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What’s So Special About Twestival?

Posted on March 22, 2010. Filed under: Social Media, Twitter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Philadelphia Twestival logo

The 2010 Twestival is nearly here.

With this year’s Twestival, on March 25, cities around the world join in a collective effort to raise money on behalf of Concern Worldwide, an organization that works to improve life circumstances for impoverished people. Funds collected through Twestival will help support Concern Worldwide’s education projects.

The Twestival event in the city where I reside — Philadelphia — is being organized by Gloria Bell and Melissa Thiessen. They cooked up a scavenger hunt as part of the local festivities.

Gloria recently shared her thoughts on the festival as well as the role of social media as a fundraising tool. Here are excerpts from our conversation:

Interview with Philadelphia Twestival co-organizer, Gloria Bell

What made you decide to have a scavenger hunt? Because it’s fun? Is that part of the point?

Gloria: The idea is to do something to get people who talk to one another online to meet face to face. Most Twestivals plan a party event of some kind. We thought about how much fun it would be to have everyone wander around Old City [a historic area of Philadelphia]. The idea came from PodCamp. They had one and everybody had such a great time, we thought, let’s do it again.

How will the scavenger hunt happen?

Gloria: Everyone will gather at National Mechanics [a bar/restaurant] and then break up into teams. They’ll be given clue sheets that have riddles, questions and locations where you have to go out and get the answer… For each clue, you have to tweet back the answer or TwitPix the photo to the Philadelphia Twestival account. The organizing team adds up the points and decides who is the winner, and they get their choice of prizes. Then we raffle off the other prizes…. We put a call out on Twitter and most of the prizes came from that.

You’re making Twitter an integral part of the actual event. How else does Twestival connect to Twitter and other social media?

Gloria: It’s all organized and promoted, not one hundred percent through Twitter, but primarily through Twitter. We have a Facebook page and we do email blasts, but the primary portion of the event — planning, organizing, rallying of volunteers, soliciting of sponsors and donations — is all done through Twitter.

It seems Twitter helps build the excitement and really turns it into an event. Why do you think that happens?

Gloria: I think it speaks to the power of social media in general. To be able to so quickly and so far, spread the word about something. To motivate people. To get them enthused. It gives us the power to reach people so much quicker than we otherwise would be able to.

I agree. I’ve given to causes I’ve seen on Twitter. I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe it’s the instant nature of it. I’ve given to people I don’t even know. Someone I’m a Twitter pal with says, “This is my friend and they need help.” Also, there’s a lot of fundraising going on for all kinds of things…  Why is Twitter such a magnet for people who want to do good things?

Gloria: Part of it is the nature of the medium itself. The people who are involved with Twitter are already into building relationships. Even though they may not be the direct relationships that most of us think of, it’s like, if someone’s your friend they’re my friend too.

That’s how we build our following on Twitter. We connect with people with whom we have common interests and then we connect with people they know. I think the same thing can be said for the power of charity. It’s the same connection.

This makes sense. Still, there’s a lot of things to give to. Yet if it’s on Twitter somehow it can be more powerful. Maybe it’s the reach?

Gloria: The reach is part of it. Can I reach almost 4,000 people in my normal day-to-day life? No. Can I reach 4,000 people instantly with a single [Twitter] message? Yes. I can. The immediacy of it is a huge draw. The fact that I can give to this cause, right now, in this limited attention span lifestyle we have.

Here’s a perfect example: I got a mailer from Planned Parenthood yesterday and it’s on my desk. It will be there when I get around to looking at it. I am going to send Planned Parenthood money. But it’s not the same as having instant gratification. And that’s what happens online. It’s that instant of “yes we know we’ve made a difference” feeling.

There’s still time for YOU to make a difference

Thanks Gloria, for sharing such thoughtful insights. You’ve been working hard to ensure the Philadelphia Twestival is a big success. Here’s hoping our city raises a nice pot of money.

And readers, there’s still time for you to get involved with this global movement for social good.  Head to the Twestival website to find out what’s happening in your area.

– Deni Kasrel

What are your thoughts on Twestival and using social media for social good? Comments welcome.

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What is Twestival? And How You Can Join In The Fun.

