Tag Archive | "celebrity"

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Watching the Retweeted Get Retweeted-er


This post was originally published on O’Reilly Radar and Mediaite on November 23, 2009.

When Twitter decided to slowly roll out a new, official retweeting feature, people waited in anticipation. When they let their users know what it might look like, people debated whether that was the right way to deploy it. When it actually became available, people almost universally disliked it.

But my post is about why I love the new Twitter retweet feature, without ever having to think about it. The reason is that official retweeting represents the new-new arms race for authority among power users. The new-new arms race, you say? Yes, because the new arms race was to get on as many lists as possible, with the most-followed lists having a special significance.

The new-new arms race is the race to get officially retweeted the most. The idea is that in a sea of boring or useless or narrow-topic tweets, people who have “authority” will get retweeted the most. And finally, Twitter has built its own system for keeping track of that – officially. Think of that silly “RT” thing that users generated as a wristwatch at a track meet; Twitter operates the official Rolex timeclock.

Getting officially retweeted has two huge benefits for users that disproportionately benefit the already popular. One, the already popular gain even more authority that will enable their profiles or tweets to be featured, for example, higher in Google and Bing search results. Two, their profile link, photo, and original tweet appear in other people’s tweet streams, even if those people don’t follow the already very popular person.

Both of these have the potential to drive a tremendous amount of traffic to a person’s Twitter account, and the people with the most official retweets will become recommended-users-list version 2.0, I believe (see the ninth paragraph of this story). With all the hub-bub about advertising within one’s Twitter stream, driving traffiic is becoming more important to more users than ever before. Who isn’t tempted to sign up to push one ad a day and make $30,000 per month in bonus cash?

But not everyone will make $30,000 or $3,000 or even $300 a month. The official retweet system tends to disproportionately favor the already-massively popular. Their authority, already very high, will only become higher relative to that of the average user. To modify the common saying, the common person will watch the retweeted will get retweeted-er.

Not sure if you are part of the retweeted-er class? It’s easy to find out. Go to your account on Twitter.com, click the “Retweets” tab, then click on the “Your tweets, retweeted” tab. Is almost every single one of your original tweets in there? Didn’t even realize that was happening? Welcome to the club.

Of course, it’s not really the fault of the massively popular Twitter users (I don’t think Twitter consulted many of them before creating this feature), so don’t blame them for trading in on their fame. The petit-bourgeois wealth of authority no doubt creates opportunities for the working-class Twitter users, under the theory of trickle-down tweetonomics. The real question is, will Twitter’s proletariat class stand by and watch this happen, or form an uprising?

Addendum: Shortly after I wrote this I came across a Valleywag post with a similar theme.

Dr. Mark Drapeau is a columnist for Mediaite. As a scientist, he studies the behavior of insects when they decide to get social with each other. As a consultant, he advises organizations on how to innovatively communicate using social media tools. As a writer, he writes for True/Slant, Federal Computer Week, and other publications on social behavior at the intersection of science, technology, government, politics, and society. Reprinted from O’Reilly Radar.

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The Emerging Twitter List Arms Race


I use Twitter a lot, but I was not among the very first to see the new Lists feature. I can now, though. And what I find much more interesting than actually using the feature myself is the fact that I woke up this morning to find that I was on dozens of other people’s lists.

Even though the irony is that Twitter introduced lists about a year after I stopped wanting such a feature, I do think there is some value in having other people put me on their lists. Braggadocio. Oh yes, braggadocio. I’m talking about the incredible hubris that comes from knowing I’m on Ezra Butler’s list of people he’d take a rubber bullet for, the chutzpah of telling everyone that luminary Tim O’Reilly’s list of Government 2.0 people includes me among its few members, and the extra swagger in my step that comes from the radiant energy of being on professor Jay Rosen’s list of the best mindcasters he knows. I always knew I was awesome, but now I can prove it.

I’m joking a bit, of course. But when getting retweeted has been boiled down to a science (”Adding ‘please’ increases retweets by 12.3%!”), every maven is in search of a social media metric that shows who has “authority.”  Being on someone’s Twitter list is a difficult thing to game because it’s about organic usefulness to a community. I recently read Gary Vaynerchuk’s inspiring book  Crush It, and to me, Twitter lists have the potential to be a metric that measures how generous you are to the communities you’re a member of.

