Enhancing search

Just installed WebMynd Firefox extension today, based on the post about it on digital inspiration. I like what it does, when I search now I get some additional search results from other services right there next to the main results – like this:

webmynd

And yes I used a little vanity search as an example, you gotta use something right :). You can easily add other services you want to have in that right column, from the list of services available on top of it. Since you always get the additional WebMynd powered results when you do a search, you don’t have to go to another URL or anything, just using type the query in your browser’s search box and this is what you get. Very nice. Worth giving a try, as is Live Search by the way ;)

Update: There is an IE plugin for WebMynd as well, just open the browser of choice and you’ll get the right download option.

Personal/corporate identity

Last week at SIME during the first speaker gathering Ola Ahlvarsson (CEO of SIME) thought it was a good idea to introduce Thomas Crampton and myself to each other… he sure was right :) Thanks for that Ola!

We got talking right away (part of which translated in a little video interview – see below) on several things relating blogging, corporate blogging, identities, transparency, … and how difficult it can be to turn small company learnings to good use at corporations, or how US learnings wouldn’t necessarily work in Europe or Asia (where you don’t have one market / one language).

Interestingly enough, the topic seems to surface at other places as well these days, look at this post on MarketingProfs for instance. The video below is part of the conversation I had with Thomas, focusing on identities. Thomas called it “difficulty of blogging for Microsoft”, I see it more as “challenges in corporate social media” or something but that doesn’t sound half as good… and the chat would have been the same anyway so why bother ;)

The reason for this was the notion that corporate blogging projects that get listed this days only seem to relate to initiatives that are set up centrally and less about the ‘accidental spokesperson’. LionelatDell or ComcastCares (aka Frank) or … are real people, real but corporate identities, transparent and honest (I presume) but set up for the company they work for. What if you (like myself) already have that presence and identity, which is personal, but talks about work stuff as well? What if you set up a corporate initiative next to your own, that you own for a long time already? Again, not really problems, but questions/challenges I like to think about… and so does Thomas.

twInfluence

A tweet from Sarah Perez (@sarahintampa) got me curious about a site called twInfluence.com two weeks ago. Anything that has to do with the measurement of online influence interests me, so this was no different. Just like most other services that measure/calculate some form of influence, this one also got it’s own ranking etc figured out, but it was how they got to it that interested me most.

Ever since I’ve started writing about measuring influence, I’ve highlighted there’s too much focus on quantity versus quality. Take the Technorati “authority” for instance, that’s basically just a number of incoming links. Or talking about Twitter and the obsession that many in Twitterville seem to have with the number of followers, or even less relevant: the number of tweets sent out. Never noticed how many times Scoble will refer to the amount of likes he has added on Friendfeed?

It’s not just about quantity at all, but also about the quality of the network, in the case of twitter that translates into the quality of your followers. twInfluence is interesting because it’s the first service that I know that takes exactly that into account. Even if you have only 1 follower, if that is someone with several thousands of followers that is clearly better than the case where you would have a few dozens of followers yourself but all with only few followers themselves:

“First and Second Order Networks: From the perspective of graph theory, a Twitterer’s followers would be considered their first-order network, and their "followers count" the same as their "degree". "Degree" is a simple form of centrality measurement that equates to "prestige" or "popularitiy"; different types of centrality can measure connectivity, authority, and control in a network. The following diagram demonstrates the different "neighborhoods" in a network. The Twitterer is the primary node (shown in red); its first-order neighbors (shown in green) surround it, and its second-order neighbors (shown in blue) surround the outside.”

Another interesting metric twInfluence calculates – what they call efficiency – is the amount of followers you have versus how many people you are following yourself. The site also analyzes velocity (how quickly you’ve gained quality followers) and social capital (how many high-influence people follow you).

twinfluence

Hopefully they’ll also find a way to take out duplications in measuring reach, and there are some opportunities as well to find out about locally relevant influence, but overall this is a very interesting exercise so kudos to the folks behind twInfluence.

True innovation

There are probably not a lot of words that get misinterpreted so many times as the word innovation. Anybody today who builds a friends list on their site, who releases an API, who created a ‘viral’ ….(you catch my drift) is innovating. Bullshit. Innovation refers to something that wasn’t done before and most of what happens on the web today is a copy of a copy… so hardly true innovation.

Why this statement? A few weeks ago I met for lunch with the founder of an independent financial services company. He and his marketing manager (who’s an ex-colleague) wanted to know more about whole this social media stuff and they knew I was kind of ‘active’ in that area so therefor the lunch. A quick initial check during lunch on what they knew and didn’t know didn’t take long. Flickr? Never heard of. Okay – get it.