Posted on March 18, 2010. Filed under: Social Media, Twitter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Twestival is a fun word.

Twestival events are fun, too.

The one in Philadelphia, Pa. has a scavenger hunt. Birmingham’s in the UK features a magician and dance party.

A good time will be had by all. And it’s all for a good cause.

A global event for giving

Twestival, which stands for Twitter Festival, is dedicated to using social media for social good. It’s motto: “Tweet. Meet. Give.”

Here’s how it works: Cities around the world host individual Twestivals to raise funds for charity, all on the same day. This year it’s March 25. Parties and raffles are favorite ways to shake the money tree, though organizers can do whatever they want.

Helping poor children gain a better education

Twestivals are 100% volunteer and all proceeds go to a single cause.

This year the cause is Concern Worldwide, a humanitarian organization that helps those who are living in extreme poverty achieve major improvement in their lives. It does good things in several areas of interest including health, education and finding ways to enable people to have reliable sources of food and income. Concern Worldwide works hard to help the very poorest of children gain a better education by building schools and training teachers, as well as providing meals, books and other learning tools.

There’s no time like the present to join a global movement

Twitter is the primary tool for publicizing Twestival. But you’ll also see notices about it on Facebook, YouTube and other social media sites. The goal is to get people who converse online to meet one another offline to have a good time and raise some money.

I’m looking forward to the Philadelphia Twestival, which is being organized by Gloria Bell and Melissa Thiessen. I spoke with Gloria about Twestival — my next post will feature her thoughts on the upcoming event.

Meanwhile, there’s still time for you to make a difference. Sign up for Twestival.

To find out what’s happening in your area visit the Twestival site. It’s that easy to join a global movement.

C’mon, do it now.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think? Comments welcome.

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2009’s Word of the Year Is…

Posted on December 16, 2009. Filed under: Social Media, Twitter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Can you guess what word in the English language was used more than any other in 2009?

Hint: It begins with “T” and ends with “R.”

Figured it out?

Yep: Twitter wins this year’s word popularity contest.

So says The Global Language Monitor, which recently declared that Twitter rose to the top of the most-favored word heap, where also-rans include Obama, stimulus, 2.0, deficit, healthcare, transparency and foreclosure.

Making the most of strict limitation

In an announcement about this finding, GLS President Paul Payack is quoted as saying:

“In a year dominated by world-shaking political events, a pandemic, the after effects of a financial tsunami and the death of a revered pop icon, the word Twitter stands above all the other words.  Twitter represents a new form of social interaction, where all communication is reduced to 140 characters. Being limited to strict formats did wonders for the sonnet and haiku.  One wonders where this highly impractical word-limit will lead as the future unfolds.”

Impractical, eh? Tell that to the reputed 44.5 million people who use Twitter to send an estimated 27.3 million messages per day.

Less is more

There are times when I might like to have more characters per tweet (and in fact there are services that enable you to send longer messages via Twitter). However, there is something to be said for the ingenuity required to craft a compelling message constrained to 140 characters. It can be challenging to construct such a brief missive that grabs attention. You have to be sharp. Concise. Precise.

There’s an art to writing an effective tweet. And there are even books to help you acquire this special skill; such as 140 Characters: A Style Guide for the Short Form by Dom Sagolla.  The self-described Elements of Style for social media messaging, claims to be the “first writing guide specifically dedicated to communicating with the succinctness and clarity that the Internet age demands.”

Back when I went to school, it was imperative to learn how to write essays. Nowadays, it’s critical to understand how to pick and choose a few well-chosen words for effective articulate communication.

If not a sonnet or haiku a Tweet may perchance be considered Shakespearean. After all, the great Bard of Avon wrote, “brevity is the soul of wit.”

FYI, in Shakespeare’s day, wit primarily referred to intelligence — as in getting by on one’s wits.

So here’s to Twitter, 2009’s Word Of The Year and a new barometer for the essence of acumen.

– Deni Kasrel

What are your thoughts on Twitter being named 2009 Word Of The Year? Comments welcome.

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Is Twitter Down, Or Is It Just You?

