November 10, 2009
Making Sense of Facebook and Twitter

Making Sense of Facebook and Twitter

About 50 people attended tonight's meeting. Jeff Finkelstein facilitated and Jeremy Kohler recorded the minutes.

Microstaff (www.microstaff.com) provides refreshments, Copy Diva (www.copydiva.com) provides the audio-visual equipment, NCAR (www.ncar.ucar.edu) provides the facility, and ONEWARE (www.oneware.com) sponsors these minutes.


Welcome our new RMIUG board member: Dave Taylor.

Crispin Porter & Bogusky is hiring a senior QA lead.

Dave's also happy to announce the introduction of the Ask Dave Taylor iPhone app. 2500 tech support answers for $0.99, all ready for your Apple iPhone. Learn more: http://AskDaveTaylor.com/app

You might say 2009 was the year of Facebook and Twitter. It's not justthat both sites saw incredible growth (Twitter: 4.5 million active visitors at the end of 2008 to 24,000,000 active users today; Facebook: 140 million active users at the end of 2008 to 300 million today), Facebook, and especially Twitter, became impactful media helping to report stories, became massive sounding boards, and promoted freedom. Consider how these services have influenced culture around the world:

* In January, US Airways Flight 1549 experienced multiple bird strikes and had to be ditched in the Hudson River. Janis Krums, a passenger on one of the ferries that rushed to help, took a picture of the downed plane as passengers were still evacuating and sent it to Twitpic before any other media arrived at the scene.

* In June, when reports came out about Michael Jackson's cardiac arrest and ensuing death, tweets about the pop icon comprised 30 percent of total volume on Twitter. Shortly thereafter, his Facebook fan page rose from a mere 80,000 prior to his passing to over 6.7 million afterwards.

* Also in June, following allegations of fraud in the Iranian presidential election, protesters used Twitter as a rallying tool and as a method of communication with the outside world after the government blocked several other modes of communication.

While the services have been around for several years (2006 for Twitter and 2004 for Facebook), it is only recently that they are now part of the collective media zeitgeist. It seems like every media outlet, celebrity, and even the most technophobic Internet user (read: parents) have Facebook and/or Twitter pages. Just like the growth of the Internet itself 10-15 years ago, the penetration of these social media outlets is staggering.

But what does all of this mean? How does Twitter differ from Facebook? If more people are using these services to communicate, does it mean other media arebeing used less? When should you use Twitter over Facebook?

Our Speakers:
DAVE TAYLOR (taylor@intuitive.com): Dave has been involved with the online world since 1980 and has helped shape the modern Internet. His career has included working as a research scientist at HP's R&D Labs, contributing code to Berkeley Unix 4.4, building four startups, publishing twenty business and technical book, and writing thousands of articles. He current runs four blogs, including AskDaveTaylor.com focused on tech support, the film blog DaveOnFilm.com and The Business Blog @ Intuitive.com and also writes for the Boulder Daily Camera, Boulder Weekly and Linux Journal. Dave has a Bachelors in Computer Science from UCSD, a Masters in Education from Purdue and an MBA from the University of Baltimore. He's @DaveTaylor and @FilmBuzz on Twitter.

ERIC ELKINS (eric@widefoc.us, @datingdad, WideFoc.us on FB): CEO of WideFoc.us Corp., brings more than a decade of writing, marketing, ePR, social media and educational expertise to his clients. A former teacher, he spent six years as youth content editor at The Denver Post/Denver Newspaper Agency. Elkins served as co-founder and publisher of Bias Media, a multiplatform media engine and a model for reaching the elusive 21-34 market. This innovative concept combined a print magazine, a website, events, mobile messaging and email marketing to build an integrated online/real world community. Elkins also served as New Media Practices Manager at Metzger Associates, a PR and venture strategies firm, and as VP of Marketing at Mocapay, a mobile commerce company. In 2007, Elkins founded WideFoc.us, a social media strategy agency serving small businesses, consumer brands, agencies, and global corporations. His young adult novel, "Ray, reflected"(http://rayreflected.com), comes out in mid-November, and he's also the Dating Dad.

Twitter: www.twitter.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com
Dave Taylor's Contact Page: www.davetayloronline.com
Eric Elkins' Widefoc.us: www.widefoc.us


What the Heck Is Twitter, and Why Would I Care About It?

I think less than half of us are on Twitter, and relatively few send out messages every day. Some are not on it because they don't have time or they think it's completely pointless. Twitter was originally called FriendStalker.

On Facebook, to me the most interesting thing is status updates. Twitter is basically just those status updates. They call it microblogging. It's a really simple concept, started in 2006, and took off at the South By Southwest conference. This sort of thing allows you to see what people are saying about presentations they're attending at conferences. You could twitter questions to the presenter, but sometimes people get rude. On the one hand, it's very simple--on the other, it really extends your reach.

