Tagged: twitter

Are avatars authentic or effective?

I was engaging in some micronarcissism (that means looking at my Twitter page) the other day when I chanced to notice that most of the icons – or avatars if you prefer – were faces, most of those photographic.

The old New Yorker cartoon said, “on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” (the cartoon showed an actual canine using a computer) yet here are some people using (I assume) their real faces for their online presence.

Before pondering the implications of that, a brief geektour of the numbers:

I classified twitter pictures into four types:

  1. Faces (photographic) – to the best of my ability to tell, photographs of one person’s face
  2. Faces (illustration) – faces but not photographic, includes illustration and overtly manipulated photos such as “obamifications” (which should be called “Faireifications” or perhaps “Obamanations”)
  3. Corporate or personal logos
  4. Other (body parts other than faces, bucolic scenes, pictures of animals, etc.)

Some Twitter avatarsOf the 36 icons pictured in my little “Following” bloc,

Faces/photo: 28 (78%)
Faces/illustration: 1 (3%)
Logo: 4 (11%)
Other: 3 (8%)

Of the top 50 Twitter Elite in the USA (via Grader)

Faces/photo: 39 (78%)
Faces/illustration: 4 (8%)
Logo: 4 (8%)
Other: 3 (6%)

The results are pretty consistent these samples.  Faces are in. Photorealistic ones, especially. I’m not sure if that has changed over time or if it’s always been the case.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but why?  I’m thinking that there’s a general movement in social media for authenticity and transparency, that you should say who you are and be real.  There’s a lot of software in our brains devoted to recognizing and understanding faces, and we seem to like to use it.  Faces humanize online experiences.

But let me take the contrary position for a moment.  Shouldn’t your online avatar or chat icon stand for you in a communication and marketing sense?  Isn’t it a small ad banner that you can use creatively?  And shouldn’t you at least attempt to stand out in the crowd or cloud?

On the one hand, if I don’t already know who you are, seeing that you’re a middle-aged white guy with unfortunate facial hair doesn’t add much to my online consumption of your updates.  On the other hand, once I start reading those things, seeing that photo might add depth or credibility to your online presence, and then I even stand a chance of recognizing you in person.

Here’s a post (that I found via a tweet from a logo avatar) about adding your photo to LinkedIn, which seems a lot more straightforward.  On LinkedIn, like Facebook, you’re definitely supposed to be you.  On Twitter or blogs, you could be a character, a brand, a team, all sorts of things.

What the duck?As a guy who uses a duck (you can sometimes still find my old icon, a rasterbated photo) for online imagery, I guess I could be accused of hiding.  But that icon serves pretty well:  it’s easy to recognize,  related to my online brand, consistent across social media sites, seldom changed so consistent across time, and pretty good at standing out in the crowd.

It’s a nice day to start again (with social networking bankruptcy?)

I try to rethink on a daily basis, if not constantly, but like most people, I don’t do the Big Rethinking often enough, maybe mostly around milestone birthdays, new years, yom kippur, presidential turnovers, etc.  Now I’m preparing to move and going through all my stuff, evaluating what to keep and what to discard, donate, sell, gift, regift, recycle, shred, burn, bury, etc.

In December I made a joke about unfollowing all my twitter friends and starting over with the new year.  It was just a joke, but the idea of spring cleaning social networks has stuck with me.  Most people joining social networks don’t know quite what they’re getting into at first and I’m sure that many end up with some ill-chosen, finger-quote, “friends” on their lists but feel uncomfortable ditching them.

Burger King’s mildly controversial and thoroughly amusing (at least to me) whopper sacrifice program seems to have upped the ante on my gag.  Short form: they’ll give you a free whopper if you “sacrifice” (publicly unfriend) ten of your facebook buddies.  (That values a facebook friend at about 37 cents) I don’t know if it’s actually good for BK, but I think it’s great for social media. Heck, any PR that doesn’t link Burger King to e coli is probably good for BK.  It takes some of the hot air out of the social media thing, and gives people another way – and a lame excuse – to unburden themselves of unwanted finger-quote “friends.”  I presume there’s nothing stopping you re-friending people after lunch.

Remember a few years ago there was some chatter about email bankruptcy?  In short, email bankruptcy means that you’ve decided you’ll never be able to deal with the current contents of your inbox, so you delete it all and start again.  That idea seems to have faded out, but I wonder if we aren’t on the verge of a rash of social networking bankruptcy: twitter bankruptcy, linkedin bankruptcy, and most likely, facebook bankruptcy.  Fed up with superpoke requests?  Maybe it’s a nice day to just ditch everybody and start again!

Well, that’s probably not for everyone, maybe not for anyone, but I do have to wonder if the clean slate would allow us to make new and interesting connections that might not even have occurred to us since we’re so busy with the connections we already have.

OpenCoffee at Andala

I got a message from Si in London recommending that I check out this upcoming TweetUp in Cambridge.  Turns out it was at Andala Cafe, home of my favorite hummus plate and barely a block from limeduck world headquarters.  Once again, the internet pwnz geography.  The TweetUp, called OpenCoffee, happens Wednesdays at 8:30ish, and seems to be a global phenomenon that has somehow landed right in my back yard.

This week, OpenCoffee was pretty Twitter-centeric, with Bijan Sabet of Spark Capital and Sanjay Vakil of LuckyCal leading a loose discussion of location-based apps, twitter platforms, and using twitter either as a start point or an end point for aggregation of what can only be described as your “stuff.”

