Twitter photos in newsfeed: It’s about originality and relevance too

Twitter image

Photo Credit: Rosaura Ochoa via Compfight cc

Ahead of its IPO, Twitter last week rolled out a new feature: pictures directly uploaded via Twitter and Vine vids would start appearing in timelines (as opposed to just being links you had to click to view).

Immediately the cynics could be heard voicing their displeasure about the Twitter newsfeed photos — it seemed (to them) to be a suspicious way of allowing… marketing! (shocking!) into the timeline. A good summation of this position can be found in a well-written post by Matthew Ingram on Gigamon (““).

I don’t really have a problem with Ingram’s analysis, that this move by Twitter was done with an eye on making the platform seem more marketing friendly. But … after tooling around my own timeline to see what images were now showing up, I reached two conclusions.

The first conclusion is that Twitter’s move to include the photos and Vines in the newsfeed is as much about encouraging better content and originality as it is about advertising and marketing. Marketers who don’t understand this may end up on the losing side of this change.

I also think this is about bringing users who are accustomed to using Twitter clients such as Hootsuite “back to the app” — a tricky move considering how tied Twitter is to its ecosystem of platforms. I certainly hadn’t stepped out of the confines of Hootsuite (which I use) to view a timeline so much as I have recently

When I heard of the in-stream picture feature, I went and looked at my timeline. I discovered something immediately: there were fun, original photos … and there was crap. Guess who I immediately unfollowed? Someone who had posted the same picture over and over of some crappy book they were selling got the boot, immediately.

If a Twitter photo looked like it was something an actual person might take — it got my attention. The more relevant and original the photo, the more positive my immediate reaction. I suspect I’m not alone in this.

So let this be a warning to any and all marketers: The medium defines the FORM and STYLE of the message. Uploading pics that seem … for lack of a better word … “markety” and very advertising-like are not going to be well liked. On the other hand, images that look original and connect in relevance to the user are another matter.

This is actually a part of a by-now age old story in social media marketing: quality matters. As does originality. And of course, relevance.

So is this really all about advertising/marketing? I’m going to split the baby on this issue. I think it’s very important for Twitter to up its game with visuals, imagery and video regardless of its attraction to marketers/advertisers. It’s simply the smart move for Twitter to move in this direction. Do people really care which platform delivers images that they like? Sure, some people might — but I certainly don’t care.

On a side note … I’m still surprised Twitter cards are not more popular — and Twitter could have done a TON more with this feature … but that’s another story.

Most Top 20 public companies in Mass. invisible on social media

Are marketers like myself in a bubble when it comes to social media? I think so. We read and research so much about the topic that we naturally think every company is involved in some way.

I just tried a little experiment that says that’s not true — not by a long shot.

I took the Boston Business Journal’s 2013 Book of Lists and looked at the home pages of the top 20 largest public companies and the top 20 largest private companies in Massachusetts (measured by revenue). I looked for social media icons on the home pages, and only the home pages. I understand some of these companies are “parent” companies of well-known brands, but still, I wanted to see what their home pages presented to the world. After all, if you’re not promoting your social media accounts on your home page … where would you?

The results: 65% of the 20 largest public companies had no social media presence at all on their home page.

Do  you find that astounding? I do. And these are companies with 2011 revenues between $1.85 billion (Waters Corp.) and $25 billion (Staples).

Private companies fared much better: 30% had no social presence on their home pages (which I still find fairly high).

Almost universal to both public and private company home pages, too, was the hidden nature of social media icons and links. In almost all cases, the social media account links or icons were located at the very bottom of home pages — and very nearly invisible (low contrast icons).

After looking at a few of these accounts, I understood why: a large number (I didn’t tally specific results) showed very poor sharing habits. They might have many followers, but in turn followed precious few other Twitter accounts in return. This screams to me they are using Twitter as a broadcast platform only — and don’t seem much interested in sharing content or listening to others.

I will look deeper into the top lists and report more later when I’ve tallied results, but I think this cursory look says a lot: Big companies, private, and especially public are prone to ineffective and superficial use of social media.

A good counter argument  is that these successful companies are not engaging social media much because they effectively engage in customer feedback in more traditional ways. That’s fair enough.But these days, I’m surprised at the very cold, impersonal “front face” these companies show to the public.Nstar Twitter page snapshot

Look at Nstar’s Twitter account in this image above. Do you think — especially to younger customers — that this says anything about their responsiveness to their customers? Yes, I understand they are a regulated utility. Does that really prevent them from “Following” others? Really?

Even if it’s a holding company, doesn’t it say something when a company uses social media only for its brand properties only? Doesn’t it seem to communicate a kind of “facelessness” that seems cold, impersonal — not really human?

At least that’s my impression. I’ll report more data when I’ve looked at more companies, so stay tuned.


Getting Started on B2B Twitter: Build your Follower count with dashboard searches

For many B2B users who start out on Twitter, one of the first questions is “how do I start to get Followers?”

Here’s an easy way to get started: Use a social media management dashboard like HootSuite or TweetDeck to build custom search lists. Social media management dashboards are 100% necessary for managing your social presence across multiple platforms, be it Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and others. See this description of HootSuite on Wikipedia to get the picture or just visit the links above.

I’ll use the example of HootSuite, because it’s what I use, but feel free to use Tweetdeck or another tool if you wish. Naturally, you have to create your social media accounts first and then add them to your social media dashboard.

Now, let’s say you’ve done that. Here’s what the HootSuite search box looks like: Hoot search

An easy way to build followers from a low count or even zero, is to use the search tool (in the upper right hand corner) to search for relevant potential followers by inputting these key word searches.

  • Input words that describe your general industry or type of business
  • Input words that describe your industry or business and use the “location” icon in the right-hand corner of the search box (it’s the circle thingy)
  • Input words that describe your type of product or service
  • Input words that describe your type of product or service using the “location” icon

Just start out with this task list, and when you find a stream of tweets that seem to be relevant, or match closely with the search and your interest, just click on the “Add Stream” button at the bottom of the search box. By searching with and without the location tool, you essentially get two searches that are “everyone on planet Earth” and “everyone in my area.”

Now … click on individual tweets and click the “Follow” button in the profile. Why? Remember the golden Twitter rule: To get Followed you must Follow someone else. What you are essentially doing is starting out by “Following” your peer set. This is a natural place to start or build from — and you get to see what your business peers (and yes, competitors) are talking about on social media.

Want to make it simpler? On the left hand side of the HootSuite search box you’ll see the Twitter icon and a down arrow. Click it and it will allow you to “Search Twitter” (which is the default) or “Find Twitter Users”. Click on “Find Twitter Users” and the result box will show Twitter users who have that key word search in their description or name — and a default button to “Follow” that user!

How easy can you get?

You will find yourself endlessly playing with key word searches, but don’t be shy — keep adding relevant streams that apply, you’ll eventually delete the ones you find not-so useful.

FYI, you can use the same search tool to search Facebook too! Unfortunately it’s kind of buried. Just click on the Twitter icon in the search box and you’ll see a bottom option for “Search Facebook.” Now … if they could only add LinkedIn to that functionality we’d really be all set.