Of Walls and Gardens

20120909-111922.jpgI spent the last year building on the Twitter platform. Dashter was my vision to bring blogging and “tweeting” together – and the result is a fun blend between the two platforms. When our team got together, we had grand visions for what each platform could mean: We dreamt of a symbiotic platform experience that blended the depth of blogging with the expediency of tweeting. The data security and independence of self-owned self-hosted long-form content with the network effects of twenty-million twitter users.

We knew that the crux of our project was really rooted in the fact that we were dependent on Twitter to provide consistent API calls – and to keep the platform open and unrestricted.

So when I saw this tweet from Jeff, I knew what he was trying to bring to my attention:

The article Jeff shared (perhaps ironically, on Twitter) is not going to be the last we hear about the Twitter of the future. It tells the story of a Twitter developer who was subject to the demands of corporate clients who require understanding how apps are going to affect their bottom line – and who foot the bill for a project with the expectation that the work will live beyond tomorrow.

Continue reading Of Walls and Gardens

Social Media ROI with Custom Campaigns and Google Analytics

Social Media ROI (Return on Investment) is the elusive 3rd-rail of social networking. It’s elusive in the sense that there is no absolutely agreed-upon industry-wide calculation to use. It’s the 3rd rail because that’s where all the power is. Social media managers don’t want to be judged by a set of metrics that might not reflect the true “value” of the social media channel(s). Social media brand managers are focused on building communities and building attention rather than focused on delivering to the bottom line.

Unfortunately, this leaves many executives with an uneasy feeling that all this tweeting, “liking”, and pinning is just an act of futility without anchoring anything to a real bottom line.

It’s clear that there is and ROI in there somewhere – but how can it be measured?

Building a Set of Success Metrics

I’ve chatted with many customers & friends (often from the SMMOC crowd) about the SMROI issue, and the first thing that becomes obvious is that for some reason basic marketing practices get tossed out the window. I don’t know why it is – but SM is merely an extension of the existing branding / PR / Sales / Advertising / Promotion channels that have existed in all businesses.

Advertising using Google Adwords is perhaps the antithesis of Social. Social is about building relationships, attending to customers on a one-on-one level, and fostering a sense of community within the social-sphere. Adwords is the opposite. It’s about reaching a customer at the crux of their decision-making process: At the point they’re searching. The website is responsible for the rest.

So, the challenge becomes building a set of metrics (quantifiable) that operate within a personalized space (qualifiable responses). Continue reading Social Media ROI with Custom Campaigns and Google Analytics

The Shifting Social Landscape

Building a digital “home” in the social landscape is much like building a physical home – on quicksand. If you don’t believe me – let’s look at some of the trends that have happened over the summer…

Facebook’s IPO Woes

Let’s face it – Facebook insiders played the market like a well-tuned guitar. All the insiders got in on the action pre-IPO, and the retail investors were buying their exits during the IPO (and as insider shares become “unlocked” like Peter Thiel’s). But more concerning is the underlying challenge to value a social media company.

Remember – and this is important – in the social media space, the “users” are not the “customers“. Continue reading The Shifting Social Landscape

The Mid-2012 Apple Airport Express is Sweet

Just wanted to show some fanboy love here for my latest Apple device – the updated (mid-2012) Airport Express. After recently moving out to Las Vegas (more on that some other time) I picked up the fastest internet I could manage – Cox Communication’s PowerBoost 25+ Mbps. That’s about double what I was getting in Orange County through Time Warner, so I couldn’t wait to check it out.

Apple Airport Express Mid-2012 Refresh

Once the install was done, I hooked up the router (a 4+ year old D-Link) only to get about 4-6mbps. Nothing close to what I’m going to be paying for. The technician verified all the connections (and actually they were really cool about running a fresh line to the house) and when the laptop was run straight to the modem I was getting 30mpbs (sweet!). But the router was just too old.

So, hearing about the latest Apple release of the Airport Express, I was curious. Would it have enough “oomph” to handle the needs of a full household of internet marauders. We’re talking 4 people running streaming video, streaming gaming, multiple Dropboxes, site FTP’s, and online video management. Loads of power. I called my dad to get his thoughts on the Airport Express, and he also couldn’t see a reason not to give it a shot (instead of dropping another $80 (plus tax) on the Airport Express). Continue reading The Mid-2012 Apple Airport Express is Sweet

Another New Toy… Tweet Pull Quote Plugin for WordPress

Jeff [@JeffTurner] asked me yesterday for a plugin, and I figured I might as well oblige. It seemed pretty straightforward, and let me keep my plugin-chops up to date. So, without further ado, I introduce: Tweet Pull Quote plugin. I’ll probably submit it to the repo in a little while, but for the time being, I’ll have it available for download on my site in the WordPress Sandbox.

