The identity shouldn’t get in the way of using it. Behind every account is a unique TwitterId (it’s 19900778 in @London2012’s case if you’re interested). This means you can change your @username and still maintain your follower and following relationships. Here are the Twitter instructions to do this.
I don’t know who “owns” this asset, but surely whoever it is could think of a change of identity that would still be relevant to the majority of its followers. Perhaps it could have been used to support the Games’ legacy? @UK_Sport’s 91,400 followers rather pales in comparison.
And @London2012 isn’t the only account like this.
What are the BBC going to do with accounts relating to shows that are no more, like @BBCTheVoiceUK and its 521,000 followers, or the @ChrisMoylesShow with 518,000?
Nothing by the looks of it.
On a sombre note, there are accounts that become dormant because someone dies. Examples like @ebertchicago and @davidbowiereal demonstrate that even then there can be circumstances where it’s appropriate for the accounts to live on.
As of writing Lissted‘s data shows 28,401 accounts with 10,000+ followers who haven’t tweeted in the last 90 days.
Not all of these accounts will be dormant. Some like Ed Sheeran may be just “buggering off for a bit“. But many will.
Between them they have a combined untapped group of 1.5 trillion followers.
For anyone who doesn’t know, a Unicorn in this context is a startup company with a valuation in excess of $1bn.
The post analysed in depth the current investment situation in relation to Unicorns and concluded:
“The reason we are all in this mess is because of the excessive amounts of capital that have poured into the VC-backed startup market. This glut of capital has led to (1) record high burn rates, likely 5-10x those of the 1999 timeframe, (2) most companies operating far, far away from profitability, (3) excessively intense competition driven by access to said capital, (4) delayed or non-existent liquidity for employees and investors, and (5) the aforementioned solicitous fundraising practices. More money will not solve any of these problems — it will only contribute to them. The healthiest thing that could possibly happen is a dramatic increase in the real cost of capital and a return to an appreciation for sound business execution.”
The post lit a fire in the VC and startup communities.
In fact Lissted ranks the post as the most significant piece of content on any investment related topic in the VC community in the last two months.
So I thought I’d see how it compares to other recent posts about Unicorns.
Comparison with other “Unicorn” content
I searched across the last month for posts with the most shares on LinkedIn (URLs listed at the end). If you search across all platforms you end up with very different types of unicorn!
Having found the Top 10 articles on this basis, I then looked at the number of distinct members of Lissted‘s VC community on Twitter who shared each of the articles. The community tracks the tweets of over 1,500 of the most influential people and organisations in relation to venture capital and angel investment.
Finally for completeness I also looked at the number of distinct Lissted influencers from any community who tweeted a link to the piece.
In the graph the engagement numbers have been rebased for comparison, with the top ranking article for each measure being set to 100.
The difference in reaction by the VC community and influential individuals in general is considerable.
There’s been a lot of talk over the last week or so about what Twitter needs to do to turnaround its fortunes. As someone who’s spent more time than is probably healthy looking at Twitter data over the last three years I thought I’d throw in my two penneth.
Here are the three areas I think are crucial to address.
Note none of them relate to tweets or ads. True, changes to video, ability to edit tweets, tweet length, ad options etc. might improve things in the short term. But I’m convinced in the medium/long term they’re like moving the deckchairs on the Titanic.
Twitter’s public nature (protected accounts aside) is a major reason why it appeals to a minority of people. Those who accept, or are naïve about, the risk involved with such a platform.
Friday night saw an example of such naivety from a Twitter employee of all people in response to the #RIPTwitter hashtag:
Freedom of speech and expression is something to be valued. But just like society won’t tolerate all behaviour, nor should Twitter.
Update: While I’ve been drafting this post today, Twitter has announced the creation of a Trust and Safety Council.
Hands up who’s been followed multiple times by the same account? Here’s a screenshot of an account that followed our @Tweetsdistilled account ten times last month.
