Listening pays, especially to Twitter

Twitter is often sneered upon as being the little brother of the omni-present Facebook. But let's be honest: almost everyone who's anyone uses Twitter. And now we have our beliefs confirmed. A report has found that Twitter users are more likely to impact your brand than any other social network. An interesting read: especially the bit about how their influence goes well beyond the Twitter platform.

In related news: a Forrester study has measured the effect that Listening & Monitoring on Social Media has on your business. 63% of businesses have seen a positive impact on brand awareness, 50% on overall business success.

And investing pays, if it is through Twitter

The hedge fund that is using Twitter sentiment analysis to predict the stock markets and make investments has outperformed other hedge funds in its first month of trading.

Will QR take off after all?

That's what this study from Comscore seems to suggest. 14 million Americans (or 6.2.% of mobile users) scanned a QR code in the month of June.

The study also analyzed the source and location of QR code scanning, finding that users are most likely to scan codes found in newspapers/magazines and on product packaging and do so while at home or in a store.

On the other hand: if agencies keep finding creative uses for the QR code, like this one from Victoria's Secret, that'll help too.


The Social Media panic

So two gents are sentenced to 4 years imprisonment for organising riots via Facebook. In San Francisco, authorities switched off mobile cell towers to stop a protest.

Here at RAAK we are firm believers in the power of social media. But we think authorities are going too far. Yes, a strong sentence can send out the right message. Jordan Blackshaw, 20, set up an "event" called Smash Down in Northwich Town. That is more serious than a flippant status update. Still, 4 years is a bit much. Our advice for San Francisco: engaging, and not censorship, is the answer.

What to buy with $ 12 billion

This year certainties have been rocked and political, social and media terra firma has shifted markedly. This week an earthquake. Google bought Motorola. Doomsayers there were a-plenty. Was Google doing a Nokia? First touting an operating system as being open for everybody, and then hogging it for its own hardware? Nope, reckons The Economist. It is a smart strategic move.

Apple and Microsoft have found a way to slow down, and even benefit from Android’s advance: going after makers of smartphones running Android for patent infringements. This tactic has put a price on Android, which Google gives away free.


Have you got the Edge?

There are still heaps of brands out there who measure the success of their Facebook Page by the amount of people that Like it. If you know a little bit about how Facebook's Edgerank works, you realise that Likes are a skewed measure and one needs to take into account other parameters. There's the Engagement Level and this week we came across Edgerank Checker, a tool that measures the Edgerank score of your Page.

It's not 100% clear how it works, because Edgerank is not a page-wide value (see more info in this Twitter conversation with someone from ERC), but it could be an interesting extra parameter for measuring Facebook success.

Foursquare pushes on

Foursquare has been struggling a bit with adding value to the increasingly futile act of checking-in. But this week they released Foursquare Lists, a feature that might just give them an edge. So when you go to Milan and want to know what's happening there, you create a list and ask your friends-in-the-know to give you tips. Strange: this only works on your desktop profile page, not on the mobile app.

Oh, and this should give Foursquare a little push. Barack Obama is now checking in. Why be a President, if you can be a Mayor.


Free coffee for all

Jonathan Stark did an intriguing experiment this week regarding mobile payments and social sharing. He made his Starbucks iPhone Card (with which you can easily pay in selected Starbucks outlets) available for people to use. So they could buy coffee with it. It had a limited amount on it, but people could top it up again by donating some cash. Result: over a few days 500 people added more than $8,000 to the card.

But then it went a bit wrong: a programmer called Sam Odio hacked the card and transferred money to his personal account. It was then that Starbucks blocked the card. 

Creative Of The Week – Soulwax

Yes we know, Björk is the one that's setting a new benchmark with her iPad album. But when it comes to using the web to do something interesting with audio and music, we want to put the spotlight on Soulwax.

They've created an app and a site called Radio Soulwax, where they plan to release 24 of their infamous 1-hour mixes. So far so what, but they've also created a specific set of visuals for each mix, based on the noble art of the record sleeve. And they're giving it away for free. Kudos.


London's burning

What a week in the land of the RAAKonteurs. And a week that shone a light on the best and the worst of social media. With Prime Minister David Cameron intimating in parliament that they will look into stopping the ability to communicate via social media during riots, the finger has mostly been pointed at BBM – Blackberry's Private Messaging service. Techcrunch has a great in-depth post on the role it played. 