So forget about counting your number of followers, or how many retweets you get, or the many “Follow Friday” mentions you land – Those metrics have been blown out for a long time now. The new high fidelity for my vanity is the Twitter list.

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Putting the Public Back in Public Relations: Crooked Monkey Style


T-shirtI hadn’t heard of the popular t-shirt company Crooked Monkey until I was invited to an exclusive party they recently held. You see, even though they get great press from actors wearing their shirts in movies and magazines talking about their fashion styles, Crooked Monkey is based in Washington, DC not widely known as the fashion capital of the country. And they wanted to do some local brand building.

This wasn’t just any party. Sure, there were attractive guests in a cool setting with great drinks and music all the usual stuff. It was what they did differently that made it the most memorable event Ive been to in a long time.

Lets start with how I even found out about the event a secretive email from someone I didn’t know telling me that my friend recommended me as a guest for the event. This is somewhere in between Facebook and Eyes Wide Shut.  Then, a request for my home address, to which was mailed a package containing an envelope with a paper invitation, and also a sparsely decorated white t-shirt, which I was required to save for the party two months later and bring with me to gain admittance. Finally, a bag of tart banana candies finished the package.

Further inspection revealed that the event was on a Sunday night (no night is safe from parties!) at a secret location to be given to us later. Keep in mind that I dont know the person behind the party, nor the other guests, and now also not the location. Still later I discovered by email invitation that the event would be in a warehouse in a not-so-savory part of Washington, DC and that we MUST bring our white t-shirts because wed be doing something with them on the night of the event.

When the day of the event came, I really couldn’t stand not knowing anything! I texted the contacts I had for the event to ask questions, but they revealed little. I emailed some socialite friends to try to figure out who else would be there we knew it would be all tastemakers of different sorts, but no one really knew who was going, which was exciting. I used Google Maps to investigate the location of the warehouse. I stressed about what one wears to such events (I think I chose well!).

Even the party itself was very engaging. An artist created a mural from our white t-shirts that we used for entry right in front of our eyes. An old-fashioned photo booth let us take pictures with each other, and the photo strips had (what else?) a Crooked Monkey logo on them.  Even the name of the event Photoshoot at the Warehouse gave the party an active quality.

Do you detect a pattern here? Crooked Monkey kept busy, elite attendees who get invited to tons of events mentally engaged with their event for weeks. They made us part of telling their story. They got us to talk about their brand before, during, and after the event.  And in the end, the event delivered with a cool venue, outstanding bar, fun atmosphere, and lots of fashion.

Photoshoot at the Warehouse is a great example of putting the public back in public relations and brand engagement. How great? Im writing an entire post about them – and I dont even like wearing t-shirts!

This post originally appeared on Brian Solis’ PR 2.0 site.

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The President’s Peace Prize Problem


The same week that Saturday Night Live skewers President Barack Obama for accomplishing absolutely nothing, he has won the Nobel Peace Prize? Spin this: President Obama was 11 days into his presidency when nominations closed for the Peace Prize.  What exactly was he nominated for? Forget Jimmy Carter waiting over two decades for his – One could argue that George W. Bush should have gotten the Nobel Peace Prize, since he literally may have done more for world peace by leaving office than Obama did by entering it.

I like President Obama, and I suppose I’m proud that the U.S. President won the Nobel Peace Prize.  But I don’t think I’m going to go to parties at the Swedish Embassy for a while.  In the meantime, I’m sure Kanye West plans to disrupt Obama ’s Nobel ceremony, saying that the award should have gone to Beyonce.

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I Unleash My Journalism Students To Critique Newsweek’s Daniel Lyons


September 17th, 2009 – a day that will live in infamy.  It is the day I officially became bored with defending Twitter to columnists that “don’t get” the popular microsharing service.  On that day, Newsweek columnist Daniel Lyons (who frankly, I’d never heard of until that day, even though I knew of his Fake Steve Jobs work – great PR!) wrote a piece called “Don’t Tweet On Me: Twitter shows that stupid stuff sells,” which I immediately hated for at least three reasons.  One, most things people say seem stupid and useless to random people, so this is not novel observation.  Two, everyone who has observed general society knows that stupid sells (maybe Lyons should visit a comedy club sometime?).  And three, Lyons effectively insults 99.9% of the population with his remarks (of course, they didn’t notice because they don’t read Newsweek – whew, bullet dodged).

