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The Survival of Newspapers Depends on Embracing Social Media – Pew Study Shows This Isn’t Happening

November 16, 2011 2 comments

The MSM 9000 - Turning Twitter Into a Glorified RSS Feed

The Pew Center Project for Excellence in Journalism recently published a study (“How Mainstream Media Outlets Use Twitter; Content Analysis Shows an Evolving Relationship“) showing that, despite its myriad applications, most newspapers just use Twitter as a way of regurgitating the content they’re already publishing on pulp or on their websites.  Megan Garber at the Nieman Journalism Lab rightly points out that this turns Twitter into “a glorified RSS feed.”

Pew Newspaper Twitter Use Study - Tweets During a Week

The results of the study are a good insight into why the newspaper industry has suffered such a decline in recent years; they still haven’t embraced social media in a meaningful way.  The particularly telling statistic was that during the one-week period when the Twitter accounts were observed, 93 percent of the tweets linked back to a story on the news organization’s website.

In fairness to the newspapers observed, most of them likely have a strategy that divides up the content and engagement among various different Twitter accounts.  For example, the Arizona Republic notes that @azcentral is the site they use for news and opinion (they reserve @arizonarepublic for interactions with the newsroom) and fortunately the Pew study methodology noted this.  The Pew study took this into account to an extent by measuring what was published by reporters that work for each paper.

One measure of an organization’s level of social media engagement (though admittedly it’s riddled with problems and much-derided by many social media experts) is Klout.  For what it’s worth, here are the Klout scores of the 13 news organizations measured (as of November 15, 2011).  By comparison, I’m not terribly influential and my Klout score is 54 – the highest Klout score currently is Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) at 100:

  • The Huffington Post (@huffingtonpost): 86
  • The New York Times (@nytimes): 86
  • ABC News (@abc): 83
  • The Wall Street Journal (@wsj): 83
  • The Washington Post (@washingtonpost): 82
  • Fox News (@foxnews): 82
  • CNN (@cnn): 81
  • MSNBC (@msnbc): 77
  • USA Today (@usatoday): 77
  • NPR (@nprnews): 76
  • The Arizona Republic (@azcentral): 63
  • The Daily Caller (@dailycaller): 61
  • The Toledo Blade (@toledonews): 46

Replicability?

I was curious to see if some of the non-traditional major newspapers also succumbed to this non-engaging practice of using Twitter so I took a look at the accounts of the St. Petersburg Times (run by the Poynter Institute) and a few of thedaily papers operated by the McClatchy Company, as well as the Grand Rapids Press.  My hypothesis was that they would have embraced social media (in this case Twitter) in a more meaningful way than the traditional for-profit newspapers which would show up in a higher volume of tweets and more engagement with individual Twitter users.

During the one-week period between November 8-14, 2011, these were the results:

Tweets Links to Own Stories / Others / Pct Klout Score
The St. Petersburg Times (@tampabaycom) 51 48 / 0 (100%) 47
McClatchy – Anchorage Daily News (@adndotcom) 100 65 / 15 (81%) 10
McClatchy – The Kansas City Star (@kcstar) 213 169 / 20 (89%) 58
Grand Rapids Press (@grpress) 50 49 / 1 (98%) 49
 Total 331 / 36 (90%)

As you can see, they were pretty much the same as the rest of the newspapers observed in the Pew Study; an average of 90 percent of the links provided were back to their own content.

What was interesting was that the period of time observed for the Anchorage Daily News was during a massive storm which dramatically changed the way the paper used Twitter. It was far more likely to retweet breaking news from other Twitter users, as well as link to other sites (such as the National Oceanographic and Aeronautic Administration – NOAA). This change begs the question; if it’s important to martial all information regardless of source during an emergency, why isn’t that the case during the regular news day?

