The Great Unfollow Experiment

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It has been some time since we have done a Bella Buzz podcast with only Desiree and Joe chatting about the latest and greatest in the world of online business.  We have had many wonderful guests over the course of this past year and we encourage you to check out each and every one of them.  The conversations allow us an inside look into the transformative efforts and the business rationale behind these entrepreneurs.

On this episode we go back to our original format in order to discuss a recent revelation that has led Desiree to take some action that she calls “The Great Unfollow Experiment.” As social media began to take off in adoption rate a few years back, there was a reference made to a Dunbar Number.  We have mentioned it in previous podcasts, but essentially it relates to the maximum number of people an individual can have some form of meaningful relationship with.  Social media was supposed to allow us to expand our Dunbar Numbers due to the ease of connecting and communicating.

It turns out the Desiree, and others such as Chris Brogan and Gary Vaynerchuck on The Daily, have determined that following a massive amount of people simply renders the various platforms and networks useless.  A platform like Twitter is only as good as the information that you can get out of the links from trusted people, and if you have six figures worth of people in your stream, there is no way to pull anything of value from that fast flowing gauntlet.

Some social networks are even taking this limitation into account.  Path has released an app that allows users to share with a limited number of connections. It started at 50 and has been raised to a Dunbar friendly 150 people.

So Desiree decided to start over and wanted to start using Twitter better again.  She used Social Ooomph and over the course of about 19 hours unfollowed 19,000 people!  The response has been quite (strange) interesting actually as some have been hurt and angered by this action.  If the value of the connection is simply just as a number, then the purpose is lost.  The only reason for following someone is because you are able to glean knowledge, insight or business opportunity.  #Followback arrangements are not what the founders of Twitter ever intended.

Desiree will be speaking at SoCon 2012 this February about this experiment, and it will be interesting as it proceeds to see if there is any business impact pro or con to reducing the amount of Twitter connections.  There might actually be some benefit to using the platform to discover new insights.

The use of Facebook as a platform is also an interesting development as we move forward.  Services such as Foursquare, Get Glue, Spotify … the number of followers on these services does not matter if your true social graph resides on Facebook.  These services are simply User Interfaces for posting things and managing preferences. The value of the service comes from its ability to provide recommendations based upon their wealth of data!

Stay tuned over the course of the next few weeks as we discuss some of these developments during our annual recap and prediction shows, and look for some great guests lined up in 2012 already!

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You can subscribe to The Bella Buzz directly from iTunes by following this link, and we would be happy to receive listener feedback and ratings at The iTunes Store.

Growing Your Reach With Triberr; An Interview with Dino Dogan

DIno-in-AZ

On this episode of The Bella Buzz podcast, we speak with Dino Dogan the co-founder along with Dan Cristo of  Triberr.com.  Triberr is a “reach multiplier” that helps content marketers leverage the power of groups to help distribute content. It has proven to be very effective for the Georgia Social Media Moms who have seen great results in getting their content broadly distributed.

It came about as an alternative to services like Twitterfeed where you could informally form alliances in order to pass around tweets. Since there was no service like Triberr, where you can work within groups who are aligned based upon a particular subject, Dino and Dan decided to launch the platform.

As the platform was launched, the group of people involved were essentially their friends.  There was no need to be worried about the relevancy of the content getting re-tweeted, since it was pretty certain that the content would be applicable to each other’s audiences.  As the service grows, Dino emphasizes the importance of “trust” over the automagication that the system provides. Iteration is always an important aspect of a launch, and the ability to manually control which tweets are sent out was one of the recent additions to user control.

To get some better ideas on how to make the most out of a Triberr membership, check out the strategies blog that Dino writes to help with getting started.  The blog helps to explain some of the unique rules and nomenclature within Triberr, such as Inbreeding and Replay.

As a business model, the company is utilizing a virtual currency called Bones.  Members can decide to upgrade the experience through purchasing these goods, but it is not required to take full advantage of the platform. At this point in the launch, the strategy is to build something great that everyone wants to be involved in, then to iterate future revenue models from there.