But honestly, I’m bored with writing posts about Twitter.  I don’t really care if anyone “gets it” at this point – frankly, the less people and businesses use it the more advantage those that do gain over the others, and that’s much more fun to watch.  There are tangible benefits quantified and qualified out there – and I feel no need to share them here.  But please don’t think how busy I am means that I don’t think Daniel Lyons should escape a good skewering.

So, taking a page out of the Web 2.0 playbook I’m fond of, I crowdsourced the task to my journalism students (each writer volunteered and no one was graded) in the School of Media and Public Affairs at The George Washington University in Washington, DC.  I’m currently teaching a class called Sustainable Journalism in a New Media Age, and I felt this would be a perfect opportunity for some of my students to publish something on True/Slant, to work out their contrarian / critique style, and to perform a useful service to humanity – picking apart Daniel Lyons’ arguments about how stupid Twitter is.  (And maybe they will even personally experience mainstream media blowback!)

Starting on Monday, look for brief, funny, engaging, authentic and biting guest posts from four of my undergrad students in my column at True/Slant.  They’re going to be great.  Not only do they poke, poke, poke at Newsweek until its measly article looks like Swiss cheese (sorry Jon Meacham, I like you), but keep in mind that these writers are ages 18-21 – and by the time they graduate this hot young talent probably wouldn’t be caught dead working for a dinosaur like Newsweek.  But I’ll let them speak for themselves.

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Jeremiah Owyang, We Hardly Knew Thee Brand


jermiah-owyang

Numerous people have now written, and written well, about high-profile Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 analyst Jeremiah Owyang leaving Forrester Research.  Many people look forward to seeing what his next endeavor is.

Marketing expert Dave Meerman Scott blogged about the interesting, modern conflict and cooperation between personal brands working at corporations, and corporate brands that benefit from their people.  There are no current answers.

But I heard Howard Kurtz say something to the effect of “we reported it, so the public should know” on his CNN show this weekend.  No, sorry.  The way most people learn now is not by watching a television channel like CNN (just look at the ratings of your average news show), but by talking to someone who talked with someone who had an opinion derived from watching one.  News, and all information, is now commonly filtered through our social networks before it gets to us.  That’s right – we don’t find the news, the news finds us.

Owyang is influential because he provides value and generates tremendous word of mouth, and empowers his information to find us.  He doesn’t broadcast and expect you to find it so much as consider himself part of a community that he wants to help.  To some degree, this is how entrepreneurs can beat the big dogs.  He is someone to emulate.

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Making Whuffie With Julia Allison


You can’t eat whuffie, but it’s getting harder to eat without it, as Tara Hunt says in The Whuffie Factor.  For the uninitiated, think of whuffie as an alternative to money – a reputation-based currency that started as a concept in a science fiction novel, now being applied to online business. Hunt’s interesting central thesis is that in order to successfully change social capital into market capital, company employees need to be authentic community members engaging in meaningful participation where their contributions often outweigh personal gains.

Typically, someone can raise whuffie by promoting something bigger than one’s own self-interests. This kind of community participation, as Solis and Breakenridge write in Putting the Public Back in Public Relations has become certral to marketing, branding, and influence: “Social media enables one to aggregate and promote your online brand while nurturing and managing important relationships.”

When I think of using online tools for public relations I often think of Julia Allison, who one year ago graced the cover of Wired ostensibly for her mastery of so-called “internet fame” and possibly translating it into real fame, and a profitable business. Since reading her relationships advice column in AM New York when I lived in Manhattan circa 2003, I’ve been familiar with Julia for a long time. More recently, with each of us shifting our interests to social technology, I’ve had the opportunity to hear her speak and meet with her. (Stealing a page from the fameball playbook, I even got the requisite photo with her and her dog during Internet Week 2008 – almost the same week of the Wired cover story.)

She is nothing if not a fascinating enigma; I believe we talked about the neuroscience of dating. So when pondering what I might write as a PR 2.0 guest column, I thought it would be interesting and instructive to look at the rise of Julia Allison as a “case study” in personal branding, and compare and contrast her career path with the tenets of raising whuffie.