Posted on October 29, 2009. Filed under: Social Media, Twitter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

twitter fail whale (full)The last couple of weeks have been extra busy for Twitter. Its temporary outage message, a.k.a. the “fail whale” has gotten a workout.

This past Tuesday morning when I tried to get on Twitter, to no avail, the fail whale was nowhere in sight. All I got in my Firefox browser was a spinning icon that indicates a page is trying to load.

Twitter crashes can occur when the service is maxed out due to activity generated by big news. For instance, when Barack Obama won the Nobel Prize, and Michael Jackson’s death.

On Tuesday I couldn’t discern any crashworthy events.

There are other reasons for Twitter failure, to include database kerfluffles, an application programming interface (API)  gone awry, and distributed denial-of-service attacks (like the one that happened in August).

Whatever the reason, it’s frustrating to be shut out. You wonder whether the glitch is with Twitter or your end of the connection.

Websites that tell you what’s up (or down)

Enter a useful website that tells you which end is up:

Also, handy:

  • isthisdown gives the status of any web address you plug into it.
  • downrightnow monitors a variety of heavily trafficked sites including Twitter, Facebook, Ning, Gmail, Hotmail. Yahoo Mail, Blogger, LiveJournal and Typepad, plus, it’s got an RSS feed to keep you up-to-date on service issues.

So check one or more of the above the next time you want to know what’s up (or down) with Twitter and other favorite web sites.

– Deni Kasrel

Do you know of other sites that let you know what’s up or down on the web?  Please let us know about it. Comments welcome.

Related post:

Curious Consequences of the Twitter Outage

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Will You Please Retweet This Great New Blog Post.

Posted on September 24, 2009. Filed under: Communications Strategy, Twitter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Cover to The Science of ReTweets by Dan ZarallaHave you noticed that more people are including “please retweet” in Twitter messages?

This is interesting because in certain circles it’s considered bad Twetiquette (boorish) to request a retweet.

Joel Comm in his bestselling book Twitter Power: How to Dominate Your Market One Tweet at a Time writes: “While you can ask specifically for retweets — and some people do — it’s not really good form.”

The reason for retweets

A retweet is akin to forwarding an email. If you receive a message you like so much you want to pass it on to your followers, just do a retweet, or RT.

There are many reasons for an RT, such as to let others know about breaking news. News about Twitter is especially RT worthy. For illustration purposes here are a few RT examples from my account:

This one earns a double RT. The message links to a terrific resource for search rank marketing information. Many of my followers are into SEO, so it gets an RT.

Example of a retweet from Deni Kasrel's Twitter account

Quotes/words of wisdom comprise a good deal of Twitter traffic. I like the sentiment in this message and think my followers will, too.

Example #2 of a retweet from Deni Kasrel's Twitter account

This news item caught my eye and it provides entrée for a little humor. I like to give followers a chuckle now and again.

Example #3 of a retweet from Deni Kasrel'sTwitter account

Report: The Science of Retweets

About the recent rise in people asking to be retweeted — I have an idea why it’s happening.

Earlier this week Fast Company posted an article titled Report: Nine Scientifically Proven Ways to Get Retweeted On Twitter. It gave a sneak peek of a paper by Dan Zarrella, a noted marketing scientist and web developer who’s into scrutinizing all things Twitter.

Zarrella then posts the full report, The Science of Retweets, on his blog.

Zarrella says his interest in retweets is inspired by the notion that the web enables us to see how an idea catches fire and goes viral: “For the first time in human history we can begin to gaze into the inner workings of the contagious idea.”

Hmmm, sounds a lot like the tipping point.

Retweets have implications beyond the idea that those who get RTed are flattered to receive a virtual stamp of approval. They’re word-of-mouth marketing. They play a role in politics, as happened when talk about death panels and the health care debate got RTed around the twitosphere.

Those two letters pack a lot of heat.

OK, so what’s the secret to getting an RT?

Zarrella’s report presents statistics on several aspects of retweeting to identify what he refers to as “contagious traits.” His findings include the following:

  • Messages containing links are three times more likely to be RTed than those without.
  • It’s good to be first out of the gate; novelty/newness accounts for many RTs.
  • Punctuation is preferred, and top RT getters include a colon, period, or an exclamation point.
  • Negativity and potty-talk are out — religion, work, money and celebrities are in.
  • The highest daily volume of RTs occurs on Friday.