Although Twitter's web traffic increased more than any other service, there is scant evidence of the Riots being organised on Twitter. However, there is quite a lot of evidence on Twitter of Blackberry's reputation taking a beating.

Besides all that, there are also the uplifting stories like #Riotcleanup, an initiative organised on Twitter to clean up and help businesses, in which we took part. And there are these initiatives to help a mugged Malaysian student, a Sri-Lankan shop keeper and a 89 year old barber.

As Zeynep Tufekci pointed out:  if Cameron believes that most people are anti-riots, then social media is his ally.

Facebook Messenger

Talking about messaging services: 6 months after they acquired Beluga, Facebook this week released a standalone messaging app for iPhone and Android.

Important because they'll be actively taking on Blackberry Messaging with a non-phone specific app. And two: because it's the first time Facebook are creating a standalone app for one of its services.


Will the Filter Bubble pop?

We've told you before that Facebook only shows a fraction of content to users in their newsfeed based on their EdgeRank Algorithm. This is of course very different from Twitter, which shows you every single Tweet.

Now, apparently under pressure from brands, unhappy with the low exposure they get via 'Likes', Facebook is rethinking their feed. And one such avenue would be to show users everything. This is handy because it will also solve the problem of Facebook lagging behind Twitter when it comes to real-time information.

One problem such a change might accentuate is that many users do not know that a 'Like' button is actually also a 'Follow' button. At present this is not a problem, because EdgeRank make a brand's content often disappear if you don't interact with it much. But will you still 'Like' a toothpaste if they constantly end up in your Newsfeed?

John Batelle on the other hand is arguing almost the exact opposite: that for Twitter to succeed they need to filter out noise and increase the signal. But if Twitter does start filtering the feed, it will lose some of its real-time responsiveness. Would Keith Urbahn's Osama Tweet have zapped around the world as fast? Unlikely.

Instead we'd argue that Batelle is using Twitter wrong: you have to curate your curators carefully, John. And services like Summify do a great job of presenting a signal after the facts.

Your news is similar to mine

And here's another important story about what Facebook decides to show you in your newsfeed. Facebook is experimenting with a new story format called Posted About. It groups together updates in your newsfeed based on the topic or Page they cover, thus defining trends amongst people/pages you follow.

It uses Natural Language Processing, so surely there'll be some mistakes. And even though there's potential there for brands to create relevant content, the question is: will people feel this automated filtered curation makes their Facebook experience better or worse?

Check into that MasterCard seat

We're still waiting to see a huge take-off in location check-ins, so it's interesting to see MasterCard experimenting with the format. As part of their overall campaign to offer customers unique experiences, their agency R/GA have put 20 seats from the old, destroyed Yankees stadium around New York City and made them available as Facebook Places. When people check-in (via a QR code), they enter a competition to win some VIP baseball tickets.


No No – there's no limit?

This Monday, as our city was hit by the awful London Riots, we made an unexpected discovery: Twitter limits the amount you can Tweet.

What's important in the marketers' tool box?

Focus released an interesting piece of research this week, identifying marketers' priorities & challenges. It was based on a limited amount of questionnaires, but there's a still a few key things to take-away:

  • Email is still the best performing channel. With Online Content & Social Media number 2 and 3.
  • 59% of companies have Social Media as number 1 investment priority.
  • 50% of companies are investing in Social Media monitoring technology.


Twitter Storm

That last statistic is part of a broader trend where everyone is gagging for smart, reliable data. Last week we talked about Pagelever as a new Facebook analytics tool. This week Twitter announced it is open-sourcing a new analytics software called Storm, based on BackType, which they acquired last month.

Creative Of The Week – Anatole de la Bastie

With a name like that you can't be an accountant; you have to do something creative. Under the moniker Anatroy he's created a series of witty posters called Twistory, where each poster features a fictitious Tweet, as if it was written all those years ago. From Jeanne D'Arc to Leonardo da Vinci to Neil Armstrong.


Tweets limit per day

This Monday, as our city was hit by the awful London Riots, we made an unexpected discovery. Twitter limits the amount you can Tweet.

I was feverishly sending updates about events from my iPhone Twitter app, sharing information on how the riots spread, when up popped the message: Error: Daily Update Limit Reached.

I was shocked. I had never hit this kind of limit before. The only thing I could do was send Direct Messages.

I switched to Hootuite for iPhone. With it, I could still not Retweet. But I could send normal updates.