Dino makes a great point towards the end of the interview when deciding if Triberr is right for you.  He states that his customer base is “authority bloggers” and that businesses are tricky to categorize that way. If the strategy for your business is to create interesting content that reaches an audience, then the platform might be for you. If the content is standard “boring” business content, then it might not be where you can expand your reach., the challenge is to always make content that converts.

Give Triberr a look and give us a shout if you would like an invite, or reach out to Dino at dino[at]triberr.com and tell him you heard him on The Bella Buzz!

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Theme music for The Bella Buzz is Fallen by Digital Chemistry, available for download at the Podsafe Music Network.

You can subscribe to The Bella Buzz directly from iTunes by following this link, and we would be happy to receive listener feedback and ratings at The iTunes Store.

The Top Five Technology Stories of 2009

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During the month of December, it is appropriate to take a look back and a look forward. In this first part of our series, Desiree and Joe  talk about the five biggest technology news stories of 2009 that made a significant contribution to the technology map moving forward. We also discuss what they might mean as we move into 2010 in our next podcast.

This is in no particular order as per the importance of the topic.

1)  The rollout of Google Wave
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With much fanfare and hype, the developers at Google announced a new product that was going to be the "next generation of email!"  The technorati were in a ferver over getting one of the limited number of invites, some even looking to purchase invites on eBay.  Slowly but surely the invites were being distributed and people had a chance to get a look at what Google Wave was all about.

At this point Wave continues to be an enigma to even the most ardent supporters.  There is no question that it is still a work in progress so even something as simple as an immediate notification of a new Wave is missing. 

There are some applications that appear to be best use cases. For example, if there is a need for a collaborative environment where multiple people need to be passing information back and forth with a single final output. Desiree's nephew Kyle is attending The University of Illinois-Chicago and has determined that Wave can be beneficial in his study group, so we extend the invitation to him to appear on an edition of The Bella Buzz to give us a review of their usage.

2) Twitter as a news source

When the news of the Iranian election uprisings broke this past June, right here on the Bella Buzz we called Twitter_logo it possibly one of the biggest news stories of the year … and our prediction turned out to be correct. The story from our perspective is actually broader than just the population of Iran taking to the streets (and still in the streets), the story was more about how Twitter posts and cell phone video uploads distributed the coverage far in advance of anything that the mainstream media could provide. It was such a blatant shift in our expectations of news organizations, that actually CNN went on the air to defend their actions.

By the time of Michael Jackson's passing later that month, we had come to expect that the pervasive, simple nature of Twitter would be getting the message around quicker than a news report.

3)  Facebook reaching 350 Million Users

Facebook In an open letter from Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg at the beginning of December, he stated that "more than 350 million people around the world are using Facebook to share their lives online."

This might in fact turn out to be the year that really puts Facebook over the top.  What was once the playground of college students, then early adopters, has now extended to baby boomers and beyond.  Facebook has fast become the way to connect, re-connect and to stay in touch.

Part of the reason for the expansion is adding functionality outside of the walls of Facebook such as Facebook Connect.  By allowing web sites to incorporate a login function using Facebook credentials, it extends the content from the site back into Facebook.  Web site owners like the ability to build a community that will port their content in front of a News Feed of potentially 350 million, while simultaneously making it easy for users to sign up for a Facebook account.

4) NASA adopts Social Media
Nasa
Somewhere in the halls of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration there was a smart decision made. There was a decision to implement some social media strategies to help the general population rediscover the exciting missions taking place in our space program.

Programs that used these tools include the Mars Phoenix lander, sending out tweets during it's trips around the Martian surface and its demise.

There was Astronaut Mike Massimino, known as @Astro_Mike. He continues to use Twitter to distribute information about his endeavors. He is getting lots of votes currently on Mashable for his nominated Tweet of the Year.

