Archive | October 2012

The Problem with Twitter – Social Disconnection by Stealth

tl;dr Twenty new Twitter followers in a week but a fall in our net position. Should social media sites allow users to end connections by stealth? Is Twitter the new watering hole for scammers and opportunists?

Introduction

Before we begin, we need to make it clear we like Twitter. It has created a simple tool to connect millions of people. It has built a diverse network that has changed the way many of us communicate and opened up new possibilities for others. Various recent uprisings around the world have demonstrated the strength of mass electronic communication.

However one of our biggest gripes with Twitter is the following functionality, or more so the unfollowing functionality. We frequently receive follow email notifications telling us we have gained new followers. This is great however in the past few months we have lost our trust in these notifications.

This week we received approximately 20 new follower notifications. Awesome, new followers to interact with. In reality our net position fell. Many of these followers are no longer following us. Twitter is not alone here.

Why? What is going on here? Is being unable to break a social media connection by stealth a good thing?

Reasons for Breaking Up (Intentional or Unintentional)

Not all break ups may be intentional. However it feels like too many are trying to lure us in for a unbalanced relationship.

+ Spammers: Social media sites have been plagued by spam and dummy accounts looking to leverage large networks of followers. Twitter appears to be more aggressively pursuing such accounts and deactivating accounts as they appear. Therefore many new followers are likely very soon to become dormant.

+ Tools: With the increase of social media options, various tools have been made available to manage your accounts. Algorithms help you follow and unfollow other users, tailoring your network to your interests. The problem is that a button click may radically modify your network. In one click you start following 100 people, then in the next click you have mistakenly unfollowed the same 100 users.

+ Ratio: The desire may be for users looking to achieve the perfect ratio of “followers to followings”. They use a false connection request to lure in new followers, while unscrupulously maintaining a low following figure. This may have financial value for those looking to sell such accounts.

+ Mistake: Twitter makes it remarkably easy to follow/unfollow users (in error). It is not always clear that a single click on the “follow” button results in a follow.

+ Bugs: Users have reported problems with Twitter removing followers with their authorisation. Legitimate connections are being mysteriously broken.

+ Dislike: Obviously there will be cases where a user genuinely ends the relationship by intentionally unfollowing a user.

The combination of the above may be enough to explain the current high churn of new followers. Spammers have always remained in front of the curve. E-mail has got smarter and applications like Twitter are the next watering hole for ‘fake viagra peddlers’ and ‘Nigerian money scammers’.

Unfollowing in Stealth

The majority of social media sites alert you to when someone wants to make a new connection. However very few (if any) send you a notification of when that connection ends. This seems in contrast to the “making of a new connection” where there is complete transparency.

The current process:

1. Mike logs into account
2. Mike identifies Peter to connect with
3. Mike send a new connection request
3a. Sometimes Peter may need to authorise connection request
3b. Peter authorises connection
4. Mike notified of new connection
5. Mike breaks connection
6. No notification sent to Peter
7. Peter doesn’t know connection broken

Benefits of Stealth

It seems odd that the making of a connection are so open, however the closing of a connection are almost secret. What is the benefit to the network?

The clearest benefit seems to avoid social awkwardness for users. Generalising, the majority of humans wish to avoid conflict and by allowing discreet disconnection all parties can continue participating without the awkwardness. At least, until disconnected party realises they have been dumped.

From one angle it seems unreasonable to expect parties to authorise the break of the relationship. This may inadvertently increase the psychological barrier for creating new connections and reducing the effectiveness of the network. In contrast, many people are quick to rush into things even when implications are high (e.g. financial contracts with penalties for exiting). Attaching penalties on exit may not discourage users forming new connections.

Would building a social network based on full transparency mean a better community? Would penalising breaking connections be effective?

No Conclusions

There are various third party applications online to track your followers and unfollowers. It remains unknown if Twitter and others will enable this functionality within their own environments. For now we just need to accept that it is a better user experience to know about new connections…

Image Credit: Pluggio

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You might also enjoy:
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus
+ The Bootstrap Challenge – Walking the Talk

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

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Thinking of Starting a Startup? 8 Sentiments To Think About

Startups for the Rest of Us

Mike Taber and Rob Walling record an awesome regular podcast called “Startups for the Rest of Us“. It’s aimed at helping developers, designers and entrepreneurs launch their startup product. They have just hit their 100th episode and you can check out older recordings or episode transcripts on their website.

In episode 98 they share “eight sentiments that do not bode well for your startup”.

