3. SOCIAL LOVE CAN OFTEN BE WEIRDLY
Speaking of Skittles, a few years ago the candy brand got a lot of
attention (from Ad Age's DigitalNext blog, among others) for
putting up raw social-media chatter on its website, Skittles.com,
including an undifferentiated feed of Twitter search results on the
term "Skittles." Today, the sixth-most-fanned brand on Facebook has
-- drum roll, please -- fewer than 9,000 followers on Twitter.
According to Twittercounter.com, it would take Skittles 3,864 days
-- 10 years! -- to increase its follower base 10 times (to a still
modest 90,000 Twitter followers), extrapolating from its current
For whatever reason, Skittles is putting its social-media
efforts into Facebook, not Twitter, and it shows. (Both efforts are
similarly goofy in tone and affect, with the Twitter feed offering
sweet-nothing tweets like "People who live in glass houses should
hang up rainbow curtains.") The fact that Skittles has 15,154,430
fans (and counting) on Facebook but so few equivalents (followers)
on Twitter just shows how synthetic -- non-organic -- fandom and
followings typically are.
4. YOUR BRAND'S FANS AND FOLLOWERS MAY NOT ONLY BE
DISENGAGED, THEY MAY BE COMATOSE -- OR LITERALLY DEAD
In the U.S., with a population of 310-plus million, more than 2
million people die each year. It stands to reason then, that
Facebook, with more than 600 million members worldwide with an
average age of around 40 (one recent third-party estimate says 38;
another says 44) is losing millions of members annually to death.
(Facebook's friend-connecting system has been known to spookily
suggest that members "reconnect" with recently deceased friends and
relatives.) In fact, mortality rates may well be elevated among
those with diets high in Oreos, Skittles, Pringles, PlayStation,
Monster Energy, Starburst, Nutella and Xbox.
But never mind death. Simple disinterest in branded chatter
among the living is probably the biggest problem any marketer
active in the social-media sphere faces. Not to mention zero chance
of engagement with social-media drop-outs and opt-outs who
disappear without really telling anyone.
Here's a simple test: Log into UnTweeps.com with your Twitter
account. It's a service that lets you quickly figure out which of
your followers haven't been active on Twitter. You can select a
cut-off -- say, all of those followers who haven't tweeted in more
than 30 days, or 60 days, or more -- and then decide if you want to
unfollow them for being, well, deadbeats. The UnTweeps UI shows the
last time each of your idle followers has tweeted, and if you've
got a large following, you may be surprised to find dozens or even
hundreds of folks who ceased tweeting, full-stop, months, or even
years, ago, without actually formally quitting Twitter. And yet
Twitter still calls them your followers.
5. THE REAL-TIME SOCIAL WEB SPEAKS ITS OWN ERRATIC,
Over the past few years, companies including Lithium (which
acquired and absorbed Scout Labs last summer), Radian6, Sysomos,
Trendrr, Viralheat and Visible Technologies have sprung up to help
marketers track what's being said about them across the social web.
Though they vary in their approaches and comprehensiveness, they
all face similar problems when it comes to parsing the principal
currency of the real-time economy: thoughts expressed in often
surprisingly elusive human language.
At Ad Age, we've had a content partnership with Trendrr for more
than a year, resulting in the Trendrr Chart of the Week at
AdAge.com that tracks conversation about all manner of mass-market
topics and brands -- from Lady Gaga to Apple. Masterminding the
chart each week increasingly involves thinking outside the
algorithm -- because as the social web has exploded, so have the
number of ways that people choose to talk about the subjects they
care about. Lady Gaga fans, for instance, may not formally mention
"Lady Gaga" or "Gaga" at all in a tweet or an update, instead
opting for a variation on her name (e.g., "Lady Dada," a recent
trending topic on Twitter) or a sentiment (e.g., "#thankgod4gaga,"
another recent trending topic) or a related topic coded in language
specific to insiders (e.g., "#BornThisWayFriday," which fans
tweeted in anticipation of the release of Lady Gaga's latest
single, "Born This Way," on Friday, Feb. 11).
There is no algorithm or machine logic than can decipher those
conversational mutations among fans. Parsing and deciding to track
them involves human beings paying close attention -- seeing the
trees in the forest, if you will, while also trying to make sense
of the forest overall.