Archive for February, 2009

Social Bites – Like Sound Bites But Different

Friday, February 20th, 2009

We are all used to “Sound Bites” – a short few seconds of words which are normally taken out of context to create sensational headlines. Few people realise that speech writers have for years worked on developing speeches to include a couple perfect “sound bites” for use by others.

Of course while some social media is audio based we are much more likely to rely on humble text to create a “social bite”.

What Is A Social Bite?

A social bite is a short piece of text to describe an article, post or idea which is easy to understand and easy to distribute through viral networks. A social bite must still carry the post’s message and goal but in a way that quickly impacts with users in essence:

A “social bite” is a short, concise and engaging message to gain traffic on social networks

The Perfect Social Bite

Anatomy of a social bite

So what makes the perfect social bite, well it has two parts the hook and the line.

The hook are the words within the message – the thing to grab attention. This is doubly important as the hook will have no context once it has left the site. For example a hook is unlikely to reference the site so must be compelling, so that someone would visit the page without knowing where they were going.
The line is simply the url, sometimes this will be the page url but more likely to conserve space a url shortening service would be used. This compounds the need for a good hook as the only other potential reference to the site will be hidden.

The Twit Effect

Most social bites these days will have to pass through twitter at some point therefore a bite needs to be suitable otherwise people might change it. A normal tweet has a limited number of characters but while it may be tempting to use all 140 possible chars, this would severely limit the maximum potential of the social bite as it fails to take in retweets therefore the maximum number of characters is much more limited.

Twitter does not allow usernames longer then 20 characters and only shows usernames of 15 characters this means in practice to cope with every possible twitter name we would need to save at least 25 characters for retweets (20 for the name plus RT and two spaces one between rt and one after name and an ampersand before the name) even assuming 15 character names thats still 20 characters out of our 140.
With characters at a premium is it reasonable to expect usernames of 15 characters?

Taking a list of 1000 twitter usernames revealed the mean average length is 9 characters:

  • 0-6 – 13%
  • 6-9 – 58%
  • 9-12 – 27%
  • 12+ – 2%

taking these results its possible to assume the space needed for a retweet is 17 characters

Line Length

Assuming use of shortening service allows us to roughly determine how much room the line is going to take up. Its worth remembering users often swap out the url in favour of their own shortening service so as to gather statisitcs for themselves therefore even if your URL is shorter then the average it could be worth including a buffer.
Looking at various shortening services the average length is 18 characters including the http:// therefore the line length should be at least 18 characters plus a space making a line length total reserve of 19 characters.

Final Social Bite Anatomy

17 Chars Reserved Space for Retweet
104 Chars Hook / Message
19 Chars ShortURL (TinyURL,, etc)

A hook within a social bite can potentially be longer than a page title, which in turn is not necessarily the same as a page headline.
It may also be important to allow for additional commentary to support the predetermined social bite, or to allow for SEO friendly URL shortening which can also boost response.
A single article can have multiple social bites that will attract different audiences.

Propagating a social bite

There are three routes to start a social bite on its move

  1. Inject the hook without the line into your post article in much the same way as a sound bite works
  2. Add the sound bite into the social networks yourself
  3. Get someone else to do it for you

Of course you can always do all 3.

Tims live feed on Facebook
Many people reading this article may be thinking its very much twitter based but social bites have a tendency to cross social networks indeed that is the very point, and with social aggregators like Friendfeed and to a less extent Facebook something which starts on Twitter could well end up anywhere even getting to the ears of non twitter users such as myself

Do you use social bites? What other things should people think about?

Editor’s Notes (Andy)

Tim popped out to a bloggers meetup of Northern Gits Geeks, thus just adding a few additional references.

Dan Zarella recently took a scientific look at reteets over on Mashable
Louise wrote a similar article over on Twitip, but that was mainly aimed at retweeting tweets that originate on Twitter, where you know the length of your own Twitter usename.
Guy Kawasaki went into the psychological side of retweeting over on the open forum.

Social Media – Practicing In Public

Monday, February 16th, 2009

Social media gives us the ability to practice in public more than ever before. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

If you’ve ever read The Cult of the Amateur by Andrew Keen (I just finished reading it), you get a pretty clear read on what he thinks of most user-generated content: very little. His concerns range from the welfare of professional content creators (who are losing out to massive quantities of amateur content) to the disintegration of Western civilization by narcissistic neophytes who post amateur videos and pictures on Facebook, YouTube and MySpace whilst reducing their (and our?) collective IQs. If you buy his arguments, there are some pretty serious problems that Web 2.0 and social media have to be held accountable for.

