Tuesday, August 31, 2010

More on tweet half life - still less than a day

If you haven't read our previous post on this subject, please do so first.

While researching Tweetmeme for our previous story, we noticed that Mashable was one publisher who had the top stories in virtually every silo - entertainment, games, technology, and even business. Putting it another way: If Tweetmeme were a Foursquare venue, Mashable would be its mayor.

We caught ourselves wondering if even Mashable was subject to the short half life we noticed for other stories. Or, were they different?

Here's what we saw for 3 recent stories on Mashable. To cut a long story short, Mashable's stories' half life seemed even less than a day. And each story debuted with almost 1,000 tweets referencing the URL - in day one!

(note: like before, we selected 'non news' stories with a longer shelf life)

As you can see, Mashable is no different - the half life is less than a day!

The half life of a popular tweet is less than 1 day

You've finally got that viral tweet! Something about your start up or product is finally tweeted by a high klout tweetaholic.You have your eyes glued to half a dozen screens that show you retweets, mentions and twitter searches for your company/URL/product/keyword. It looks great - for about 42 minutes, or at best a few hours. And then...Poof!


You head to bed, hoping to know that a resurgence in interest happened while you were asleep. The morning brings no great joy. It's almost like, barring that 1 hour in the limelight, your 'tweet de resistance' never existed.

Don't be disappointed! It happens to the best, as this tale of two (update: three) tweets illustrates

Here's what we did:
  1. Headed over to Tweetmeme and hand picked a few popular (over 7 days) stories from multiple categories (technology, entertainment, etc)
  2. Filtered and selected relatively timeless stories - stories whose value doesn't depreciate with time. Typically, this would mean 'non news' because a news story's value naturally depreciates but an interesting video on cats doesn't.
  3. Filtered again to select stories that are anchored in a URL, i.e. stories that you would expect to find only at one unique URL. A YouTube video won't pass this test as there is a high propensity to embed a video on one's own blog. Hence, the same piece of content might go viral from multiple URLs. While this is great, it doesn't work for this study as...
  4. We used Backtweets to query the number of tweets referencing a given URL in a given day, and did this for the few days since the URL first appeared in twitter. We'd have loved to provide a higher level of granularity (every hour) - but Backtweets (basic & free option) doesn't offer this.
Here are the ones that we finally selected:

A) Periodic Table of the Elements
Over 2,500 mentions in a week!
This story debuted on August 21st, peaked on August 23rd and then dropped. Interestingly, there seems to be a second surge in interest - not unsurprising considering that it wasn't initially tweeted from any well known account - guess it was just time before someone with more followers picked it up! Here are the numbers:

B) Why working from home is both awesome and horrible
Over 8,500 mentions in half a week!
This one was initially tweeted by @oatmeal. With over 80,000 followers and a reputation for posting stellar content, this is (almost) as good as it gets. Plus, this content isn't time bound in any way- there's no expiry date on its ability to elicit a chuckle. However, after peaking at over 3,000 tweets a day, the volume rapidly dropped to under 25% of that, as this chart illustrates.

Moving to as good as it gets...

From the stables of someone who's almost always trending on twitter: Justin Bieber!

C) Be a part of Justin's Movie | Bieber Fever
Considering that this was encouraging people to apply for a role in Justin Bieber video, this is as viral as it can get. And how: over 25,000 mentions in half a week! Here's how this one did - from when it first tweeted on August 24th. Don't miss the super rapid decline.

Admittedly, there is no rigorous statistical analysis on the above data. It's fairly obvious, though, that tweet volume declines quite rapidly - to less than 50% of it's maximum - in less than a day. Lessons?

i) Don't be disappointed when your tweet vanishes into the sunset faster than it rode in. In fact, if you're not Justin Bieber, you may get a second lease of life if it gets picked up by someone more 'powerful'.

ii) Continue to focus on creating timeless content. As you can imagine, a news story will drop even faster as it gets outdated, so giving a spin on a news story or a product announcement won't make the grade. All the links profiled here are timeless (OK, not the Bieber one - but it was timeless for the period studied, unlike a "Justin in Miami, fans go berserk" news story)

iii) Important for start-ups: Don't fool yourself into thinking "if only X would tweet about me, everything would fall in place". As we've previously written, there's a lot more you can do and should be doing.

Happy tweeting!

