PHOTOS: My Visit to Twitter HQ

October 29, 2012

Image source: A photo tour from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Introduction

It helps to have friends in high places, especially when those places reside on the ninth floor of Twitter HQ in San Francisco.

After 12,815 tweets (consuming roughly 1,601,875 characters), I was excited to pay Twitter’s HQ a visit recently for a Halloween event. Twitter moved into its new digs (on 1355 Market Street) earlier this year and Mashable published some really neat photos at the time.

Photos from Twitter HQ

Dennis Shiao atop the green roof at Twitter HQ

Twitter HQ has an awesome green roof on which employees are welcome to take in sweeping views of San Francisco, while meeting with each other or doing work (the WiFi coverage extends to the roof). The roof is quite similar to the “Living Roof” that can be found at the California Academy of Sciences (also in San Francisco).

Drink dispenser (with Twitter logo)

Small kitchen areas provide drinks and snacks that employees can help themselves to any time. As I walked past this particular area, I was drawn to the intense glow of the Twitter bird.

Twitter's HQ is full of @names and hash tags

I saw more hash tags at HQ than at Twitter chats. And that’s not surprising, I suppose. Twitter ID’s (prefaced by the “@” symbol) can be found all over HQ, as well.

Twitter’s conference rooms are named after birds and the room names include the “@” symbol. I looked up some of the names on Twitter and discovered that they belong to “regular” users. So there must be plenty of users out there who don’t realize their Twitter ID is the name of a conference room at HQ.

Dennis Shiao in front of the "bird" at Twitter HQ

The shirt I’m wearing is the clothing item closest in color to the Twitter blue. I had a nice visit to HQ. I was so captivated by the experience that I … forgot to tweet about it!

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .


Unable to Attend an Event? 10 Ways Twitter Fills the Gap

October 15, 2012

Introduction

IMEX America, which describes itself as “America’s worldwide exhibition for incentive travel, meetings and events,” took place October 9-11, 2012 in Las Vegas.

I didn’t attend the event, but noticed that 20+% of my Twitter #eventprofs friends were there. I knew about their attendance from their tweets, but also received additional “color” via the photos, videos, quotes, observations and shout-outs that they posted (on Twitter).

So even though I wasn’t anywhere near Sin City, checking the #imex12 hash tag during the day yielded the next best thing: feeling as if I were. I was able to see who was meeting up with whom, which organizations were there exhibiting and what the popular nightspots were.

Here are 10 ways Twitter helps “remote attendees” experience the sights and sounds of the on-site experience.

1) Take in the sights.

Images tell a story. It’s hard to imagine “following” an event on Twitter via words (text) alone. The images of attendees, exhibitors, speakers and the show floor give us a sense of the event’s character and personality. In addition, imagery adds to the feeling of “being there.”

2) Discover the key themes.

I don’t need an industry publication to tell me about the key themes of this year’s event, because it’s all right there in the tweet stream. Whether Twitter users share their own opinions or a quote from the keynote presentation, the tweet stream is the leading indicator of the event’s key topics.

3) Make new connections.

You’re sure to find interesting people at the event, by way of the tweets they’re sharing. You may choose to follow selected folks and they may decide to follow you back. In addition, by following the event’s hash tag and getting involved, you’re bound to pick up some followers by way of your interactions. I once attended a physical event and made new connections exclusively on Twitter. That’s right, we “met” on Twitter, but not face to face (it’s sad).

4) Gain nuggets of wisdom.

Miss out on a Sunday’s worth of NFL action? It’s OK, you can still watch the highlights that night. It’s similar with events: by reading the quotes shared on Twitter, you still get the nuggets of wisdom (from presenters) and get a feel for what particular sessions were all about.

5) Find exhibitors who provide solutions you may need.

For popular booths at physical shows, you may have to wait in line to speak to an exhibitor sales rep. Many of these same exhibitors are online (on Twitter), posting news and inviting on-site attendees to come visit their booth. If you’d like to obtain more information from an exhibitor, engage with them on Twitter – chances are they’ll respond back and get you connected to the right people.

6) Interact with onsite attendees by answering their questions.

Whether you’re 50 or 5,000 miles away, you can still be a valuable resource to the on-site attendees. How? By answering questions they might have. Provide a meaningful answer and you’ll likely pick up a few followers, too.