And then there’s these last two items; the top list likely accounts for the recent upsurge in RTs:

Most Re-Tweetable Words & Phrases according to Dan Zaralla

Chart of least re-tweetable words according to Dan Zaralla

Take another look at most RT-able words and phrases and then take a gander the title of this post. See why it is how it is?

Will you please retweet this great new blog post?

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think of the science of retweets? Comments welcome.

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Is Twitter Really Just A Bunch of Babble?

Posted on August 19, 2009. Filed under: Communications Strategy, Social Media, Twitter | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Is Twitter like a babbling brook?

Is Twitter just an endless stream of babble?

A new study claims that 40 percent of all content on Twitter is “pointless babble.”

This of course instigated much babbling amongst Twitter users.

Separating the good tweets from the chaff

Conducted by Pear Analytics, and based on a two-week watch of the public timeline, the report includes a variety of statistics about Twitter. The researchers admit to being surprised by this particular finding. They speculate that if the study went on for a longer period the results would likely change.

Why not take that extra time? What’s the hurry?

Anyhow, here’s the breakdown (numbers are rounded): The top slot (40 %), belongs to  “pointless babble” — defined by the Pear people as the “I am eating a sandwich now” tweets. A close second (38 %) is “conversational” — these include tweets that go back and forth like instant messages, as well as questions and polls. The remainder of the order is “pass along value” (anything with an RT, 9 %), self-promotion (6%), and both spam and news coming in at roughly 4% .

Competitive Advantage?

Facebook recently acquired FriendFeed and is rumored to be looking to bite into the microblogging pie. Perhaps Facebook can capitalize on this finding by promoting its new platform with a catchy slogan like  “20% less babble than the competing brand.”

Oh right, this is Facebook we’re talking about — that one may not get past the truth in advertising monitors.

Whose babble is it anyway?

Just as one man’s trash is another man’s treasure it’s tough to know exactly how to qualify babble. What may be meaningless to Pear Analytics may be worth something to other folks.

And who uses the public timeline as a primary source for viewing tweets? Anyone with a Twitter account chooses who she/he wants to follow. If someone sputters too much mindless prattle, it’s easy enough to un-follow.

Twitter is a super-aggregator of multiple conversations happening at once. It enables users to chat with chums as well as to get drawn into discussions and meet people they might not otherwise become engaged with. Sure there’s lots of noise and nonsense to sort through. Just create a filter and nevermind the rest.

What’s a business to do?

The study may cause some companies to dismiss Twitter for business purposes. But make no mistake, Twitter does provide a value-proposition. It can drive sales (it’s a form of direct marketing), build your brand, supplement customer service, and act as a recruitment tool.

Twitter recently launched a site called Twitter 101 with case studies that show how Dell, Pepsi and eight other companies are benefiting from its platform. Sure the site is self-serving, but if it really does help you see how to use the platform to boost business, what’s the harm?

There are also books on the topic, including Twitter Power: How to Dominate Your Market One Tweet at a Time and The Twitter Book. Not to mention any number of free articles on the web — so read those if you want an unbiased opinion.

Learn how to work the system

The main thing is, mega millions of people use Twitter. They are looking to see if your company (and your competitors) use it, too. Why disappoint that expectation?

But don’t just run into it without understanding the Twitter ethos. It’s a specific kind of social system.

Create a strategy and develop tactics. Make sure you have the resources to support that plan of action: The platform is free, but you’ll need people to mind your Twitter feed and to come up with worthwhile content.

Look beyond the babble.

Like many things, when it comes to Twitter, it’s really what you do with it that matters.

– Deni Kasrel

Do YOU think that Twitter is just a bunch of babble? Comments welcome.

