Here are the first round results in the twheel™ Comedy Showdown competition launched on the 14th of June 2013.
Twitter recently opened up access to tweet-specific metrics, allowing everyone to gauge the performance of their most recent tweets. At the moment, the ability of tweets to reach people is measured with indirect, calculated impressions (the total number of times somebody might have seen a tweet), and the number of actions followers have performed for a given tweet (retweets, favorites, replies, and click-throughs).
However, keeping in mind, that
- 25 % of users (in the US) only consume their feeds, never tweet (source)
- Only 15-20% of tweets contain a clickable link (source)
- The half-life of a link on Twitter is 2.8 hours (source)
- Users perform actions only on a small fraction (3-5%) of tweets (source)
…the statistics do not seem to paint a very comprehensive picture, and there is a lot more wisdom to be brought into the discussion of what is the true value of tweets to the people who see them. Without following the users’ gaze, these metrics really do not supply a way to measure the amount of attention each of the tweets has actually received.
The amount of shares and actions is something that can be measured with a traditional approach. But then there’s the additional problem of manipulating the data with bot users that cannot be reliably identified from real human users. This is a huge issue that The New York Times reported in April 2013. We have also given our two cents on the subject.
We have developed a super-visual Twitter client that also provides a novel approach to measuring tweet performance. Unlike other twitter clients out there, twheel allows us to measure the actual quality of each impression a tweet gets. The analytics data gathered by twheel™ is pure, organic, human born data.
More about twheel™ Metrics in the following post: twheel™ Metrics – Actionable, real-time, and direct measures for tweet performance
With twheel™, instead of just estimating impressions, we can measure the actual quality of the impression each tweet receives. twheel™ offers a direct metric for measuring tweet performance – the attention each reader has afforded for each tweet in milliseconds. As opposed to impression metrics typically offered for measurement, based on a volume of assumptions and extrapolations on user actions and tweeter audience, twheel provides an instant look at what catches the users’ attention and what gets skipped.
With twheel™ Metrics we can provide true real-time analytics of attention for each tweet: the direct measurement of the time users spent with a given tweet:
The quality of the content (time spent with each tweets)
The more time people spend reading your tweets, the better. Tweet reading times highly correlate with the users’ interest toward the tweets and strongly predicts the likelihood of remembering tweet content (Scott Counts’ and Kristie Fisher’s research at Microsoft research)
Noise level (% of tweets being skipped)
Understanding which tweets bring value and what are skipped. The more your tweets get skipped, the less value you are bringing to your followers.
Shareability (% tweets being shared)
Instead of comparing retweets to vague impression value, with twheel™ metrics you can compare the amount of retweets to the actual number of people who read the tweet.
Reading is a well-researched cognitive process, and by understanding the reading process, we can classify between tweets that have been attended to, tweets that have been selectively rejected, and tweets that have been skipped altogether.
Furthermore, twheel measures the users’ behavior passively, without requiring that the user ”votes” for content by performing an action – resulting in a more honest, global look at which items the users attend to. Here is the first real-life study, where we have compared 10 selected comedians in twheel™ Comedy Showdown competition that we are currently running. More detailed and polished reports on the subjects will be published regularly.
Whether you’re tweeting as a person, a brand, or a news or media agency, twheel provides you with the tools to understand your real ability to bring value to your followers.
Focus on quality, not quantity. Producing constant stream of low quality content (noise) will hurt your brand’s ability to reach your audience when you really have something important to say. Showing respect, and bringing value to people who are interested in you is the key in all communication, be it advertising, blogging or even customer service.
Send us an email (info(at)twheel.com) if you are interested to see how your tweets are performing in twheel™.
The subtle distinction between lame and funny is something even the most powerful supercomputers have a hard time decoding. People don’t.
Now twheel™ brings the best comedians in Twitter to your phone. While laughing you are helping science detect the funniest life-form in Twitterverse: Our aim is to connect 100 000 anonymous people in a huge brain-2-brain network capable of processing satire, one-liners and even the most subtle double-meanings.
The secret ingredient of twheel™ is based on empowering the human brain through better design. Besides making your Twitter experience more enjoyable, the ingenious twheel™ UI lets us measure the attention each tweet receives. The reading time each tweet receives has been shown to correlate highly with remembering the content and evaluating tweets as relevant – enabling us to rate the tweets based on the actual amount of attention they receive! No votes needed!
twheel™ Comedy Showdown lineup
To begin with, we have selected the first dirty dozen of the finest comedians in Twitter to participate in the twheel™ Comedy Showdown.
