twtAd Whale Fail

UPDATE: I’m not sure which is worse, a bug or a security hole (for the record, I never thought twtAd did this intentionally), but according to twtAd they were hacked and that caused ads to be sent out on several people’s accounts without their approval. Also, just for clarification, twtAd is not the same as TwittAd, and the James who owns twtAd is James Simpson (see here), not James Eliason, the founder of TwittAd.

I received the following tweet this afternoon from Courtney Benson:

TwtAdFailTechdomTweet

Since I haven’t tweeted much in the past couple of days, I had no idea what she was referring to, but fortunately it was a reply, to this:

TwtAdFailTweet

What? WHAT???

I did remember briefly checking out TwtAd. I’m constantly researching various ways of “sponsoring the conversation”. I think there are some possibilities in that area, and as a social media strategist, it’s my responsibility to explore new services and business models.

But I never authorized them to start sending stuff out in my name. In fact, once I got in, I decided I needed to take a closer look before I activated my account.

 

Just to be sure, I tried to log in to TwtAd:

TwtAdNotActivated

In case you can’t read the fine print, it says:

You have not activated your account yet so you cannot login. Please go click the activation link that was sent to your e-mail.

So I want to take a look at the activation email:

TwtAdFailEmail

Note the highlighted text:

Before you can get started publishing our ads we need you to verify your e-mail address.

And yet, they’re publishing ads using my account, even though I haven’t activated my account and verified my email address!

FAIL!

Massive, nuclear whale fail!

I’d like to just cancel my account, but apparently I have to activate it first. In the interest of expediency, I’ll probably go ahead and do that rather than wait to get hold of their service department. I’ll post an update.

To the twtAd owners and anyone else running any service related to social media:

General design principle: Don’t do anything automatically on behalf of users without giving them a clear description of exactly what is going to happen (and when), and preferably giving them the chance to approve or cancel it.

The Twouble with Twitter

Personally, I’ve actually found Twitter amazing for business. I’ve gotten a full-fee speaking engagement and my latest joint venture project as a result of Twitter. Still, this is pretty funny:

5 Reasons You Need LOTS of Twitter Followers NOW

By most people’s standards, I’m doing very well on Twitter. TwitterGrader currently gives me a score of 100% and has me ranked #265 out of nearly 2 million users it has analyzed.

TwitterGraderScottAllen

TGAustin2

I’m adding an average of a little over 30 followers per day, and have had days where I’ve added almost 100 new followers (#FollowFriday has been very good to me lately – thanks to all have included me in their lists).

I could toss up a bunch of other metrics here to convince you, but let’s just suffice it to say that, more or less, I’m “doing everything right” (I’m sure a few people will argue one or two points with me, but whatever).

But I want more followers. LOTS more followers. And so do you.and here’s why:

1. Only a handful of your followers are actually paying attention.

Some of your followers are heavy Twitter users. Guess what? They’re following a ton of people, and the odds of them actually picking any one of your tweets out of the noise of the thousands of people they’re following is very slim. Others are light Twitter users, and the odds of them actually being online and seeing your tweets in a timely manner is fairly slim also.

Even with nearly 4,500 “true” followers, I typically find that any one given tweet of mine generates less than 10 reactions – a reply, a retweet, a click-through to my blog, etc. [Point of clarification: I’m talking about first-order reactions, i.e., from my immediate followers. The network effect is typically much higher – anywhere from 20 to as many as 300-400 actions in the extended network after the retweets.]

That’s 0.2%!

That is a worse response rate than Google AdWords. It’s a worse response rate than cold calling. Heck, it’s a worse response rate than junk mail!!!

I’m not saying that means it’s ineffective for the time/effort you put into it, because it’s a) free and b) not terribly time-consuming. Still, point is, the response rate sucks. You need larger numbers if you want significant action in response to your Twitter activity.

2. More followers = more visibility = more “true” followers.

I couldn’t care less about my follower count for its own sake. It’s not a “badge of honor”. But there’s a basic truth about social media that Clay Shirky wrote about way back in 2003 in Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality: the sources who get more attention tend to get way more attention.

There are several reasons for this:

For one thing, psychologically, those with more followers are perceived by many to be more authoritative.

For another, there are dozens of tools out there that rank sources based on follower count (or at least that’s one of the metrics). So tools like TwitterGrader, TwitterCounter’s Top 100 lists, Twitterholic and others give more visibility to those with more followers. More visibility = still more followers.

And finally, if you have more followers, there are more people re-tweeting your posts, replying to you, etc. So their networks are exposed to you and more likely to add you.

Does it actually work? Anecdotally, yes it does. I had something I had posted about several times, even asking people for re-tweets. I got several – almost 20, in fact, but it took like 5 posts to get those 20 re-tweets. I then asked my friend @PerryBelcher to re-tweet it for me. At the time, Perry had a little over 10x as many followers as I did. Perry got 10 re-tweets off his one post. Now that’s obviously not proportional, i.e., he doesn’t have as much average attention per user as I do, but that just proves my point as to why you need larger numbers.