To get the right idea of what needed to be done they then started to explain what their business was and how they saw their company move into the future. And to be honest, they explained me the most innovative business approach that I had heard for a while. Unfortunately I can’t tell you what it is but just take it from me that it was. Everything was there. It’s totally different from the typical business approach in that sector, it gave incredible power to their communities, they really let go of control, … Very cool. So what was missing? The right tools, techniques, services, etc to do so.

And then it hit me again. It’s not because people are on Twitter, Friendfeed, Facebook and blogs that they’re necessarily innovative. On the contrary. If ever that is what an agency or a social media consultant comes to tell you then run away (fast). Don’t turn away though because someone hasn’t heard about Twitter. They still might be more innovative thinkers than the rest of us and you know what the coolest job of all is? Making sure you work with the right people and use the right toolset to translate that really innovative idea into reality. That’s what me thinks.

Oh and for the record, my friends at the independent financial services company is looking for someone to do exactly that.

A quick one on Twitter

I liked this quote from Tim O’Reilly on a post related to Micro-blogging and how that compares to ‘regular’ blogging. Now I didn’t find the post itself that interesting, but Tim’s comment certainly was (emphasis is mine):

“Also fascinating to see different tweeting behaviors evolve in real time. It’s like watching evolution in bacteria vs. mammals. For example, among the top twitterers, it’s pretty clear that many of them are simply following anyone who follows them, which drives their "popularity." But that makes clear that they aren’t actually following any of those people — the volume is just too great. So ironically, if you follow everyone, you follow no one. (Unless you "friend" them, and only really follow your friends.)

So you can see that there are three categories of twitterers: those who use it for its original purpose, by following and being followed by a small group of friends; those who use it for marketing, by broadcasting to many but following none; and those who recognize the asymmetry, and are followed by many, but follow fewer.”

More than with blogging or anything else so far, Twitter has been a lot about quantity for many people. Metrics that ‘matter’ are number of followers, number of tweets, … and I’ve always thought of that as rather ridiculous. I’m more interested in the ratio of friends vs. followers, the number of links clicked, (comes in bit.ly?), clicks compared to the number of followers, re-tweets, replies, other tweet referrals, … anyway a lot more than is measured today.

Business as usual

It seems ages since I last opened up Live Writer last time. This is not because I stopped loving it, but because the blogging rhythm on this blog (and on I Blog Mustang) have been very slow lately. It seems like the only times I get to do some writing lately is when traveling. The last posts were all (or almost all) written on trains and planes.

While I see people writing about how Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, … or whatever other service has taken over from their blogging, that is actually not the case with me. I am indeed more active on Twitter than on this blog, but that is because of the short and instant nature of the service vs the time you need to spend writing blogposts. I do still dedicate the time I need to reading my RSS, luckily enough as I’m addicted to news – couldn’t do without.

In the meantime we’re working hard on releasing some new campaigns for Windows Live and MSN in Europe (more on these at Live In Europe) and we’re also gearing up in the planning for next year as our fiscal year starts at July 1st and not January 1st like with most companies.

For now, I’ll just try and write some more posts about things that I’ve been meaning to write now that I am on my way to Stockholm. Share your travel via Dopplr if you want ;)

Club Social

When brands make that step to be more social and decide to let go of control, we should applaud that. Sometimes we tend not to notice this, and focus just on those brands (still the most) that don’t get it at all.

Club Med is making a first step to engage with the community and in a very nice and smart way if you ask me. Interel – Club Med’s PR agency – worked with Caroline ‘Rolling Talks’ Maerten and Adhese for this first campaign. They asked blogger/photographer Ine if she was interested in going to Chamonix to one of the Club Med Villages. Nothing extraordinary here, but the nicest part of all this is that a special banner (developed by Adhese) is showing the latest updates of this trip tapping into Ine’s Twitter and Flickr stream. These banners are shown on a selection of Belgian’s most important blogs.

Here are 2 screenshots of that banner:

ClubMed1    CludMed2

I don’t know about you but I think that Club Med has made a very smart move here. And the choice of Ine as the blogger to be invited is a very important part of this smart move.

Congrats to Caroline for setting it up with the agency and for Adhese to keep innovating, also within the banner.