[Update: We weren't satisfied with just these three examples and are now analyzing analyzed the tweet volumes of the one source that is profiled most often and across all channels on Tweetmeme. Read all about it in our next blog post]

Image: Flickr | Creative Commons

Friday, August 27, 2010

Our QR code enabled business card (and how I am a late adopter of the obvious)

When cellphones became fairly ubiquitous around 1998, I refused to buy one. For reasons too verbose (and some, too flimsy) to articulate, I didn't get one for a long time. In that period, most of my friends & colleagues had probably gone through about two models. Then, one late evening, my car had a flat in the middle of nowhere and I had to walk a fair bit to get to a payphone. The next day, I was the proud owner of an Alcatel phone!

I thought, in this era of social networking, bump, and virtual cards, we could get by without 'non green' business cards. So, in the last few months of our company's existence, we avoided having one! But then, we're increasingly realizing that this isn't the best thing. At events & conferences, people (understandably) might assume you're not a 'serious' business. So, there I go - eating my words. Again.

I must however confess to loving our design, especially the "relative to email" idea I picked up here. Oh, if you have a smartphone with a camera, download a QR Reader - and scan my QR code (showing on your screen). Yes, it works - it has my name, email, phone number URL, LinkedIn, twitter,and horoscope (just kidding)! Do you like our design? Too esoteric? Please let us know.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The A E I O U of Software Marketing

Marketing a software product involves 'talking to' various audiences. It's easy to lose sight of this fact and spend a disproportionate amount of your resources to get that Techcrunch story that you think will propel you into instant traction. This 'vowel guide' should help your efforts stay consonant with your objectives.

Here's whom you should be talking to - in INCREASING order of importance:

Analysts - Least important

They seem to be a dying breed. I can't recall the last article I read where a Gartner or Forrester analyst was quoted! Additionally, one typically needed an analyst quote for a press release but the press release is a dying breed unto itself. If enterprise software is your forte, you probably can benefit from some analyst coverage.

If it's a consumer focused web 2.0 product you're doing, forget that analysts exist.

And remember, most analysts will grudgingly give you only one briefing (if you're lucky) so that they have something to pepper their next conversation with a Fortune 500 CTO. Thereafter, if you want them to show any interest in your "earth's rotation changing" idea, you'd better be a paying client.

Early Adopters (rather, early adopters of anything) - Less Important

These are NOT the early adopters of your product. These are early adopters of anything that smells like tech. They are a subset of the 4.4 million people who subscribe to TechCrunch, Mashable, RWW, TheNextWeb, Lifehacker, and everything in between (no, Hacker News doesn't belong here - not yet, at least). Most start-ups spend a disproportionately high amount of time focusing here.

It's enticing, for sure. After all, it's the tech equivalent of making your Hollywood debut in an Angelina Jolie movie. Take it with a pinch of SALT (pun intended) - especially if it's just 2 seconds of screen time where she's kicking your ass.

TechCrunch is not / cannot be your marketing strategy! That traffic blip from news hungry (and easily jaded) readers will drop off as fast as it came. Most of the traffic may not even be relevant unless your product targets start-ups, journalists & angel investors. Sure, it could catalyze some conversations with investors and (therefore) the media. While you should certainly try, don't direct all your efforts into this. After all, as a start-up, time is your scarcest commodity. And the disappointment from not making it here can (wrongly) color your own assessment about your chances of success. Don't let that happen.

 Industry insiders - Somewhat Important

These are the individuals whose blogs you've subscribed to, whose tweets you follow, whom you're (creepily) trying to 'friend' on Facebook, and who you're trying to connect to on Linked In (tip: join a group they're a member of). Some of them are known in your technology niche (eg. Social media applications) or amongst your target audience (eg. Restaurants and other local businesses) or even better- the intersection of your technology niche & target audience (in our case, social media for local businesses).

As you explore more and more, you'll probably see a pattern of cross-pollination whereby the members of this coterie pass & curry favors amongst themselves, speak in the same conferences, have twitter banter, etc. Some of them deserve their 'guru status' and others may help reassure you that if they could manage 23,456 followers, anyone can. You fantasize about how you'll have made it - if you can only make it into their 'club'. By all means try, but don't be hasty about it. Follow the common sense rules of engagement. And remember, unless you're getting into a (mutually) meaningful relationship like making someone a member of your advisory board, their attention spans can also be short! A good rule is to start with the less popular members of their tribe and work your way up. Don't go prematurely for the jugular of the alpha male.

Other Partners - Very Important

Imagine you have a LinkedIn silver bullet that allows you to have a meaningful connection with anyone you want. Whom would you choose? No, you can't choose Paul Graham; we're focusing on marketing, remember (Yes, I know, getting into YCombinator => free & instant marketing, but let's keep that aside for a moment).

