Introduce Yourself: Why Should We Listen to You?

One of my favorite unicorns-and-rainbows myths to pick on is the dog-eared “don’t call yourself a guru.” I’ve heard said a bunch of different ways, and it’s present anytime someone maligns the term “social media expert” or suggests there is no such thing.

It turns out though, that when you pull the rainbow-colored wool from your eyes and look at actual data, Twitter accounts that use the word “guru” tend to have 100 more followers than the average Twitter account.

Now, I don’t think the takeaway here should be to call yourself a guru at every opportunity, but if you look at the rest of the words on the list, you should realize that you need to identify yourself authoritatively. People like to follow “official” accounts, and they want to know if you’re an “author,” “expert,” or “founder.”

It’s yet another way social media is like a cocktail party. I always find myself looking at nametags at networking events, because I want to know who the person I’m talking to is and what they do.

So don’t be afraid to introduce yourself and tell us why we should listen to you.

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Cheer Up and Don’t Be Such a Debbie Downer

Building on my cocktail party analogy, imagine yourself at a networking event deep in conversation with a new bunch of friends. One of them is a total bummer and is constantly negative. How much do you really want to be talking to that person?

Social media is no different than that party. Both on Facebook and Twitter, people don’t like spreading bad news.

And the data bears this out. For instance on Twitter, accounts that make many negative remarks tend to have fewer followers.

And on Facebook, while sex is the most “shareable” content type I found, “positivity” is number 2 and “negativity” is the least shareable.

There is no lack of negative news on the web and if I want to get bummed out all I have to do is turn on one of the 24 hour news stations. People don’t go to social media to feel bad, they go to social media to talk to their friends, make new ones and generally have a good time. So cheer up, and stop being such a Debbie Downer.

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Stop Talking About Yourself, Start Talking as Yourself

Imagine yourself at a networking event or cocktail party. You’re talking to a handful of people, and one guy is only talking about himself. Is he your favorite person to converse with? On the other hand there’s another guy who’s talking about you, your needs and your experiences. Which would you rather talk to?

Social media is a cocktail party, nobody wants to listen to you talk about yourself all day.

When I analyzed Twitter follower count data, I found that as the amount of self referential Tweets increases, the number of followers an account has decreases.

Now imagine that same party, with a different group of people, all talking shop. Most of them are saying the same things, stuff you’ve heard a million times before. But one person has a totally different point of view. You may not even agree with him all the time, but he’s bringing something new to the conversation. Who would you rather listen to?

People don’t want to listen to the same things, over and over again. Every time I do any kind of research on social media or contagious ideas, novelty comes up. People want to read and share things they haven’t heard before.

I’ve even gone so far as to test the idea I found that blog readers click more on ReTweet buttons that say no one else has tweeted a given article yet. They wanted to be the first person to share something and were far less interested in sharing it when it appeared many other people had already done so.

When I was doing research for my Science of Blogging presentation I did a survey and asked people what made them want to read a blog. In the responses, one of the most popular themes was that people wanted to hear unique perspectives, they wanted to read a blogger’s unique analysis and insights.

Now, we can’t all make headlines every time we Tweet or blog, but we can all speak from our own, unique perspectives.

So stop talking about yourself, it’s boring and nobody wants to hear it. But start talking as yourself and show us how the world looks through your eyes.

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My Top 6 Social Media Science Presentations (600+ Slides)

One of my favorite parts of my work is presenting the findings of my research to audiences, and as part of that I get really excited about building attractive and educational slideshows. Over the past few years I’ve researched and built a series of presentations that each explore the data and science behind some aspect of internet marketing.

Below I’ve embeded 6 of my best, hour long “science of” presentations, covering everything from social media in general, twitter, facebook, and lead generation to contagious presentations themselves. I’ve even included my newest presentation “The Science of Blogging“, which I’ll be presenting for the first time on December 9th at 2pm EST.

And if you’re organizing an event, chances are pretty good that I’d love to speak at it. See my speaking page for more information on my presentations and then email me.

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New Data: Can Twitter Predict Elections?

With the 2010 midterm elections coming up on Tuesday, I decided to look into the correlation of candidates Twitter accounts and their recent performance in polls.

I gathered a random sample of 30 senate, house and governor races from RealClearPolitics database of recent election polls and gathered each the number of followers had by each candidate in each race. I used the Twitter accounts linked to by the candidate’s campaign websites (as many of them have multiple accounts, I used the official 2010 campaign accounts). The poll data I used was the RealClearPolitics average, which is an average of recent polls of likely voters from multiple sources.

I found that in 71% of races, the candidate with the most Twitter followers was ahead in the polls.

I also graphed the correlation of “winning the Twitter battle” (having more Twitter followers than your opponent) with “winning the poll battle” (polling ahead of your opponent) and found that while there is a fair amount of variation, there may be a significant amount of “predictiveness” in Twitter following comparisons between candidates.

This research is just a first step into understanding the correlation between election performance and social media usage, but I think it indicates there is an important relationship at work.

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New Data: Articles Published in the Morning Shared More on Facebook

It’s been a while since I last published Facebook sharing data and I was waiting to gather a large enough sample set to produce this graph.

I analyzed the average (interquartile mean to be specific) number of times articles were shared on Facebook based on the time of day they were published and I found that Facebook sharing seems to peak on articles that are posted in the morning, 9AM EST specifically.