The coolest implementation happened around the anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing.  NASA developed an interactive web site, We Choose the Moon.org, complete with actual audio as it happened in 1969. They also established Twitter accounts for each of the parties as if they were using Twitter to communicate; Apollo CapComApollo Spacecraft, and the Eagle Lander.

Upon announcement of the 2010 NASA Budget, an additional $2 billion has been added to NASA's 2009 and 2010 budgets under the Obama administration.  President Obama nominated ="_blank">Charles Bolden as NASA Administrator.

5) Google Android Phones

The new open source operating system for mobile phones has reached the mass Google-android-logomarket.  The release of  the Droid phone from Verizon is the first in what will be a line of many phones that are incorporating the Apps and useability currently found in the iPhone. There is a now a decision to be made at the end of the AT&T contracts that users had to sign when they acquired an iPhone.  The decision now can be simply which carrier works best for me, which has the plan that I want, and which phone gives me the best value. 

Please let us know if we've missed any stories you would consider most important this year. Leave us a comment with any stories you think deserve a mention!   Look for next week's episode for the predictions for 2010 and beyond!

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You can subscribe to The Bella Buzz directly from ITunes by following this link, and we would be happy to receive listener feedback and ratings at The ITunes Store.

Twitter Lists and Google Social Search; Two Breakthroughs for Social Media

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We have some major developments in the world of social networking to discuss on this week's edition of the Bella Buzz podcast. Desiree and Joe tackle the rollout of List functionality on Twitter, the integration of user's social graph into search results via social search, and a promise to review Google Wave upon a deeper use of the service.

The implementation of Twitter Lists will allow users to curate those we follow, and even those we don't, into various categories of our own choosing. This functionality should help reduce the often complained about clutter or noise that overpowers our Twitter stream.  As an example of how to make the best use of a list, Desiree points out that by creating a list called @desireescales/newstweeps, she is able to go to one single stream where she can expect to find the latest breaking info. 

Some of the initial excitement revolves around the ability to connect with other users again by adding them to a list.  The social currency can start to move away from the tired followers numbers, and migrate towards the number of lists a user appears on. Although we have steered you away from concern over follower number, the lists can actually be of value since they contain a bit of meta data … the context in which others view a person. Are they a techy? Are they a music lover? .. Why is this person of value for following?  The list can put it into perspective. 

As the List ecosystem springs into action, there is already a site called Listorious that shows the categorization of Twitter into various lists, identifying those on the most lists in total as well as the most lists within a specific topic.

For the small business owner, developing a quality list of Twitterers within a particular niche might be an effective strategy to getting noticed, especially within a geographic area.

Desiree used the List feature as a group Follow Friday #FF tweet.  A feature of the List is that it creates a complete URL of the list for distribution, of with the @ sign becomes part of a tweet.

The next topic that we tackle is a Google Labs experiment that we have all known was coming, a change is taking place regarding the factors that will influence the Google search results page that we see when searching a particular keyword.  Participation in this experiment, along with setting up a Google Profile,

The premise has been that the best search results will come from information obtained through people that you trust the most, rather than an algorithm. By incorporating the information gleaned from those connected to you through your social networks, Google intends to present search results that are weighted based upon their behavior.

These search results are intended to come from more trusted sources, and therefore should be more relevant to you.  It should help to eliminate many of the unreliable sources such as directories and made for adsense sites. 

As a brand, now more than ever, it will become important to enter the social sphere so that you are represented in the search results in this manner.

Let us know what you think.  Is Social Search a good thing for you? Do you believe that you will get better results based upon incorporating input from your social network?  Leave us a comment.

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You can subscribe to The Bella Buzz directly from ITunes by following this link, and we would be happy to receive listener feedback and ratings at The ITunes Store.

Interview: How Medifast is Using Social Media to Help People Get Healthy

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This week The Bella Buzz gang of Desiree Scales from Bella Web Design and Joe Magennis of Fluid Media welcome special guest Brian Gleason, Public Relations Manager from Medifast. They discuss actual applications of social media marketing including Brian's perspective on how his company went about the practice of developing a vibrant social community.

