Empire Avenue – What is it Good for?

Empire Avenue is an interesting concept in this world of Social Media and Social Media Marketing.

We are told to network, to make connection in our industries and across others to broaden our horizons, to reach out to our customers. Engage, Engage, Engage!

With all of this engaging going on, who’s doing all the real work? (Only joking)

Many people still don’t see the benefits of Social Media, it took the advent of Tweetdeck for me to see the benefit of Twitter as a networking tool. But slowly as these things come more into the mainstream and more importantly, experiences are discussed about the benefits and pitfalls of this new form of marketing.

Empire Avenue takes all of this engagement and networking and turns it into a game.

I used to play AlexaDex, it was a share trading game based on the traffic that websites recorded according to Alexa.

Empire Avenue does something similar where it gathers information about your social connections via sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Youtube and Flickr, plus what you do on the Empire Avenue site and give you a score, or a share price.

If people in the game think you are an upwards mover, they can buy shares in your profile to hopefully make a profit on your rise.

It seems to me that it is a really fun version of Klout, or similar social media analytics programs.

It is a great way to make measuring your connectedness and engagement fun.

To be honest, you may even engage more, to increase your share value.

A bit of a chicken and egg scenario then, not only does it report on your social engagement, but it encourages you to engage more.

I like it. I like the fact that it can make the measurement fun. It has encouraged me to be more vocal in social networking circles, which in itself is not a bad thing.

What is your experience? Do you like it? Do you think it is a big waste of time?

(I had to put this in…)


Twitter has New Follow Button

Under the Resources section on Twitter.com, you can find the new Follow Button.

Using the setup screen, it generates the code needed to put on your site to display the follow button. The good thing here, is that the button allows for the visitor to follow you on Twitter without leaving your site.

This is how it looks

Looks good and well implemented.


Search Trends for 2011

Here is an interetsing video from Matt Cutts of Google with Danny Sullivan from SearchEngineLand, talking about future trends for search in 2011.

They talk about the increased importance of social media in influencing ranking. While still small, it shows a shift towards social as a means of determining importance of content on the web.

Towards the end of the video, they talk about how Google is trying to avoid the poisoning of somones persona on the web by taking multiple sources of information, reviews etc to try to weed out any malicious or extraneous reviews or comments. Matt says that they take over 500 sources to try and determine this, I wonder what they are?

Another important note, is that even though these sites are classed as social networks, if Google can’t crawl them, (possibly because of high security settings) then that information remains hidden and cannot be used in building ranking.

So will SEO now become more about the persona of the individual or company, will the “quality” of the persona be just as important as the “quality” of the links or the “quality” of the content?

The next big industry….Persona Management 🙂

Twitter Spammers

Wherever there is opportunity and invention, you will find people who stoop low to take advantage!

I have had spam sent through Twitter, whether it be by spam bots or live spammers following me in the hope I follow back or Direct Messages if I am unlucky not to see through their spam disguise.

The most problematic version is using mentions to target people.

As an example, I got the following:

@deepwebdesign i got it today! yes!! http://bitly.thruhere.net/bluEt
From singh8567 via API

Now there are a couple of things that stand out here that make it look like spam:

  1. Default Avatar, spammers are lazy, but not even changing the default avatar is downright dumb. It is one of the first things I look at to determine if I want to continue on with this “person”
  2. Crappy Username, Nearly everyone I follow (if not all) has a well though out name as their username, not a name with 4 digits after it. Most likely singh8567 has been deleted 8566 times before now.

But the thing that really caught my attention was the shortened url.

Bit.ly is now the most common used url shortener and most people on Twitter and Facebook are used to seeing shortened urls. The risk is that a shortened url from a friend or follower is seen as a trusted source and is more likely to be clicked on.

Spammer use this behaviour to enhance the chances of their links being clicked. Twitter had a big problem with compromised accounts a while ago that were sending out urls designed to trick others to get infected.

Back to the tweet, you will see the url is http://bitly.thruhere.net/bluEt

So not bit.ly at all but thruhere.net.

This is a common trick used by phishers to make users think they are going to a trusted source. Since the shortened urls are often jumbled sets of letters, a url mistake is less likely to be detected.

I got onto longurl.org (where you can preview the destination of these urls) and the preview showed it to be a page about icons. Now the page may also have a more dangerous payload once you visit, I haven’t tried 😉

Look for the obvious signs of spammers, usually they follow similar patterns and can be spotted.

As is usual, spammers will evolve their techniques to continually challenge our ability to detect the bull.

Twitter Series – 7 Steps to Get Started on Twitter

With all new things it can take a bit of time to get into it. Here are 5 things I learned to make your introduction much easier.

  1. Make sure you add a photo (of you, or a logo) and a description in the bio section of your profile. People with the Twitter default profile picture are often robots and spammers and are often ignored by users.
  2. Find local people (Twitterers or Tweople) who you can interact with – you can do this by searching for place names in Twitter and in other Twitter Directories like Twellow.com
  3. Find people who have similar interests or are in the same industry (I have a list of Web and SEO people I follow). You can find these in similar directories like wefollow.com
  4. Use a program like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to make your interaction with Twitter much easier
  5. Don’t use Twitter to hard sell, especially at the start – you will look like a spammer, and people will not follow you
  6. Join in the conversation. If you find something that interests you – thank the person and provide things of your own
  7. ReTweeting is seen as a good thing. If you like something, retweet it – it then flows to your sphere of influence.