7) Learn about important industry news and announcements.

Whether it’s an award, an exhibitor product announcement or news of a new industry partnership, chances are you’ll hear about it on Twitter.

8) Watch live video from the show floor.

Without Twitter, I wouldn’t have known about the live video interviews that were being conducted from IMEX America’s show floor.

9) Listen to a show’s podcasts as well.

Meetings Podcast, hosted by Mike McAllen and Jon Trask, was the official podcaster for IMEX America ’12. And how did I know that a new episode was up on the site? On Twitter, of course!

10) Discover recaps of the show’s happenings.

A great complement to the “Twitter commentary” are blog summaries that can go beyond 140 characters. Here’s an example of a great daily recap published by Anne Thornley-Brown on the Cvent blog.

Conclusion

I thought I’d conclude this post in 140 characters (or less):

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .


What the TV Commercials Tell Us About Twitter

June 14, 2012

Introduction

Twitter launched its first television commercials in conjunction with an event: The 2012 Pocono 400 NASCAR race. The commercials helped publicize the new hashtag pages from Twitter – they created a hashtag page for NASCAR that was promoted within the TV spots.

While I’m not a NASCAR fan, I had my TV tuned to TNT on Sunday afternoon, hoping to catch some of the commercials. Bad timing, combined with the shortness of the ads, prevented me from viewing them live. As a result, I went to YouTube to watch them there (the next day). Here’s one of the commercials:

So what do the commercials tell us about Twitter?

Core Value Proposition

Facebook and Google? They’re well understood by the average consumer. Twitter? Not so much. If you say “share what’s happening in 140 characters or less,” some people will “get it,” while others will get confused.

Judging by this first set of commercials, Twitter is defining its core value proposition around consumption, not sharing and publishing. In other words, you don’t have to tweet in order to find Twitter useful.

And it’s really a two-pronged value proposition:

  1. Consumption: for those who are inclined to “follow.”
  2. Sharing: for those who wish to stay connected with fans and followers.

On the consumption side, Twitter gives you behind the scenes access to your favorite celebrities, whether they’re athletes, actors, actresses, authors or politicians. Just look at the captions used in the six commercials – they’re all about receiving, rather than sharing:

  1. See what he sees.
  2. Follow them past the finish line.
  3. Where off the record is on the record.
  4. Get the POV from a VIP.
  5. What they see is what you get.
  6. See what else he writes.
  7. Put the pieces together.

Never before has the average consumer been able to connect (and even engage) so easily with celebrities. Now, you can journey inside a NASCAR racecar. And you can tweet to @justinbieber and get retweeted by him.

Striving for Mass Adoption, Part 1

Here was Google’s first foray into television commercials:

Notice the stark contrast? Google’s commercial was all about experiencing the product (Google searches), whereas Twitter’s commercials never showed the product (e.g. Twitter.com, Twitter desktop applications or Twitter mobile apps).

This relates directly to the core value proposition (above). The TV commercials show examples of how racing fans can become further engaged in following their sport. But it’s clearly a 50,000 foot view that doesn’t get into the mechanics of Twitter itself.

Twitter is clearly going after mass adoption – and that means our mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. I expect subsequent ad campaigns that continue the story to demonstrate how users go about using the product.

Striving for Mass Adoption, Part 2

While this particular campaign targeted a precise audience (fans of NASCAR), it’s interesting that Twitter chose television advertising over online advertising. Television still works, it seems, in its ability to efficiently reach a broad audience at a moment in time (and of course, online afterwards, via YouTube).

I expect Twitter’s TV commercials to address a broader audience going forward. A Super Bowl ad in 2013, perhaps?

Twitter and Events: Perfect Together

Ever since Twitter launched, event professionals (and attendees) found a natural use of the service at events: quoting speakers, sharing insights, generating awareness and following the event’s hash tag. On the NASCAR hash tag page, you’ll see the following:

Next race: Quicken Loans 400, Sun 12pm ET on TNT

Twitter and NASCAR are clearly looking to the hash tag page as the online focal point to NASCAR’s ongoing events. In addition to NASCAR, Twitter has organized some activities around the NBA Finals. In a post titled “Courtside Tweets” on their blog, Twitter shares related hash tags and lists 13 athletes who will provide color commentary (via Twitter) during the Finals.