And yes, the selection of the starting lineup was completely biased. The lineup will evolve according to the comedians performance, and your feedback – feel free to send suggestions to @twheelapp!.
Join us. Get your own twheel app right now (available on: iPhone and Android). Enjoy the funniest guys, gals and possible bots in the Twitterverse – and help us scientifically locate the funniest life form out there.
Oh, and NSA, take note: All the data collected is completely anonymous. Feel free to enjoy even the most dirtiest jokes.
Kudos for The New York Times for breaking the story on fake Twitter followers becoming multimillion-dollar business! We have noticed the same phenomenon with @TheNextWeb’s exceptionally high RT volumes using our twheel™ Twitter app, and have recently been collecting data on @TheNextWeb and it’s peers in the world of technology blogs to investigate how retweeting behavior differs between the sources.
twheel™ uses retweets for visualizing the traction each tweet has received from others. You can read more about twheel™’s design principles here.
We ran the first study on March 20th, 2013, where we tracked 10 tweets from Wired, The Verge, Gizmodo, CNET, The Next Web, GigaOm and Engadget. The retweet accumulation samples were checked every 15 minutes for a 24 hour period.
To confirm our findings, we made another study where we compared 13-25 tweets from The Next Web and Techcrunch (April 3rd) and Pete Cashmore and BGR (April 8th). In both of these studies the retweet accumulation samples were checked every 5 minutes for 24 hours.
It doesn’t take a genius to spot the unnatural behavior of The Next Web’s retweet accumulation graph. While The Next Web published a lengthy take on why fake followers aren’t worth the risk of losing credibility, they clearly aren’t following their own advice.
What is the benefit of using bots?
1. Reach a wider audience
Fake follower bots help you get your message to reach a wider audience. In the New York Times’ article The Next Web’s Zee Kane talks about the whole retweet thing being the serendipitous result of experimenting with their own TNW Labs product spread.us, which claims to provide a service that lets you post tweets on behalf of your colleagues, friends, and fans. The aim of the service is to “Create massive social reach together”. This sounds like a social media marketers dream, but how do Cilia Poon (@health_c_f_shop), Kristan Elverson (@pops260) or Bashir Ako (@LadanDaura) become the colleague/friend/fan of @TheNextWeb? Are they true fans, bots, or even hacked accounts?
Instead of reaching just their 872 000 followers, with the help of their bot powered fake colleagues, friends and fans The Next Web can reach multiple times larger audience than they have earned.
2. Grow your social ego and influence
The amount of followers and the amount of discussion you can generate in Twitter are the key ingredients how Twitter itself and services like Klout.com define the sources importance and influence.
In Seth Stevenson’s excellent article he talks about his experience of buying 27 000 fake followers; ”I noticed that after I’d bought my zombie followers, the rate at which new, nonzombie people followed me seemed to rapidly accelerate.”.
Easy money. Fake it to make it.
Manipulating these metrics can also have a very potent money making effect. According to researchers quoted in the New York Times article the value of the fake followers market is somewhere between 40 and 360 million USD. Best fake follower providers brag of making upwards of 1 million USD a week. Is selling fake followers bigger business than Twitter itself?
Why doesn’t Twitter just kill the fake followers?
So why hasn’t Twitter taken action, even though spotting this type of unnatural retweet accumulation should be pretty simple? Perhaps, because over 80 million of Twitter users (40%) never tweet anything, so it might make business sense to have the 20 million fake follower bots make Twitterverse look active and social.
Also, it appears that Twitter has no way of recognizing bots from real humans. According to Twitter spokesman Jim Prosser “Forty percent of our user base only consumes content. What looks like a fake account to one individual could actually be someone who is on Twitter purely to follow people — like my mom, who follows me and my brother, doesn’t have a profile bio and has never actually Tweeted herself.”
Why are fake followers/bots so hard to identify?
Because, at the moment, social interaction is measured by tracking actions (retweets, tweets, replies, favorites and link clicks). All these tasks can be easily performed by a simple computer program. With a simple script and a little help from cheap indian labour, or perhaps even the elderly ;). There is no way to check if the actions are being performed by a real human with real motivations, or generated by a simple bot.
Is Social Media doomed to be overtaken by bots?
Creating fake followers is so easy that “a kid could bypass Twitter’s defenses”. At the moment, social influence is for sale. Buying followers and retweets is easy, cheap, and the risk of getting caught is minimal. Are we humans doomed to become a minority in the social media like Twitter? Is there anything we can do to stop the bots?
Yes, there is.
To identify a bot from a human, we need to start tracking attention instead of actions. This is what we are doing with our upcoming Twitter news discovery app twheel™ 2.0.
twheel™ -Against the Bots!