Twinteresting: why can’t we curate tweets?

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Favourite curate tweets

It is no secret that Pinterest is a great way to share discoverable content. The “waterfall stream” format can really help rapid skimming of visual content. Take, for example, the ‘Pinterest for Facebook’,  Friendsheet, or Pinstagram, the Pinterest-style Instagram feed. People are finding ways to curate images from a variety of sources, but what about the ability to do this with items that are primarily textual, or links?

Using favourites as a stopgap

I use Twitter prolifically, but a lot of my usage focuses on finding new information - blog posts and news stories, language resources and videos - and I often ‘favourite’ posts of interest to keep tabs on the links and commentary provided.

A thousand favourites later, and this system is incredibly difficult to manage. I’ve used an interim solution in the form of sending these favourites to Evernote, but it’s not great. I need something that will let me curate these posts - divide them into categories, automatically fill out previews and be presented in an easy way to skim and share. If it can let me keep track of conversations as well, then all the better.

Curating tweets

I suppose what I’m looking for is something that crosses Storify with Pinterest. Let me very quickly ‘pin’ tweets to boards, assign a category and review them later at my leisure.

This is something that Twitter itself needs to do. I know it has a focus on providing simplicity, to ensure that all users have easy access. This doesn’t mean that heavy users should be ignored. We’re talking about improving the favourites system. It’ll be easier for me to a keep a track of others’ Tweets and it should also make it easier for brands to discover content of interest. Twitter lists let me keep a track of other people - why not let me keep track of Tweets? Why can’t I create galleries of interesting thoughts?

Image credit: liveandrock on Flickr

Who are the most engaging world leaders on Twitter?

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With elections in Russia already happened, those in the UK, France and the US to come there is much debate about how social media is now being used in both the electoral process, and more broadly as part of engagement between our world leaders and others on social media. Barack Obama has traditionally been held up as an example of using social media for campaigning and for engaging with people through Twitter, Facebook and other channels. But he is not the only world leader to use social media.

Whilst rankings, numbers and leagues tables only tell part of the story, it is a useful way to begin exploring and understanding how these leaders are using Twitter and which are most engaging.

World Leaders on Twitter

This ranking looks at known (and where possible verified) accounts of world leaders on Twitter. It uses PeerIndex to measure their influence and to rank them. The result for top spot is not surprising (Barack Obama), second place goes to UK Prime Minister David Cameron, and then comes the President of Colombia in third (Álvaro Uribe) and Queen Rania of Jordan on fourth. The list continues to include leaders from Venezuela, Russia, Turkey and others.

The more successful world leaders on Twitter are not necessarily those who are responding to most people, or answering most questions. In fact most of the top five are not doing this on a regular or ongoing basis (probably either because the volume the get is unrealistic, or because it is not appropriate for them to engage in most discussions). What they have got right, however, is knowing their audience and pitching their content right. There is nothing worse than following somebody on Twitter who is either boring (for example constantly pushing out press releases) or who talks about such a wide variety of things it is difficult to know if you are interested or not. These world leaders clearly have strategies for how they are using social media and a plan to engage people around content and discussions of interest to them.

This is something we can all learn from, either for our personal or business accounts. Know your audience, work out what they are interested in (and what they are not interested in) and then engage and share with them on this.

The social media landscape in 2012 - infographic

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2012 social media landscapeLast year I wrote about the social media landscape infographic, highlighting the placement of Facebook and Google as all-encompassing, central networks. Fred Cavazza has published his 2012 version, and this year’s edition has quite a bit to take in - (click the thumbnail to see the full size image).

The big three

Facebook remains the go-to network, and the arrival of OpenGraph and Timeline mean that other networks (such as Spotify) or brands, can really integrate with a user’s experience through Facebook apps.

Twitter, while it may not offer options for “playing” or “buying”, does deserve its place as a central network, with it being a significant driver of news, links and information from other networks.

The arrival of Google+ since last year’s infographic is the most obvious change - and while it’s still early days for Google’s take on social, the implications for social search mean that we’re likely to see much more of it in 2012.

Almost as many devices as networks

One addition to this year’s “landscape” is the broad range of devices that we can use to access the social web. There tends to be a strong temptation to declare each new year as “the year of mobile” or “the year of social TV”. With smartphone ownership in the UK exceeding 50% of market share, the need to make content accessible and optimised for platforms other than lap and desktops is key.

What does this landscape mean for brands?

Even though this infographic is a summary of the range of social networks out there, it really goes to show the need to have a clear social media strategy.

  • Think about how to maintain consistent branding and tone-of-voice across your chosen networks.
  • Really think about user-experience, especially for bespoke websites, and consider all the devices that users may connect with.
  • Stay abreast of the constantly shifting landscape! This time last year Pinterest was a relatively unknown platform, today it is the new social media darling. It will be interesting to see how it fares in 2013!

Research claims that 25% of tweets are not worth reading. So what?

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English: Microphone

Image via Wikipedia

According to research from a team at Carnegie Mellon University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Georgia Institute of Technology, we think that 25% of tweets are not worth reading. The study found that, when asked to rate tweets by people they follow, only 36% of tweets were marked favourably, 25% were marked less favourably and the balance (39%) received no strong feeling either way. Press coverage of this study has invariably interpreted this to mean that up to a quarter of what we say on Twitter is a waste of time (see the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph coverage of the research).