The Eight Sentiments

1. “This product idea is awesome. Now off to the basement to build it; see you in 6 months!”

2. “I haven’t even finished the features I want to build yet and potential customers are already asking me to build X.” Translation: “I’m sticking to my product idea no matter what my potential customers tell me.”

3. “I’m halfway done with this idea… but that shiny new one over there seems so much better.”

4. “I plan to quite my job 60 days after I launch.”

5. “It would take me as much time to explain this task to someone else, so I’ll just do it myself.”

6. “I don’t want to bother with all that click through and conversion rate nonsense…I’ll just build a great product.” Translation: “Build a better mousetrap is not a good strategy”

7. “My idea is pretty hard to explain, do you have 20 minutes to spare?”

8. “I don’t want to talk publicly about my idea because someone might steal it.”

Summary

These are excellent points. The message is do not keep your idea a secret. Speak to people, especially customers and listen and apply their feedback. You need to be able to articulate your idea clearly and be open to suggestions. Do not build and ship in isolation!

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You might also enjoy:
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus
+ Startup Weekend: How to prepare? (Day 0)

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

Lessons Learned – Be Your Own Boss

Be Your Own Boss

The new entrepreneur TV series “Be Your Own Boss” started a couple of weeks ago on the BBC. This is an extension to the BBC’s portfolio of pop-business productions that includes Dragons Den and The Apprentice.

These shows are definitely pitched at the mainstream and simplify aspects of starting a business. The X-Factor style delivery can easily be criticised. Nevertheless Be Your Own Boss proves to offer some real nuggets to aspiring entrepreneurs. It preaches the freedom and satisfaction that can come from building your own business. Noble aspirations in times the current climate of high unemployment and declining opportunities for young people.

Innocent Drinks

The show follows Innocent Drinks co-founder Richard Reed and his search for bright minds with great ideas to invest in. Richard’s own story is inspiring.

From Wikipedia:

+ Innocent was founded by three graduates – Richard Reed, Adam Balon and Jon Wright.
+ In 1998, after spending six months working on smoothie recipes and £500 on fruit, the trio sold their drinks from a stall at a music festival in London.
+ People were asked to put their empty bottles in a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ bin depending on whether they thought the three should quit their jobs to make smoothies. At the end of the festival the ‘YES’ bin was full, with only three cups in the ‘NO’ bin, so they went to their work the next day and resigned.
+ Had a lucky break when Maurice Pinto, a wealthy American businessman decided to invest £250,000.
+ In total, it took fifteen months from the initial idea to taking the product to market.
+ In 2009 the company sold a small stake of between 10 and 20% to The Coca-Cola Company, with the three founders retaining all operational control for £30 million.
+ In 2010 Coca-Cola increased its stake in the company to 58% from 18% for about £65 million.
+ The three founders continue to retain full operational control.

Lessons from the Boss

Richard is brutally honest to hopeful candidates and rightly so. How can people seriously ask to use someone’s money to “conduct market research” or “advertise”?

In a way he is the typical angel investor seeking to reapply their recipe of success to others. Richard is constantly talking about the virtues of aiming big and getting into supermarkets; and knocking on doors of retailers to know if the product has any demand.

He also dismisses some ideas he is not passionate about. Rightly so given it will be his time and money he is investing. However occasionally he seems a little too quick to dismiss a pitch. Maybe some of the detail is lost in the editing.

The key points that stand out:

+ Validate your idea and product immediately. Determine if a market and demand exist.
+ Speak to people and potential customers.
+ Forget social media. You need to knock on doors and speak to people.
+ Get orders. The ultimate sign of a good idea is selling (even it is pre-selling before the product is available).
+ Be serious and take advise. Don’t expect investment if you’re closed or not at the right stage for investment.
+ Know your strategy.

There are many more, but the message of getting outside the building and conducting customer development is clear.

Stay Tuned

The series is entertaining and even features the occasional cameo from business legend Richard Branson. So far Richard Reed (not Branson) has invested in a couple of clever ideas. Let’s see if they reap him as much reward as Innocent.

Some of the Ventures so far (more here):

Week 1: Mango Bikes
Week 2: Twists Pasta Bar
Week 3: MixPixie

Image Credit: BBC

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You might also enjoy:
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus
+ The Bootstrap Challenge – Walking the Talk

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

Online Advertising Experiment with Google AdWords

google adwords online advertising chart results seo

tl;dr By using a Google AdWords credit voucher we learned an obvious lesson – buying traffic is expensive and Internet marketing (web marketing) is a science. Paid adverts can help compliment an existing organic/SEO strategy.

