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Filtering by Tag: Social Media Fanatic

The (lack of) Power of One Million Followers

Geoff Wood




I saw an interesting article the other day being passed around Twitter that was written by Douglas Burns, a columnist with the Carroll (Iowa) Daily Times-Herald

Burns took note of native Iowan and Hollywood celebrity Ashton Kutcher's recent win in a race to one million followers on Twitter over cable news giant CNN.
Many social media folks have blogged and micro-blogged about the recent celebrity onslaught to Twitter that most notably started with Britney Spears, continued to Ashton (or Chris, as friends in Iowa once knew him) and has recently moved on to Oprah. Most note their embrace of the technology as the beginning of the end of the platform's trendyness (a sign that it has gone mainstream and therefore is no longer "cool").
Burns looks at Ashton's feat through a political lens and suggests that Ashton should utilize his followers to help him get elected into Iowa's 5th Congressional District. Iowa, known for it's "first in the nation" status in vetting Presidential candidates every four years, would be the perfect state for another political first: a celebrity parlaying their social media following into Congressional office.
Kutcher wouldn't be the first to utilize the power of an online community to assist them in winning elections, President Obama did it throughout his campaign and you can be assured that many other politicians will follow that example in 2010 and beyond. However, Kutcher would be the first celebrity - who earned their following through their pop culture status rather than political agenda - to do so.
Burns pitches the idea here at the end of his column:
In the end, the best argument for Kutcher is what happened last week when he reached the watershed of a million followers on Twitter, a texting/blogging convergence tool that allows users to send information out in 140-character or less blasts to anyone interested in reading them.
In effect, Kutcher just built a muscular grassroots political machine that would be the envy of many a campaign pro.
He should now test it.
Setting aside Kutcher's personal politics and their match to those of his would-be Western Iowa constituents, there are flaws in Burns doesn't mention in his article about the power of this particular online community to put a person in office; namely the fact that the one million Kutcher followers are likely not voting-aged Western Iowans. As Burns mentions earlier in the column, they could be leaned on in a request for political donations, but most of them can't vote (either because of age or lack of residing in Western Iowa). That makes them far less than a "muscular grassroots political machine". 
Other flaws include the fact that many of Kutcher's followers only chose to follow him because of the race against CNN (as opposed to having done so out of true interest for what he has to say) and that he has no experience in getting such a group to organize for any actual purpose (other than simply "following him"), mean that the connections that his followers have to him is shallow and certainly not something to use as the base on which to take a political stand.
Image of Mr. and Mrs. Kutcher campaigning in Iowa for Obama in September 2008 courtesy of music999 on Flickr


Des Moines Register: Embracing Twitter

Geoff Wood

It's hard to not notice that Twitter is invading the mainstream media; it shows up everywhere from NBC's Today Show desk to ESPN's coverage of women's basketball(1). However, one gets a distinct feeling that many of these media outlets are jumping on the Twitter bandwagon not because they want to be there but simply because its hip and they don't want to be left behind. The results are often awkward and transparent.

One exception as of late that everyone should note is The Des Moines Register (@dmregister)(2). This mainstream media outlet has not only joined the bandwagon, they've embraced it and are being innovative both in fulfilling their journalistic mission and in promoting it to their readers.
The first example I want to share is their Twitter interface:
This is a great design that let's you easily see the Twitterstream of four branded-Des Moines Register accounts as well as index of reporters and editors (including their assignment areas). Also included are top Twitter users in the Des Moines community and even a future opportunity to monotize their use of platform through showing sponsored accounts.
This idea isn't unique to the Register, other papers (such as another Gannett Property, the Indianapolis Star also have a Twitter index but they don't convey the same level of interaction.
The second example, is their coverage of the Iowa Supreme Court's unaminous decision to overturn a ban on gay marriage last Friday. As covered in this post by Zachary M. Seward of Harvard's Neiman Journalism Lab, it started with the paper anticipating that decision would be a big topic of discussion in social web (3). They created the hashtag #iagaymarriage and sent it out to everyone following the @dmregister account prior to the announcement. Hashtags are organic and change with the will of the users but are often controlled through first-mover advantage. As Seward points out, The Register took that advantage and was able to run with it by both channeling conversation through a dedicated page on (which is a great idea to get Twitter-sourced content out to people who don't use Twitter) and get competitors such as the staff of the Cedar Rapids Gazette to adopt the hashtag.
I'm impressed by what we've seen from the Des Moines Register so far and look forward to see how they use the platform next.
(1)I don't typically watch women's basketball but alma mater is really good and I watched them through their tournament run to the Elite 8. Go Cyclones! (2)For disclosure purposes, I lived in Iowa for 22 years and consider myself a native Iowan (3)They were right