Twitter requires effort as it is a conversation. Find some people you have a common interest whether that is location or subject and make and effort to be involved in some of the conversations.

Funky Cool Twitter App – Twitnest

This is one cool app regarding Twitter, It really doesn’t do anyhting but look cool, but aren’t the best apps like that 🙂

Twistnest takes your profile ID and builds a pictorial view of the relationships between those people in your Twitter network.

You can even highlight the connections for anyone on the page.

Have a look here : http://twitnest.appspot.com/nest/index.html


Combining Blogging and Twitter

I have been running workshops on Social Networking, talking primarily about Twitter Blogs and Facebook.

Once of the questions I am asked is which of these are most important, what should they focus on first.

As usual, there is no definitive answer, but it becomes more about :

  • What you want to achieve from social media and social networking
  • Who do you want to say
  • How much time do you want to apply to this

Twitter only gives you 140 characters at a time to talk aobut something, this is OK for many things: announcements, short comments, conversations, but not so good for somehitng more detailed.

This is where Blogs have it over most other forms of social media. The ability to be as brief as you like or as detailed as you like.

Also, your content is more permanent. Twitter tweets are much more “in the moment” as they pass in front of your followers.

Recent changes in search, where Bing and Google have both announced that they are entering agreements with Twitter to provide tweets in search results, means that what you say in Twitter will be available to more than just your followers.

So there is a place for both (or any facet of Social Media). There are plenty of addons that allow you to synchronise your entries across the different platforms (just make sure the duplication is appropriate for each audience)

Here is a video from Webpronews about Blogs (specifically Blogger) and Twitter and how you can get the benefits of both

Parallels between Iran Elections and G20 Protests

History has always been written by the victors. In the distant past this was often because no survivors of the losing side were left alive to tell.

These days the advent of broadcast technology has allowed for both sides to get their stories to the masses.

When the fallout of the Iranian elections was happening, the Iranian government tried to stop the spread of news by attempting to block access to these broadcast media, text, mobile phones and the internet.

Twitter emerged as a key conduit for locals to be able to get 140 character snippets of information out, uncensored and definitely not what the government wanted people to hear.

Reading tweets today (24th Sept 09) saw a proliferation of people talking about the police actions against protesters in Pittsburgh.

Accompanied by a lot of the tweets were links to video and news stories covering the event. Youtube carried plenty of videos made by people at the locations where demonstrations were being held.

This widespread saturation of user generated content means that government officials, the police and others involved in these confrontations are more exposed than ever to what happens and the ensuing debate and discussion will have real evidence (especially video) to back up claims from either side.

Propaganda is much more difficult in these days of Twitter, Youtube and Civilian Reporters.

The Growing Use / Influence of Social Networking

As a web professional, I try to look at and investigate new ideas, trends, and concepts that appear in the industry.

Not only because they may work for me, but also so I can give advice on these topics to my clients, coming from some if not much experience.

Take as an example my Facebook and Bebo profiles.

I initially started both up as an exercise to see if either would be beneficial from a business point of view. In the process of doing this I have started to use Facebook, but not Bebo.

This is basically down to two things:

  1. Facebook was best connected to my social network
  2. It seemed to work better

In looking at these two products, I can now talk to my clients about them with some experience.

All advice is clouded by the experiences of the giver, but I believe it is better to have this experience, however small.

The by product of this is that I am now a regular Facebook user, not only for work, but for personal reasons. My wife and I have Bejeweled challenges each week!

So as a web / IT professional, the emergence of these technologies and our need to be aware and somewhat knowledgeable about them does mean we spend time and effort immersing ourselves.

Twitter is another good example. One we cannot ignore due to it’s explosion of popularity. I am now about to do workshops on Web 2.0 and social networking, talking to people about these products, services and the concept of social networking as a business tool.

But here is the crux for me. Twitter became much more usable, effcient and meaningful, not because Twitter is so cool, but because I found a tool (Tweetdeck) that makes it work for me.

Having to refresh my Twitter stream each time I wanted to check, made it more remote and less engaging.

Now, having notfications, means that I am now using Twitter as a real communication tool.

I believe that the emergence of these tools to augment and improve on the great ideas on the net is key to the further success of these concepts.

After looking at the specs for HTML 5, the reliance on client side applications to enhance websites like Twitter looks like to be disappearing, to the point, where HTML 5 may make web apps as interactive and functional as desktop applications are now. (At least that is what Google seems to be heading towards)

What tools do you use to enhance your online experience? What has been a real “key” to getting more out of an existing service?

Leave me a comment and let me know

I Love TweetDeck! Best App for Twitter

Twitter is becoming clearer.

Now I have TweetDeck, Twitter becomes a much better experience, I now know when someone I am following has posted something up, and it even allows me to reply from within TweetDeck.

Now the thing with TweetDeck, is that it is a program you install on your PC, think of it like Outlook for Twitter (Though much better and definitely not a Microsoft thing)

I means you do not have to refresh twitter to see what people are saying. It also means you can get notifications when there are new tweets in your stream.

I can see when I have been mentioned (@deepwebdesign) and also a list of my direct messages to other Twitter users.

But the real benefit, it to create groups of users so you can filter out the people you really want to hear from and leave some of the noise behind.

I can’t believe how much it has changed my Twitter experience.

The only downside is that it is a bit memory hungry (over 100mb of user memory when running, written in Adobe AIR)

But overall one of the few apps I am really happy about.

Click here to download TweetDeck

They also have TweetDeck for iPhone