Twitter has taken off in a way like nothing else has on the Internet. It's only three years old. In one year it went from a half million to five million users. Now it's way over that. Because it's simple: It answers the question, What are you doing? That's it. You get 140 characters. Every mobile device can do it. It lets people keep track of each other. Lets people meet spontaneously. I tweet I'm heading to a cafe and a local follower says, Can I meet you there?

Anatomy of a Tweet
Your tweet shows you what app you're using to tweet and the name of the sender as its one-word account. URL shortening services like bit.ly have the consequence of you not knowing where you're going when you click on a link in a tweet. So you can end up at a porn site. Tweet also includes an icon, like a corporate logo. Also a time stamp.

Nothing ever goes away: Every tweet is saved by twitter (there are ways to send private messages that aren't archived). Myspace and Facebook also keep everything. Even old versions of web sites are saved. Everything you do is a historical record. Consider a potential employer digging into your old tweets--might be unethical, but they could do it.

Companies like Starbucks monitor comments and respond to complaints they see on Twitter.

Many sites are making add-on services.

Four types of tweets: Message, @reply, retweets (people rebroadcasting your message, makes it seem more important), and private messages.

Message: These are public and they can show up on Google. Everyone, not just your followers, can read them. Followers don't necessarily follow each other, unlike Facebook, where both parties have to approve a link. That's a big difference between twitter and other networks: the relationships aren't necessarily two-way. Do you want just anyone knowing what you're up to?

@reply: You can "@" anyone on Twitter. @replies are public, like messages.

Retweet: You can "RT" any message. It puts someone's message in your tweet box, then you can add commentary in brackets. An RT acts like an endorsement. RT's are interesting because my followers see the RT. It can then be RT'd again to a different group of followers by someone else, which allows it to go really viral. This lets my content multiply into broader networks. Try retweeting something instead of just replying to the one person that you agree with them. RTing is a nice way to be part of viral stuff.

Private message: "DM" or "D" tweets are like instant messaging, and are very useful. Good for arranging meetings, for keeping your work team informed, etc. D or DM is private, @ is public.

I can send an @reply to someone who doesn't follow me. With a DM, I can only communicate in private with a real person who follows me. But if I don't follow him, he can't reply with a DM.

Twitter has a dual identity: Much of Twitter is text-message based, which helped determine the 140 character limit.

The technical side is simple. So with Twitter, you spend more time wondering how to communicate in a way that works for human beings.

A typical account includes a name, location, stats, and the number of people you're following. Starbucks has a half million followers, but only follows 85,000. Remember following is not symmetrical.

You can now put your followers into groups (lists), which other people might find useful. Some people think it should be 1 to 1. But if you're following too many people, you're going to get overloaded and ignore them.

There are tools that just send out follows to increase your numbers. It can be gamed, so having lots of followers doesn't necessarily mean anything. I only follow the people that are doing something that I find interesting.

It doesn't have to be a big time sink. You can tweet to promote products, while humanizing your business by tweeting about sports or something.

Don't forget to engage. If your customers are tweeting about you, you should be searching for your business name and responding to tweets. Once I twittered that my Comcast connection was out, and in three minutes a Comcast corporate rep tweeted, Hey, can I help? If you're going to have a presence, pay attention.

search.twitter.com has really interesting features. Search for your products, your children, etc. Step zero is to at least know what's going on, even if you don't use Twitter.

Tools: seemic desktop is a typical app. It shows me my accounts and my followers and the public @replies or the private messages. Plus a lot of mobile tools.

How not to get followers: Use the services that get you followers (i.e. you shouldn't use them).

Hash tags: It's nontrivial to keyword things properly. A hash sign before a word becomes a keyword. You can then search on those tags. But not everyone agrees what keywords to use for a particular thing, so you have to search for multiple tags.

Watch how twitter is evolving to serve user needs. Hash tags is one of those evolutions.

Twitter Rules:
Engage people
Be interesting
Listen and respond to customers--viral marketing is powerful (and dangerous to you if you ignore customers)
Share (some of) your personal life
Have fun! (make it human)


Getting Practical with Facebook

Build affinity in conversations. It's all about content and conversation. Social networks have two wonderful tentpoles you can use in variety of ways: If you're mastering content and conversation, it doesn't matter what platform you're using. (1) Give content that's relevant and sharable; (2) create conversations. You lose if you use social networks as a content piece but not a conversation piece.

Facebook home page is getting more interesting, and getting Twitter-esque. It includes the "News feed" and the "Live feed."

News feed is Facebook's decision about what they think you'll find interesting, based on how you interact with Facebook. The news feed is basically useless because most of the time they get it wrong. A lot of people don't like it.