“Jeff wanted the ability to create a pull-quote that included a Tweet button.”

The idea behind the plugin is simple. Jeff wanted the ability to create a pull-quote that included a Tweet button. Hence, the name Tweet Pull Quote. Apparently, I was feeling especially literal today so the name is sticking. To use it, just add the short-code “pq” to any piece of text: {pq}This is my quote here{/pq} (replace {} with []). Short and sweet.

“You can also choose to make it appear on the right side”

There are 3 settings: You can choose from small, medium, or large font for your pull quotes, and you can also choose to have a black bar separating the quote from your content if you’d like. There’s also a setting to save your Twitter screen name, so the tweets will include an @mention to you when people use it. You can also choose to make it appear on the right side by using “pq align=right” as the shortcode.

One notable feature – the pull quote is retained in the post body content. Some of the other quote plugins I found would remove the quoted text (as a callout) from the body. But to me, that’s not a good parallel to print, where the quote is something you’ll find in the text itself. So in this case, the text is retained, and the quote is moved to the top of the paragraph that the quote appears within. That way, you can quote anywhere in your content, and it should appear correctly.

So, there you have it! Tweet Pull Quote for WordPress. Have fun!

Download the plugin here: Dave’s WordPress Sandbox

Meet TwitShowdown

This post was generated by Dashter

Over the past few weeks, I’ve really been trying to pay attention to the pro’s and con’s of Twitter. Part of that’s due to the fact that I shut down my Facebook account, in an attempt to see what the non-Facebook Internet still felt like.

Kelly and I had an interesting back-and-forth based partly around the idea that we follow people at odd intervals. Sure, it’s easy to add the first 20-100 people you follow on Twitter because you know them in real life. But then you start following people you’ve never met. And even the people who we know (or know of) don’t always tweet how we expect them to.

So this idea started forming – the notion of giving a way to easily swoop in to your account for the express purpose of unfollowing people. It wasn’t a “Dashter” feature – this was a unique little activity that needed a unique place to go.

Lose the Losers is right! Continue reading Meet TwitShowdown

The WP Feedback Dilemma

So I was thinking a bit about what keeps us all from posting more frequently on WordPress. Though obviously there are numerous reasons, a couple of basic ideas came to mind…

You know… This is one of the most compelling reasons I started working on Dashter, and it gets forgotten (or more correctly; overlooked) by me so frequently. The bridge between blogging and modern social media seems more related to the time to get a response + engagement than about anything different in messaging. On Twitter, you post a tweet, and either something happens or it doesn’t. In 5 minutes, you’re over it. Essentially the same is true on Facebook… Your “friends” will like or comment on the things that they like or find comment-worthy. The other stuff will just drift in to the abstract. On a blog post – well, for most of us – we click the “Publish” button and then go in to some sort of odd purgatory. We’re banished to the realm of marketing and self promotion. We’re wondering which keyword phrases Google will pick up in 5 months. We’re stuck.

This tweet caught my eye just because it both proved my point; and also happened to be titled something I reasonably agree with. In this case, the author is apparently either (a) planting the seeds for his audience or (b) just wanted to share that he wrote a post. Both are legitimate uses for Twitter. Again, publishing on WordPress is a strange double-edged sword. You’re creating WAY more content, you’re likely articulating a vision or an idea, and you’re able to add rich media elements to amplify your point. But, unlike social channels (which typically don’t let you choose layout & style, don’t let you cross-pollinate media types, and generally have some sort of limitation (either strict or etiquette-driven)), blogging doesn’t provide that fast-feedback mechanism. Creating after-publishing immediate gratification + immediate feedback is kinda a big deal. But it’s so frequently overlooked as a subject of concern in the WP development field.

The Life of Publishing Posts

And then once it’s published; time to wait for it to get read! The waiting never ends.

Ahh, the famous “I’ve forced myself to be compliant with myself” problem. Featured images are a double-edged sword in WordPress. The better WP themes should provide clean support with or without, so you can just get through the writing process.

