Lafayette Twestival Ticket Giveaway

March 24 is Twestival Local 2011.

What is Twestival?

Twestival is a way for people to get together and donate to a local cause. It is mainly organized on Twitter, and showcases the power of Twitter to help people organize and do good.

What happens at Twestival?

Once you get in, you listen to local bands, talk to people, have a drink… it’s just a fun night out, but you know that the ticket money goes to a good cause. This year, the proceeds go to City Foods.

Twestival will be held downtown Lafayette at the Muse.

See more details here.

I believe it’s a worthy event, and a good opportunity to meet people from the community, many of whom love social media just as much as you do!

I know students are strapped for cash, and that’s why I want to give away some tickets.

I will give away 5 basic tickets to Twestival. All you have to do is write a comment below explaining why you want to go, or why you think people from the community should attend.

You do not have to by my student, or a student, to enter.

I will select the winners through a random drawing on Thursday March 24 at 2 pm, so make sure you enter your comment before then!

Coming up: Total chaos?

In one of my previous posts I tried to explain how one’s sense of self emerges through interaction with other people.

The direct consequence of this dynamic is the idea of the relational self:

The relational self is the self in relationships. We are different selves to different (groups of) people.

This is not wrong, dishonest, or flip-flopping. It is not schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder. It is healthy adaptation, both from a psychological and communication point of view. It may even be social intelligence.

Some groups are more important to us and our identity than others: They have more of an impact on who we are, because they are more important to us (significant others). We call those reference groups.

Depending on the groups with whom we interact and on context, social psychologists claim that we have situation prototypes, relational schemas – or, simply put, scripts for proper interaction in common situations.

For example, we have the script for proper interaction at a restaurant with friends, at a restaurant with clients, at a restaurant on a first date, etc.

These scripts (social norms) guide our social interactions. Not only do they help us figure out what is the appropriate thing to say in a given situation, they also help us anticipate an outcome of communication (if I say this, then… ) and, most importantly, they help us interpret the meaning of messages.

The same thing, said by someone else, in a different context, means something else – aka meaning is context-dependent.

So, hold on, this argument is taking you somewhere. Are you with me? Let’s sum it up: The relational self depends on social groups, communication scripts depend on social groups and contexts, meaning depends on social groups and contexts.

Integration of different social networking platforms (Facebook with Twitter with LinkedIn with … peanut butter,  with chocolate, with mamaliga with vegemite) mixes up social groups and social contexts and therefore, messes up meaning.

Yes, it may be easy to cross-post from Twitter to Facebook and LinkedIn, and in some situations, it may even make sense. But, don’t be fooled. Just because it’s easy and it can be done, it may not be a good idea to do it.

Keep in mind that the meaning of your tweet depends on:

  • your relational self – who you are in relation to the people you’re interacting with (if they’re different on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, you and the meaning of your words are different, too)
  • social context – and the types of conversations appropriate in each context
  • social group – and your relationships with each group.

So, we have to be careful here and maybe NOT take advantage of all the technology has to offer. The result may very well be misunderstanding, miscommunication, frustration, and, to quote Adrian Chan, total chaos.

Building Relationships part 2

In the previous post in this series, I argued that Twitter is great for building bridging social capital – loose connections with large numbers of people who are quite different than you. Bridging social capital has several benefits, innovative thinking and new work opportunities being among them.

In this post, I draw upon Dale Carnegie to give you very simple advice about how to build relationships on Twitter. This question seems to be on my students’ minds a lot.

I fully believe that at this point in our social media world, the most precious and scarce resource is attention.


To build relationships, give people attention.

How do you give them attention? Reply to what they said. Jump into conversations, or reply to lonely tweets. Say something nice, or interesting, or supportive, or ask a question. Be careful with humor, it may or may not come across right in writing.

I was reading a women’s magazine’s yearly mandatory article about how to have fun at holiday parties. This line from a fashion model’s mother sounded like the perfect blend of Dale Carnegie in the attention economy:

“Look everybody in the eye and make them feel special. Give them warmth and attention.”

What are some of the things you do on Twitter that make people people feel special? How do you give warm and attention on Twitter? Can you share some tips with my students?

Building Relationships part 1

This is part of a series of post about building relationships online and the relationships we build online.