Live feed is more interesting: you get updates from friends and fan pages, shared links, photos, videos, and friending notifications. You can hide updates from people who you're not so interested in. It shows what everyone is up to. I can comment on things, I can mark that I like it, and I can share it. That's the key: I can share stuff I get and extend its reach. TweetsTwitters can show up on live feeds. Stuff on a corporate fan page will show up on all fans' live feeds. You can hide an app without hiding the person, which can bring back some control.

It's important to put in updates when people are most likely to see them (i.e. looking at their live feed). Hiding a person is asymmetrical. Another way to control the live feed is to set some filters (lists). Friends vs. acquaintances, etc. You can set it to just show status updates, just photos, just links (that's pretty interesting).

Every time you do something on your profile or fan page, it shows up on people's feeds.

Events are a little tricky--you have to invite, and then keep updating for it to work.

Friend suggestions: Used to just be a list, now it's weirdly inviting you send people messages.

The Ad: You get one ad on the page. You have to work with Facebook directly to post an ad. It can cost you thousands to purchase an ad. This is because the home page is so popular, and that one ad space is very valuable and very powerful.

Facebook uses your account profile and your friends to figure out what you might be interested in to target the ad. They likely know more about you than Google does (depending on what kind of information you gave them).

With Facebook apps, you have to be careful because you're giving up a lot of privacy. Always be aware of what information you're providing.

The home page is packed with information. And you can become part of that parade.

Most people go straight to their live feed. Don't update your fan page at 2 a.m. because you want it seen in the live feed. People won't be looking at their news feed. Prime time is before work, lunch time, and anytime after 3, plus evening. Be very careful about timing.

Live feed includes personal profile and fan page information. Facebook might shut you down if you make your business page your personal profile. Personal profiles should not be for commercial use. Be careful there: if you want to promote your business on Facebook, set up a fan page for it, not a personal page.

The profile page can do @replies. You can twitter about fan pages and specific people to "call people out," which gets their attention (people you call out get notified). You can add pictures, events, etc. Point is you now have all new ways to make a conversation. So here I posted a picture of an event and shared a link, instead of just posting an event. Calling out friends and sharing links is the sort of thing that makes Facebook more conversational.

You can mark ads irrelevant or interesting, etc, to help out with the targeting.

Your blog can automatically update to your profile page or fan page.

Third-party apps: Music, games, photo sharing, customized app for companies, contests, etc. They provide added functionality. But third parties don't need any sort of license, and they are becoming less popular because they can allow you to get phished or hijacked. So be careful. Better to use applications built by Facebook.

Privacy settings: I can block people from seeing that I exist, or how much they see. I can even choose who can see photos of my daughter, etc. It's getting nicely granular.

Fan pages: This is the commercial side, and it's very powerful. Lots of opportunities to share your content, get it propagated, and engage with your audiences. Every time you update your fan page, it goes out to all your fans. And they can share that content with others. It's much like a profile page.

You have to click "Advertising" at the bottom of the home page to create a fan page. These pages have metrics so you can see your traffic (you can't get that from your profile page). Go in there and play with it and see how it works


Q: How can I expect businesses to see my twitters about them?

Dave: Just use their exact name. Once a day, they should search for their name and find your tweets.

Eric: Once I Twittered that I needed a place to stay in Seattle, and a hotel responded with a good offer. That builds one-on-one relationships.

Dave: And Eric's followers will see that conversation, which is also great for the hotel.

Q: How do I live if I'm spending all of my time on social networks?

Dave: Well, you're selective. Some days I don't even touch Twitter. I don't always read about what everyone is doing. I'll miss stuff. If it's really important, they should email me or call me. You know you can quit your Twitter ap. You have control.

Eric: Create a sustainable plan that works for you. Block out a time to do it--don't do it all day.

Q: Do they let you filter by topic? Can I create lists about work, hobbies, etc.?

Dave: That would require everyone to categorize their updates.

Eric: It's an interesting idea. I have multiple identities on line. Am I a dad? Am I an author? Well, not everybody is going to care about everything you share. Try to keep it interesting.

Dave: Yes, the way it works now, it's fundamentally inefficient.

Q: Who owns the intellectual property on a fan page?

Eric: Facebook owns it. You should create a backup administrator should something happen to you, otherwise it could get lost forever.

Q: I get these follow requests. How do I accept someone as a follower?

Dave: You don't. There's no approval process on Twitter (despite what the user interface might imply). On Facebook, however, you have to approve.

Eric: There is one difference on Facebook's fan pages--your fans don't need to be approved.

Q: Which platforms should I use?

Dave: That depends on your business. Just check out all the different platforms.

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