My expectation: Hash tag pages become available for all types of events, especially in B2B for trade shows, conferences, product launches and more. Before long, every B2B event may get its on hash tag page. And beyond that, I expect to see Twitter roll out additional products and services suited to events. After all, Twitter and events are perfect together.

Conclusion

So what to the TV commercials tell us about Twitter? They tell me that Twitter is focusing on mainstream adoption. On the one hand, they want the mainstream to understand what the service is all about. On the other hand, they’re sending a message to stars and celebrities to use Twitter to connect with fans (rather than a Facebook page, for instance).

And at the same time, they’re making it known to brands (including event brands) that these hashtag pages (with perhaps more products to come) are a great way to connect with your customers, fans and attendees.

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .


How I Curate (and Share) Content on Twitter

April 13, 2012

Book store / library image.

Introduction

I once had a pile of old books that I no longer wanted. I brought them into a bookstore that buys and sells used books. After placing my pile of books on the counter, the owner proceeded to examine each one. He carefully examined the cover, opened the book to read the chapter of contents, and then skimmed quickly through a few pages.

I was expecting him to accept each of my books, but he only took a third of them. When I asked him about his evaluation process, he told me that it’s driven by limited shelf space, along with his understanding of what his customers want.

To become a regarded sharer of content on Twitter, you need to act like the used book shop owner. His shelf space has a fixed amount of space, in the same way that your Twitter followers have a fixed amount of attention. The store owner can’t sell every used book he comes across and you can’t (well, shouldn’t) share every single link you find.

So speaking of sharing, I thought I’d share the process I use for curating and sharing content on Twitter.

Curation

The Process

Like many of you, I have a daily “surfing routine,” in which I visit a number of “go to” sites each morning. For the national (and global) scene, my favorite site is NYTimes.com, for which I gladly pay to gain access. For the local tech scene here in the Bay Area, I visit SiliconValley.com, a web site of the San Jose Mercury News.

In addition to these go-to sites, I use the somewhat old fashioned method of maintaining 40+ RSS feeds, which I read via Google Reader.

I then behave like the used book store owner. To gain credibility and respect, I like to share links (content) that my followers (and even folks who are not following me) find useful. If I blindly tweet out a large volume of tweets and my followers don’t find them useful, then I’m sure to lose followers.

Content Review

While I’ve committed the sin of tweeting an article solely based on a captivating headline, I prefer to read the article entirely – or, at minimum, to skim the article to get a sense for it. Recall that the book store owner did the same thing.

When you read the article, it helps you understand what you’re sharing. Wouldn’t it be embarrassing to share an article in which the body didn’t match the title at all? Yes, that could annoy followers who clicked on the link.

Another benefit to reading the article? Including a fact or quote from the article in your tweet. I like to include my own thought(s) in my tweets, rather than just tweeting the article title and link. In short, I believe that “curate and comment” is better than just “curate.”

Selection Criteria

For something to be shareable, I look for the following:

Timely: I prefer to share content that’s been published in the past 0-2 weeks. If I find a really useful article that’s 1+ year old, I mention that in my tweet (e.g. “From 2010, but still quite relevant”). Timely also refers to “what’s hot” (a trending topic, if you will). Timely topics that I’ve shared of late include Pinterest, Instagram, mobile apps and Google+.

Interesting: If everyone is writing about Pinterest (and they are), I prefer to share bloggers or journalists who provide a unique spin on the latest trend. Early on during the trend, however, an “introduction to” or a “how to get started” article is, in fact, interesting.

Useful: Related to the introductory articles that I mention above, I like to share content that helps my followers learn something new or do their job better. I often use the rule that if I find it useful, that you may as well.

Sharing

Tweet Button

I estimate that 60-70% of my tweets come from the Tweet button. Almost every site that I frequent (including most blogs) has social sharing buttons. So I share as I read. It’s efficient, because I share as I surf – and, because the Tweet button makes it so easy.

Attribute Authors

If the Tweet button doesn’t include the author’s Twitter handle, I like to search for the authors, to see if they have Twitter accounts. If they do, I like to include their handles in the tweet. This is useful for your followers (i.e. they can follow the author, if they like) and, it lets the authors know that you’ve tweeted their article.

