How to find the answer to anything

I still get amazed on an almost daily basis how intelligent people ask others in person or on social media questions that if they’d only typed the same set of words into Google they would have found the result instantly!

It’s true. By far the biggest tip I can ever give anybody who has a question they need answering is to simply go to Google and type the question as if you were asking a human! Trust me it really works.

You can use this tip for absolutely anything because Google Inc., have cleverly coded their search engine to interpret the semantics of a question. “What’s on at the movies tonight”, “Who won the world cup in 1966”, “where is the best place to get a suit tailored” – all work. Google also pay big bucks to Twitter and Facebook to collate answers from similar questions in social media too – so you can also get real humans answering your question in a real human way.

Try it next time you need to know anything and you’ll be amazed that it actually works.

WhatsApp – what’s up??

WhatsAppNo matter how hard I look at this, I still can’t see a justification for Facebook paying $16b for WhatsApp.

The media speculates that it’s to acquire 450 million users, many from emerging countries who aren’t using Facebook at all, but many of them will be (which makes them worthless) and even if all weren’t that would equate to $35 per user, which is a massive acquisition price.

How can Zuckerberg have stood up in front of the board to justify paying that amount? If the issue really is that in emerging markets more people were using WhatsApp than Facebook, then spend more on promoting Facebook! The cost of running campaigns across all major media in those territories day and night for a year wouldn’t have topped more than $1b with change to CODE WhatsApp from scratch! In any case if Zuckerberg is true to his word, Facebook won’t change WhatsApp – which means those users won’t be exposed to Facebook or its advertisers any day soon. Go figure!

Putting this into some sort of meaningful context; if you were to combine the gross box-office takings (adjusted to today’s money taking inflation into account) of ALL the 60+ movie back-catalogue from Steven Spielberg (valued at $9b – that includes movie gold such as ET, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, Close Encounters, Private Ryan, War Horse, Schindler’s List, etc etc etc., – you would still have only spent HALF the money that was spent on WhatsApp!!!

Within the hallowed halls of Facebook Towers there is undoubtedly some amazingly sound and considered reason for purchasing WhatsApp Messenger (to give it its full title) – but my suspicion is that history will show this to have been the apex of Silicon Valley folly.

UPDATE: Meanwhile later that day…

Following on from the recent purchase of WhatsApp, and my blog post above, Facebook have now released an unbelievable set of financial reports with advertising revenues up 82% on the previous period and regular users now exceeding well over a billion. Over half of Facebook’s revenue is now coming from mobile – that in itself is an astronomical achievement given that just 12 months ago working out how to monetise mobile was seen as Zuckerberg’s biggest challenge.

To continue the mind blowing figures further, 80% of users are now OUTSIDE North America and this gives us the biggest clue yet as to why WhatsApp was seen as such a valuable prize. In India for example, due to high cost of SMS texting, WhatsApp dominates with the majority of smartphone contract holders using it all the time. On top of this in a recent interview Zuckerberg stated that Facebook was changing tack over previous mobile policy and breaking up the ‘blue app’ into constituent parts (messenging, photos, news etc) whilst at the same time ensuring access across all their mobile assets to the user’s social network – because this had proven to be what users wanted.

Does that justify the high price tag of WhatsApp? Only time will tell as its value will take some time to truly be seen – but given Facebook’s ongoing success few in the camp are going to stop to question it right now.


My Top Tips for Managing Twitter Accounts

Twitter was born in March 2006 and launched to the world in July of that year. I’ve been a daily Tweeter since April 2007 – just after it’s big launch at SXSW when it really started to capture the public’s imagination.

Over that time I’ve built up a sizeable following and people often ask me how I manage to keep a track of my followers. Here are a few tips to help you manage your account.

Firstly, you need to really decide what you want out of Twitter. If you’re an individual you may simply want to keep in touch with a circle of friends and acquaintances, occasionally adding a few more into your network. If you’re a business or Tweeting on behalf of a brand, then creating a sizeable channel of potential and existing customers may be your goal instead. Either of these are perfectly valid reasons for having a Twitter account of course, but the way that you manage your account will probably be different in both these examples.

In my case I have my own personal account – @Rokkster, but my business also has its own account too (@RokkMedia). The waters are muddied slightly because although @Rokkster is my personal account I often touch on my work and so I have to be conscious that anything I say in that account is likely to reflect on my businesses. That’s not an issue for me, but it may be for others. Just something to bear in mind.

Tip #1 – Don’t be afraid to follow back.

Many people I know are cautious about following back too many people for fear of creating an unwieldy stream. This is a genuine concern. The most that can be followed realistically is about 150-200. So how do I manage 17,500+ followers?

The answer is in LISTS. Twitter has provided the ability to create lists for a long time now and although most people don’t use them it is probably the most powerful feature in Twitter (Google+ and Facebook offer similar features too).

In my case for example, I have two key lists – one for people who have engaged with me at some point and one for people who I want to keep an eye on their tweets, but haven’t engaged with me (not a crime and not to be expected for global brands, celebrities, or information ‘tweet-casters’ like news accounts).

Other people create specialist lists such as people in their industry, tweeters in their local area, celebrities, political groups etc. There’s no right or wrong here and you can literally create hundreds of lists if you wish.

My lists are private, i.e. the membership is not visible to the public. This is just a personal decision however and depending on what you create lists for – there’s no reason normally to not make them public.