Read the rest of this article at Brian Solis’ PR 2.0 blog.

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Make a Meaningful List and Take a Stand


There are so many lists.  Top 100 this, top 50 that, top 150 must-read blogs in this sector.  How can there be this many people that I “must” pay attention to?  Truth is, there aren’t.

People are so afraid to take a stand, to have a strong opinion, to leave someone “important” out, that they put anyone and everyone on their lists.  And large organizations are afraid, too.  For example, some blogs on the AdAge Power 150 are pathetic choices – they are frequently off topic, or have no real influence (of course, they are mainly designated without human interference, automatically).  I’ll consider them important when the pigs eat my brother (thanks, Brando).  Or how about the Foreign Policy’s Twitterati 100?  I cannot sum this one up better than NYU professor Jay Rosen“The 100 most famous foreign policy names we could find who have [Twitter] accounts.” It’s frankly amazing that well-respected brands put their reputations behind such pathetic lists.

Here’s one good, haphazardly chosen example.  I hate to critique just one person making one list, but this one was on my radar, and this isn’t an academic study.  It is a new list of “Top 50 PR Professionals You Should Be Following on Twitter.”  Let’s break this down.  First, some of them are simply not PR professionals (interesting though they may be), or if they are, the definition has been fairly diluted.  Second, on Twitter, many of the actual PR professionals are tweeting very similar things, so it’s complete overkill if one follows all 50.  Third, many of the people on the list are obvious follows (so having them on the list adds nothing), and many have such bland descriptions of why you should follow them as to be useless (so having them on the list adds nothing). And finally, blog comments like this and this suggest that some very obvious people were far down the list, or entirely left off [a list of 50], and it’s not clear why that reasoning was, either.

Moreover, perhaps the most important point is that all the (1) obvious and (2) bland choices serve to drown out anyone on the list who may be truly undiscovered and interesting!  I know they exist to some degree, but more lists of “Top 10 People You’re Not Watching” would be very useful, in all topics of interest.

I’m really happy for everyone living in the Web 2.0 world who thinks that they can make sloppy lists and do incomplete research for blog articles and that everything will just get “sorted out” in the comments section (the author of the above Top 50 list suggested that there were so many comments after the post that she might make a Top 500 list! Thanks!).  Thoughtful comments are nice, but are they nice enough to reward sloppy writing with the hopes of getting thoughtful comments to round out their own incomplete thought process?  I don’t think so.  I write everything pretending that there will be no comments.  Then, if there are useful comments, it’s a pleasant surprise – not a recipe for completeness.

When I made a list of the 10 most “influential” people using Twitter in Washington, DC, I kept it simple.  I used somewhat unique criteria. I listed 10 people and explained in detail why I chose each of them. And largely, they were different than people on similar lists. So different, in fact, that NationalJournal.com ran a story about how my list differed from others in the LA Times and other publications, with a Twitalyzer quantification chart. Turns out my list has certain qualities, and theirs had certain other qualities – mine was unique if you were looking for this sort of thing, and theirs for a different sort of thing. Great, we can all reasonably coexist. It’s not about right or wrong – It’s about having a strong opinion, arguing for it, and sticking with it.

If you’re going to make a list, of anything, make it short and to the point. Make it stand out from other similar lists. Have some reasons for choosing what is on your list. Have some guts. Be willing to be different. And take a stand when people disagree. Otherwise your list is meaningless – to you, and to anyone that comes across it.

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Stop Social Microsharing With Strangers


As online sites like Twitter have garnered more users and gained in general popularity, people have (of course) tried to take advantage of this.  On an open system like Twitter, it’s easy.  So it is not surprising to see news reports about how cybercriminals are gaming Twitter to spam misleading links to sites about porn, drugs, and other enterprises.

But if you clicked on one of these links and feel somehow betrayed, it’s your fault. One hundred percent your fault. Do you know why? Because you are placing false trust in someone you don’t know. I guarantee that none of these links originated with someone you know well. You were following a Twitter account run by someone you don’t know and/or don’t trust, and they jerked you around.