Understand your ecosystem. Figure out who's already got traction amongst your users. And try and ride on their coat-tails. Obviously, you'll need to add value to them in someway so figure that part out first! Then, try and get a one to one meeting - this is the tough part. You should invest your energies here. This is where you can ramp up your user base - the guys who really pay your bills. If anyone from OpenTable, AMEX Open Forum, Yelp or Google Places is reading this, please please contact me.

Users - Most Important
Here's where you start by focusing on the real early adopters. These are your angels (not investors). The ones who will hopefully evangelize your product and help you get that early majority, cross the chasm and achieve greatness. Unfortunately, this is often the most difficult task and involves the most drudge work, and thinking: Can I send them spam email? Doesn't everyone? Should I tweet to 5 of them each day or is that crass? Call them, perhaps? Adwords? Facebook Ads? 3 months of SEO? What's my viral strategy? I'll leave it to you to figure what works best for you to reach your users. But if you've truly built something good that makes their life better, they should want to hear from you. If not, you should be reading this instead.

Good luck with focusing where it matters, between A,E,I,O & U. And don't forget to mind your Ps & Qs

All images courtesy: Geishaboy500's amazing Red Silk Alphabet on Flickr | Creative Commons

Now that's what I call a presentation

Look beyond the excessive (non) use of expletives. If you haven't seen this before, drop what you're doing and see it. Yes, even if you're not into social media. Besides giving a good idea of the way people connect today, this is a great lesson on how to make a presentation that's seen.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

If real life mirrored social networks

Dunbar number aside, social networks, most notably Facebook, are supposed to mirror real relationships. Do they? This interesting (french) video shows what real life would look like - if it was indeed like a social network!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Facebook's killer app is here. No, it's NOT places.

Image courtesy: Mark Krynsky | Flickr

Rewind to 1999. I was working in an advertising agency then, running their web & interactive services division. It started then: the footer of almost every print  advertisement, the last frame of any TV ad, and the last 5 seconds of a radio spot- were reserved for the company or product's URL. No marketing manager worth his 4Ps would be caught dead without a URL. And web design shops were sprouting up faster than mushrooms.

Now imagine if someone (say, Google) had the power to display advertising on each and every one of those company & product websites and of course, charge for it. Sounds inconceivable?

Back to the present...

Notice something about magazine ads these days? The product URL, while still popular, is fast being supplemented, and in some cases entirely replaced by a new kind of URL - that of their facebook fan page!

This year, in a period of about 6 months, the number of facebook users grew 25% - from 400mn to 500 million! 500 million users is over 25% of the world's online population.

But there's a more fantastic statistic on facebook:  300% growth.

When we were going through facebook fan pages (for our app, Eyes And Feet) in March, we counted approximately 4mn facebook fan pages. This month, we counted 16mn. That's a 4 fold increase in 5 months. And this number will only explode - especially with the launch of facebook places, and businesses being encouraged to 'claim their place' and convert it to a 'facebook page'.

Facebook's "global domination plan" has been here all this time & staring at us in the face- it's Facebook pages!

As Facebook pages become more ubiquitous and as more brands, products & businesses mention this as "their URL", that's more power to Facebook. The big big big difference here is that the pages are hosted on Facebook, by Facebook! That's NOT the same as your 'under your control' webpage on your friendly neighborhood web server. Facebook's recent announcements to do away with boxes on fan pages, the changes in tab widths, improvements to FBML, are all steps in this direction - to help make your facebook page your new brand URL!

And once your Facebook page is an integral part of your brand, would you want other products randomly advertising to your customers on your fan page? Only, it's not your choice anymore - Facebook reserves the right to display anything they want on "your" page, and there's nothing you can do about it. Unless you pay...

I won't be surprised if, as a part of their fan page monetization strategy, Facebook charges brands for 'no ad fan pages' depending on the number of fans they have. In fact, I think something of this nature may already be happening. The five leading brand fan pages on Facebook are Starbucks, Coca Cola, Oreo, Skittles & Red Bull. Oreo's fan page looks cluttered - thanks to the 'random' ads on the right. None of the other 4 seem to have ads!

Hmmm. Welcome to the new www. Guess who Verizon will have their next net neutrality conversation with.