In this way I am able to monitor about 2-300 people on a daily basis in my ‘engagement’ list and only miss occasional tweets. Alternatively messages in my main stream change every second and even tweets from people who are of interest to me are gone before I have a chance to read them.

How you monitor these lists is easier or harder depending on what application you are using. Twitter’s official website and mobile application, for example, require you to dig through your profile before you can view your lists. If you use these primarily therefore you are unlikely to keep a regular check on your lists.

I use Hootsuite on my computer, Tweetbot (iPhone only) and Twitter (iOS or Android) on everything for monitoring my lists (Twitter’s mobile app or website is not great for managing lists but their desktop app works well enough. It’s also very useful for seeing recent followings to follow them back). Hootsuite allows me to create columns and position them where I want – so my lists are usually placed ahead of everything else. Tweetbot allows me to replace the main stream with a list of my choice.

I also SWITCH OFF my main stream as the speed that tweets come and go renders this useless.

Sadly, this does mean that I am undoubtedly missing out on some fantastic tweets, but that’s unavoidable.

If you have anything over 500 followers and are avoiding following any more people for fear of drowning in tweets then this is the solution for you.

I recently attended an entrepreneur’s conference in London where a well known brand owner gave a passionate keynote on using social media. Everything he said was great advice and he pleaded with the business people there to work on their social media accounts for the betterment of their businesses.

However, when I looked at his account I noticed that he had about 5400 followers but was only following back 350. That’s less than 10%! To me as a potential follower that said that he was unlikely to ever engage with me – and to the 5050 followers he hadn’t followed back that he probably didn’t care about them much either. Now, I’m sure that wasn’t the case and in fact he made a big point of saying that he always replied to tweets (although to date he hasn’t replied to mine!) – but perception is everything and to his unfollowed followers that can’t ring true.

The solution though is simple. Follow those who follow you (within reason – see next tip), and place those you want to follow on a regular basis in to lists. Job done. The ROI for his brand in doing this would be increased loyalty which undoubtedly will lead to direct business too.

Tip #2: That Said – Be Selective

Having urged you to follow back I would still urge you to be selective whith whom you follow. Twitter unfortunately is now groaning under the weight of spammers (and worse), and no matter whether you are exposed to those tweets or not, none of us want to encourage them. So here is the fltering process I go through before I follow anybody back:

1. Are they using a photo/image in their avatar – or is it the ‘Twitter Egg’? I don’t care particularly if it’s a real photo, a logo, or anything else – but if it’s an egg this is a pretty good indicator of a spam account (but not always). Chance of not being followed: 1/5

2. Is there a bio? If there is no bio or description of the Twitterer that can also be an indication of a spam account (these people create thousands of accounts, mostly using automated software, which are used to tweet spam messages).  Chance of not being followed: 1/5

3. Bio exists but it describes the objectives of a typical spammer. An example would be: ‘I’m a stay-at-home mom making thousands a week’. That one would be quickly passed over. Chance of not being followed: 5/5

4. Check last few tweets (up to 10). I’m looking here for some level of engagement or personal insight. If I only see quotes (e.g. ‘Be true to yourself and others will believe in your truth’) – that’s a very strong indicator that the account is an automated spam account looking to build a following before releasing it’s spammy messages! If I only see other people’s Tweets re-Tweeted, that isn’t a definite no-no but if those RT’s are spam-like messages then that is. If those RTs are pertinent to that account (for example the @RokkMedia account largely tweets mobile app related news), that may still be OK – if I’m interested in that information. In those cases I am more likely to add the account to one of my other lists. Chance of not being followed: 2/5

5. Abusive or obnoxious views. We all have off-days and when things wind us up Twitter can be a good place to let off steam – but if I am seeing constant expletives and venomous messages there is no way I’m going to follow. Chance of not being followed 4/5

This process is purely for those who have followed me first. If I engage with someone on Twitter or in ‘real life’ then of course none of this applies and I will simply follow and add to one of my lists.

The final point I want to make concerns when to unfollow. Personally, unless you start spamming me there are few occasions when I will unfollow beacuse of my filtered list system. I have previously written a post covering my reasons why which you can read here. 

Wait – don’t unfollow that account!

I’ve noticed recently a lot of people unfollowing followers in Twitter who haven’t struck up a conversation with them. Now of course they are entirely within their rights so to do, but before you use mass-unfollow tools, or even do this manually, I’d recommend just thinking whether those users are the ones you really should be ditching.

Statistically there are a proportion of social media account holders who simply like to browse. Just as in any social situation there are people who are naturally interactive and enjoy a natter, there are others who prefer to sit quietly in a corner and observe. This doesn’t make them any less welcome at the party – and in fact very often in their quiet way they deliver the most eloquent and sensible contributions when encouraged into a discussion.

This is no different in Twitter and we shouldn’t assume that just because someone hasn’t tweeted for a few days they haven’t been listening. There is also no penalty to your account in having followers who don’t say a lot – in fact I’d argue it’s those we follow who chatter incessantly who are the greater burden, and even worse those who are self-obsessed about themselves or their businesses, services, or products and clearly have an agenda that doesn’t feature you in it other than to spread their message that are the better ones to drop!

So, before you weed out the quiet followers on your account bear in mind that they may read every single word you post – and who knows may even have been a future customer or colleague!

A quiet friend is no less a friend 😉

For more marketing ideas or help in devising a successful web marketing or social media strategy, please get in touch…