Why I Love HootSuite

I started experimenting with HootSuite last week, and so far I am loving it.  The best part so far is the ability to track the number of clicks from my Twitter stream.  As shown above, here is the summary of the clicks I had last week from about 10 tweets containing the ow.ly URL shortener.   Since many people are trying to measure metrics from social media activities, using ow.ly to track the clicks from your tweets is a great place to start.
HootSuite Metrics

HootSuite Metrics

While I haven’t tried it out yet, HootSuite has figured out a way to monetize your tweets.  You can embed Google Adsense ads using the ow.ly URL shortener – more information on this feature is availabe from the HootSuite blog.

Other great features of HootSuite include:

  • Managing multiple accounts – you can manage multiple accounts and each account can have multiple administrators (without surrendering the main log-in) – plus, you can also send out the same tweet to multiple accounts at the same time
  • Scheduling – you can pre-schedule tweets to make sure that your content is hitting throughout the day
  • Search – you can use HootSuite’s search engine to track conversations and it works better than Twitter’s built-in search
  • Dashbord – the dashboard provides a great overview of all Twitter activity including sent, @received, direct messages and pending

I almost forgot to share the best news about HootSuite – it’s free!

Check out the HootSuite blog at http://blog.hootsuite.com/ for more features and tips.

Simple Advice for Brands on Twitter

One of my friends runs Becker Surfboards, a surf company based in Hermosa Beach and I was surprised to see that they had a Twitter presence last week.

@BeckerSurf on Twitter

@BeckerSurf on Twitter

However, @beckersurf‘s initial attempts at Twittering are a little weak – so I decided to offer them some free advice.  While thinking about the simple advice I could share with them, I realized that this advice would be appropriate to many small to medium-sized businesses who are starting to feel their way on Twitter – so the advice has turned into a blog post that I decided to share with everyone.

Build followers – For a retail operation in a pretty hot space like surfing and surf apparel, having only 22 followers is not going to get you much traction.  You need to rapidly build up the number of people following your brand to several thousands or you are wasting your time.  Check out how Zappos uses Twitter to engage their customers and provide support.

Here are some ideas to build followers:

  • Use Twitter search to find people who mention surfing in their tweets and follow them
  • Start following surfing celebrities or brands who are on Twitter;  for starters, here are some surfing pros on Twitter while doing a quick search today – @hobgoods, @whoisjob, @joelparko @Mick_Fanning
  • Follow the top 25 to 50 Twitterers in cities where you have store locations – Twitter Grader offers a great way to find the top Twitters by city, like Hermosa Beach or Malibu; chances are that they are either surfers or know some surfers
  • Use one of the Twitter directories, like Twellow, to locate people who mention surfing in their profiles; for example, here is the search phrase for surfing on Twellow
  • Consider using Tweet Later or another service to automatically follow back anyone who follows you and provide them with an automatic follow-up message like – “Thanks for following the @BeckerSurf Twitter feed.  Our goal is share our passion for all things related to surfing while providing Twitter-only specials in our online store.  We look forward to connecting with you…”
  • One idea to help with the initial build-up of followers is to hire a “Twintern” to assist with your Twittering efforts – read more about twinterns in this NYTimes article
  • One final tip – follow people who are following your followers

Engage followers – As you start building up your followers, you need to begin spending time engaging with them by using the @reply or direct message features.  Social media is a two-way street and people thrive on engagement.  The interactions should be honest and personal – and you don’t have to be plugging Becker Surf in every tweet.  Another tip would be to pay attention to your brand by doing periodic searches of your name in Twitter search and make sure you engage anyone who tweets about your brand.

Provide value – So far, most of your tweets have been to plug deals in your online store.  This would be a great once you build your base of followers, but you need to do more.  I know that you’re well-connected in the surf industry and people want to hear the interesting things you have to say.  For example, how about including tweets about:

  • Surf conditions and where to find the best waves
  • Gnarly surf pictures (including links)
  • Great surfing stories or blog posts
  • Surfing competitions (consider live-tweeting an event)
  • Surfing vacation spots
  • Personal surfing adventures
  • Special Twitter-only deals available only from Twitter

The ratio of interesting tweets to pure sales plugs should be around 8 to 1 – and you should strive to tweet about 5 to 10 times per day.

Promote your Twitter presence – it’s great that you have a little Twitter logo on the bottom of your homepage, but it’s pretty well buried from most users.  You could print your Twitter URL on your store receipts, add it to your business cards, have a promotional sign near the checkout registers and have your sales associates start casually mentioning it to shoppers.  Or you could even design a special Becker Surf Twitter sticker to leverage the popularity of your sticker brand.