The initial idea was triggered by reading in one of the books for TECH 621 about marketable relationships. Marketable relationships were defined as relationships we build for the sake of the relationship, without expecting an immediate reward. However, the rewards, often in the form of employment, speaking engagements, etc., come as a result of having these connections. Nothing new here. This is how connections work.

I don’t particularly like the term “marketable relationships,” but luckily, the concept does go by another name: social capital.

Social capital was defined by Bourdieu as one of three types of capital:

  1. economic (financial resources)
  2. cultural (knowledge resources)
  3. social (connections, acquaintances, people we know who could do us favors)

Putnam (the one who wrote Bowling Alone) further broke down the concept of social capital into 2 sub-types: bonding and bridging capital.

  1. bonding capital = close relationships  among homogeneous groups (birds of a feather, your close group of friends, family, etc).
  2. bridging capital = loose connections with diverse people. It is out of these types of connections that most benefits and innovations emerge.

So, here are some hypotheses:

  • Many people use Facebook to maintain bonding capital
  • Many people use Twitter to build and maintain bridging capital

Are these the predominant uses of Facebook vs. Twitter? To how many people do these hypotheses apply? Do they apply to you? Are the trends changing towards Facebook becoming more open to loose connections and to building bridging capital? i.e. do you “friend” people you don’t know very well?

[update 10/25: Facebook’s new News Feed vs Live feed feature makes Facebook technology more conducive to maintaining bonding capital, because the algorithm selects the updates to show you in the News Feed based on the previous level of interaction -connection depth?- with that person.]

Next posts in this series:

Brizzly: making Twitter more like Facebook

I’ve been playing around with Brizzly this morning, and here are some initial thoughts. My default Twitter app is Tweetdeck, so I’m comparing to that.

  • for most part, it works as advertised in the demo, except it’s a bit slow sometimes, and when I tried to save a search, it experienced an error (but it’s a private beta, I can live with that)
  • I like that I can see photos and videos on screen, and don’t have to click links to view them.
  • I like the option to store groups on the side column, because I hate lateral scrolling in Tweetdeck. With Brizzly, I can see myself creating more groups.
  • How about mobile? I haven’t found a corresponding iPhone app, so if only for this feature alone, I’ll stick with Tweetdeck.
  • Auto-refresh is spotty, at best. I still haven’t figured out if or how it works. Sometimes I see a message to refresh the page, or a bubble next to a Group, sometimes I don’t – but I refresh the page and see there are new updates anyway.

But here’s the major change that Brizzly introduces, and for me, a concern:

  • The user experience is a bit more like Facebook, but that can be very misleading. See the screenshot below:


My reply with a comment about the cat shows up (for me, in Brizzly) – right under the photo. So the context of my comment is very clear to me. However, for the recipient, if she uses another Twitter app, my reply will show as a usual @ tweet in her stream.

The problem is that for me, the context is very clear, but for her, it may be confusing. If I reply “awww…. !” she has to put 2+2 together to figure what my tweet is about. I usually try to include context in my tweets – I’d usually reply “awww… cute cat!” – so she knows that the tweet is about. I try to avoid using “this” and “that” in tweets and instead specify what I’m referring to.

I posted a photo, and people’s comments didn’t show under the photo, like in Twitpic, but just as replies in my twitter stream – so no context there for me on the receiving side.

It’s confusing to have context for some people, in some instances, but not for others. If some people use Brizzly and others don’t, I can see a lot of misscommunication happening on Twitter.

Although Brizzly might enhance MY Twitter experience, the confusion about context might reduce the overall community experience.

Watch the Brizzly demo:

Research Study: @sockington is more influential than @chrisbrogan

This Webecology research report has been making the rounds on Twitter. I haven’t had time to read it until now, here are my reading notes:

The Webecology team uses large scale data mining to identify patterns indicative of online culture and community. Wish I’d do this, too – and will, as soon as I find a research partner to help with the data mining part.

For this project, the authors set out to create a more accurate measure of influence on Twitter that goes beyond either:

  1. number of followers; or
  2. followers/friends ratio

The authors defined influence on Twitter as:

influence on Twitter = the potential of an action of a user to initiate a further action by another user

Specifically, influence means the potential of a tweet to generate replies, mentions (conversational behaviors), RTs, and attributions (content-pushing behaviors).