Buffer

I’ll also use a neat tool called Buffer to schedule certain tweets be sent out at particular times. There can be times where sharing becomes too frequent. Buffer allows me to “save up” a bunch of tweets and send them at a later time or date.

You can even schedule tweets with Buffer directly from Google Reader, which I find quite useful.

Retweets

Retweeting (“RT”) is even easier than the Tweet button, as you can perform the action directly from your Twitter client, or from Twitter.com. I use the same selection criteria (listed above) when retweeting. There’s an added benefit here: the act “sends a little love,” if you will, to the person who posted the original tweet.

Conclusion

And there you have it. If you’re still with me, then I hope this insider’s look at my processes (and thought process) was useful. Use the comments section below to tell me how you go about curating and sharing on Twitter.

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .


5 Reasons I’m Breaking Up With You, TweetDeck

February 27, 2012

Introduction

We’ve had a great time together, TweetDeck. And believe me, it’s not you, it’s me. Breaking up is hard to do, so I’ve decided to compose this posting to let you know. Yes, yes, that was quite impersonal of me. Let me explain why I feel the way I do.

1) Curbing Application Proliferation.

Despite the emergence of SaaS, we have more and more applications running on our desktop or laptop. If I could accomplish all of my Twitter activity within my browser, then you, unfortunately, are one less application I need to have running (I’m so sorry).

And I’ll tell you a dirty little secret about social streams: they consume lots of memory! My browsers tend to consume 250-700+ MB and you, while consuming less, still needed 100-200+ MB of tender loving RAM. With one less application, my computer is already running faster. Like I said, it’s me, not you.

2) The New @Connect Tab.

Yes, yes, it seems I’m already seeing other services. This one happens to be called Twitter.com. The New Twitter (or is it the “New New New Twitter”?) has a nifty “@Connect” tab. Under “Interactions,” it lists everything I want to know:

  1. Mentions.
  2. Retweets.
  3. When someone “Favorites” my tweet.
  4. New followers.
  5. When someone adds me to their Twitter List.

You, TweetDeck, had columns available for mentions and new followers, but I’d often miss seeing retweets. And, to have this all in a single place is useful to me. So in this case, TweetDeck, I’m afraid it’s you and not me.

3) Twitter “Home” Got Better.

Yes, the new love of my life, Twitter.com, improved the “Home” tab. I remember the day I first laid eyes on you, TweetDeck. When I entered a URL, you’d auto-shorten it for me. And oh, did I love that. But this is now a standard feature on most tweet services, including Twitter.com.

In addition, I like glancing at the “Who to follow” area of “Home” and always seeing someone I recognize. I don’t mind the fact that it really should be “Whom to follow,” as I’m not a stickler or anything like that.

And finally, when my tweet stream is flying off the edge, I like how Twitter.com shows, “372 new Tweets” (or whatever the number is) and forces a click (from me) to display them. I think we were moving too fast together, TweetDeck, as your tweet stream would constantly flow.

4) Nifty new #Discover tab.

I like the nifty new #Discover tab on New Twitter. It’s rendered like a newspaper site, with key topics as headlines. I can follow a link and see tweets on the selected topic. And there’s always a single content piece (article) beneath the headline. So I can browse interesting articles, if I’m so inclined. My oh my, TweetDeck, I wonder if Twitter has crossed over from technology provider to media company?

5) But Wait.

But here’s the one thing Twitter.com cannot provide me. Your columns, TweetDeck. I could set up a number of columns for topics and hash tags and be able to glance at the related streams. I used to monitor mentions of my employer, along with the #eventprofs hash tag. On Twitter.com, I need to manually check those “feeds” from time to time.

Conclusion

Well, TweetDeck, you were certainly my first love. But you know what? Twitter acquired you in May 2011, so while I’m leaving you, I’m certainly staying in the same neighborhood. And I bet that your parent doesn’t mind that I’m now exclusively using Twitter.com. Take care and perhaps we’ll see each other again.

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Ask Me a Question on Virtual Events (#engage365 Twitter Chat)

December 1, 2011

Join the chat now via tweetchat: http://tweetchat.com/room/engage365

Introduction

Are you ready for a Twitter chat? I’ll be answering questions on virtual events during an #engage365 “Water Cooler Chat” hosted by Jenise Fryatt (@JeniseFryatt) of Icon Presentations (@IconPresentsAV).