3. Even if you’re currently B2B or in a narrow niche, you don’t know what the future holds.

For the past six years, I’ve worked social media almost entirely from a B2B perspective myself. Some of my clients have been B2C, and I’ve advised them on strategies that I never implemented myself because I didn’t see them as a fit. My latest project, however, is a B2C play to a very broad potential market. Simply put, I can serve that project much better the farther my reach/influence is. Certainly, stronger relationships create all kinds of opportunities, but I also just simply need to raise awareness.

And relative to my goals, I’m practically starting from scratch. I want to have 10-15 times my current follower count on my personal account, and I’m starting from square one on the account I set up for that project, @AmerGuitarAcad.

Regardless of what your current job or business is, what does the future hold for you? And when suddenly you do find yourself in a position of needing a much larger network, do you want to be starting from scratch? Or already have a head start?

As Harvey Mackay says, “Dig your well before you’re thirsty.”

4. The celebrities are coming! The celebrities are coming!

Take a look at the Twitterholic Top 100. Everyone on there is a celebrity. Even if you don’t recognize their name, trust me, they are. They’re either a blogging celebrity, an author, a TV personality, a technology CEO or something. These people already have huge other platforms from which to announce their Twitter presence and rapidly grow their follower count. For example, my uncle, David Allen (@GTDGuy), has been on Twitter barely six weeks and already has about 175,000 followers.

The more celebrities show up on Twitter, the harder and harder it will get for you to reap the benefits described in #2 above. Three months ago, the Twitterholic list looked completely different. I mean, consider this: @GuyKawasaki and @Scobleizer don’t even make the cut any more.

The window of opportunity is narrowing rapidly. If you want to be on the high side of that power curve, you need to get there NOW!

5. It doesn’t cost anything to have followers.

The incremental cost of adding one more follower is $0.00. Not only that, there’s zero (or near-zero) time cost. You can rapidly grow your follower count in just 15-20 minutes a day. Now sure, you may have to follow more people to grow your follower count rapidly, and they may create more noise in your Twitter stream, but there are tools like TweetDeck that will help you manage that (just create a “high attention” group of people whose tweets you absolutely don’t want to miss).

There’s simply no downside, that I can see. By all means, if you think there is, say so in the comments below.

So of course this begs the question:

“How do I get LOTS of followers?”<
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If you’re interested in getting new followers at the rate of 20-30 a day, here’s what I’ve done that has achieved that:

  1. Create value for your followers by sharing excellent content – a mix of your own and from others.
  2. Follow new people “organically” by adding people who send you @ messages, people on the other half of a conversation with the people you’re already following, etc.
  3. Promote others on #FollowFriday. If you’ve done #1, many of the people you promote will reciprocate and promote you.
  4. Participate in hashtag chats as a way of meeting new people, some of whom may follow you.
  5. Use Twitter recommendation engines like Mr. Tweet and TwitterGrader to find relevant new people to follow. Again, many of them will reciprocate and follow you back.
  6. Promote your Twitter ID on your blog, social networking sites, your email signature, business cards, etc.

For many people, those practices will get them all the followers they think they would ever want. But as I said, I’m interested in accelerating even beyond that.

So I’ve been studying the practices of Twitter users who are not celebrities (or at least internet celebrities), and I’ve found one person in particular who really seems to know what he’s doing: Richard Bryda, aka @BigRichB.

Rich has over 75,000 followers. That makes him the most-followed non-celebrity on Twitter. And he built that following all since last November, entirely on Twitter, i.e., no blog, no YouTube videos, no TV/radio show, etc. I’ve been watching him the past few months, and what he’s accomplished is nothing short of amazing. I’ve also had the chance to meet him in person, visit with him, and talk about what he’s been doing. Simply put, he has devoted the past few months to scientifically researching how to get more followers on Twitter.

This past weekend, Rich launched his info-product, Brute Force Twitter, which spells out over a dozen tactics he has developed for rapidly growing your follower count. I can tell you I personally won’t use every single one of these, but only one of them is a technique I’ve ever used myself, and even then, not to full effect. The rest of them, I never would have thought of.

I could spill the beans and tell you these techniques, but hey – that would be enormously disrespectful of the intellectual property Rich has spent countless hours developing over the past few months. And besides, if everybody had access to these techniques, you (and I) couldn’t use them to get on the steep side of that curve, right? 😉

This is NOT a “how to get rich on Twitter” scheme. This is about helping you get more followers to support your business model on Twitter, whatever it may be.

Rich is offering his system for just $97. If you’d like to learn along with me how to get not just 20-30 followers a day, but dozens or even hundreds, you can get more information or order now.