This is an atheoretical, operational definition of influence (the study’s Achille’s heel).

As far as I understand, all 4 actions were weighed equally. So, a RT factors the same as an @reply in determining influence.

They selected 12 Twitter accounts to study. The selection was based on this criterion: the 12 accounts were  “widely perceived to be among the more influential users on Twitter.” It is not clear who did the perceiving, and what definition or measure of influence they used in the process of perception. IMO, the arbitrary selection of the sample is another major weakness – but in this case, I can live with it, because the purpose is not to derive conclusions about Twitter culture as much as it is to demonstrate how the methodology can be used.

Then, the 12 users were grouped into 3 categories. Here is a table with the accounts they analyzed, and their number of tweets over 10 days, as well as the number of followers and friends at the end of the 10 days:

Celebrities Username Tweets Followers Followees
Ashton Kutcher aplusk 3,205 3,407,385 209
Shaquille O’Neil THE_REAL_SHAQ 2,072 2,092,541 562
Stanley Kirk Burrell MCHammer 6,016 1,331,797 31,202
Sockington sockington 5,711 1,089,984 380
Justine Ezarik ijustine 7,718 605,441 3,039
News Outlets Username Tweets Followers Followees
CNN Breaking News cnnbrk 1,096 2,712,530 18 BarackObama 330 2,018,016 761,851 mashable 17,914 1,363,510 1,925
CNN cnn 11,607 193,625 50
Social Media Analysts Username Tweets Followers Followees
Gary Vaynerchuk garyvee 7,532 862,790 9,683
Chris Brogan chrisbrogan 48,341 94,715 88,431
Robert Scoble Scobleizer 23,112 94,295 2,423

The data that they mined was as collected over 10 days, in August 2009. The data included:

  • The 2143 tweets generated by the 12 users
  • The 90,130 actions (responses, RTs) triggered by the original 2143 tweets
  • All the tweets generated in connection with the 12 users (by their followers and friends;a total of 134, 654 tweets, 15,866,629 followers, and 899,773 friends/followees)

The authors produced 2 types of influence reports, based on the type of action that was triggered:

  1. conversational action (people replied, or mentioned the user – e.g. “meeting @stockington for catnip”)
  2. content-pushing action (people retweeted, or gave attribution – e.g. “via@username”)

Please note that a mention may or may not be a response to a tweet. If they were not responses to a tweet, they fall outside the authors’ definition of Twitter influence, and they should have been excluded from the analysis.

Here we go, on to the findings:

Conversational action

This graph shows you the amount of conversational activity (@replies and mentions) each user got in response to one (average) tweet.

Content action

This graph shows you how much content action (retweets and attributions) each user got for each (average) tweet:

So here we see that, per tweet, @sockington did get more retweets than @chrisbrogan.

The authors claim that these graphs of influence/tweet are the most accurate measure of Twitter influence so far. Therefore:

@sockington IS more influential on Twitter than @chrisbrogan,

because the fake cat gets more retweets. (sorry, @sockington, I do love you!!!)

I know exactly what you’re thinking, it starts with B and ends with T.

That’s because here we have a problem of construct validity. The measures do not actually measure influence. I wish the authors had read some research in communication & persuasion about the concept of influence, then worked their way from a conceptual to an operational definition.

Obviously, @sockington gets more retweets because he’s cuter & funnier than @chrisbrogan (sorry, Chris!). We don’t know why people reply or retweet. This study ignores a very important aspect of human relations: meaning. There is meaning in tweets, and meaning in why people retweet. But that is not captured in this study.

That being said, the report shows what can be done with data mining – it’s awesome! With a bit of help from people who know how to study meaning (hint, hint!), this type of research will be extremely valuable.

If anything, let this be an argument for computers & communication people working together, across disciplines.

In a future post, I will review conceptual and operational definitions of influence.

PR students on learning Twitter

I place a lot of emphasis on Twitter in my PR courses, but were not sure whether that was such a good idea – from their perspective. So I asked my PR students from the Spring 09 Stakeholder Communication class to respond anonymously to a survey about learning twitter. Their answers are below:

Do you believe it was beneficial for you to learn how to use Twitter? Please explain why or why not.