I’ve previously found that ReTweeting peaks a few hours later in the day so the takeaway here I think is to publish your articles in the morning and then Tweet about them later in the day.

Another interesting data point here is the volume of stories posted at different hours. Notice the light gray bars at the bottom of the chart, they peak two hours after the “sharing peak”.

If you’re curious about my methodology, read this.

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Which is More Powerful: Social Proof or Social Pioneering?

When I give my Science of Social Media Marketing presentation two of the most common threads are the ideas of novelty and social proof, arguably oppositional concepts. So which motivator is more powerful for social marketing?

A little while ago I did a series of experiments to test the concept of social proof on the web. I found that on the article level, being the first person to Tweet something seems to be a more powerful motivator than sharing an article that’s been posted many times already. On the site level however, visitors had a slight preference towards subscribing to a site that had a large number of subscribers, rather than one with very few.

Imagine two prehistoric people, looking for berries to eat. One person is a pioneer and goes out to the forest and starts eating the berries he finds, learning by trial and error which are good to eat and which are unhealthy. The other person is an imitator and simply watches the first person and eats only those berries already shown to be edible.

The pioneer (and subsequently her genes) will benefit because she’ll always be the first to know the best food sources, not only will she have access to the food first, but her status in her social group will be raised because of her valuable knowledge. The imitator benefits because he won’t run the risk of eating a poisonous berry.

Social exchange theory teaches us (in George C. Hohman’s 1958 “Social Behavior as Exchange”) that “the more valuable the sentiment.. the members exchange… the greater the average frequency of interaction.” People who have reputations for sharing valuable information first tend to become central to their social group.

Social proof on the other hand taught us (in Robert Cialdini’s 1993 “Influence”) “we view a behavior as more correct… to the degree that we see others performing it.” When we see someone pioneering ahead of us, we assume the actions they’re taking are safer or “more correct.”

The important of novelty as a motivator has surfaced repeatedly in research that I’ve done over the past few years. When I surveyed people and asked them what types of content they shared online, “news” topped the list.

When I analyzed how common the words in ReTweets were compared to words in random normal Tweets, I found that ReTweets used many more novel words.

And when I asked people why they Tweeted or blogged about presentations, they cited both “news” and “novelty” as some of the most important reasons.

We can see then that evolutionarily, social proof is a defensive mechanism design to protect us from harm, where as pioneering holds reputation-boosting first-mover advantage. In the context of my experiments, social proof told visitors that my site was a trusted source of content, safe to be shared, but the lack of social proof on new articles told them that there was an opportunity for them to be the first to share valuable content, almost guaranteed to increase their reputation as a source of appreciated information.

As marketers, we can take advantage of this phenomenon through a tactic called “Expectancy Manipulation” by working to create the expectations that our content is going to have the signs of social proof in the future (because all of our other content has been popular), but that each visitor has the potential to be among the first to share it.

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The Most Influential Celebrities on Twitter by Clickthrough Rate

Influence on Twitter can be measured in a variety of ways, but one of the most interesting for marketers is in the amount of traffic an account can send to a link it Tweets. Months ago, when I was working on clickthrough rate (CTR) data I noticed that the CTRs from highly followed celebrity accounts varied greatly, so I graphed the data.

Below are the celebrities for whom I’ve been able to analyze at least 100 links shortened through the service. I define “clickthrough rate” as the average number of clicks on the links they Tweeted divided by the number of followers the accounts had.

Got a favorite celebrity? Want to Tweet about their clickthrough rate?

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Introducing a New Kind of Tweetup: Social Media Battles

If you’ve seen me speak, or read my blog you’ve probably heard me rail against unicorns and rainbows advice. Going to lots of social media conferences, and reading a lot written about it, I’m noticing a disturbing lack of healthy debate, nobody disagrees with anyone else (at least not by name, in public).

Taking an idea from hip hop culture, I’m organizing a new kind of Tweetup: Social Media Battles.

Each battle will be composed of 2 people representing opposing viewpoints on a social media topic. They’ll each be given 2 minutes to make their case, and 1 minute rebuttals to their opponents, then the audience will decide the winner. Fast, simple and honest. We’ll do a bunch of these depending on how many people want to step up to the plate and battle.

The first one is going to be during FutureM week here in Boston on the evening of October 7th at the HubSpot offices in Cambridge, mark it on your calendars.

If you’ve got ideas for topics to debate, please leave them in the comments. And if you’re feeling brave and want to battle, email me.

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The Most ReTweetable Words Finder Tool

I’ve done a bunch of research about The Most ReTweetable Words and people seem to like it, but the overall top 20 is a bit too generic for many niches. So I made a tool that will allow you to find the most ReTweetable words about your specific topic.

This tool will show you the 20 most ReTweetable words about any given topic. Simply enter a keyword (like “marketing”) and click analyze. The tool will return a list of words that were found to be related to that word and highly ReTweetable. It will also display the number of Tweets and ReTweets analyzed to generate the list.

Each word is recalculated after 24 hours, and the tool analyzes up to 1500 Tweets and 1500 ReTweets per word. Therefore the most ReTweetable words displayed represent the most contagious topics recently.

The tool works by comparing words found in ReTweets against how commonly they appeared in non-ReTweet Tweets, and identifies those words that appear in ReTweets more than they do in non-ReTweets.

It does take a few moments to analyze a new word for the first time, so please be patient. And this tool is very beta, so expect some (read: plenty) bugs. There are some known issues with multiple word searches.

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