Thursday, September 30, 2010

Calling "BS" on Twitter Study

I'm seeing many people tweeting and trembling over yesterday's Mashable headline story, "Most Tweets Produce Zero Replies or Retweets." Many are reading this as "Tweets Are Ineffective Means of Communication" (one exception: Tom Guarriello). Okay, first the data, then why I am seeing the silver lining.
  • 71% of all tweets produce no reaction "in the form of replies or retweets"
  • 23% of all tweets solicit replies
  • only 6% of all tweets produce a retweet
  • 96.9% of replies and 92.4% of retweets happen within the first-hour
The first dangerous assumption here is that 100% of tweets were intended to inspire a reply or retweet. Many (maybe the majority) of my tweets are intended to inspire a click through to a link (such as, perhaps, the one you followed to this blog post). This study did not include click-throughs, lumping them in as "no reaction."

The study also looked at "All Tweets." While this sounds like a fair basis to pin their analysis on, we are all aware of certain companies and marketers who don't quite "get" twitter, and whose twitter stream is nothing but "Buy our Products" repeated every hour. These thousands (millions?) of tweets are included in the study sample. Is anybody other than the hucksters surprised that these tweets get no retweets or replies?

While it may not have been quite so democratic an approach, I would really expect that if the study were of "top tweeters" the number of replies and retweets would be far higher. The inclusion of twitter spam in the study skewed the data set to produce these results: Garbage in, garbage out.

The creators of the study, Sysomos, a "maker of social media analysis tools," seem distressed that retweets are so low (6%). Frankly, while it's really nice to when somebody is inspired to retweet something I've posted, I'm thrilled that 94% of what I see in the stream of tweets from my friends is original content. If somebody I follow does nothing but repost other people's content, why would I follow them?

Of course, Sysomos has a different point-of-view. They're selling their services: to "Identify and engage with key influencers to build relationships and buzz." In other words, they sell their clients retweets. My point-of-view is different: I'm only a lowly user of twitter.

And then there's the "shocking" news that most activity on a tweet happens within the first hour. Of course it does! Did anybody really think that a tweet had a shelf-life any longer than that? It's a conversation, and it's constantly moving on. Jump in when you can, and don't worry about catching up on what happened yesterday.

That Sysomos and others who think of twitter as nothing but an advertising tool are dismayed by the results of the survey does not surprise me. But Mashable should know better. They begin the article on the survey by saying, "[It] suggests that an overwhelming majority of our tweets fall on deaf ears," and concludes with, "Perhaps our tweets really are just pointless babble  after all."

Think about all the chit-chat and small-talk you put up with during an average day. Pleasantries exchanged with co-workers, neighbors, the clerk at the grocery store, etc.. If 29% of that led to a measurable reaction (your being quoted, or a getting a memorable reply), you've had quite a productive day. Perhaps Mashable is just pointless babble?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Social Media Training for Voters

Here's an interesting item (well, to those of us obsessed with social media). On the Jerry Brown for CA Governor YouTube channel, along with posting various interviews, campaign ads, biographical bits, and so on, the campaign has now posted a "Social Media Webisode" -- a short training video on how Jerry's supporters can help get the word out. The first webisode is on promoting the Brown campaign via Facebook:

Now, whether or not you're a Jerry Brown fan (I am) or support his campaign for Governor of California this year (I do), you have to admit that this is a brilliant strategy. Faced with a challenger who has so far spent over $119 million of her personal fortune, making hers the most expensive campaign for statewide office ever anywhere, Brown has not only made good use of social media to get his message out, he is harnessing the full power of social media by turning supporters into advocates.

Too many of the social media campaigns that I see, whether political or for products or whatever, treat facebook, twitter, etc., as one-way broadcast mediums. They neither engage the audience in dialogue nor tap into the extended networks of each of their followers. Brown 2010 has now done both.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It Ain't Over Till It's Over

With yesterday's dramatic ending to the 2010 primary election season, starring anti-masturbation activist Christine O'Donnell winning the Delaware GOP Senate nomination, and racist-sexist email comedian Carl Paladino winning the New York GOP Gubernatorial nomination, each over the "official" Republican party candidates for those offices, today's headlines are mostly of the Tea Party Victories that are expected to sweep US politics into a new era of populist know-nothing-ism come November.

