SmartCompany: Me on Twitter’s churn and burn

I’m is quoted in this Patrick Stafford piece in SmartCompany. It’s about Twitter’s appalling churn rate of over 60%.

Some of the reasons why Twitter’s retention rate is so bad:

  1. It’s limited – 140 characters. No video / audio / rich media / expression / detail / depth – yes you can link to those things, but that’s it.
  2. It’s neither a mass broadcast mechanism nor is it targetted. Fine if you want to get a message out to a number of followers in a single moment, but terrible if you are using it for reach or for a more personal or limited conversation.
  3. It’s very easy to set up, so there’s little in terms of “purchase investment”. You register, follow a few people and if you walk away / forget, it’s not like you’ve spent hours of your time – there’s little to “lose” by abandoning it.
  4. It’s a media phenomenon. The media are going nuts over it, when the punters are far less interested. It’s like Second Life – not a day would go by when the media wouldn’t write about Second Life – it drove a spike in interest, but didn’t drive long term usage.
  5. As written in a previous post, Twitter is for old people. Young people couldn’t care less and aren’t using it in any substantial numbers. Older people either don’t have the time, or the interest, so they join up, look around and leave after a while – they don’t keep the ball rolling.
  6. It’s not customisable. I might enjoy some tweets of some people (person focussed), or some tweets by all people (topic focussed), but definitely not all tweets by all people. It needs to be customisable. Right now, whether I like it or not, I have to read the tweets of all of the people I follow on Twitter. You could argue that there are multiple plugins and applications that allow for customisation of Twitter, but the basic beginner user isn’t interested enough (or capable enough) to then look for filters and plugins. So they get bored / frustrated and stop using it.

Read the full article here: Research casts doubt over whether Twitter fad will last – Business news, business advice and information for Australian SMEs | SmartCompany.

The social media space has come down with swine flu

Swine flu is dominating Google search. For the past two days (in the US at least), discussions around “swine flu”, “pig flu” and other such iterations have at least 10 references in the top 100 US searches, according to Google Trends. While not in the top five searches, people aren’t simply searching for “swine flu”, they’re searching for “swine flu deaths in California” and other such specific references – breaking up the overall search.

It was the idea that people search for things related to illness that was the basis of Google’s Flu Trends – a service they set up in 2007-2008. Their thinking is that when people get sick, they’ll type in symptoms or descriptions of the illness into Google in an attempt to learn more about the disease – and cure. Google discovered that if there was an outbreak or a pandemic, that they would be able to predict it up to two weeks faster than the US Center for Disease Control (CDC). This is the power of Google – in terms of being a “database of intent”, it knows what people are doing & thinking because it knows what people are searching for, on a mass global scale.

The bottom line of search and online activity is – people want to know whether it is near them, and whether swine flu will kill them. So how has the social media space reacted?

The Wikipedia listing for Swine Flu refers to a mortality rate of around 10% (the Wikipedia page has been viewed 114,687 times so far in April vs 237 times in March – and edited over 100 times in the past day). Google Maps has a live map, listing every outbreak of swine flu – as it happens! The subject “swine flu” is the number 1 trending topic on Twitter. Nielsen Blogpulse is showing the topic making up over 1.75% of all blog posts today.

Happy 10th Birthday Cluetrain!

The Cluetrain Manifesto is a book that inspired many of us, giving us a framework that allowed our passion for the digital space to become a career. Cluetrain celebrated it’s 10th birthday on April 28th.

Cluetrain is a lot of things, but at its core, it is a book that describes 95 theses of communications and “new media”.

It all starts with the preamble:

A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies.

Now that it is 10 years old, Keith McArthur has put the call out for influencers in the area to submit their take on the 95 thesis – ten years on. The project is called cluetrainplus10. Read some of the submissions, they’re great.

Dominos Going to Fall

Dominos Pizza has been embarrassed by a scandal where some employees of the business made a video that showed them doing some pretty disgusting things with the food they were preparing. It is extremely damaging to the company. The videos are here – and an explanation of what they should be doing next follows.

Part 1 – The Offending Video

Part 2 – The Reponse from the US President of Dominos (why the hell is he speaking off camera? It’s completely wrong and seems completely staged).

Part 3 – What the Dominos President’s Response reminds me of (specifically at 4’15”)

What they should do:

Stop the rot – Sack the employees that have done this – and ensure that there are no other skeletons in the closet, whether known or unknown. Make sure that whatever it is that caused this issue is dealt with – and fixed.

Apologise – not from the President (who, as I mentioned earlier, is completely lame), but from employees of the company. Other people who work at Dominos – others who are in their late teens / early 20s, who are hard working, CLEAN and responsible workers. Coming from them, it will be much more genuine. Imagine being an honest, hard-working Dominos employee right now – you’d be completely ashamed and embarrassed by the actions of two fools. If I were Dominos management, I’d be giving these employees every chance to express their sorrow and regret publicly – and have them honestly vow that they would never do such a thing. Coming from them – coming from all of them, employee by employee, store by store – it would be a company wide affirmation of their true values. It would ensure that the public would feel safe ordering food from them. It would reiterate the local presence of the company, and the care and mutual benefit that each Dominos franchise has for its community / customer base. Imagine it – a YouTube channel where every Dominos employee gets to make their own personal apology and vow to their customers – customers they value, customers who pay their bills. What a powerful statement of intent and purpose that would be.