Each time it’s unfollowed and tried again because @Tweetsdistilled didn’t follow it back. Such automated follow spam is a joke. If these are the kind of users Twitter thinks it needs to be serving then it really doesn’t have a future.
At the moment anyone can follow up to 5,000 accounts. You are then limited to following only 10 per cent more accounts than the number that follow you. So to follow more than 5,000 accounts you currently need 4,545 followers.
I’d suggest changing this ratio to substantially less than 1.0x after 5,000 accounts. For example, if set at 0.25x then if you wanted to follow 6,000 (1,000 more) you would need to have 8,545 followers (4,000 more).
I’d also place stricter limits on the number of times you can follow the same account than appears to be the case at the moment. Twice in any 30 day period would be enough to allow for an accidental unfollow!
Combined, these changes would still allow people to grow their followers, but would mean they could only do so if they were interesting to an increasingly large group of users.
Why do I know these constraints shouldn’t be an issue?
Because of 2.57 million accounts that Lissted has identified as having any real influence potential on Twitter, 95 per cent of them (2.44 million) follow less than 5,000 accounts. Of the remaining 124,000 accounts, 24,000 would still be within the parameters I’ve suggested.
Here’s a table summarising the stats:
You can see the remaining 100,000 accounts have more follow relationships (2.619bn) than the other 2.47 million combined (2.449bn).
And these are just the accounts that Lissted has identified as having some degree of likelihood they are “genuine”. There are probably more that are pure spam that Lissted filters out.
So this tiny minority, less than 0.1 per cent of Twitter users is creating this huge amount of irrelevance.
A key strength of Twitter is the groups of experts you can find related to pretty much every industry, profession and topic you can think of.
In my opinion Twitter focuses too much on promoting “celebrities” and not enough on these niche communities.
Twitter needs to provide new and existing users with simple and effective ways to “plug into” them.
This could be done within the existing feed mechanism. Over the last 12 months our niche Tweetsdistilled accounts e.g. @PoliticsUKTD, @HealthUKTD and @EducationUKTD have been demonstrating this. They’re like a cross between Twitter lists and ‘While you were away’. Having chosen to subscribe to the feed it then posts interesting tweets from the community into your timeline and like Twitter lists you don’t need to be following the specific accounts concerned.
They appear to be doing something right, as they’re followed by many key members of these communities. Even accounts you might assume would have this covered anyway.
I’d love to know the engagement stats for the Popular in your Network emails. Does anyone actually look at them? For new users they seem to focus heavily on celebrity tweets. My suspicion is if you wanted to sign up for Stephen Fry’s or Kanye’s tweets you’d have done it by now.
Instead, why not allow users to subscribe to a summary of what communities have been talking about. The content they’ve shared and the tweets they’ve reacted to.
Lissted can now deliver daily and weekly digests of the most interesting content and tweets from an array of communities. Here’s Sunday’s US Business community weekly digest for example.
To produce these digests Lissted actually combines the response of a Twitter community with the wider social reaction across Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+. But it still demonstrates Twitter has the ability to be seen as a powerful intelligence tool for new and existing users with minimum investment on their part.
If you have 7 minutes to spare here’s a detailed story we produced last October about how this could also help Twitter in an onboarding context too.
Over to you Jack
Twitter’s next quarterly results announcement is tomorrow (10th February). I wonder if any of these areas will be addressed….
Social media listening tools can provide powerful insights when they’re used to find answers to really good actionable questions.
But recently I’ve noticed a move to start making absolute statements based on such analysis. I highlighted one such area earlier this year in relation to the UK general election. Some people even suggested Twitter could predict the outcome. They were wrong.
The thing is, as much as social data can be powerful and seem vast in scope, you still need to keep a sense of perspective.
And that’s before we get into issues like spam accounts, bias towards power users’ output, questions about whether tweets and posts are trulyan authentic reflection of what people think and feel, demographic bias and the online disenfranchised.