The research itself asked users to self-nominate themselves to take part and, in exchange for having their own tweets rated, we asked to rate samples of tweets from people they follow. As with much academic research, this does take them out of their normal context when using Twitter but the results are interesting and informative. Maybe not for the interpretation that is taken by some of those reporting on it, but for what it tells us about how we use Twitter. Or perhaps how it reinforces what we should already know.

People are not interested in everything that people say on Twitter. They are not even interested in everything that the people they choose to follow say. There should be nothing surprising or controversial about this. It is fairly normal in all our social interactions that we are more interested in some things and less interested in others. I’m mainly surprised that we are uninterested in only 25% of things that people we follow say on Twitter.

Twitter is a classic social network. People who use it by following people (rather than by following hashtags or search strings) make a choice about who to follow based on who they are, what they say in their biography and perhaps some of their tweets at the time that we choose to follow them. I am unlikely to share everything in common with them - I may be interested in their tweets about BBC Question Time on a Thursday, for example, but less interested in their Tweets about the Super Bowl. I am unlikely to find you interesting all the time. And that’s nothing personal. And nothing unusual.

So as a reader I am unlikely to find everything that anybody says on Twitter interesting - I mentally filter out what I want to read and what I don’t want to read. If I really don’t want to read things on a certain topic, I can always filter it out with Tweetdeck or the like.

Just as readers are not necessarily interested in reading everything, those who write tweets are not necessarily writing them to be read. There is a clear disconnect between the person writing the tweets and the people reading them. The writer is not (in most cases) thinking about who will be reading it and why. They are just saying something. Saying it because they want to. That in itself is motivation and on the rare occasion that a tweet will be retweeted or responded to they will get further gratification.

So we are not interested in everything even our closest friends say (probably true in real life and on Twitter). And people are often writing on Twitter for the act of writing something and not necessrily composing it for specific audience or a specific reaction. Given that most people follow a collection of people with many different interests, some of whom they know and some of whom they don’t, it surprises me that only 1 in 4 tweets that we see are not of interest to us. This study certainly doesn’t show that those Tweets are a waste of time.

Instagram and the growing power of photography in social media

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Into the valley of Death

Into the valley of Death

The Crimean War of the 1850s was a revolution in communication. For the first time reports from the battlefield were returned in what felt like near-real-time thanks to the electric telegraph transmitting messages in just hours rather than them having to be sent by horse across Europe. Many people complained about the impact of this real-time news, and the harm that it did reporting on the events tragedies of the war as they happened.

Perhaps more contentious, however, than this written word reporting was the use, for the first time, of war photography with photographs from Roger Fenton showing the real detail of what was happening. Whereas once newspapers had to rely on words, etchings and drawings to report what was happening, they could now show actual photos of war, of people and of suffering. Photos proved to be more powerful than even the real-time written word back in the 1850s.

If 2011 was the year Twitter and citizen journalism came of age, 2012 is set to be the year that social photography comes of age. And it could be even more powerful.

Whilst we have been used to Facebook focusing on photography for some time, that platform is more often about sharing photos with a (relatively) close group of friends. Family events, babies, parties, special holidays. These kind of events are very personal and reflect the nature of Facebook - where you (broadly speaking) network with people that you know or that you have chosen to share personal connections with. The growth of photography in more public social networks and online communities is more nascent, but is one of the most interesting and powerful areas where social is developing.

Photography is different. It allows you to share a moment and allows you to give people a real insider view of what you are doing or what is happening. It also travels across linguistic boundaries with ease. For individuals, photography is a simple way of sharing what you are doing, capturing the essence of your life at a particular moment and sharing that with others. It often has more social currency than the written word (especially than the written Tweet) - imagine trying to describe what is happening in any photograph in a single tweet and you will see it conveys so much more ‘information-per-instance’. It can also be appreciated on a number of different levels - the content of the photograph, the moment it is capturing, the framing, the use of colour - increasing its value and shareability to different people and different communities.

Brands and celebrities can also benefit from photographs. There is still a huge amount of social currency in going ‘behind the scenes’ - allowing people to see things that they cannot normally see. Because of the high rate of ‘information-per-instance’, a photograph can often give people much more than endless status updates or Tweets. For celebrities, it is a way of letting people into your lives (and controlling this) - imagine the power of you sharing your own holiday photos or photos of your weekend. People will consume this content avidly as it provides what feels like real access to their lives (just look at Justin Bieber or Barack Obama on Instagram). Brands can also benefit from using photographs in the same way to show behind the scenes and to control the access people get into events, decisions and the brand itself from Starbucks sharing photos from stores worldwide, to Tiffany & Co showing people what happens behind the scenes to their jewellery and diamonds.

Photography offers real power to individuals, celebrities and brands to capture and share much more information that can easily be shared in a written Tweet. It allows you a window into what they are doing and seeing right now and can be shared easily between communities and across borders. 2011 saw the rise of camera phones and more importantly of social photo sharing apps - notably Instagram - which lower the barriers to social photography. As these continue to rise in popularity and usage in 2012, we should expect to see more photography shared by more people.

Whereas 2011 saw people getting used to messages from Twitter being used in traditional media (from newspapers and TV reports) we should expect 2012 to be the year of social photography. Bringing insights into events around the world through photographs and showing, as Roger Fenton did in the Crimean war, the power of photography alongside the written word.