As much as I fear some of these far-right xenophobic dilettantes actually being elected, I think the story line of this being a warning of what's to come in 2012's presidential race is a bit overblown.

Here's what the pundits are going off of:
  • The president's party, historically, "always" looses seats in the first mid-term election.
  • The majority party, historically, "always" looses seats when the economy is down.
  • Trust in Washington is at "historic lows" (they say this, but I haven't actually seen polls going back very far to demonstrate just how historic these lows are).
  • Turn-out in Republican primaries this year has been higher than in Democratic ones.
But let's look at things in the proper perspective.
  • Despite the handful of high profile nut-cases winning Tea/Republican Party nominations this season, over 95% of Congressional incumbents seeking reelection won their primaries.
  • Of course Republican primaries had higher turn-outs: they were the ones being contested by the Tea Party wing-nuts. Most of the Democrats had little serious competition to draw out voters.
And here's the big kicker of why 2010 does not guarantee a Tea Party Victory in 2012:
  • They're winning this year by bringing out lots of first-time voters, and if there's one more "historically, always" we can add to our list, it's that first-time voters are typically one-time voters.
Yes, the Republicans will pick up several seats in Congress seven weeks from now, perhaps even capture a slim majority of one of the houses. And, yes, there will likely be some fresh new tea-stained faces among them. And, yes, they will cause plenty of trouble for the president. And, just as certainly, they will fail to completely destroy Washington.

While they will certainly have some successes, they will fail to eliminate the IRS, Social Security, and the Department of Education. They will not end the debate over gay marriage, put a stop to legal abortion, and effect the deportation of every Muslim and Latino. And when they fail to achieve all their goals (remember, it's all or nothing for these guys), their followers will turn on them and crawl back under the rocks where they've been hiding all along.

The Tea Party Movement may be big news today, but most polls show that they only represent about 19% of the electorate. If they're the only ones who show up on election day, they can win. But they cannot put together enough of a majority to govern. And I predict that these political neophytes will not have the stamina or the momentum to put Sarah Palin (or similar) in the White House in 2012.

At least, this is what I keep telling myself in order to get to sleep at night.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Why the Wrong Person Always Gets the Job

I have many good, smart, capable friends right now who are looking for work, and finding nothing. Other friends who, like myself, are self-employed, are having trouble lining up new clients and customers and we're finding our businesses faltering. And now I know who to blame: Stupid People.

Over the long weekend I read an article that introduced me to the "Dunning-Kruger Effect," a cognitive bias in which an ignorant person makes poor decisions and reaches erroneous conclusions, but their own incompetence prevents them from realizing how wrong they are. Basically, "ignorance begets confidence."

The opposite is also true: Those who are truly skilled or knowledgeable in any given area, knowing enough to know that they can't know everything, will tend to be more modest about their abilities compared to the bombast of the dullard.

The article I was reading was talking about the Dunning-Kruger Effect in relation to politics, and certain pundits who prey on the ignorance of their followers for political gain. But in thinking about the article, I realized it applies to all sorts of situations, including employment.

Who stands out during job interviews? Who does the recruiter remember? Is it the guy who calmly and honestly says, "I believe I can do it, and if there's anything else I need to learn, I'll do my best to learn it." Or is it the guy who proudly boasts, "I'm the best! I could have written the book on how to do this job!"

Nine times out of ten, it's the second guy, the self-deluded moron, who gets hired, and through the same process gets promoted over the years, over all the truly competent co-workers. And now, they're the ones at the top, screwing up the entire economy.

So, if you're looking for work right now, and you're lucky enough to get a job interview, and the interviewer asks you, "Why have you been out of work for so long?" Look that son-of-a-bitch right in the eye and with all the confidence you can muster say, "Because of stupid bastards like you!"

You may not get the job, but at least you'll know why.

(NOTE: Some might ask, isn't this really just another way of describing the Peter Principle? Not quite... The Peter Principle explains how, should a competent person be lucky enough to get a job, he or she will be promoted to their level of incompetence.  The Dunning-Kruger Effect explains why the competent person probably won't even be hired in the first place.)

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