Micah January 17th

Follow Friday. Oh My!

Followers on Twitter are an interesting thing. There is much discussion about how its not how many followers one has, but how many people you follow.

Yet, for some reason, people still grade themselves on followers. Loic Le Meur (which Michael Arrington agreed with) suggested that a filter be added to Twitter’s search function that allows the searcher to sort by number of followers.

Often, I get people asking me to tweet out that my followers should follow them. (Of course, as the Anti-Christ of Twitter, people usually lose followers when I do that).

Yesterday morning, I was having an IM conversation with my friends Jeffrey and Danny. Both are among my favorite people.

Danny is one of the first people I met when I moved to Colorado, and I was an advisor on one of his early startups, Zuvo. We have been friends for a long time, and he is one of the smartest, most creative people I know.

Jeffrey I met recently. He moved to Colorado several months ago, when a portion of his company skinnyCorp, who run Threadless, (If you havent bought stuff from Threadless, you just arent cool) moved here. As the Chief Creative Officer of skinnyCorp, Jeffrey not only is a designer but an idea creator.

Jeffrey and Danny are both highly intelligent, creative, humorous people, that I enjoy hanging out with daily. Their tweets are no different.

As I got ready to go into the Lijit office (I was moving slowly because I thought it was Saturday.), I started thinking about how proud I was to be friends with Danny and Jeffrey, and more people should follow them on twitter. So I sent this tweet out:

First Follow Friday Tweet

First Follow Friday Tweet

Almost immediately afterwards, Mykl Roventine (@myklroventine) suggested:

FollowFriday hashtag suggestion

FollowFriday hashtag suggestion

Which, of course, was brilliant. I then sent direct messages to a few of my friends: Chris Brogan, Erin Kotecki Vest, Aaron Brazell, Jim Kukral and Andrew Hyde (who decided to not participate, calling it a “spammer lovefest”) asking them to retweet a simple message “Follow Fridays – suggest someone to follow / everyone follow / use the hashtag #followfriday”

And, then I headed into the office and my first meeting of the day.

When I got back to my office, and finally fired up my machine, #followfriday tweets were flying all over twitter. It was wild. It continued throughout the day:

FollowFriday Usage Graph

FollowFriday Usage Graph

Near the end of the day, almost every half second, a tweet went out with the hashtag #followfriday.

At the end of the day, I decided my final FollowFriday tweet would suggest two people that have taught me important lessons. Matt Hessler (@fasterstill) has taught me the importance of friendship, and Meg Fowler (@megfowler) who has taught me the importance of love. Interestingly, Matt and I have been friends for years and talk every day. Meg I met several months ago online, and have never met in real life. Quite the juxtaposition.

Final Follow Friday Tweet

Final Follow Friday Tweet

It was awesome. By the end of the day, my name was no longer associated with the tweets. Which was awesomer.

It had taken on a life of its own. Which was awesomest.

Here is what twitter was able to confirm for me: People are proud of their friends.

It wasnt hard for people to suggest folks to follow, because everyone has people they follow that they find interesting, insightful, funny, intelligent or whatever it is that makes you love to interact with another person (online or off).

Maybe, instead of all the various reasons marketing and social media experts have put out there about why twitter has become so successful, the real reason is that people enjoy relationships with people they can be proud of, and in return, want other people to be proud of them.

If you cant be proud of who you call friend; and in return if others cant be proud to know you, then you are doing it wrong.

Doesnt sound so complicated to me.

Update: A couple of people asked me if I got any new followers. I get about 50-60 new followers daily (with about 20-30 unfollows every day). Yesterday, according to my email from SocialToo (my friend Jesse Stay‘s startup), I got 229 new followers, with 26 people unfollowing.

I cant recommend SocialToo and Jesse Stay enough.

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Tonight I declared Twitter bankruptcy.

Earlier today, I joked with a friend that had unfollowed me on Twitter.