Track metrics – One good way to track metrics is to use a service like Hoot Suite.  Hoot Suite lets you track the traffic on your twitted links if you use their ow.ly URL shortener so you can get an idea of the popularity and impact you’re making in the Twitter channel.  Another great thing about Hoot Suite is that you can share a Twitter account among several employees to help share the load and you can schedule your tweets.  Scheduled tweets would be good for promoting a daily special and the daily tweets could be scheduled on a periodic basis.  You could also use Twitter analytic services like Twitalyzer or twInfluence to measure changes in the value of your Twitter brand over time.

Good luck Davie and I can’t wait to see you put these ideas into play.

Twitter Analytics – Looking at twInfluence

Tom Humbarger on Twinfluence

Tom Humbarger on twInfluence

twInfluence is another tool that performs Twitter analytics.  According to their website, twInfluence is:

a simple tool using the Twitter API to to measure the combined influence of twitterers and their followers, with a few social network statistics thrown in as bonus.

twInfluence computes a ranking and percentile based on the number of Twitter accounts it has analyzed so far.  As of today, more than 48,000 Twitterers have been analyzed by the service.  Based on these 48,000 Twitter accounts, I rank #2,743 or better than 94% of the accounts.  For fun, I processed the account of my friend @aaronstrout who lives in Twitterland and he is ranked #204.

Guy Hagen (@guyhagen) is the “guy” behind twInfluence and he also blogs at Intel 3.0.  The original blog post where Guy introduced twInfluence last October is available here.

Here is a description of the metrics used by twInfluence:

2nd Order Followers – the second order followers is important as it measures potential audience of a Twitterer.  Reach is calculated by the number of followers plus the number of the followers’ followers.

Velocity – merely averages the number of first- and second-order followers attracted per day since the Twitterer first established their account on twInfluence.

Social Capital – twInfluence uses social capital to measure the influence of each Twitterer’s followers.

Centralizations – is a measure of how much a Twitterer’s influence or reach is invested in a small number of followers.

The information from twInfluence is interesting, but at this time I perfer the interface and results from Twitterlyzer.  Depending on the size of the account, the process can take several minutes to compile all of the information before displaying the results.  If you are an active Twitterer, it is worth checking out the site and adding yourself to their metrics.

Twitter Analytics – Looking at Twitalyzer

I have been thinking about the best ways to analyze Twitter this month.  While doing so, I have run across several websites that attempt to measure and quantify the activity on Twitter for individuals or brands.

One of the analytics programs that I looked at is Twitalyzer.  Twitalyzer claims to “measure your impact and success in social media.” This is a bold claim and Twitalyzer accomplishes part of the claim, and also has some interesting ways of looking at how an individual or brand is viewed in Twitter as noted below in my Twitalyzer analysis:

Tom Humbarger on Twitalyzer

Tom Humbarger on Twitalyzer

Here are short definitions of each measure that Twitalyzer uses in their analysis:

Influence – in Twitalyzer, influence is measured by the number of followers you have, your relative authority measured by the number of times that you are “retweet”, your relative generosity measured by the number of times you “retweet” others, your relative clout measured by the number of times that you are referenced by others and your relative velocity measured by the number of updates published over a 7-day period.

Signal to Noise Ratio – Twitalyzer defines signal as any update that includes references to other people (use of the @username), links to URLs, hashtags, retweets of other people’s tweets.  My signal to noise ratio is astonishingly high because 3/4’s of my tweets generally include a link to an interesting article or blog post that I want to share with others and is a function of how I like to use Twitter.

Generosity – Twitalyzer’s measure of generosity is based on the ratio of retweets you pass along to all updates you publish

Velocity – is simply the rate at which you contribute to Twitter

Clout – Twitalyzer’s definition of clout is simply the number of references to you divided by the total number of possible references

Overall, Twitalyzer provides some great concepts here and interesting ways of looking at Twitter data.  I like the format and presentation too, and for now the service is available for free.  For now, their product is limited by limitations of the Twitter API and there is not any way to automate the process if you want to view trends other than manually running your analysis on a weekly basis.  In any case, Twitalyzer is a good start and definitely worth looking at – but it is not going to meet all of your analytic needs.

For more on the background of Eric Peterson who is developing Twitalyzer, here is an interview of Eric by Rebecca Lieb from last month at the Econsultancy blog.

Let the exploration continue…

What’s On Your iPhone?

Whats On My iPhone (you can take a picture of your iPhone screen by holding home and power buttons)

What's On My iPhone (you can take a picture of your iPhone screen by holding home and power buttons)

There are so many iPhone apps to choose from and it is so easy to add new applications, how do you decide which ones are considered ‘essential’ and need to be on your home screen.  I actually have 5 pages of applications on my iPhone or more than 75 apps, but many have only been used once.

So if you could only have 20 iPhone applications, which ones would you pick?  I spent some time yesterday and today winnowing down my list and re-arranging my homescreen to the applications that I either use daily or consider essential.  To make this exercise more fun, I am tagging a couple of friends who have iPhones so they can share their favorite apps and home screens too.

Derek Showerman, Geoff Brown, Jim Storer and Aaron Strout – what’s on your iPhone?  Feel free to join in, add a link to your list and tag others with this question.