Brian shares that the company had originally built a closed environment as an online community only for existing customers, but as they went about analyzing the impact of the word of mouth and peer to peer support that took place, they realized that they needed to evolve into more social networking platforms.

The most prominent networks for Medifast are a Facebook Fan Page, a YouTube channel, and Twitter for interaction. This works very well with their Take Shape for Life Health Coaches who use these tools to motivate their clients as well as get the word out to potential clients by simply offering advice and encouragement.

Note the story at around the 7:00 minute mark when Brian shares a real life case study of how he was able to direct a potential customer to the Facebook page and the entire community took over to convince the shopper of the product benefits.  They turned the shopper into a customer … exactly the results everyone is looking for in their own social media plan!

Brian recommends all companies monitor what is happening on Twitter by keeping the Twitter Search web site open on his desktop all day long and listening for references to the company, customer successes and any other potential opportunity to connect and communicate.

Medifast consciously took the "slow and steady" approach to developing their social community through organic discovery.  The intention was to learn from the process in order to refine the strategy and to ensure the best execution. They use it as a community building effort much more so than a promotional platform.

One key element of this approach is the buy-in from the corporate executives, including Mike McDevitt CEO of Medifast, who was instrumental in getting Brian in touch with Desiree to talk about social media. (Mike and Desiree literally ran into each other while running at the annual 2009 TSFL convention in Phoenix a month ago!) This allowed for some time to roll-out the effort without having to justify through indiscriminate metrics.

Watch for the development of Health Coaches using social media tools as a key part of counseling their client base. Medifast is looking to provide guidance to the Coaches so that they can help their clients participate in "life-streaming" as a way to stay motivated and share their successes.

Brian's final bit of parting advice to business owners is that they should listen and learn as much as possible by immersing themselves in social media personally before diving right in representing the company.  The mistakes can be made there first as a learning experience. 

Thanks to Brian for joining us, and for more information about Medifast visit the web site www.choosemedifast.com or connect via any of the social networks linked above. 

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So How Does the Twitter Attack Impact Your Business?

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On Thursday August 6, 2009 Twitter, Facebook, Livejournal and Google were attacked with a DDos campaign that slowed down the sites and severely crippled Twitter in particular.  The other services were able to withstand most of the traffic bombardment that as we later found out, was targeting a particular blogger from the Republic of Georgia. On this week's Bella Buzz podcast Joe and Desiree discuss how this interruption impacts businesses and what can be done to prevent disruption in the future.

(For a more in depth discussion on this topic while the initial attack was going on, listen to Joe's podcast called Geek Dads @ Home.)

Some initial reaction called into question the safety of using these social tools as it relates to privacy. For the most part, you would not be storing any passwords or secure data on these social networks that might be obtained in this type of attack.  In fact, there was no "hacking" at all.  This type of attack is merely throwing so much bot traffic at a site their servers cannot handle the load. 

This entire episode raises a very important question about Twitter as a service and the stability of the infrastructure as we generate our "life stream" with this sole source provider.  Would you feel better if you knew that there was a dispersed, federated approach to managing this traffic that had more of a relationship to the way email is handled?

There is an open source micro-messaging option to Twitter called Laconica which is the platform that the service Identi.ca works on, and has been seriously pushing this debate about distributed messaging.

Friendfeed can also be a solution for maintaining connections and the functionality of micro-messaging. The threaded conversations are a terrific user interface for real dialogue, and the ability to integrate numerous streams of content such as Flickr photos, blog posts, and even a Twitter stream makes it a very efficient service. (NOTE: This podcast was recorded a couple of hours prior to the announcement that Friendfeed has been purchased by Facebook.)

Long term the solution is not to look for other social networks to run to in the hope that a mass migration would take place.  The only solution that makes sense at this stage, with the high adoption rates of Twitter, is the hope that they will look to adapt their business model and structure and look to become a web platform or protocol that will carry the micro-messaging across the web. 