I said:

Three – you unfollowed me on twitter. I almost deleted my account that day, because it was a black, black day in the micah twitter world. I am only joking through my tears… :)

He said:

No worries ;) I still read every blog entry. I could explain better in person. I think you are one of the most awesomest people in the industry, I just use twitter differently than others. (emphasis mine)

For some reason, that really got me thinking. What do I use Twitter for?

Until now, it was clear to me. Access and interaction. I have tweeted my cell phone number (720-231-7120). I have tweeted my exact location via brightkite (add me if you want to). I tended to tweet often (according to TweetStats).

But as most things go, has Twitter value changed for me? Was I using it differently than others? Should I change how I use Twitter?

I took a look at the people that I admire for their openness, accessibility, quality of message, frequency of message and purpose of message.

There was a pretty big range.

My friends like Chris Brogan, Gary Vaynerchuk and Robert Scoble [people that use twitter both as an interactive tool and as a promotional tool] tended to follow about as many people as followed them. In most cases, the number of followers/following numbered in the tens of thousands. They tweet about 60 times per day.

My friends like Brad Feld and Eric Marcoullier [people that use twitter as a brain dump and a interactive tool] tended to have a couple of thousand followers, but only follow a couple of hundred folks. They tend to tweet about 6-7 times per day. (Apparently except for drunken times in Las Vegas at CES. One more ice cream tweet from you, Brad Feld, and you are unfollowed!)

I sat squarely in the middle. I have about 3,000 followers and followed around 750 people. I tweet 20 times per day. Most of my tweets were random thoughts, interactions or promotions.

So what to do? Experiment time.

I decided to do three things:

1) I would go through my following list (770+) and cull it. The intent was to get down to 200-300.

2) I would tweet less per day. Not sure how much less, but perhaps half as much?

3) Because I am tweeting less, I decided I needed to be more thoughtful about what I tweet as well as more judicious with the @replies. Basically, before replying ask myself this question “Is this something that would benefit everyone, or just that one person?” If it was just that one person, I would send a DM.

Seems simple enough.

I started culling. Here are the rules I followed (pun not intended!) to unfollowing:

  • Do you follow me?
  • Do I recognize you?
  • Do I remember a tweet from you in the last week?
  • Do I feel bad unfollowing you for any reason?
  • Have I met you face to face AND have we interacted more than if we were at a cocktail party?
  • Do I consider you a friend?

My following list went from 770-ish to 427, a lost of about 340-ish.

The next step was to determine why I would follow someone:

  • They interact with me enough to become an “online connection”;
  • I have dinner or drinks with them;
  • The potential for sex (just checking if you are still with me, or if you have completely puked by now);
  • Their preferred form of communication is twitter.

It was amazing. I set up Tweetdeck with four columns. All Friends, Direct Messages, Search @micah (so I can get all replies), and a Group: Friends (which is a subset of All Friends). People I hadnt see a tweet from in awhile, but were people that I really like, started to bubble up. Suddenly, the enormous cocktail party in a ball room, became a lavish dinner party at my house (if my house could fit 400 people in it lavishly).

I began to enjoy twitter more. It was like when I first started using Twitter when I was excited to see what my friends were saying.

For the next week or so, I am going to keep my following number low. I think its interesting and useful to understand the different ways that Twitter can be used. I will try and keep my tweeting to around 10 per day, with 3-4 of those @replies. There will be probably a huge jump in my direct message count, IMs, emails and other forms of content. Most of my tweets will be brain dumps (ideas) or promotional. Most of my @replies will be interactive in nature.

Curious to see if it modifies other online behavior (will people follow me less; unfollow me more?) Will I use Facebook, instant messaging, or (gasp!) the phone more?

Will I blog more often?


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Micah November 9th

SEO is Dead

Yesterday I moderated a panel on SEO and Social Media Marketing at the Thin Air Summit in Denver. Panel went great, the folks on the panel were fantastic. Jeremiah Oywang has a great run down of the panel and the advice given, so I wont rehash it here.