Recommendations

Here’s some advice for the newspapers (for what it’s worth):

1. Acknowledge and Engage Followers:

While it’s certainly reasonable for any given news organization to tweet links back to its content, that shouldn’t make up the bulk of the tweets.  Twitter offers a unique opportunity to interact one-on-one with readers in a very timely fashion.  The organizations that use Twitter well participate in the online community and acknowledge their customers/constituents – speaking personally to them and sharing what they publish(by re-tweeting “RT-ing” them).

2. Embrace Social Media Conventions:

There’s an interesting phenomenon going on right now where news organizations are worried about re-tweeting content from other users because they fear it is perceived as an “endorsement” of the person (some go so far as to expressly mention in their Twitter descriptions that RTs are not an endorsement).  Be not afraid, journos!  RTs are only sometimes an endorsement, and if some of your readers are too stupid to note the difference – you probably don’t need them anyway.

Pew Newspaper Twitter Use Study - Use of Hashtags

What was particularly shameful was the lack of use of hashtags in tweets.  NPR didn’t use a single hashtag during the entire period they were observed.  That’s shameful.  Hashtags are signposts that allow people (and algorithms) to identify relevant content, and they facilitate discussion around a topic.  They should be a priority for any Twitter user to include whenever the 140 character limit permits.

3. Give Your Social Media Presence a Face:

By this I mean an actual face.  Of a person.  Not a logo, but a person.  Everyone knows that there’s a person behind every social media presence, yet most organizations conduct themselves on social media as though a giant machine is adding copy and triggering the “send” button.  Of the Twitter accounts measured, only five readily identified who was tweeting on behalf of the organization (The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Arizona Republic, The Daily Caller, and the Toledo Blade).

4. Learn From Your Reporters:

In my experience, I’ve found journalists are frequently adept at using social media – Twitter in particular.  They’re personal, timely, and engaging.  They get social media conventions, and they’re not afraid to participate (even using Twitter to gather news and find interview subjects).  That’s one of the reasons why #JournChat (a weekly dialog involving reporters and public relations pros) is my favorite Tweet Chat

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What Does the New Scoring System in Klout Mean?

October 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Klout Score Changes

The much-maligned yet sickeningly-addictive social media scoring platform Klout has revamped their scoring system and disclosed more information about the algorithms they use to establish the rankings they publish about users.  Overall I like the move, first because the scoring appears to be improving (and I say that as someone whose score took a ten-point hit) and second because the transparency will help silence some of the haters (of which I used to be one). Read more…

Three Reflections on the Tao of Business Cards

September 29, 2011 2 comments

My New Run of Business Cards From Moo.com

In a recent post, I tried to compile some strategies for students to maximize their networking opportunities in the hope of gainful employment.  One of the things I advised them to do was to have their own business cards to give to people they meet.

Though it seems like a superficial practice, the act of preparing one’s own business cards can be an important opportunity for reflection and self-realization.  They’re not just for other people – they’re also for ourselves.

No, I’m not kidding.  Here’s why: Read more…

Flexing Your Social Network to Tag-Team Hunger With a Flying Elbow From the Third Turnbuckle

June 22, 2011 1 comment

Giving Hunger a Flying Elbow From the Third Turnbuckle (Ooh yeah)

Here’s an inspiring social media story for you:

For her birthday, my S.O. Adrienne Wallace decided to raise money for Kids Food Basket (a fantastic charity here in Grand Rapids).  She happened on the fundraising platform “Causes” that offers a robust set of features that plug directly into social networking tools like Facebook and set a modest goal of $500 in contributions in lieu of gifts for herself.

Causes accepts a variety of social media-friendly donation methods, offers fun and valuable analytics to engage one’s audience (tracking who was first to give, who gave most recently, who gave the most, and offers a chance for people to become “Sidekicks” by spreading the message beyond Facebook by emailing five other friends).  It also offers anonymity if donors desire that, and it allows the organizer to personally thank each donor. Read more…

38 Twitter Tools and Resources

February 16, 2011 3 comments

Over a year ago, I created a list of tools for using Twitter more effectively, and it’s high time it was updated and broadened.    Below is an updated and organized list of tools to enhance your microblogging experience.