The Experiment

In March 2012 Google kindly provided us with a credit voucher to test out Google Adwords. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to try out online advertising and potentially pull in some traffic to our blog (all for free!).

We spent £24.53 in 89 days to get 290 clicks (0.17%) and 166,800 impressions. However recent tweaking has yielded us 166 clicks (CTR 0.42%) in 13 days off £2.79 of spend.

If you are interested in traffic, you may want to read our 10,000 page view article.

The Evolution of Online Advertising

The web has radically evolved in the past decade. Web advertising has moved from irrelevant blinking banner adverts to well targeted text and multimedia adverts. Spam and advert blockers have made it harder for unsolicited or unscrupulous messages to reach us. Nevertheless the end user experience is still flooded by advertisers screaming for our attention. Getting the right message, to the right people is even tougher.

Google AdWords have developed a sophisticated advertising suite to tailor your adverts to the right keywords searches, websites and demographics. The available analytics is useful in identifying what works and what doesn’t.

Lessons Learned

Using a minimal daily budget (<$£0.50) we created and road tested 6 adverts. In summary we learned:

+ The number and type of keywords counts – Our early adverts were associated to less than 20 keywords. Once we increased the list to 100+ we noticed an instant increase in clicks and impressions.

+ The right type of traffic is important – Add keywords but ensure they are relevant to your site otherwise you risk bringing in the wrong visitors.

+ Our keywords – There is no clear winner when it comes the keywords we used. The following keywords sit at the top with a long tail for the remainder of keywords. (Group A = 5 clicks) home business, home business opportunities, business opportunities; (Group B = 20 clicks) start your own business, start a business, build a business (Group C = 67 clicks) startup, startups.

+ Paid advertising is expensive – Google AdWords is expensive and better alternative may exist. You may consider advertising in a industry/niche newsletter or online magazine rather than spending money on Google.

+ Paid traffic can help support your organic page rankings – Page ranking on Google can be ‘make or break’. Therefore paid traffic may help secure or boost your page ranking on Google.

+ Paid traffic can help with your sales funnel (if you have one) – If you are selling something, paying x for a visitor may well be worth the spend. You just need to make sure you can convert many of the visitors and you have some mechanisms to track conversions.

The Adverts and Results

Between March and September we set up a campaign with 6 adverts:

Ad Group #1:
Lean Startup Tips
Winning new business ideas!
Launch with success.
sparknlaunch.wordpress.com

Days active: 89
Clicks: 38
Impressions: 81,902
Click Through Rate (CTR): 0.05%
Average Cost Per Click (CPC): £0.18
Cost: £7.02
Average Position: 3.8

Ad Group #2:
Entrepreneur Startup Blog
Lessons in business startup.
Turn a business idea into reality.
sparknlaunch.wordpress.com

Days active: 89
Clicks: 7
Impressions: 22,666
Click Through Rate (CTR): 0.03%
Average Cost Per Click (CPC): £0.19
Cost: £1.35
Average Position: 3.8

Ad Group #3:
Business / Tech Startups
News and stories on startups.
Ideas for business startups.
sparknlaunch.wordpress.com

Days active: 89
Clicks: 1
Impressions: 481
Click Through Rate (CTR): 0.21%
Average Cost Per Click (CPC): £0.22
Cost: £0.22
Average Position: 5.7

Ad Group #4:
Want Startup Success?
Interested in lean startup, models?
We share our experiences.
sparknlaunch.wordpress.com

Days active: 77
Clicks: 77
Impressions: 21,637
Click Through Rate (CTR): 0.36%
Average Cost Per Click (CPC): £0.17
Cost: £12.80
Average Position: 5.5

**** Ad Group #5: ****
Want Business Success?
Winning new business ideas!
Launch with success.
sparknlaunch.wordpress.com

Days active: 13
Clicks: 166
Impressions: 39,946
Click Through Rate (CTR): 0.42%
Average Cost Per Click (CPC): £0.02
Cost: £2.79
Average Position: 2.4

Ad Group #6:
Startup Success Stories?
Learn from the best startups.
Tools podcasts videos ebooks.
sparknlaunch.wordpress.com

Days active: 89
Clicks: 1
Impressions: 179
Click Through Rate (CTR): 0.56%
Average Cost Per Click (CPC): £0.35
Cost: £0.35
Average Position: 6.5

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You might also enjoy:
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus
+ Startup Weekend: How to prepare? (Day 0)

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

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