Twitter use remains steady

Fifteen percent of online adults use Twitter, about the same number who said they used the microblogging service last May, according to a study by the Pew Research Center. As of February 2012, some 15% of online adults use Twitter; 8% do so on a typical day. Overall Twitter adoption remains steady, as the 15% of online adults who use Twitter is similar to the 13% of such adults who did so in May 2011.

“At the same time, the proportion of online adults who use Twitter on a typical day has doubled since May 2011 and has quadrupled since late 2010—at that point just 2% of online adults used Twitter on a typical day,” according to the center. “The rise of smartphones might account for some of the uptick in usage because smartphone users are particularly likely to be using Twitter.”

Twitter use is skewing younger, however. While Twitter use within the overall population remained steady over the last year, adults between the ages of 18 and 24 are the exception. Nearly one-third of Internet users in this age group now use Twitter, up from 18% in May of 2011 and 16% in late 2010. Twitter use by those in their mid-20s to mid-40s largely leveled off in the last year.

You can read the full findings here.

— Jeff Widmer

Who controls the news . . . and who profits?

A report out today by the Pew Research Center suggests the large digital companies have wrested control of the news you receive from the traditional media companies.

The report on the “State of the News Media 2012” draws two major conclusions:

  1. Rather than siphon viewers from news sites, mobile technology is increasing news consumption.
  2. Major digital networks like Google and Facebook increasingly exert control over news content and delivery.

Here’s the bright side of the report:

“New research released in this report finds that mobile devices are adding to people’s news consumption, strengthening the lure of traditional news brands and providing a boost to long-form journalism. Eight in ten who get news on smartphones or tablets, for instance, get news on conventional computers as well. People are taking advantage, in other words, of having easier access to news throughout the day – in their pocket, on their desks and in their laps.”

Here’s the dark side:

“At the same time, a more fundamental challenge that we identified in this report last year has intensified — the extent to which technology intermediaries now control the future of news.

“In the last year a small number of technology giants began rapidly moving to consolidate their power by becoming makers of ‘everything’ in our digital lives. Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and a few others are maneuvering to make the hardware people use, the operating systems that run those devices, the browsers on which people navigate, the e-mail services on which they communicate, the social networks on which they share and the web platforms on which they shop and play. And all of this will provide these companies with detailed personal data about each consumer.”

It’s like allowing the electric company to control your data, or the telecom companies to tap your phones. For free. Then charge you for delivery.

Maybe the New York Times should change its motto.

Six degrees of reading

Want to see books similar to the ones you’re reading? Head over to Yasiv, a site that uses Amazon data to create a flowchart of recommendations. Created by Andrei Kashcha, the site serves up a web of book covers that, when clicked, lead to information about those titles. There’s also a box on the left that lists the volumes by title.

Kashcha describes Yasiv as “a visual recommendation service that helps people to choose the right product from Amazon’s catalog.” In addition to books Yasiv can web other products carried by Amazon including video games, music and movies, although a search for broad clothing categories such as skirts and pants yields only a single image. Good for Grand Theft Auto. Not so good for Vera Bradley.

Yasiv recommendation web for 'House of Silk' by Anthony Horowitz

BtoB firms spend on social marketing

BtoB firms plan to follow their BtoC cousins and spend more on social marketing over the next three years, according to a white paper by the American Association of Advertising Agencies.

The study quotes Forrester in predicting that by 2014, BtoB spending in social media will reach $54 million, up from the $11 million spent in 2010. BtoB magazine’s survey, “Emerging Trends in BtoB Social Marketing: Insights from the Field,” found that 93% of B2B marketers are involved to some degree in social media. And in BtoB’s “2011 Outlook” survey, 62.6% of marketers reported plans to increase their spending in social media channels this year.

“Although B2C and B2B companies use social media differently, many of its functions, such as monitoring competition, gaining customer feedback and building brand awareness really do apply to the marketing goals of both types of companies,” the 4As wrote.

“Of particular importance to BtoB marketers is determining if their social media efforts are paying off.” Marketers are tracking leads by looking at click-through rates and number of downloads, among other metrics–although fewer than half measure their efforts, according to a survey by BtoB magazine.

For print titles, the ‘e’ in e-books stands for envy

The move to e-books is looking like a stampede.

Online retailer Amazon.com said today that it’s selling more electronic books than printed versions. The company says it sells 105 e-books for every 100 physical copies it sells.

Next Tuesday rival Barnes & Noble will ratchet up the competition when it introduces a new generation Nook e-reader to compete with Amazon’s Kindle.

barnes-noble-nookB&N chief executive William Lynch told the Wall Street Journal that despite a late start his company has captured 25% of the digital books market. It has also grabbed a good chunk of the market for electronic magazine subscriptions. “We’ve also sold more than 1.5 million magazine subscription orders and single copy sales on the Nook newsstand.”

The irony of Tuesday’s announcement (or maybe the marketing strategy) is that it happens during the week of BookExpo America (BEA), which bills itself as the largest publishing event in North America. It has traditionally promoted paper copies. This year BEA will co-host a session on electronic publications with the IDPF Digital Book Conference 2011, at the Javits Center in New York City.

The nine circles of social media

When Dobie Gray sang about being in with the in crowd in 1965, could he have imagined how mobile devices would turn the world into one big high school?