Managing Multiple Twitter Accounts

3247followers

All kidding aside, I do actually have two Twitter accounts, and I know some who have more. It’s actually becoming fairly common to have a personal account covering a wide variety of topics and one or more additional accounts for specialized niche topics that might not be of interest to your main audience.

For example, @ScottAllen is my main account, but in my new role as Director of Online Marketing for American Guitar Academy, I’ve also set up @AmerGuitarAcad. On that account, I talk pretty much exclusively about guitar. I also have it synchronized with AmericanGuitarAcademy at Blip.fm, where I play and comment on some of my favorite guitar and bass music. While some of my followers might enjoy that, it would be overload for most of them.

Another good example of this would be something like a local coffee shop. The owner might set up an account for the business that just talked about upcoming events at the coffee shop and maybe some occasional posts about coffee or other topics that might be of interest to customers. Then on a personal account they could cover their broader range of personal interests.

The key is that there’s no deception. Be open about the multiple accounts. Occasionally explain what your other accounts are for and invite those who are interested to follow your other accounts. You can even re-tweet from one account to another if you think it’s relevant to the followers of your other account.

What you don’t want to do is pretend it’s different people, e.g.:

I’m loving the music @AmerGuitarAcad is playing.go have a listen if you like great guitar music.

What I actually posted instead was:

Speaking of my other Twitter acct, if you like great guitar/bass music you can follow @AmerGuitarAcad here or at Blip.fm: http://is.gd/kiMj

So how do you manage multiple Twitter accounts?

That’s a great question. Obviously, logging in and out of them frequently in your browser would be time-consuming, not to mention the possible confusion of posting on the wrong account. Even if you use a Twitter client rather than the web, if you use any third-party applications like Mr. Tweet or TwitterGrader, you’ll have to deal with which account you’re logged into in your browser.

My solution is that I use different browsers for each account. I do my main account on Google Chrome (my main browser) and my American Guitar Academy account on Firefox. I also use TweetDeck as the client for my main account. It’s not ideal, but it works for now.

A couple of sites have started building tools for managing multiple Twitter accounts:

HootSuite (formerly BrightKit) allows you to read and post to multiple accounts in a single unified interface. Conceptually it’s great, but I find their design is too spread out. A lot of information comes across my Twitter account – I need higher information density on-screen. This would probably work fine for fairly low-volume, but the people with fairly low volume probably aren’t the people with multiple accounts who need a tool like this.

TweetLater just announced their Professional version, which includes their TweetCOCKPIT, a dashboard for managing all your Twitter accounts. It includes some incredibly useful features like:

  • Including or excluding only certain parts of certain accounts (timeline, replies, DMs),
  • Setting the number of tweets for each part (e.g., max 10 tweets from account "X", 5 DMs from account "Y", 15 tweets and 15 DMs from account "Z", etc.)
  • Pulling in tweets that contain certain keywords regardless of whether you follow the tweeter or not.
  • Take a tweet from one account and retweet it on one, some, or all your Twitter accounts with one click.
  • Respond literally within seconds of someone tweeting about your brand name, or about any of the keywords you monitor.
  • Reply to all the tweeters mentioned in a tweet. No more copying and pasting of @names.

It’s pretty good – quite a few more features and better use of screen real estate than HootSuite. But:

  • It still can’t make use of my whole screen if I want to, plus a good 20% of the screen vertically is taken up with their freakin’ logo!
  • It doesn’t refresh automatically, so it still doesn’t have the immediacy of a desktop client like TweetDeck or Twhirl.

Also, it’s not free (you can try it free for 72 hours). The regular subscription price will be about $30 a month, but if you order before 3/21, you can lock it in at $19.97 per month. If it does the job well, I think it’s worth it. It’s not there for me yet, but I’ll keep my eye on it. A few things would make it worth it:

  • No TweetLater logo/branding on the cockpit.
  • Give me the option of a third and fourth column if my screen size/resolution will support it.
  • Allow exclusion of keywords in their search, e.g., I want “guitar” but not “guitar hero”.
  • An Ajax or Flash interface that automatically pulls updates.
  • A way to pull up the previous tweets that fit the criteria that I might have missed. I want an “older tweets” link.

Actually, TweetDeck is probably closer to being what I want. All they’d need to do is add multiple account support. A dropdown list to switch between them would be fine – I don’t need to see tweets from multiple accounts at once. The screen layout, groups and searches would need to be separate for each account. I’d be happy with that.

Are you using multiple Twitter accounts? How do you manage it? What tools do you use?

UPDATE:

Since I posted, I’ve discovered or had people recommend the following tools for managing multiple accounts:

Also, I’ve been told that you can open multiple instances of Twhirl for different accounts.

And here’s a cool video on using NetVibes to manage multiple accounts:

I’ll post an update next week after I’ve had a chance to try out some of these other tools myself.