Friday, November 26, 2010

Making Sense of Twitter: Understanding Content Filtering and Hashtags

The concept of Twitter was born when Jack Dorsey introduced the idea of individuals using an SMS service to communicate with a small group, a simple concept that took flight. As popular as it has become many become frustrated and disillusioned at what appears on the surface to be incoherent and time wasting babble.

Twitter now receives an excess of 65 million tweets per day, that’s about 750 per second so how does anyone make sense of all this noise.

Launched in 2006 Twitter has firmly established itself as one of the Social Media heavyweights. Described as a micro-blogging platform it allows users to impart snapshots of information, random thoughts and or links to other sites using text based 140 character posts called “Tweets”.

Twitter is basically a conversation, as a comparison think of it as a crowded stadium during the half time break. Most of the discussions have little or no importance or benefit to you. Even if you could, attempting to follow every word at any given moment would be pointless and timewasting. Imagine if you could filter out all the nonsense and focus on the people or topics that are relevant to what you are interested in, now that would be powerful.

With the use of filtering tools like Twitter Search and TweetDeck to name a few that’s exactly what you can achieve. It’s less about controlling the conversation and more about fine tuning your ears.

There are three basic principles to creating appropriate Twitter streams:

  1. Follow the right people: building your community in Twitter means following those you know as well as complete strangers. If you are too selective on who you follow you also restrict your potential flow of content and resources. If you are part of a particular sector such as the Wine industry you may choose to only follow people who refer to wine in their profile ensuring that you have a more targeted group. If someone is consistently off subject or irrelevant to your requirements simply “unfollow” them, no harm done. As your following increases use the “Group” function to segment people into subject or specialty clusters. 
  2. Search Content: Try the advanced Twitter Search at and filter content by subject, date and location. This allows you to find content that is relevant to you. You may have noticed recently that Google now features Twitter content related to your search at the top of its results page. Alternatively create search threads in columns using the Twitter website or in third party applications like TweetDeck.
  3. Use Hashtags: Used in conjunction with conferences, events, presentations and webinars, the Hashtag can be a great tool for engaging the immediate and extended audience. By placing the # symbol before an unbroken word, phrase, or numeral i.e. #mytag2010, it creates a mini-search engine phrase that can be looked up and followed on Twitter thus filtering out all the other non-relevant material.
To create a Hashtag simply search twitter and check to see if your string of letters and numbers are unused. If already in use try a variation until you achieve no search results.
When your event is being publicised let attendees know in advance what the Hashtag is and be sure to use it in all your event related tweets leading up to, during and post the event. Once finished the tag retires into obscurity until used again, remember no-one owns or can lay claim to a Hashtag.

Attendees or those interested in following the conversation created in Twitter can set up a search column in their Twitter application or used a third party platforms like Twitterfall or Monitter and keep current on the on-going discussions, feedback and references.

Search on to see if your Hashtag is “Trending” on Twitter and add some impact to your presentation by putting the feed in a prominent place by using to graphically showcase your feeds and to encourage other attending to participate.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your business grow?

While walking through the park this morning I stopped to admire the neat rows of newly planted flowers in one of the garden plots I pass almost daily. The plant selection and design was noticeably different from the layout of the previous year. This act of regeneration, of redesign, of hard work with a vision of something yet to be realised made me think how this horticultural endeavour compared to business development. How to successfully manage and maintain both are skills learnt and handed down for centuries. It’s all been done before, the mistakes have all been made, yet why is it that so many of us still get it so very wrong?

The comparison to starting and maintaining gardens and business are remarkably striking to me. One of the perplexing issues associated with business growth and development, no matter how prepared we are, is the Groundhog Day factor – of doing or being subjected to the same thing again and again. The same issues with staff, out-dated and poor planning, excessive stress, lack of direction, missed deadlines and missed opportunities to name just a few.

Looking at this garden I couldn’t help wondering how the horticulturalists involved in the project felt about this task. Did they regard the ending of the previous years’ planting with sadness, or looked to the beginning of the new garden with a sense joy and opportunity or did they just simply have a resigned indifference to the entire process. From the perspective of an observer, an outsider looking in, the quality and consistent perfection of this plot and surrounding grounds illustrated a definite pride and respect for what they do.

I like analogies because they compartmentalise ideas and put them into perspective. The comparison of the garden to business for me is easy to relate to. Most of us in some form or another have attempted to grow something. Through lack of planning, loosing focus, by not watering or managing risks such as pests and disease we fail to produce a viable crop. This may not be as financially or emotionally devastating when compared to business failure yet we miss out on the potential rewards that a ripe fruit or a flower in bloom can bring to our lives as well as the sense of achievement of creating something worthwhile.

To be successful in gardening, even if you are highly educated or an old hand with years of experience, it takes planning and strategy; having the right stock and the ground in optimum condition at the right time of the year means preparation well in advance of planting the garden. Additionally advanced management of pests and diseases is better than trying to react after they have taken hold. Removing poor performing plants and replacing them with sturdy stock ensures that the other plants are not negatively affected, diminishing our potential yield.

This can only be possible if you have contingences in place and recognising that these problems are part of the growing process. By hoping for the best and adopting a wait and see attitude may result in success, the risks are significantly higher. And of course there is little point to starting the project unless you are fully committed. Watering and feeding is a mandatory task, miss even one step and the long term impact could be irreparable. Last but not least is preparing for and observing the optimum time to harvest, getting the most out of the garden. Once this has occurred then planning for the future is already underway with the best seed and lessons from the previous year recognised and integrated into the ever changing landscape.

Gardening like business is not new, most of the mistakes have been made by others and the best ideas are available in books, taught in classrooms or handed down via experts in their field. We can choose to prepare and understand that this learning should never end and make it integral to our business rather than a reaction to issues and problems. Spending time planning and developing our own skills relates directly to the growth, success and sustainability of our business.
During my morning walk I thought about my newly discovered analogy and relayed my story over breakfast to my partner. She listened and agreed then went and got her copy of Stephen Coveys’ “Seven Habits” book. In there she pointed out a chapter how Covey compares the process of business to agricultural practice, tending and nurturing plants is the same as how we have to view our business.

This simply reinforced my point rather than detracted from it. No idea is unique; the lessons are there and readily available to us from those who have taken the time to impart their hard earned knowledge. We need to constantly up skill and remind ourselves of what these lessons mean then apply them to our daily business lives and enjoy the fruits of our labour rather than repeating unnecessary failure.

What have you learned today that’s worth sharing?

Monday, November 15, 2010

B2B or not 2B: A Social Media Dilemma

We get the point that Business to Consumer (B2C) is working for online marketers but the jury is still out on the Business to Business (B2B) sector.

his four minute video illustrates some vital statistics for B2B marketers.

What I found even more interesting was the backstory of this video and the impact it made itself as a promotional tool for its creator Earnest Agency