Are you suprised?  This behavior is like trusting random people you meet on the streets of New York to hold your wallet and expecting to get it back 15 minutes later, except worse, because they can hide behind the Internet and you don’t even know where they’re located.

For now, anyway, Twitter doesn’t really verify accounts.  Sure, a few celebrities are “verified” (and some aren’t), but for the most part no one’s checking who owns what account.  This is very different from Facebook and LinkedIn, where people generally have to go through a bit of work to set up an account and generally have to associate with email domains, companies, and formal networks to effectively verify who they are.  Microblogging isn’t like that. It’s more like a chat room on steroids. It’s the wild west of Internet authenticity.

Don’t count on Twitter to help you. It’s in their best interest to gain as many accounts as possible to make it look like their user base is skyrocketing, even if a quarter of the accounts are crap, a quarter are fakes/parodies/duplicates/placeholders/squatters, and another quarter have users who never return (what Nielsen has called “Twitter Quitters”). But don’t hate on Twitter, Inc. for this – building up lists of users who don’t do anything and buying server space for them is just their business model. Find some self-responsibility and don’t interact with the 75% of accounts that are utter shit.

So if you feel plagued by Twitter spam, you need to get some self control. Stop talking with everyone just because they’re there. Stop following 6,829 accounts you’re unfamiliar with. Stop following everyone who follows you in the name of reciprocation and politeness. Stop enabling spam on Twitter. It’s your fault it’s there.

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Verified Microblogging Insurance for Microcelebs


The microblogging site Twitter recently announced that in response to some controversy related to fake celebrity accounts, it would soon offer a verification process for, “a small set of public officials, public agencies, famous artists, athletes, and other celebs who run the risk of impersonation.”  According to TechCrunch, such accounts would have a verification seal readily visible.

What is a public official?  What is a ‘famous’ artist?  What is a celeb that runs the risk of impersonation?  I can only raise these issues today, not answer them.  But I think that these questions will become increasingly important during the next year.  It might seem silly to debate whether or not a police chief in a medium sized city is a public official, or whether a painter having his first gallery opening is famous, but when publications like Gawker mine Twitter for interesting stories, and a fake microblogging account publishing something false or harmful in someone’s name is permanent, archivable, searchable, discoverable, sharable, and mashupable, fake accounts can mean real damage for relatively normal microcelebrities without lawyers and public relations teams on retainer.

One area in which this is sure to come into play is politics.  I forsee this as an incredibly interesting area of technology intersecting society in somewhat unpredictable ways.  Many people know that then-candidate Barack Obama used new media tools in order to mobilize people and raise an unprecedented amount of money.  But emerging social technologies have changed the poli/tech landscape in the last six months, and will change it more in the next six.  One thing we haven’t yet fully seen is how the strategy of using negative ads in a regulated mainstream media market  translates into a strategy of negative messaging in a relatively unregulated social media market. This is a topic I plan to write about more in the months to come.

On the other hand, social media sites like Twitter are sure to be close to completely useless in many political races.  While ‘trade’ publication The Hill tracks the tweets of over 100 members of Congress (not unlike Gawker tracks the Twitterati) and political social media consultants like David All offer advice on how to use it to jump start campaigns, there are many situations in which it’s so close to a waste of time as to be worthless.  I recently spoke with the mayor of a small city of about 9,000 people, who told me that she wouldn’t find these tools useful for communicating with her constituents; to paraphrase her, “Why would I use Twitter when I can visit nearly everyone’s house?”  She may be right, or wrong – I don’t know.  While outside the scope of this article, some of the factors determining whether social media tools will be useful in a given campaign are the odd demographics and usage of Twitter itself, the density of people in the campaign area, the socioeconomic status of voters, and so forth.  Nevertheless, someone like the aforementioned mayor may still want a verified account – as a form of impersonation insurance.

A while back, I wrote about the use of social media by Adriel Hampton, current candidate for a vacant CA seat in the House of Representatives.  He has a few thousand followers on Twitter, a decently-read blog, and is getting some very modest but important print media coverage – is he a “celebrity running the risk of impersonation” in the eyes of Twitter?  For his sake, and Twitter’s, I hope so.  Otherwise, the information warfare between incumbents and challengers (the have’s and have-not’s of verified celebrity) could have damaging consequences far beyond what sponsored conversations may bring.

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