First there was messaging and texting, which allowed you to send your thoughts to a single person. Then there were location-based services like Foursquare, which allow you to broadcast your location to whoever will listen.

beluga-logoThe latest to join the my-business-is-everybody’s-business trend is Beluga, a service that allows you to message groups of friends, all at once. You can transmit photos to the group without having to send individual messages. And you can spot their location on a map, eliminating the need to constantly check their availability.

Beluga is a cross-platform rival to Kik, GroupMe and Blackberry’s BBM. Whether it catches on is anyone’s guess but attendees at the uber-hip SXSW music and digital festival in Austin, Texas this week are burning up the wireless space about the service. Clue number two: Beluga’s been acquired by Facebook.

Writers and other creatives might want to use these services to extend their existing marketing tools. One application for group chat is your informal ambassador’s program, that coterie of friends and fans who evangelize for your brand. You might use Beluga to give the group some visibility, along with the cachet of exclusivity—join the group and be the first to receive information and invitations to private events.

Who knows, you might get to run with the in crowd. Or relive high school, one of Dante’s nine circles of young adulthood.

Women lead users of Twitter

Eight percent of adult Internet users say they use Twitter. The greatest percentage of users are college-educated Hispanic women aged 18-29 who live in cities. Those are the results of a first-ever survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project that focuses exclusively on users of the microblogging service.

Pew study pie chart how often Tw users ck for materialTwitters users differ on how frequently they check the service to monitor material from their networks. A little more than a third check daily while a comparable number say they rarely check the site.

Most users post a mix of personal and work-related information. A majority say that they post “humorous or philosophical observations.” And if your business is interested in tracking down these users to serve them messages and ads, the study reveals that 24% of respondents use the service to tweet their location, with 7% of them doing so on a daily basis.

The accidental publicist

First we had cavemen sitting around the fire telling stories. Then gossips and reporters. Then came chat and blogs and we cycled back to citizen journalists.

With the rise of social media we now have citizen publicists. Like volunteer journalist, they want to speak their mind. When they listen, they want to hear what their peers are saying, not just the company line. And through the really big amplifier called the Web they can have an outsized influence on our work.

As creatives, we want to reach them.

FireOur agency regularly counsels clients who want to join the social media wave but are afraid of getting swamped. There are too many networks and monitoring them is a time-sink. So for those clients who want to dip a toe into online communications, we’ve developed an approach called the Social Media Platform that allows organizations to engage their audiences as well as publish their ideas.

It’s a perfect fit for artists, photographers, writers and other creatives who can’t afford a publicist.

Here’s the strategy: Organizations need to monitor and influence what people are saying about their brands. So do creatives, with the added task of promoting their work far and wide. We social media because that’s where our future editors, clients and benefactors hang out. With a social media platform we can harness the power of peers, asking influentials who like our work to spread the word. The social media platform is no substitute for a full-blown marketing campaign that uses advertising, direct mail, media relations and microsites. But it offers creatives a turnkey operation that allows them to join, monitor and influence the online conversation.

quest-for-fire_lHere’s how it works: The platform is an integrated collection of social media networks and tools. It includes the major social and business networks—Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, SlideShare and YouTube—but has room for numerous sites, forums and communities. At the heart is a white-label blog without branding for an independent look and feel. With the blog creatives can manage reputations, disseminate key messages and establish expertise in the market—this might apply more to non-fiction than fiction writers. Creatives who’ve already built a reputation can use the platform to solve issues before they become wide-spread problems.

There are six parts in the process of establishing a social media platform:

  1. Create. We start with a blog hosted on an independent site. Posts and comments radiate from the blog to the major social and business networks. The system notifies the blog administrator each time someone from the outside posts a comment. For your peace of mind, comments can be approved, edited or deleted before anyone on the ‘Net sees them. Tools: WordPress software, web host.
  2. Listen. Tapping into the online conversation about our brand is essential. Specialized search engines allow us to listen to what people are saying about our work. PR people call it reputation management. Tools: Social Mention, Google Alerts, Gmail to verify social network accounts.
  3. Contribute. Based on your expertise, you can contribute original text, slides, photos and video. Crowdsourcing allows you to obtain feedback on work. You can even use your network to float ideas for future projects. Tools: those listed above.
  4. Publicize. Blogs are like parties. You have to invite the right people to achieve critical mass. We start with the internal audience, your friends and business associates, and add editors, writers and bloggers in traditional and digital media. Tools: LinkedIn, Twitter.
  5. Monitor. The conversation is ongoing. The monitoring needs to be, too. But checking multiple sites dozens of times a day can get crazy. A dashboard can simplify the process: Tools: HootSuite, TweetDeck.
  6. Evaluate. You’re not a major corporation. The goal isn’t to fill spreadsheets and generate charts that dazzle but yield no useful information. We measure the volume and tone of comments but take everything with two grains salt. Tools: Twitrratr (Twitter rater), Twendz (Twitter trends), Tweet Level.

Does the system work? Yes. Our agency is seeing a good adoption rate from editors and bloggers as well as retweets of original material. Why does it work? Because it leverages three potent forces in our society: the shift toward digital media, people’s desire to hear recommendations from peers rather than companies and journalists’ need to discover leads rather than waiting for pitches.

That’s almost as good as telling stories around the campfire.