. I learned that the results/effort ratio is so much higher for Hacker News but hitting the front page is obviously a hit-and-miss.

Fast-forward a couple of years, I started a new social media experiment mix for Zenko . The results are in and LinkedIn, Reddit and Hacker News are a much bigger generator of traffic to our website than Twitter. For example, posts on LinkedIn either from the official Scality account or personal profilestend to have a long shelf life, opposed to the very very short live of tweets. New posts on Hacker News and Reddit are usually short lived, few hours but they tend to drive an insane amount of traffic, even if they’re not voted up at all. Also visitors from Reddit and HN tend to bounce less and read more than one page. The few visitors from Twitter instead have a high bounce rate and rarely go beyond one page visit.

My experience with Zenko and DreamCompute tells me that Twitter shouldn’t be the first social media channel but rather LinkedIn, Reddit and Hacker News are more worth the time. Twitter is something you have to play with and may only be worth it for real-time interactions, like during events to drive traffic to a booth or a speaking session.

Medium is “pivoting”

I’m glad to read Ev Williams finally admitting that:

the broken system is ad-driven media on the internet. It simply doesn’t serve people. In fact, it’s not designed to.

He’s a smart person, I’m sure the next iteration of Medium will be interesting, no matter what the outcome will be.

Source: Renewing Medium’s focus

The cost of owning your social graph

With Facebook being that awful mess it is and always will be, Twitter becoming an awful mess, too, Google Plus being not really better than the previous two, App.net seems to be on the right track. A social network that is not basing its revenues on advertising but it’s selling subscriptions. Users pay $50 a year, get a service that seems not too different from Twitter but the product is not you. It reminds me of status.net and diaspora, it even supports PubSubHubbub but it’s not free-as-in-freedom software.

I support such experiments: selling advertising is not only boring but dangerous for the society as a whole. I’d rather pay to own my social graph (like I pay for this hosting+domain) than be sold.

More on Social networks: Micromanaging microblogs | The Economist.

The Incredible Run of Google+

Since an image is worth 1000 words, here is a graph done by Leon Håland analyzing the growth of Google+. It took only 24 days for Google+ to reach 20 million users, while it took over three years to reach that number for Facebook and Twitter. Considering that the service is still open only by invitation and that brands or news organisations are not yet invited, this sounds like a huge achievement.

I think that this success is partially due to the fact that society is now used to the concept of a ‘social network’, we know what to do with the facebooks, the twitters and similar things. Another reason for this fast achievement maybe that Google already has lots of active profiles, via Gmail and Android. Or maybe, it’s because Google+ just works and proof of this may be that people are starting to receive breaking news from it, faster than Twitter.

To propel the next phase of growth, Google seems to be courting celebrities, the way Twitter does. I wonder how the pitch is because I can’t really imagine any non-techie using Google+ at the moment. Compared to the simplicity of the first Twitter interface Plus seems too intimidating. Can you imagine Hugo Chavez governing Venezuela via Google+ instead of Twitter?

What is the most important reason for you to use Google+? What made you jump using it?

Article first published as The Incredible Run of Google+ on Technorati.

The future of Free Software

Eben Moglen is helping Free Software to keep the promise of a free society. In his keynote speech at FOSDEM Moglen has laid out the foundation for the future of the Free Software movement: make sure that digital communication between people remains free.

Our freedom depends on reengineering the network to replace vulnerable, centralized services with alternatives which resist government control.

He identified the enemy (the data-mining industry, lead by corporation and governments around the world), gave the enemy a name and an easy target (Facebook) and he gave an action plan (the Freedom Box).

Freedom Box is the name we give to a free software system built to keep your communications free and private whether chatting with friends or protesting in the street.

I noted that he didn’t mention Twitter in his speech, and I think I know why. First of all Twitter has a good track of records when it comes to step up against government requests. What I believe is Moglen’s most clear reason to mention only Facebook is that he wants to give one target to the crowd, and a fat, easy one, too. Facebook must be the evil, much like Microsoft was the only big, fat target for all FSF’s propaganda (not Autodesk or or Adobe or Oracle or IBM).

It’s important to donate now on Kickstarter: Push the FreedomBox Foundation from 0 to 60 in 30 days. I hope that FSF and FSFE now donate to this project, too: I’d be really surprised if they don’t.

PS If you want to read more here are some articles: NY Times, WSJ, BoingBoing, Slashdot, reddit, ZDNet, The New York Observer, New Europe, techPresident, LWN.

A path to design social apps that don’t suck

Existing social networking apps suck because human social interactions is simply more complex than adding a ‘friend’. This presentation shows quite clearly why Facebook sucks and the email/phone addressbooks suck, too. Take a full 40 minutes to read it carefully and then watch it again.