Social Media featuring Social Media about Social Media

Geoff Wood

Through side-by-side commenting about LinkedIn on, I became aware of by Scott Allen and I wanted to highlight it here.

It took me a bit to figure out exactly what Scott was doing with the site but it appears that its the first example I've ever seen of Social Media featuring Social Media about Social Media.
Confusing? Not so, Scott writes a blog (social media) featuring screen caps of Tweets from Twitter (social media) that are about LinkedIn (social media). 
It's ingenious really since it transcends most of us who comment on social media by simply blogging about it. 
All kidding aside, his posts demonstrate the value that Twitter can provide in researching a topic (in this case LinkedIn).


Are Barack Obama and Chris Brogan Diminishing the Value of LinkedIn?

Geoff Wood

An interesting point came up in a discussion about LinkedIn the other day, when a friend said that LinkedIn suggested none-other-than President Barack Obama as a “Person You May Know”. As I’ve written before, I think the suggested connection functionality in LinkedIn needs to be overhauled, but in this case it’s a logical leap since President Obama is already a second degree connection, according to my friend. That prompted me to wonder who my friend knows that knows Obama; perhaps he has a business relationship with someone in the Illinois Congressional Delegation or at some point last year befriended the local campaign chair in our state? Not the case, the shared connection between the sitting President of the United States and my friend was a kid that he had hired a few years ago. I haven’t asked (I’m connected to the person, as well), but I’m pretty sure that this direct connection to President Obama has never met the man.

As I’ve written before, I utilize LinkedIn in a very specific way: I must have a real relationship with a person before I’ll connect to them. I define a “real relationship” as being familiar enough with each other that my connections could contact me and I would immediately know who they are (and vice versa). This typically means that we’ve met in person(1) – such as we went to school together, we’ve worked together, talked at a conference and exchanged cards, or are in the same social circles.

I want to be able to reach out to my connections to get value out of my network, such as asking them for information and recommendations, or to introduce me to someone else. The latter being a significant part of the value proposition of LinkedIn – that the people you are connected to directly (your first degree connections) are also connected directly to others (your second degree connections) and those others are directly connected to another tier of users (your third degree connections).

However, if these networks are skewed by unreal connections at any degree, like those to President Obama, then the value of my network is weakened.


It’s not just President Obama, others like social media guru Chris Brogan (who I enjoy following on Twitter @chrisbrogan), send out mass public invitations to gather unreal connections in LinkedIn, such as the one above through Twitter.

While the invitation seems innocent enough, he has a tremendous following on Twitter with over 56,000 followers. He includes his e-mail address in the request, which allows these would-be connections to bypass a safeguard that LinkedIn has put in place to encourage real connections in the system.

I have over 300 direct connections in LinkedIn and that connects me within three degrees of 1.25 million users. If any significant percentage of Mr. Brogan’s Twitter followers take him up on his offer to connect in LinkedIn it will play havoc in the system. That “havoc” will result in users having to spend more time sorting between real and unreal second and third degree connections and in the long run can only serve to decrease confidence in their network and ultimately the platform.

I respect that people use social media tools in different ways and that they evolve over time. In fact, I think that’s what makes Twitter such an amazing platform. However, this is the first instance I’ve found where someone else’s particular use of the tool is diminishing my value.


(1)Or, at the very least we’ve had multiple digital interactions (e-mail, phone, etc).