It will be interesting to see if the rollout of Google Wave and the promises that are being touted with that service will indeed provide us with a live, all in one messaging platform.  Will all services ride upon a Wave in the future? It is possible that Google sees some opportunities when Twitter failures happen.

What was your reaction last Thursday when Twitter went down? Was it an inconvenience, or did it severely impact your ability to function?

The All-Powerful Share Button in Social Media

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Desiree Scales, CEO of Bella Web Design smoothly segues into our Bella Buzz podcast topic this week, using the Share button for distributing content. With co-host Joe Magennis, principal of Fluid Media in Atlanta, we chat about the mutually beneficial practice of sharing, re-tweeting and forwarding content on the web.

The greatest reward for content producers is to create something that readers, viewers or listeners find compelling enough to pass along to their social networks. As the momentum builds for the content, it continues to get shared with others on the strength of the message or entertainment value that it brings… the content becomes Viral

It is an unrealistic expectation to intentionally design content to become viral or share-worthy.  A small business owner should never embark on the process of creating content hoping that it will become the next "Chocolate Rain" video which has received over 38 million views!  Content should be developed strictly with the intention of communicating a message to a target audience.  If that audience deems the content to be worthy of sharing with others, they will pass it along in order to provide some value to the next recipient.

The share functionality has actually been with us on the internet well before the tools of Web 2.0.  The simple act of forwarding an email was the first level of sharing that we encountered.  Now that we are in the social era of internet services we have Re-Tweets on Twitter, we have numerous Share plugins for blog posts such as Share This used on both bellawebdesign.com and befluid.com and we even could consider a Trackback or a Link as a form of sharing content from someone else's blog.

Think about it for a second. How valuable is it to you as a content producer to have your audience share your content within their own circle of influence? Since we are much more likely to trust the content passed along from someone we know, we are much more likely to consume it.  If you employ the old shampoo commercial axiom of "tell two friends, and they'll tell two friends", your message will be transmitted far beyond your own social graph and will start to carry serious significance in your niche.

As with all things social these days, we are also living in a very collaborative environment. A good practice is to contribute to the distribution of other people's content by using the share button yourself.  Re-tweeting, Stumbling or Digging an article, linking to a blog post in Facebook or on your own blog will not go unnoticed and might lead to a reciprocal sharing of your content. 

Don't forget to use the reporting functions from URL shorteners such as Bit.LY or the dashboard within Share This to determine if you are producing the right kind of content. Witnessing small share numbers might indicate that you need to refine your content so that it communicates more meaningful information to your audience. You can also use the Hootsuite service to review the success of your campaign ROI, shared items is another measure of effectiveness.

We are interested in finding out from you what you would like us to share, we would love to see in the comments any topics or ideas that we can address in the podcast.  Thanks for Listening!

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You can subscribe to The Bella Buzz directly from ITunes by following this link, and we would be happy to receive listener feedback and ratings at The ITunes Store.

New Startup Created Solely with Social Media: Idea Anglers

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This week on The Bella Buzz podcast, we are very excited to have with us the founders of an online business incubator called Idea Anglers. Brad Shimp and Neal Rohrbach regularly participate in a twitter chat called SBBuzz, which we have mentioned during previous podcasts. Over the course of the weekly chats it became apparent that Brad and Neal were involved in something rather interesting, so we invited them to join us on this week's episode.

It is an amazing story as we discovered that these two entrepreneurs had developed this concept, executed the launch of a web site, crafted a business plan … and this appearance on the Bella Buzz podcast is the first time that they have actually heard each other's voices! It is a testament to the ability to collaborate online, using the tools of the live web. This ability will only be made easier with new services such as Google Wave introduced to the world during Google I/O 2009.