[written by Lux, founder of Eyes And Feet - Get more customers from social media for your local business]

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Foot (falls) in the mouth

We committed the classic boo boo! Our tagline (so far, we're still in alpha) used to say "Social Footfalls for your Local Business". We were pretty happy with it, and thought it conveyed our proposition pretty well:
Get more Customers from Social Media for your Local Business

Unfortunately, we forgot one little thing...no one in our market (US) knows what footfalls mean!
Someone (thanks, Ron) pointed this out, and some folks at Hacker News were kind enough to confirm that we'd definitely got it wrong!

So, rather than labor over wordcrafting, we're simply using 'what we're about':
Get more Customers from Social Media for your Local Business
Understand & leverage Facebook, Twitter and other social tools
Plain and simple - and most importantly, clear.

Thanks for the image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wheatfields/3102519042/

Friday, August 13, 2010

How many people behind our web app? 3.14

Yesterday was the 3rd time someone asked me - in the last week alone! "How many people did it take to build our app?"

Almost reminds me of the "How many (insert least favorite nationality here) does it take to (insert mundane task here)?" series.

It took us...all of 3.14 people. Here's how:

There's me- with the initial idea.  I translated my ideas into the wireframes that are now the application. I currently drive the product roadmap, and marketing.

Muni's our Ruby on Rails guy. He writes poetry with code, and is yet to say "not possible" to something.

Vikram's  behind maintaining the databases and our prezis on on social media (like this one on 50 ideas for twitter for businesses). He's perfectly comfortable with 16 spreadsheets open at the same time.

That leaves the UI...

We worked with a freelancer who's almost like a part of the team now. If you're looking for a great UI (images, video), I can't recommend 'Design by Anaami' enough. They had 6 other projects they were involved with (besides Eyes And Feet).  So, that's the 0.14

Do wish us luck!

The Eyes And Feet application - a sneak peek

We're mighty thrilled with the way the app's shaping up. If you're not a video person, here are some screen-shots from the alpha release. If you'd like an early access code, let us know in the comments below.


Friday, August 6, 2010

Here's what Eyes And Feet actually does (Guided Tour)

Unless you're Superman, we recommend you see this video in full screen view
(click on the expand icon at the bottom right of the video- it's next to the Vimeo logo)

PS: click on the HD icon for a superior video experience.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What is the best time & day to Ask Hacker News something?

Right off the bat, I'm not a proponent of "let's optimize our time and day of posting" so our post gets upvoted. In fact, most of my few HN submissions were sub-optimally posted - when the US is asleep!

So, why this post?

We are creating a screencast of the Eyes And Feet application, and will soon be "asking HN" for feedback on our MVP (like Dropbox did) . Considering that the video will be about 5 min long, we'd obviously like it to be seen when people have some time - to view, reflect, and comment. My hypothesis was that Mondays & Tuesdays would be bad, and that Fridays & weekends may be better.

I came across this post on best times to submit to HN. However, I thought it should be different with "Ask HN". When you ask HN something, you (hopefully) want a thought out response - from as many people as possible. The assumption therefore is that an "Ask HN" submission demands more time and involvement than a regular one.

So, when might people have more time? Here's the summary for all Ask HN posts in the dataset here.
(Note: all times are UTC - that's (almost) the same as GMT)

We crunched 853 Ask HN posts. That's not a huge dataset - but you do see some general trends like "you'll probably get more comments on a Friday submission"

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

7 cents for a facebook fan. 3 cents for a twitter follower. Do they even matter?

Those figures (7 and 3 cents) are what a service called Fanbullet charges you (per fan) for 10,000 fans. I saw a Google Ad of theirs, and was intrigued enough to click on it. Buying (and selling) fans is nothing new! In fact, if that's what you're really looking for, you're probably better off checking freelancer sites like (well) Freelancer - you'll get facebook fans for about 1 cent! Twitter followers will probably be even cheaper.

So, now that we know that a couple of hundreds of dollars can make you seem extremely popular, the obvious question is - Does it matter?

We'd like to think not, especially considering the dubious nature of the 1 cent fan - assuming they're even human in the first place. However, in an imperfect world, and in the context of social media, it does appear to matter.

Because, more is more!

There is an obvious herd mentality that prevails, and before you attribute this behavior to lesser others, think hard and deep. While it may not be so obvious, an 18,000 fan facebook page probably has to work less hard than a 10 fan page - to get you to click that 'Like' button. "Hey, 18,000 people can't be wrong" you say to yourself - even if you don't think you do.

Either way, take some of those fan page and follower numbers with a quintal of salt - it's probably the same cost as 10,000 fans!

For the record: we DON'T recommend you 'buy' fans or followers!

Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/anijdam/2585351373/