Then after a bout 30 minutes or so, I could proceed as normal. So what’s going on? It turns out Twitter introduced some limits recently.

  • Direct Messages: 250 per day.
  • Updates: 1,000 per day. The daily update limit is further broken down into smaller limits for semi-hourly intervals. Retweets are counted as updates.
  • That might mean that you can send about 82 messages every two hours!

    I wonder what a prolific Twitter user like journalist acarvin makes of this?

    We're expensive, but worth it

    Think Social Media is free? Think again. This infographic shows the real cost of a Social Media campaign. $210,000 ain't little, but the study shows that it's worth it. Two examples:

  • A MacDonalds Facebook fan will spend twice as much as a non-Facebook fan.
  • And Facebook Fans are 41% more likely to recommend a product than non-fans.
  • social_media_cost


    Newt and whose army?

    When Newt Gingrich, the controversial US politican, claimed he is the top dog because he has more followers on Twitter than his opponents, people started paying attention. Gawker soon found an ex-staffer who claimed Gingrich paid agencies to set up fake followers.

    We set the RAAK bots to the task and sampled 26,000 or so of his followers, to see what we could find.

    Not all followers are the same

    On that note, Socialflow has produced another piece of fascinating analysis. They compared the New York Times', Fox News', The Economist's and Al Jazeera's Twitter audiences. The result? Al Jazeera has the highest Retweet rate. But The Economist and Fox have a much higher rate of people actually clicking on the links per Tweet.

    Why could this be? Perhaps people like to be seen sharing Al Jazeera and New York Times content, but it's the Economist's audience that REALLY wants to read The Economist.


    What's really going on on your Facebook Page

    As we're getting to understand more about Facebook's Edgerank system – the algorithm that decides what posts to show to what users – the Facebook analytic of choice is shifting away from simply the number of Likes you get. Facebook Insights already gives you good stats on engagement level, but this week a tool called Pagelever has been getting a lot of plaudits.

    We haven't used it yet, but the initial comments on this not-so-critical article appear to be positive. The tool seems to allow you to dig a lot deeper than Insights, quite like Google Analytics. You can for example see who Unliked your Page at what point. Although we have to add that all Pagelever data are based on the Facebook Insights API, so they're not generating any new data, 'just' doing more with it.

    Foursquare opens up Business Pages

    This week Foursquare opened up their Business Pages to anyone. Which means that as a venue you can now communicate more easily with your audience. And, possibly more interesting, as a brand you can create location-based content (i.e. tips, check-ins,…) and send those to your followers. Previously you had to be manually approved by Foursquare for a Business Page.


    Airbnb, the sequel

    Even though Robert Scoble slapped the company round the head a bit on Google+ for not being prepared for the crisis they experienced last week, Airbnb has taken swift action to right a few wrongs. One: this week they announced a $50,000 guarantee for hosts.

    More importantly from a social point of view, they also rolled out no less than 3 tools that make it easier to verify the identity of their potential tenants, including Twitter account verification and a Photobooth. Quite impressive.

    How to become a YouTube star

    In their attempt to help the YouTube community create more high-quality content, the service has launched The Creator Playbook. It's a document (a document! with pages!! 70 of them!!!) with tips on creation, optimisation and distribution with the aim to cut down the amount of cute kitten videos by 35% by the end of 2011. There's only one made-up fact in that last sentence.

    Also important, Klout is now including YouTube activity as a parameter to measure your social media influence.


    When in Ibiza, check-in

    Brilliant idea from this hotel in Ibiza: they've created an RFID-enabled wristband that is linked to a person's Facebook profile. So rather than carry a mobile phone around, guests can check-in, tag photos, Like and generally make their Facebook friends jealous at RFID points set up around the resort.


    The most Liked chocolate in the world

    There was an interesting article in Brand Republic this week about the Social Media success of Skittles. About two years ago, when the confectionary brand decided to put Social Media at the core of what they do, they took a big risk. And got some stick for it. But it's been paying off and has resulted in a Facebook with almost 19 million Fans.

    How? Over the years, they've created a fun, off-the-wall Facebook presence. Both with constant bits of small content as well as big campaign-style creative Impact Projects (like the very funny Blue Skittles character that gets mentioned in the article), which build on that Social Media equity. 