I based my estimate on Twitter and Facebook, as they represent the majority of conversation that such tools access. We could add Reddit, blog posts, comments on online articles and YouTube videos, forums etc, and if anyone fancies doing so, be my guest! But I don’t expect you’ll get to a much bigger number.
Particularly as on the other side of the equation we could add to what people say other forms of conversation that aren’t accessible to social listening: emails, messaging apps and collaboration tools like Slack to name a few.
So does this make social listening as an insight tool a waste of time?
No, of course not. I’ve spent enough time buried deep in social data to know that it can provide hugely valuable insights. But to achieve this you need to be extremely focussed.
Ask good questions
Structure questions that take into account the limitations of the data. “Who does Twitter conversation suggest is going to win the UK general election?” does not fall into this category. Also ensure the answer doesn’t lead to a “so what” moment, but provides a genuine basis to take more action.
Say no to pretty noise
Pretty dashboards that pluck results out of the ether aren’t the answer. Make sure you understand exactly who you’re listening to – who is behind the data.You need this audience perspective to be confident what you’re seeing is real insight and to address what I call the four (f)laws of social listening.
Sometimes social media analysis gives you an answer you didn’t expect, one that differs from your existing world view. It’s crucial you don’t dismiss such answers as they could be the most valuable insights you’ll ever get. Equally, don’t naively just accept them at face value. Challenge. Try and triangulate the answer from another source. Try asking the question in a different way and compare the answers. Sometimes you can be surprised.
* You can see my back of an envelope calc here. The estimated variables are editable in the “Try your own” sheet (highlighted in blue) so you can have a play to work out your own figures. In simple terms we’re comparing:
Talking: c. 422 million people across US, Canada and UK using 16,000 words per day = 6.75 trillion words. Twitter: c. 137 million tweets (N. American and UK users assumed at 27.5 per cent of active users multiplied by 500 million tweets per day) assumed to contain an average of 25 words = 3.4 billion words Facebook: c. 707 million Facebook posts per day (N. American and UK users assumed at 16.4 per cent of users multiplied by 4,320 million posts per day) assumed to contain an average of 50 words = 35 billion words. Only 20 per cent of these posts assumed to be accessible by social listening tools. I have no specific basis for the level of this last assumption, though clearly it is the case that social listening tools can’t access all Facebook data – though Datasift’s PYLON offering provides a potential solution to this privacy issue. However even if you assume all posts accessible the result only increases to 0.57 per cent.
The implications are pretty obvious. No matter how much turnover (or revenue if you prefer) you generate, if it doesn’t turn into profit you’ll only survive if someone keeps pumping in cash.
If you generate profit, but you don’t convert that profit to hard cash, then you’ll end up in the same boat.
A similar issue applies to social listening, analytics and measurement in general.
Vanity metrics and pretty noise
You can’t move for the number of tools and platforms that will give you graphs and metrics of social media data. The frequency of mentions of this, how many likes of that, the number of followers of the other. All wrapped up in a beautifully designed dashboard.
The thing is this “analysis” is often nothing more than pretty noise. And the danger is it can be worse than meaningless, it can be misleading.
To find real insight we need to know the who, what and why of the data behind the numbers, how this relates to what we’re seeking to discover and most importantly of all, we need to know the right questions to ask.
The UK General Election social media coverage was a great example of how not to do this. All the attention was on counting stuff and comparing who had more of this and less of that.
Finally “actionable insight” is a phrase we hear all the time. But even when it’s an accurate description, the key element is “able”.
If we don’t possess the skills, resources or confidence to take the action required, then the whole exercise was pointless. So don’t bother asking a question unless you’re able to follow through on the answer.
Because it all comes down to this – what is the outcome of your action in the real world?
After all, just ask Ed Miliband whether his Twitter metrics were much consolation when it came to the result of the election.
Hat tip to Andrew Smith who inspired this post with his comment to me that with Lissted we’re seeking to focus on “sanity, not vanity”.