  • – Yes. Twitter is a good example of a social media tool and the only way to truly know about these tools is to use them. It was good for us to use because it was not too demanding, yet still allowed us to get a feel for how these different tools work.
  • – Yes I do. There are many social norms and things about twitter that I learned from this class and I think its great to show a potential employer that I understand those things. I also think it was great to teach us to be active when you get on twitter because its annoying if you just get on and don’t do anything with it!
  • – Yes. I think that we kind of “jumped onto something” much earlier than a lot of other people. I think it was beneficial because it helped us learn how news can spread really quickly and network with others.
  • – I do believe it was beneficial to learn twitter, especially since it has become so prevalent in today’s society. People ask me what Twitter is and it eels good to know that I can explain it to them because I learned it through class. It’s becoming more and more mainstream everyday and I’ve enjoyed learning how to use it.
  • – Yes. I liked that I already knew what Twitter was all about and how to use it before it became such a hot topic. Since I had already learned about the professional value of Twitter, it prevented me from getting caught up in the hype. I think this is allowing me to be a more constructive Twitter user.
  • – Yes. Not only is Twitter a necessary tool for PR practitioners, but it is becoming mainstream for all people involved in social media. Within a year or so Twitter may be the equivilent of Facebook, and it is important that PR students stay ahead of the trend.

Has Twitter helped you learn in any way? How has it helped (or not)?

  • – Yes it has helped me learn about social media. Basically the general rules of using o twitter are applicable to most social media tools. For example, you have to be consistent with using it- you can’t just create an account and then forget about it. You have to interact with people – not just broadcast random things. Twitter has a culture about it, just like other social media tools – and it is important to be able to tap into the culture of the various tools.
  • – It has helped me learn more about social interaction with PR people. I think urging us to get on to communicate and teaching us to tweet during class helped us learn it. Especially when you told us how to interact with professionals.
  • – yes. When we used it in 301, I thought it was kind of pointless, but I completely see how useful it has been in a PR class. You always have said that social media is becoming more and more important and it really is. You have showed us how jobs are hiring people to just do social media so I think that it has helped us learn to get to know other people and be less shy when it comes to networking and see how a problem can occur very quickly over Twitter, etc.
  • – Yes it has helped. It’s helped me become more comfortable with contacting people I don’t know, expressing myself, learning more about others, and become more connected.
  • – I like being able to connect with people from all over.
  • – Following the conversations of PR professionals has helped me get insight into what their world is like on a day to day basis. It also helped me to make a few connections for myself.

Do you feel you “get” Twitter? What about it do you (not) understand?

  • – I do feel that I get Twitter, but I feel that I am not using to my full capacity. I understand what is valued in the community, but I feel that I don’t always bring that value because I feel I don’t have the time to go out and find the interesting thought provoking news – I feel that I am on more of the receiving end of what’s going on – and that’s fine with me…
  • – I think I “semi” get twitter. I still don’t completely understand retweets and stuff like that. but I understand how to search for things from what you taught us.
  • – Yes very much so.
  • – I do “get” Twitter. I still have a lot to learn, and I need to become better about posting original thoughts and putting more depth into what I saw, but overall I do eel that I “get” it.
  • – It took a while, but I think I get it now. Sometime I think I get it too much because I get so frustrated with the whole fad aspect of it.
  • – I understand Twitter, but I feel like you have to almost become addicted to it to become a full-fledged user. You have to be constantly engaged with someone else in conversation and understand all of the lingo and special tools (i.e. RT, #) to use Twitter to its full potential. Sometimes its unnerving to try to start/join a conversation rather than just give updates on what you’re doing, which most people won’t reply to.

Aything else you’d like to tell me about Twitter in PR classes?

  • – Twitter is good for PR classes. Regardless of what people say. 🙂
  • – This was great for communication with you as well. I think it helped us be able to interact and I think its great to keep the lines of communication open with you!
  • – I like being able to Twitter about class…during class. It’s nice to be able to bounce ideas off of other classmates.
  • – I would recommend giving students a few contacts outside of the classroom to follow when starting. For instance, offer students the names of PRSSA mentors to follow first who can springboard them into conversations with other professionals.

What has your experience been learning or teaching Twitter?