    Creative Of The Week – James Bridle

    There are people who use maps as a tool to get them from A to B. There are people who look at maps and start dreaming of far-away destinations. And there's James Bridle, who sees them as a conceptual opportunity. With his Rorschmap project he reframes the map and creates what he calls 'cartographic navelgazing'.

    The theory is here; but to glare in awe at some beautiful patterns, just go here.


    newt gingrich fake twitter followers

    In the past week Gawker made the startling claim that the controversial conservative politician Newt Gingrich has 93% fake followers on Twitter. Backstory: Gingrich himself had complained why so little attention had been given to the fact that he has such a large Twitter audience:

    “I have six times as many Twitter followers as all the other (Conservative) candidates combined, but it didn’t count because if it counted I’d still be a candidate; since I can’t be a candidate that can’t count.”

    Gingrich has a whopping 1,325,842 followers. Twitter is increasingly being regarded as a proxy indicator of popularity and influence.

    But, said Gawker, an ex-staffer told them that:

    “Newt employs a variety of agencies whose sole purpose is to procure Twitter followers for people who are shallow/insecure/unpopular enough to pay for them.”

    Later Gawker followed that up with some research. They had found a research firm PeekYou that professes to have scrubbed all of Newt’s followers. They claim to use sophisticated tecniques to check names against actual people on the web. And only 8% were deemed to be ‘real’ people.

    We let our own RAAK bots loose to see what we could find out about Newt’s followers. In the space of a day, they gathered a random sample of some 26,616 followers. And here is what we got.

  • 8,765 or 32% had never Tweeted.
  • An amazing 20,287 or 76% had no bio.
  • 2,110 or 8% had no followers.
  • Only 48 accounts only followed Newt and nobody else.
  • We also had a look at the dates the accounts were created, and these were evenly distributed. There were no flurries of activity.

    None of these numbers seem to be suggesting anything as dramatic as PeekYou’s assertion of 92% fake accounts.

    Meanwhile, The Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research at Indiana University’s School of Informatics and Computing has analyzed a random sample of 5,000 of Gingrich’s followers. Their data is strikingly similar to ours. Fully a third had never posted to Twitter and 76% had added no biographical information to their profile.

    So what does our and the center’s data mean?

    It’s a widely known fact that Twitter is full of lurkers. People that sign up only to follow celebrities but that never make their presence felt. Telling these people apart from fake accounts can be a daunting task. For example, this and this account following Newt could be by lurkers. They are following a coherent list of accounts, which would sit pretty well with the idea that this is a person that just wants to consume content.

    And it gets more complicated. Even accounts that Tweet can be non human. We ourselves have created bots that Tweet and that have attracted large follower counts; even from what we can tell are real people (as opposed to other bots). One of our bots even had a Klout score of over 50!

    In another recent analysis, we tracked these weird accounts that tweeted political Google News results. They had avatars, bios and were starting to pick up followers. They turned out to be bots, and we presumed that they were being used as sock puppets. Heaven knows for what purpose. Shortly after we started tracking them, they must have been found out and Twitter deleted them.

    So none of the above stats of ours conclusively point to whether an account is fake or not. The absence of a bio or Tweets only increase the likelihood.

    A better way to guess is to compare the preponderance of these suspicious accounts amongst the Twitter population as a whole with those of Newt. PeekYou did exactly that:

    Whereas Gingrich rates 8% real followers, Sarah Palin is closest with a 20% ratio of real followers, by the firm’s analysis. Mitt Romney has 26%, Michele Bachmann 28%, and Tim Pawlenty 32%. In other words, Gingrich has by far a higher proportion of fake accounts following him than any of his competitors.

    Now that IS interesting. But how does one explain the large discrepancy between PeekYou’s findings and ours and The Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research’s? Gawker again:

    “Keep in mind that the PeekYou weeded out business and brand accounts as not real people, which CCNS didn’t and would change the ratios.”

    RAAK is not convinced I have to say.

    So what CAN you take away from this article!? Newt has a stranger than most Twitter follower composition. And spotting fake followers en masse is about as easy as spotting a fake orgasm. You can play around with the data yourself here (Google Docs).

    Twitter 4 times more powerful than you think it is

    A new study is proving what we suspected for a long time. Traditional tools like Google Analytics no longer show an accurate picture of what traffic is driven to a site by who. And the one media property that gets done in is Twitter. Most Twitter users don't access it via, but rather do so via a plethora of mobile clients.