Open up – I would ensure a rapid and public demonstration of the systems that Dominos has in place. What safety, what systems, what is in place to ensure this will never happen again. Put it all online, put it out there – every step of the value chain should be transparent. Every manager should be out there, explaining at every step how clean their systems are – from hiring to suppliers to food prep to service. This will allow people to overcome the fear they now have – I don’t know what happens in Dominos kitchens – nor do I know anything about how clean the food is.

Improve – Be daring – do something that would drive openness and engagement to a whole new level, eg: webcams in every kitchen, produce a series of podcasts on pizza making, Dominos staff cooking competitions across the country – demonstrate that Dominos food isn’t just prepared by College rejects, but by people who actually care about the food that they are providing. Build trust in Dominos as a place where you’ll have food that is not only clean, but tasty – or as the President said, delicious.

Managing reputations online –

Another example of a consumer based corporate abuse site,, celebrates it’s first anniversary this week.

The site describes itself as “the Qantas News website by former and present Qantas customers”, and has a litany of bad news stories collated in order to damage the reputation of Qantas. They even offer $500 per best story per month, here. The site is registered through MelbourneIT to a “Berg Berg” of North Carolina, whose email address is (and whose blog is here).

For those who may think this is the sign of things to come, an inevitable avalanche of <companyname> websites, you’re partly right and partly wrong.

You’re right if you think there is more to come. Plenty more. For as long as there have been companies, there have been people complaining about those companies. The internet has allowed people to express their complaints in ever more creative and popular ways. It’s incredibly easy to bag a company online. And people will get better and better at complaining online.

However you’re wrong if you think it’s the first example. The internet is close to forty years old, and as long as there’s been the net, there have been complaints online. If we look at a perfect Australian example, the massively popular Whirlpool forum started around ten years ago as a response to the disastrous early performance of the BigPond internet service – and allowed people to discuss performance problems not only with BigPond but also for other ISPs. It is now one of the biggest online forums in Australia, with over 282,444 active members, discussing topics including:

  • Technology
  • Computers
  • ISPs
  • Mobile
  • Hardware
  • IT Industry
  • Music
  • Photography
  • Gaming
  • Gadgets
  • Automotive
  • Movies
  • Television
  • Home Theatre
  • Lifestyle
  • Sports
  • In the News: including Politics, Current Affairs, Issues and Society

…and Telstra still hasn’t worked out how to engage with the Whirlpool community, unlike iiNet and other ISPs who have done so very successfully.

As I’ve been saying for many years, it’s not a matter of when your organisation, products, brands or issues will be discussed, the point is how big the current discussion is; how many people are discussing it, where they are discussing it, and what information do they have at their disposal, ultimately what damage is it doing to your brand in the marketplace. It’s already happening – across social media of all types, by Australians of all ages, incomes and locations. Remember, over 41% of ALL Australians post comments about products, brands or services online, and a whopping 86% of people read these comments (stats here). And for those of you you think you’ve got it covered because you search Aussie blogs, you’re waaaaaaaay off track. Blogs aren’t very popular in Australia (nowhere near as popular as forums and social networking sites), and while agencies, communicators, marketers and organisations believe their American counterparts in thinking that blogs are the end all and be all of online conversation, they will be lost.

If you’re not aware of the conversations around your brand across all social media, do something about it – now!

Online searches are getting longer (8+ words)

People are using Google instead of portals and one stop shops – we know that. Search is the gateway to content. Even Rupert Murdoch this week said:

Nobody is making money with free content on the web, except search.

Interesting that search queries with 8+ words continue to rise.

Why? Quite possibly because:

1. People aren’t finding what they want via immediate searches. so keep adding words until they find what they want. Finding needles in haystacks take some effort.

2. People aren’t very good at searching effectively, so write things like: find me a hotel near the centre of London (that’s nine words by the way).

3. People ask a lot of questions when they search. For example, right now it’s Good Friday – as per Google Trends, the eighth biggest search right now is: is the stock market open today (six words), while the 16th most popular search right now is: are banks open on good friday (again, six words). These are the sort of searches that are on the increase.

Bottom line – plain English searches are becoming more common. There are so many opportunities for firms to incorporate these sort of questions into their online content, in the form of Q&As or other text. But instead, far too many write content in the most boring corporate speak ever.

My advice is to intercept search terms by creating content on their websites related to those search terms. By having organic search traffic, it makes it easier to rise up the search rankings and also reduces the weighted average cost of acquistion, as your organic search results share increases versus your paid search results share.