Date: Friday, December 2, 2011

Time: 1PM EST

Location: On Twitter.

How to Participate

If you’re using a Twitter client, simply add a column that pulls in tweets with the tweetchat’s hash tag: #engage365. Here’s a look at how I’ve done it in TweetDeck:

There’s also a neat (and free) service called tweetchat (@tweetchat). I plan to use this service for the Twitter Chat. You can use this URL to take you directly in to the chat:

http://tweetchat.com/room/engage365

Finally, you can find more information on the Engage365 “Water Cooler Chats” here:

http://engage365.org/2010/02/water-cooler-chat-226/

Hope to “tweet you” there!

 


Why Twitter Should Stay at 140 Characters

July 23, 2011

Introduction

I’m selfish. I like Twitter just the way it is, which means that it should retain its 140 character limit on tweets. On Slate.com, Farhad Manjoo (@fmanjoo) wrote a piece titled “The End of 140.” Twitter’s 140 character limit relates to the 160 characters available in SMS messages (text messages), for which the service was originally designed.

Manjoo argues that “very few Twitter users now access the system through SMS” and the 140 characters “prevents meaningful interaction between users.” Manjoo urges Twitter to consider a doubling of the character limit, from 140 to 280 characters. I hereby present my reasons for Twitter to “keep it the way it is.”

Makes Us Better Writers and Sharers

When all you have is 140 characters, you get right to the point. Extraneous details get dropped and you become a “pro at prose.” When tweets are more efficient, you win, and more importantly, your followers win. The world would be a better place if other content (e.g. TV commercials, marketing content, conference calls [ha ha]) were limited to 140 characters!

Of course, as Manjoo rightly points out, it does happen that the 140 character limit “turns otherwise straightforward thoughts into a bewildering jumble of txtese.” But I think 140 characters raises the bar and challenges users to do better. Manjoo cites a sample tweet from Senator @ChuckGrassley:

“Pres Obama while u sightseeing in Paris u said ‘time to delvr on health care’ When you are ‘ hammer’ u think everything is NAIL I’m no NAIL.”

Here’s how I would have written the tweet:

“President Obama said: ‘Time to deliver on health care.’ When you’re a hammer, you think everything is a NAIL. I’m no NAIL.”

Eliminated some extraneous details and I’m left with 18 characters to spare. This can work at 140, right?

Link Sharing Works Great As Is

Let’s face it – Twitter is used by many to find and share content. The current system works great. Users post an article title, sprinkle in a few words of commentary and then provide a shortened link to the page. Perhaps they’ll append a hash tag or two. In a world of 280 available characters, tweets become messier and users become lazier.

So I have 140 extra characters? I can keep that long URL unshortened. I can add a few more random thoughts. Yes! I can append another 5 hash tags that are not related. With 140 characters, I can promote a blog posting as such:

In This Era of Digital and Social, The Extended Family is Closer than Ever: http://bit.ly/oySJ18

With 280 characters, it’s too easy for that to become:

In This Era of Digital and Social, The Extended Family is Closer than Ever: https://allvirtual.wordpress.com/2011/07/16/in-this-era-of-digital-and-social-the-extended-family-is-closer-than-ever/

The former is more elegant and easier to parse.

280 Characters Fundamentally Changes Things

And that brings me to perhaps the most important point. Moving from 140 to 280 characters would fundamentally change the entire Twitter experience. It would turn Twitter from micro-blogging to mini-blogging. With 2x the available capacity (per tweet), browsing through your tweetstream takes on a whole new feeling.

Instead of scrolling past short, concrete thoughts, you’d now see short thoughts intermixed with longer thoughts (that could ramble on). With Twitter at 140, I can scan. With Twitter at 280, I’d have to read. And reading through a tweetstream would significantly slow me down and make Twitter less useful for me.

Conclusion

Dear Twitter, I like you (love you?) at 140 characters. Three cheers for the status quo.

Feel free to tweet that. You’ll have 52 extra characters.

Related Content

  1. Why changing Twitter’s 140-character limit is a dumb idea, by Matthew Ingram at GigaOM.

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