Twitter Analytics Tools
(for better understanding the use of Twitter – bear in mind that their analysis can be dodgy depending on how much of a user’s history of tweets they’re able to access at the time)

  • Klout (klout.com): a tool that provides comprehensive analysis about a user using a variety of metrics.
  • Trendistic (trendistic.com): a tool that organizes and graphs tweets over time (though the time frame is limited).
  • Trendrr (trendrr.com): a service (fee-based after 16 profiles) that tracks and analyzes and graphs a variety of search tools (news sites like Google News, blog sites like IceRocket and Google BlogSearch, and other sites like Flickr, YouTube and Ebay).
  • TweetPsych (tweetpsych.com): builds a profile of a particular Twitterer based on the content in their Twitter feed.  (Also has a companion tool for websites: tweetpsych.com/site.php).
  • TweetStats (tweetstats.com): graphs stats about a given Twitter account such as tweets over time, what interface was used to post the tweets, and who a user most commonly replied to.
  • TweetStream (tweetstreamapp.com): this service provides very limited analytics (basically a series of counts) – however it also allows you to automatically archive all of your tweets from a variety of Twitter profiles (and it gives you combined stats for your multiple profiles).  It’s also a low-cost annual service.
  • Twends (twendz.waggeneredstrom.com/):  A tool that not only tracks mentions of a particular keyword over time, but graphs and analyzes that data a variety of ways (including by using an algorithm to guess at whether or not mentions are positive or negative).
  • Twitaholic (twitaholic.com): a tool that counts a user’s tweets and ranks them in comparison to other users.
  • Twitalyzer (twitalyzer.com): an interesting analytical tool that uses a different set of categories to analyze a Twitterer’s presence.  They include influence (a composite that includes # of followers), signal (how much of your tweets are info vs. anecdote), generosity (how much you retweet), velocity (how frequently you post) and clout (how often people cite your posts).
  • Twitority (twitority.com): Ranks Twitter users by authority on terms/keywords.
  • Twitter Charts (xefer.com/twitter/): an aggregator that uses Yahoo Pipes to create an interesting visual display of a specified Twitterer’s posts over time.
  • Twitter Counter (twittercounter.com): a tool that provides comprehensive analytics as well as a few other features that grease the skids for you to promote yourself and find others to follow.
  • Twitter Grader (twitter.grader.com): applies an algorithm to rate how influential a particular Twitterer is based on factors like their number of tweets, how recently they’ve posted, and how many followers they have (and how powerful those followers are).
  • Xefer (xefer.com/twitter/): Maps the days of the week and times of the day that a user tweets, in addition to listing/ranking the other users that person has contact with.

Twitter Follower Management
(for visualizing/managing relationships)

  • FollowCost (followcost.com): a great tool that shows you a comparison how how much it “costs” you to follow a particular person (ie what their proportion of tweets is to yours).  Warning – doesn’t always work.
  • Friend or Follow (friendorfollow.com): a way to find out who you follow that doesn’t follow you back (I hesitate to post this – the whole idea that one should follow a follower as a courtesy gesture is idiotic).
  • Qwitter (useqwitter.com): primarily used for monitoring who unfollows you on Twitter, but also provides analytics data and alerts you to spambots/users.
  • UnTweeps (untweeps.com): allows you to organize all of the people you follow by their last tweet so you can unfollow the dead accounts or people who don’t regularly use Twitter (which, ostensibly, would improve your ‘influence’ ranking).