    Stats from Comscore (PDF) this week just served to underline this fact. is only the 37th biggest website. So how much traffic from Twitter goes unattributed? As much as 75%.

    American Express loves your social graph

    None other than credit card company American Express is jumping into the Social Deals space. They're creating a social deals platform called Link, Like, Love, which will offer their cardholders deals and discounts based on their Facebook social graph. And it's not just that: they will also give businesses a platform to create deals, directly competing with the likes of Foursquare and Groupon.

    "This phenomenon of daily deals and location-based offers–it's a great opportunity to reach AmEx customers, but there are [many] merchants who are overwhelmed by all the digital options that have been created over the past few years"

    Big question: will people be willing to open up their personal content to their credit card company, in return for deals?


    Mobile: marketers don't get it

    Despite attempts from the likes of Citroën with their Hide & Seek Game, Rei Inamoto, AKQA's chief creative officer, states in this post that the ad industry doesn't get mobile. He claims that the creativity in the mobile space is coming from start-ups and not from the advertising/communications industry.

    "Often, what we are selling to our clients may be closer to software than to stories. But clients are not yet used to buying software ideas."

    In other words: why didn't Kodak set aside time and resources to invent something like Instagram. We whole-heartedly agree, but it's a balancing act for brands. Because if Kodak would have invented Instagram, would it have been as popular?

    Toronto is burning

    So you're on a holiday in a new city, you want to know where stuff is happening, but your Lonely Planet is – like- a year old. The city of Toronto has just released a real-time heat map called Toronto Trending based on Tweets and Foursquare check-ins.

    We've experimented with a similar idea before, but this is a very neat implementation.


    Whose Twitter account is it anyway

    This week the BBC lost 60,000 Twitter users in a snap when a well-known correspondent walked out with their account @BBCLauraK and changed it to @ITVLauraK. Our thoughts? That is how it ought to be.

    If the BBC had a clause in their contacts that said its employees' accounts – the ones that explicitly mention they are BBC-related – belong to the corporation, employees would be reticent to Tweet on behalf of their employers. And if the only reason a person is followed is because they worked at the BBC, then moving elsewhere should see an account lose followers anyway.

    Tasty numbers

    Every week we see new numbers that make our eyes water. So without further ado, here are this week's beauties.

    2.1 billion mobile devices will have HTML5 browsers by 2016, only 109 million had in 2010. Reminder: there are only 7 billion people on this planet. Android phones and Facebook are playing no small part in the phenomenon.

    Here in the UK Google’s Smartphone audience grew by 634% since May 2010. Symbian (Nokia) and Windows both showed a small decline though.

    And here's one for all the Apple fanboys. Apple Aps are selling 9 times faster than MacDonalds burgers, hitting the 15 Billion mark in a snap. Yum!


    Anti-social behaviour

    "They smashed a hole through a locked closet door, and found the passport, cash, credit card and grandmother’s jewelry I had hidden inside. They took my camera, my iPod, an old laptop, and my external backup drive filled with photos, journals… my entire life. They found my birth certificate and social security card, which I believe they photocopied – using the printer/copier I kindly left out for my guests’ use."

    Finally, the case that the Airbnb nay-sayers said would happen. A month ago a user of the house sharing service posted a gut wrenching blog post about her experience. There were of course a few important signals that she missed. The guest had misspelled his own 'name' and he had no Facebook profile. In this brave new world we need to learn the new signals of what constitutes trust worthiness.

    Also read what Airbnb is doing to help fix the mess.

    Apply with LinkedIn

    Neat little feature from LinkedIn this week. In their bid to re-think the way online job applications work, they've released an 'Apply with LinkedIn' button. When companies embed it on their site, applicants simply apply with their LinkedIn profile.

    Nice detail: it allows you to tweak your profile before submitting.


    Creative Of The Week – Karl Marc

    At first we didn't realize this was part of Ballentine's Human API campaign (really?), but nevertheless we thought Karl Marc deserved a mention for his interactive tattoo piece. Marc created a tattoo with a flower that included a QR code, which, when triggered on your iPhone for instance, launched an animated version of that flower.

    Oh – and the whole tattoo session was streamed live on Facebook. 


    Tech Insight The Week – What is OAuth?

    The gateway to most Social Network API's is OAuth. Often cursed, seldom appreciated, OAuth actually provides a very touch piece of functionality in a very simple and effective way. So, what is OAuth, exactly? This week's tech post investigates.