Related posts

New Web Site Tells How To Make Money With Twitter

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Curious Consequences Of The Twitter Outage

Posted on August 9, 2009. Filed under: Social Media, Twitter | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Let’s hope everyone has recovered from the recent worldwide calamity that caused millions of people to experience a variety of disturbing symptoms such as twitching fingers, bulging eyes and fits of anxiety.

tweet brd 1.7 inchAll of which occurred as a result of last Thursday’s cyber attack that caused disruptions to a number of online services such as Facebook and LiveJournal, plus a total shut down of Twitter that lasted, gasp, a couple of hours.

Consequences beyond as noted include people having to actually speak to one another in real conversation; productivity surged due to employees concentrating on their jobs moreso than usual; pseudo-profound/deep thought messages (which flourish like kudzu on Twitter ) were ground to a halt; and an unknown number of people are now familiar with the term distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack.

One Person Really Can Make A Difference
Hard to believe, but the incident was reportedly the result of a coordinated assault targeting one person: A Eurasian economics professor who’s been writing about the conflict between Russia and the republic of Georgia. The hackers conducted a DDoS attack against this professor’s web pages on Twitter, LiveJournal, YouTube and Facebook. The fact that it also happened to wreak havoc well beyond the prof’s pages falls under the category of collateral damage.

Disruption of Business
While I have made light of this cyber crime, for certain companies like StockTwits, which is a Twitter-based information service for investors, the outage represented serious business (or rather non-business).

Of course enterprises that rely so heavily on a single social media platform are scarce. Still, use of social media as a means to regularly communicate with customers, and amongst employees, has skyrocketed in the last couple of years.

Last Thursday’s incident and other less dramatic interruptions that have occurred in the past prove the outsourced services are vulnerable. Moreover, because they’re free, there’s no promise or guarantee of service.

This is not to say the folks that run these platforms don’t give a whit. You can bet all of them want to up the ante on their security systems; it’s in their own best interest.

Lessons Learned
There are lessons to be learned here. One is, if you employ any of the free social media platforms, it’s a good idea to have a back-up crises plan. Just in case.

And two is, for those who believe social media is a fad, consider all the news coverage and the widespread effect of this event. If you think still think social media is faddish, then you’re just plain foolish.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think about the consequences of the Twitter outage? Comments welcome.

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New Web Site Tells How To Make Money With Twitter

Posted on August 1, 2009. Filed under: Social Media, Twitter | Tags: , , , , , |

Twitter may be a free service, but that doesn’t mean there’s no money to be had there. It’s fast becoming a favored channel of many marketers who are connecting with customers and ringing the register through tweets.

Now Twitter wants to spread the word on how you too can capitalize on the power of its platform, with the launch of a new mini-site specifically designed to answer the question, “So what does Twitter do for businesses?”

Titled Twitter 101, the new site is a useful how-to primer.

There are currently six sections, the first of which responds to the most basic query: “What is Twitter?” This is really a pitch to underscore that using the service can indeed add value to your business venture.

“Getting Started” helps you learn the secrets for making good posts—hint: don’t be dry or boring, a conversational tone is best—and suggests ways to reach out to customers. For example, a retailer can post exclusive Twitter-only coupons, announce specials at certain brick-and-mortar locations, or link to the company blog.

A “Learn the lingo” page demystifies special terms and syntax of the Twitosphere. If you are confused by what is meant by @username, DM, following, tweet, RT, trending topics, tweetup, shortened URL and hashtag(#), be sure to check this part out. And even if you are hip to Twitterese, give it a once over—there’s good ideas on how to use these different features.

“Best Practices,” tells how to best behave on the platform. There are pointers for building relationships and measuring the value of Twitter, which is admittedly tricky business. Suggested tactics include using unique codes to track the number of people responding to a special deal. Another recommendation wisely advises you to pay attention to how many tweeters have a bone to pick with your business, then monitor if you’re able to turn the negative chatter around.

The meatiest part of the matter is found in the “Case Studies” section, highlighting 10 companies that have harnessed the power of the platform. Examples range from large brands (Pepsi, Dell) to boutique enterprises (Teusner Wines). Read all 10 studies and you’ll surely have a good handle on ways to succeed with Twitter.

Finally, a resource section has links to books and articles for obtaining even more information.

All in all, the site is a handy guide for getting up to speed on the business proposition presented by Twitter.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think about this post? Comments welcome.

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