Twitter Clients
(software/apps for More Effectively Using Twitter – you don’t have to take my word for it though; Mashable did a great comparison of 19 of these tools here)

  • CoTweet (cotweet.com): CoTweet actually offers a variety of services, but for Twitter they provide the ability to have multiple users manage a single Twitter account (including a workflow process for people to respond to messages that have been assigned to them).
  • Destroy Twitter (destroytwitter.com): A simple, stripped-down Twitter client for your desktop.  It gets the job done in a clean interface, but it has some limitations (the navigation is a bit clunky, and you can’t be logged into multiple accounts simultaneously and toggle between them).
  • Digby (digby.com): Like TweetDeck and Hootsuite, Digby lets you manage not only Twitter, but many other social media presences as well.  There have been security concerns raised about it in the past, but it doesn’t appear to be impeding its use/adoption. This service also allows you to syndicate a single message to a variety of social media platforms with one click.
  • Echofon (echofon.com): formerly Twitterfon and Twitterfox, this is a superb client that is available as an app for smartphones, or as an add-on for Firefox.  I use it every day.  Literally.
  • GroupTweet (grouptweet.com):  clever utility that allows a group of people to communicate in private by syndicating Direct Messages that are only visible to specified users.
  • Hootsuite (hootsuite.com): A web-based application that allows you to manage multiple social media presences (including Twitter).  It allows for things like scheduling, tracking, etc.  I have had trouble with Hootsuite screwing up scheduled posts before – so fair warning.  This service also allows you to syndicate a single message to a variety of social media platforms with one click.
  • TweetDeck (tweetdeck.com): the grand-daddy of all Twitter clients, Tweetdeck has a rich feature set and allows you to manage multiple social media platforms in one interface.  It can also be a bit overwhelming – especially if you’re doing something simple.  It allows for scheduling, tracking, etc.  This service also allows you to syndicate a single message to a variety of social media platforms with one click.
  • TweetGrid (tweetgrid.com) a browser-based client that allows you to display a variety of Twitter streams on a single page (in grid form).
  • TwitToaster (twitoaster.com): a service that aggregates tweets that are all part of a single conversation (nesting them visually like a discussion board) as well as providing statistical analysis.
  • UberTwitter (ubertwitter.com): by far the best Twitter client for Blackberry phones.  Rich feature set, easy navigation, lots of customization, and it’s very inexpensive – only $5/year.

Twitter Search Tools
(for mining information):

  • Monitter (monitter.com): a Twitter search tool that provides an interface for managing multiple searches.
  • TweetAlarm (tweetalarm.com): search tool that alerts you when keywords are tweeted – allows real-time updates (however I’ve had problems with it missing a lot of tweets and not consistently notifying me).
  • TweetBeep (tweetbeep.com): a search tool that will alert you when keywords are tweeted (limited in that it doesn’t allow real-time notifications – only once per day).
  • TweetMeme(tweetmeme.com): tracks, sorts and organizes mentions of a particular keyword (limited to the past week).
  • ViralHeat (viralheat.com): a fee-based service that searches for, tracks and graphs keyword mentions about a particular keyword or username.

Twitter Directories / Indexes:
(for finding like-minded people and promoting yourself)

  • Just Tweet It (justtweetit.com): a directory of Tweeters sorted by category.
  • Twellow (twellow.com): a yellow pages directory of Twitterers.
  • TwitterCounter (twittercounter.com):  provides a count of your followers, and also serves as a directory for listing oneself by keywords/categories.
  • Twitter Chat Schedule: a fantastic use of the cloud; it’s a Google Docs spreadsheet with detailed information about over 300 different Twitter chats going on (for the uninitiated, you participate in a Twitter chat by following a particular moderator  and responding/watching a hashtag which allows you to see and be seen by everyone else following the chat).  There’s also a profile on Twitter that tracks and tweets about upcoming chats @ChatSchedule – but their list isn’t nearly as comprehensive as the Twitter Chat Schedule.
  • WeFollow (mashable.com/tag/wefollow/): a directory of Twitterers; probably one of the most popular.  It also provides some level of analytics in that it compares you to people in other categories by two metrics – sheer number of followers and influence.

If you’re interested, it’s a bit outdated, but here’s a great mapping of the Twitter infrastructure is provided here by Brian Solis.

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