Thanks for Reading!

Let me know what you think – is WordPress post publishing too arduous?

Social Scheduling

Social Tools Should Be Useful

Name any social or online content platform, and you’ll likely hear a great debate raging about scheduling. The problem with the always-on 24/7 digital lifestyle is that all too often, you end up with tools that aren’t focused on delivering results… They’re just delivering special effects.

This is a great point – social scheduling is helpful under certain circumstances, but in general you will want to also maintain an active and robust dialogue online. It’s one of the reasons we designed Dashter with the Auto-Post hold feature. Certain automatically-generated tweets can now be postponed until after you’ve posted a “human” message on Twitter. That prevents the automated part of Dashter from overwhelming your human followers.

Why Schedule Tweets?

Over the last couple weeks I’ve had the chance to have several good conversations about social scheduling. One of the areas of discussion (specifically related to Dashter) is – why schedule tweets?

It’s a good question – and requires having a little familiarity with Twitter, but here’s my short answers…

Etiquette: When someone logs on to Twitter, they’re going to see a stream of the latest tweets in their “home” display. This is true for most clients like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck as well. Generally, there’s an implicit assumption that when you log in you’ll see a stream of the latest tweets from around your social circle. But, if someone you’re following logs in and posts all their tweets all at once, that tweet stream fills up with just them. It’s not particularly courteous.

You’re Missing the Spread: One of the best advantages to spreading your tweets out throughout the day is that you can cover the whole audience. Remember – 7am on the East Coast is 4am on the West Coast – and that’s just in the US. If you’re trying to reach / appeal to a global audience, the clock never stops – and twitter adoption continues to rise globally. Remember, Twitter is attempting to position itself as the “universal” social network thanks to the low adoption threshold (140 text characters can be managed by just about any cell phone on the planet) – so global audience & reach is essential. Assume that your audience logs in to Twitter once or twice per day and scans 20-30 tweets, and that’s it. Wouldn’t you like to increase the odds that they’ll see your tweet?

Tweets Don’t Last Very Long: There’s a couple schools of thought in terms of “how long” a tweet lasts on the network. That’s because of the signal vs. noise challenge. In general, I’ve heard that Tweets have a “lifespan” of anywhere from 5-15 minutes; all the way up to 2 hours. After that, it really has run its course. By and large, people don’t interact with Tweets older than a few minutes.

Maintain Multiple Conversations: If you get involved in a couple simultaneous conversations on Twitter, suddenly you will be posting multiple replies over a span of a very short period of time. By scheduling tweets, you can spread out the likelihood of holding one conversation at a time – allowing you to carry on better one-on-one conversations than if you have to have many at the same time.

The Signal vs Noise Challenge: There is a lot of noise on Twitter. Even the best selected group of people to follow will result in a wealth of conversations and “starters” that really don’t matter to you. The same will be true of the people who follow you… Some people will be deeply engaged, but generally few will be interested in your individual messages. That’s the advantage of the short lifespan of a Tweet. But how do you overcome the noise? By seeding your tweets throughout the day via scheduling, you’ll have more chances to have your message reach its audience and provide true signal than if you posted all your messages simultaneously.

Heavy Active User Paradox: It would make sense that your messages will be more effective if the people you engage with, follow, and follow-back were all heavy active users on Twitter. They’d be ready to spread your message, right? But the paradox is that active users on Twitter tend to interact and engage with heavily active users on Twitter. So the signal processing gets overrun again…

Here’s what I mean: If you are followed by someone who follows 10 people (and each person posts 1 message per day) you have a 1/10 (10%) chance of being “read.”

But if the person who follows you follows 100 people, and each person posts 10 times per day, any single message now has a “read” chance of 1/(100*10): 0.1%.

That’s the challenge with Twitter – as people find more interesting people to follow they end up hitting a wall of signal. So how do you improve the likelihood that your message will at a minimum get viewed (and hopefully RT’d, quoted, replied-to, or curated)? You schedule your tweets to spread them across the potential audience-online timeframe.

Remember – if someone logs in to Twitter and browses through their last few messages, they’re only 1-click away from your profile to view all your latest tweets, so your tweets should always be interesting and a reflection of you. You want your messages to be quality and consequential, but you ultimately want them to be read and ideally engaged with. By using scheduling, you can reach a broader audience, have better engagement with the people who follow you, and improve your objective outcomes on Twitter.