A hour or so after the panel was over, and we were all at a post-conference mixer, I sent out this tweet:

“If you do SEO for a living, you will be out of business or irrelevant in 3 years.” – @micah

Which got a lot more response that I figured, and I was asked to expand on that thought.

Almost as soon as the graphical browser was introduced, people have been trying to make money online. Over the years, online marketing has evolved, with some tactics continuing to have value, and many others falling by the wayside.

Banners – Still work, but the average click through rate on a banner is 0.4%, and there is research to indicate that its possible that 6% of internet users account for 50% of banner clicks. Banners have morphed a bit into rich media advertising, but really are only effective for brand plays (to get marketing touches).

Email – Noise/Signal ratio has destroyed what was once a great communication medium. Does email still work? Sure. Do people spend large parts of their marketing budgets on email? nope. Like banners, email has become relatively ineffective for lead generation or customer acquisition without an extremely targeted (read expensive) list, or a massive (read spam) list.

Which brings us to SEO. To be clear, I am not speaking about Pay-Per-Click marketing, which will probably be an effective medium for marketing for a long time. Its easy, specific, and makes sense. The market sets the price, so as people are priced out of the market, it should self-correct, and settle on pricing that works.

But the act of SEO – adjusting the code and content of a website with the primary purpose to be ranked highly in search results, is on its way out.

There was a time when SEO was seen as magic that only a few knew, but everyone wanted. SEO consultants could charge wild high rates and provide quick and obvious value. As all online marketers became wise to the tactic, more and more designers and developers were being charged with ensuring the SEO efficacy of the sites they were developing. Writers were expected to write for search engines.

Suddenly, everyone was an SEO expert.

Then social media blasted on the scene a couple of years back. People took their SEO tactics, and laid them on top of social media, completely missing the point of social media.

The content generated by users of social media began to rank highly in search engines, because it was RELEVANT. Because it had VALUE. Because it was TIMELY. Because it was REAL.

Suddenly, all the SEO experts also became Social Media Experts, as social media marketing became the hot new thing.

And, being resistent to change, as most industries are, SEOs just removed the word “search engine” from their tactics, and replaced it with “social media.”

With the net result being social networks and user generated content that is full of useless, noisy, crap.

Twitter, Facebook, even the biggest social network, MySpace, which was built as a place to market to young people, has been destroyed by the attempts to commandeer them by marketers.

Not only is SEO on its way out, (as platforms such as WordPress and other CMS’ integrate SEO principles into their frameworks), we see the glut of SEO consultants now gloaming onto Social Media Marketing in an attempt to not drown.

Here are the truths of todays marketing marketplace:

If you are a company who employs an agency to provide Social Media expertise, fire them. Hire an internal evangelist. Several companies are doing this. Zappos and Ford are two examples that come immediately to mind.

If you are a company who employs an agency to provide Search Engine Marketing expertise, fire them. First, take the principles of search engine optimization (write focused content and use clean code) and have them distributed among the important personnel (development, marketing, sales, etc.). Make SEO organic, integral and integrated into your organization. Dont “do” SEO. Dont make it a separate function. Make tracking it part of your marketing effort.

Second, select a CMS framework (I recommend WordPress–it works great for even non-blogs!), that supports solid SEO principles. With WordPress, install two plugins: All-In-One SEO and XML sitemaps. Thats it for SEO.

If you are a company that thinks that SEO and SMM will be the holy grail to success, please send whatever you are smoking to me. There is only one thing that breeds success, and that is passion. Hire people that are passionate about your product; that can talk about your product with passion. Remember, its not your call as to whether you are passionate or not. Its the people listening.

If you are an SEO or SMM consultant, you have three years. Three years to adapt or be out of work. Learn how to be passionate and breed passion or find another line of work (I hear that Personal Branding is the hot thing).

After all, like Rob Blatt at the Thin Air Summit tweeted “The issue I always have with SEO is that I ALWAYS feel like I’m being told how to lie, cheat and steal my way to optimization.” – @robblatt