The session was well-attended with some 40+ tweeple stretching the limits of Andala’s front room.  You can catch up on some of the chatter via this twitter search.

There was some debate about the utility of hash tags as opposed to unhashed tags, and taxonomy vs folksonomy.  I came down on the side of getting it mostly right and keeping it simple, which seems to be the guiding principle of twitter.  And then I fell off a chair while trying to explain Pants Status to the assembled masses.  My point, such as it was, is that there seems to be apps (if you can call Pants Status an app) that use twitter without any special action on the user’s part.

On a side note, the frothy beverage pictured above is an Andala specialty, fresh apple ginger juice.  I highly recommend it.  iPhone not included, but if you come to OpenCoffee, I promise you’ll be near one.

This microdrivel for microrent

At Boston Media Makers, there was sporadic discussion of Twitter advertising, mainly meaning people monetizing their Twitter use by selling ads either in their streams or on their profile pages.  It was generally agreed that profile page ads were less invasive and obnoxious than in-stream ads.  The mavens in the group predicted large-scale unfollowing and extensive antisocial media shunning for anybody foolish enough to try in-stream twitvertising.

I’m thinking it would be hard for most twitter streams to get less relevant or more annoying, my own included.  My initial objection to the whole idea of in-stream twitvertising is that it just doesn’t seem that it would be very effective.  But first, let’s run the numbers, using me as the guineaduck as it were.

Magpie is one twitter ad service.  They tweet ads through your account (tagged #magpie) at a set frequency (such as one ad per five tweets) based on a keyword bidding system.  They pay per tweet, not per click or per action.  Magpie says that I could earn up to 69.07 Euros per month.

Using Followcost, I discovered that I’ve been tweeting at an average pace of 5.19 per day, so I’ll just guesstimate that I would serve up one Magpie ad per day.  At this writing I have 252 followers, so 252 x 1 x 30 = 7,560 potential ad impressions per month. That assumes two probably untrue things: (1) that all of my followers read all of my tweets, and (2) that there are no secondary impressions from syndication of my tweets, such as in the sidebar of this very blog, or from anybody who’s not a follower just reading.  Let’s just say that those two effects cancel out.

Those figures together imply about 9.14 Euros, or $11.63 CPM.  Since that’s the payout to me, let’s mark that up 20 or 25% so Magpie can earn some money, and assume they’re selling limetweets at $15 CPM.  Is that a good price for promoting your product or service in the limedrivelstream?  Honestly, I haven’t looked at CPM priced advertising in a long time, preferring CPC or CPA if I can get it.  It sounds cheap, but there are a lot of reasons why it should be cheap.

In the process of poking around for this piece, I checked my twitter power at Twitter Grader, and found some interesting factoids.   I scored in the 94th percentile, but what’s interesting is that my overall rank is 10,546 out of 255,406.  There are only a quarter million twitterers?  I’ve been so deep in this bubble I would have guessed a lot more.  And if I’m in the top 6% of them, there must be a lot of inactive or totally dead accounts.  I’m sure it’s growing fast, but I have to wonder if there’s enough total market for Magpie and their advertisers to make a real go of things.

The foregoing generally assumes that the twitterati will be willing to sell their real estate, that doing so will not in itself massively devalue that real estate (if people unfollow you for putting up ads, your ads become less lucrative…), and that – and this one is where I worry the most – those ads will in fact make any actionable or measurable impression on the marketplace.

For now, I remain skeptical and the limeduck media empire remains commercial-free.

Full moon brings tweets out to WBUR

It’s rare that I know something about social media that C.C. Chapman doesn’t, but earlier this evening I left the third WBUR social media get-together and saw this tweet.

So, for C.C. and others, let me set the context.  WBUR‘s social media guy, Ken George, called the third WBUR tweet-up, the usual informal social media gabfest with the added lure of a tour of the station.  I was lucky enough to be in on the first such event, but missed the second. I hope C.C. can join us for one in the future.

The discussion was pretty free-flowing, and I’m sure it flowed even freeer when the crew decamped to the bar, but I’ll try to mention some of the interesting people and themes I noticed.

David Boeri, host of WBUR’s Radio Boston, kicked things off with a discussion of using twitter and other social media to source stories or find trends and ideas as they bubble up.  He came with an attitude of “beginners mind” and probably left with a headache.  The crowd was eager to help, but I’m not sure if even those of us swimming in new media fully understand what it is we’re in the midst of.  As one said, “I have over 800 followers [on twitter] and I have no idea why.”

A soft-spoken woman named Angie mentioned an event called Courteous Mass, a reaction to the sometimes controversial Critical Mass, but specifically committed to obeying traffic laws (in contrast to the “corking” through red lights common to Critical Mass) and being nice to both pedestrians and drivers while celebrating urban bike-riding. Bravo, I say.  As a pedestrian and a driver, I find the behavior of many cyclists unnerving and reckless while wishing that more people could safely ride bikes in the city.

Manifest Magazine is a twice-monthly free magazine about “ordinary people with extraordinary experiences” delivered, oddly to my mind, in PDF via a blog.  The creator of the magazine spoke of his use of “most favorited” searches to find interesting and up-and-coming authors and interview subjects.  Worth a look, as I’m sure will be whatever this gentleman does next.

On the way home, I walked over the BU bridge and watched the moon peek in and out of the clouds.