Here’s what’s on my iPhone:

Top Row

  • Camera – you have to have the camera in the top row so you can easily share pictures by email, Flickr or Twitter.
  • Settings – I’m constantly turning the wifi on and off to maximize the battery, so it is essential to have my settings in a key space.
  • Calendar – while I don’t really use the calendar function much yet, I hope to become more digital in keeping track of meetings and family events.
  • App Store – how can you find even more apps to add to your phone without having the Apps Store at your fingertips?

Second Row

  • The Weather Channel – because it’s essential to know what’s going on around you.
  • Maps – I love the idea that my iPhone knows exactly where I am even if I don’t.
  • Citibank – I’m a Citibank customer and this is a great implementation of Citibank’s Internet banking.
  • Wikipanion – because you never know when you will need Wikipedia to settle a bar bet.

Third Row

  • SMS – I’m not a big texter yet, but I do like the idea of being able to quickly reach out to someone with a text message.
  • Yelp – I think this is the best way to find restaurants and other services.
  • Pandora – this is my favorite Internet radio service – and I’m always listening to my Natalie Merchant mix when I spend time alone in the car.
  • TwitterFon – while I don’t Twitter too much on my iPhone, this app is my favorite choice if I have to.

Fourth Row

  • NY Times – I enjoy reading the NY Times when I sit in my daughter’s room at night waiting for her to fall asleep.
  • USA Today – this is a great way to get the USA Today and they also let you easily share the stories on Twitter and by email.
  • MLB.com – it’s baseball season again and this is how I keep track of the Angels and Dodgers (and to see whether the Red Sox are losing).  I haven’t sprung for the paid version yet, but the season is still young.
  • Suduko – this is for my wife (who is a big suduko fan) when she puts our daughter down to bed at night.

Permanent Row – these applications are why you have an iPhone, right?

  • Phone
  • Contacts
  • Safari
  • Mail – and I have 3 mail accounts set-up – my Yahoo and Gmail accounts and my wife’s Yahoo account

Honorable Mention – these apps were close, but didn’t make the cut as they are ones that I could do without if I had to:  Just Light Flashlight, NPR Mobile, Facebook, LinkedIn, Calculator and Bloomberg.

BTW, if you need to move and re-arrange your application icons, you can do so by holding down any application icon for 5 seconds.  This will make the icons jiggle and then you can drag the icon to another screen or delete them.

Tag You’re It – Using Microsoft Tag

Have you seen any of these colorful ‘tags’ on product packaging or marketing literature recently?

tom-humbarger-vcard

My vCard in Microsoft Tag

Microsoft introduced these new tags at the CES 2009 in January and I just ‘discovered’ them last week.   Microsoft Tag is based on a new technology called High Capacity Color Barcodes (HCCBs), which was invented in-house by Microsoft Research and it uses triangle shapes and colors to store data.  This technology is an update to the QR Code 2-D bar codes created by a Japanese company in 1994 where they are the most popular type of 2-D code.

According to the FAQs on the Microsoft Tag (beta) site, Microsoft Tag:

…connects real life with the digital world. Microsoft Tags are small, colorful codes that can be printed, stuck, or displayed just about anywhere. When you snap a Tag with the camera on your internet-enabled phone, additional information or experiences are automatically opened on your phone. There is no fumbling with URLs or texting short codes. Microsoft Tags can make product packages, posters, print-based ads, magazine articles, exhibit signage, billboards, storefronts, business card, or just about anything else, interactive.

The idea is to close the gap between the physical and digital world by making it easier for end users to easily get more information about products and services.

Microsoft Tag Reader is available on most mobile platforms including Windows Mobile, J2ME, iPhone, Blackberry, and Symbian S60 phones (your phone will need a camera and internet connection).  I used the iPhone application and it works as advertised – just launch the application and point the phone camera at the tag.   To get the free reader application, point your phone’s browser to http://gettag.mobi and you can get the iPhone application from the Apple Store.

For now, Microsoft is allowing users to make their own tags by going to http://www.microsoft.com/tag/ and creating an account which is super-easy if you already have a Microsoft Live account.   You can create  tags that include URLs, free text, vCard or even dial a phone number.  There is also a reporting service tied to the tags you create where you can view the number of clicks by day.  After you create the tag, you can render the tag in several different formats so you can copy it to product packaging, post on a website or document.  The interface to create the tags could be more user-friendly and it should also let me create JPG files for my tags instead of just pdf, wmf or xps.

microsottag

Options for Rendering Microsoft Tags

For me, I will definitely add the tags to my next set of business cards.  Companies should also start experimenting with adding the tags to their packaging and product literature.  Obviously, it will take some time for user adoption since end-users need to take the step to install the reader program and companies won’t take a big leap unil more end-users have the Reader application.  Within the next 12 to 18 months, I expect this tagging technology to take off in a big way.