What I got out of Twitter so far

I’m using the service for almost a year now and still this is the first post I write about it. It’s significant how my attitude about Twitter has changed over time. I was very sceptic about Twitter before I got on the service and even when I started using it sometime early April of last year, that feeling was still very strong. I need to see for myself though, before making forming an opinion so I tested it anyway. The coverage at SXSW last year made me do that, and at MIX07 I got the first signs that Twitter was more than people ‘brushing their teeth’, ‘preparing client meeting’ or ‘waiting on the train’ etc etc

Because that was what Twitter was to me in the beginning, a lot of insignificant personal messages or people bragging about stuff. Literally telling other people ‘what are you doing?’. In an interview I did with Twitterati (a blog on Twitter) back in early May 2007 I said:

I mainly enjoy blogging because of the conversations that it allowed me to have, rather than to read about people’s personal lives in all details. Twitter offers the same but in microformat.”

And it’s just that what has changed over the course of the last few months and what made me almost a Twitter addict today. Twitter is very much a tool that enables conversation today, and does quite a bit more as well. Probably because we started ignoring to just post about what we’re doing I guess :)

twitter_logo

So what did I get out of Twitter so far then?

  • The community improves the usage of Twitter a lot more than the Twitter team does. Think of the @replies which was an idea the Twitter folks picked up since people were using it. Think of the hashtags which is an outside initiative. Think of www.twitstat.com/m which is a much better mobile web version of Twitter than the original m.twitter.com is. Think of how clients like Twhirl and many others offer a much better experience of Twitter than the web version.
  • The community builds interesting stuff around Twitter as well and Tweetscan – the Twitter search engine – is a very good example of that. Or the recently launched Tweetmeme for instance. The community also builds more silly services around it like the Tweeterboard top 100 or Twittervision but it can’t all be brilliant right ;)
  • The client people use can tell you more about how much conversation people are willing to get into. If people use the msn@msntwitter.com buddy to post from Live Messenger they probably aren’t up for a lot of conversation. Why? Since they unfortunately don’t see their timeline in the client so just post stuff from there.
  • The client people use can tell you how fast (or not) people will see your replies, but more importantly your direct messages. In Twhirl they show up in your timeline, whereas in the webpage there’s not sign at all (almost) that you got one unless you go check your email.
  • The quality of the links people share tend to be pretty good. I click a lot more on the links sent out via Twitter than anywhere else because of that. When people share a link, even to their own blog posts, they tend to have thought it through a bit more an decided to send only the best.
  • Don’t put your RSS stream into your Twitter account, that is bad. It’s counter to the point I just mentioned, it is not enabling any conversation, it’s cluttering ‘my timeline’. I have a blog, so do you and we all got feed readers to read them.
  • A ‘corporate’ Twitter account can work. But don’t push out your RSS stream to begin with (as in the point above) and make sure it’s personal. Why is @marketingprofs interesting? Because we know it’s Ann Handley who’s behind it and we know Ann and we like the conversation we’re having.
  • Size doesn’t matter, focus on quality instead of quantity. I hear so many people talking about their 3000th, 5000th, … tweet. Who cares, if none of them were interesting that’s not really very good is it. We don’t brag about the number of blogposts we write per month or year so why would it matter for tweets? Another number that gets mentioned a lot is the number of followers. Again that number is not so significant. The ‘oh my god I have 2000 followers’ when you follow more than 6000 people yourself, what does that say to you then?
  • Twitter can serve many kinds of communication purposes. One day I was asking if anyone was interested in going for a drink in the London area, the next day you’re looking for help with your blog or to find the name of a song. Or maybe you help someone else out, get people’s opinion, … etc etc whatever you can think of.
  • You don’t have to follow every one back that follows you. I know this is not everyone’s opinion but that’s what I think at least. You should check out your new followers though, see what they talk about and then make the decision. I think Shel Israel (but can be wrong) once said that you can also get a good idea of what people’s interests are by looking at their Twitter favorites as well. Good idea indeed.
  • But, you should make sure you keep an eye out for people talking to you though, even if you don’t follow them if answer them if needed. Maybe you’ll decide to follow them anyway because of that.
  • Twitter needs to get it’s act together. How much the community loves the service, and keeps preferring it to Jaiku and Pownce (which might even be better actually to some extend) the constant breakdowns and lack of innovation of the services start to get really annoying.

Nuff said, I’m hooked. If you think of other things you have learned from Twitter that you don’t see in my list, or when you just agree (or don’t agree), drop a note in the comments.

Oh yeah, and you can follow me at http://twitter.com/crossthebreeze. And if you don’t use Twhirl yet, download it right now, you won’t regret.