The concept behind Idea Anglers is to develop a community of experts who can provide specific insights for an entrepreneur who is looking to launch a new business. If you are willing to provide guidance to someone who has an idea but needs a little help with executing a business plan, then Idea Anglers wants you! Idea anglers

And if you are an entrepreneur with a business idea or a concept that needs a little more refinement before it can hit the big time, then visit the web site to sign up for the Newsletter and stay informed about the stable of experts who are constantly being added to the roster.

Business owners looking for resources can sign up for Membership at Idea Anglers and share as much or as little of their idea as they feel comfortable with, and begin to tap into the expertise that has been assembled via this online community.  The founder's passion can be summed up in a simple statement that "no good idea should be wasted." Their intention is to use the social networking and communication tools that are expanding the capabilities of the web, combined with the passion of Web 2.0 participants to share and assist others, in order to nurture a new businesses to fruition.

We are very excited to watch Neal and Brad take this concept to great heights, and will share in their excitement as they toast the first company to achieve their exit plan, launched with the assistance of Idea Anglers.

Desiree and I plan to volunteer our own time to participate in the Idea Anglers community, both as experts as well as business owners looking to gain knowledge about achieving our goals.  If you have an interest in becoming a member or volunteering your time as an expert, visit the web site at IdeaAnglers.com.

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You can subscribe to The Bella Buzz directly from ITunes by following this link, and we would be happy to receive listener feedback and ratings at The ITunes Store.

How Do you Really Calculate Social Media ROI?

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Our conversation on The Bella Buzz podcast today is a very important one for business owners, marketing managers, or anyone who is interested in determining how to measure the Return on Investment (ROI) that can be achieved via social media strategies.

Hosts Desiree Scales and Joe Magennis break down the numerous ways of evaluating the success of online marketing efforts. However, there is no accepted standard that has been developed to capture and measure the time invested in participation versus the return that has been gained.

Google Analytics is a good place to start to ensure that you are tracking and analyzing the traffic that is on your site. You can see a clear picture of the traffic coming from the various social networks that you are participating in. We are in a paradigm shift as far as what reliable metrics should be evaluated regarding social media marketing.

Social media analysis at this stage might be closer to evaluating a branding campaign. Brand exposure can be measured in terms of the number of impressions that are generated with an determined value assigned to that exposure, such as you see with a sponsorship investment.  There is no exact correlation between the the number of people who see the Philips brand on the Arena in Atlanta and the number of units sold in a market, but there is obviously a long term benefit that the brand gains by being associated with that sponsorship.

Desiree had a conversation with a client Casual Image about establishing a blog and social media campaign.  They decided outdoor design would be the topic for those who love to barbeque and enjoy their time on their patio. The topics included in the blog will sometimes actually point his community to other web sites and online sources of content, so won't be captured by his Analytics reports, however it will most certainly generate additional followers because of the value his content provides.

One metric that does work in the social space is comments, so getting a community to start commenting on your blog, or YouTube video channel, or Facebook status comments will give you a good view of how much brand exposure you are getting and could be used as a measure of success.

A real life case study that shows the results of a social media effort, which has garnered significant ROI whether it is exactly measurable or not, can be seen by the ability of @ComcastCares to push the negative corporate imagery off of the first page of Google.  A great discussion on this topic can be found at Blog Talk Radio.

Starbucks has implemented an online & offline effort that drives traffic to their Twitter page using posters. Here is a link to the article relating the campaign.

The way to justify the implementation of these campaigns will be to present anecdotal evidence from companies that have seen real results in the past, and to agree on a few metrics that can be used to measure progress such as blog comments and video views. Once these results are demonstrated over a period of time, the business rationale will be established.

How would you assign a value to a Twitter follower or a Facebook fan?  Is that something that can be included in an ROI calculation?

Theme music for The Bella Buzz is Fallen by Digital Chemistry, available for download at the Podsafe Music Network.

You can subscribe to The Bella Buzz directly from ITunes by following this link, and we would be happy to receive listener feedback and ratings at The ITunes Store.