But the rise of the amateur isn’t one of them. Amateurs have always been around. They’re just more visible now.

There’s no doubt that modern Web technologies have made it monumentally easier to create content in a fraction of the time that it used to take to create audio programs, short movies, or magazine articles. There’s definitely a plethora of user-generated content (the term often used to described all of the comments, articles, videos, posts, etc. made available on ostensibly free websites) on the Web and yes, some of it stinks. Some of it is excellent and there’s probably a big pile of stuff in the middle that’s mediocre at best.


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lot of crap was made prior to Web 2.0 as well. Tons and tons of it. There may have been less amateur content in years past than there is now because the enabling technologies that make it a snap to publish photos, videos, blogs, and podcasts didn’t exist or weren’t affordable a decade ago. But it was certainly around.

Amateur video. Homemade comedy cassettes. Fanzines. APAzines. Community theatre. Community-access TV. College radio. Open mike nights at comedy clubs.

There have always been places for the unpaid creator to practice their avocation. There have always been people who slave over these hobbies because, well, they’re fun things to do. Funny thing: many of them went on to become bona fide professionals, earning a living using the skills that they developed during their hobbies. The production of dreck is an accepted side-effect of practicing and honing your skills as you try to become better.

The only major change is that people can now practice in public on a much larger scale than the previous generation could ever have done. They do stuff for free because they love to and because they see it as a means to an end, the next step on a long, daring journey to mastery.

Alternatives to mainstream media have always existed but social media, Web 2.0, and high speed Internet have made it easier than before to publish.

I don’t deny that social media has allowed some content to come to light that might have been better buried in a locked drawer somewhere out of reach. But I don’t think that giving the amateur a chance to air his or her work in public is, at heart, a bad thing. I think it’s a great opportunity for people who have dreamed of a chance to reach a larger audience. It may make for a noisier world and it may force professionals to turn things up a notch to compete, but the enabling technologies are here to stay. The genie’s out of the bottle; might as well enjoy the ride.

Image by rhurtubia

While practicing in public, Mark Dykeman writes at Broadcasting Brain and other fine blogs. You can find him on Twitter when he least expects it.

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The 3 C’s of Twitter

Monday, February 16th, 2009

Many of you have heard of the 3 P’s of marketing: pills, porn, and poker.  They are the bane of most people’s online existence, as we are constantly bombarded with seeing these kinds of “offers” being sent to our spam filter.

Enter Twitter.

As you know me by now, I like to look at the positive things in life.  And after navigating through Twitter for some time, I’ve found that Twitter has the 3 C’s:

1 – Cats:

Sometimes a good lolcat can put you in the right mood. We can work endlessly on a killer blog post and a funny cat pic and caption will beat the post 9 times out of 10, though though Mr. Nielsen may disagree.

2 – Coffee:

I’ve put out breaking news and useful links, but tend to have more conversation when it’s around coffee time talk.  @DunkinDonuts has achieved its twitter fame.  Coffee Groundz, a local Houston, TX coffee shop, literally doubled their clientele through twitter by being the first company on record to accept orders through Twitter.

3 – Comedy:

Everyone needs a good laugh once in a while.  Sometimes particular accounts aren’t what is funny, but rather what you find via Twitter.  @Octane pointed out that he found this great piece from the Onion.  The Twitter song is rather amusing as well:

Let’s add in a 4th C, just for fun!

4 – Common Sense.

As always, common sense still applies to the Twitterverse as well.  Don’t have a public meltdown, feel free to post news on latest and greatest apps, and by all means, be careful what you say.

Catch a buzz with Whos Talkin

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

Last fall a fellow by the name of Joe Hall got in touch with a new toy he was working on in hopes of getting some insight. Seems he wanted some insight from the tool’s perspective, being a Grade A tool myself, his reasoning seemed sound. I figured that was surly the reason as my social chops are, well… less than enviable.

Either way, I’m always up fer playing with shiney new things and if someone wants to listen to my rambling, that’s an issue for their therapist.

If we know one thing my friends, as well as we do any, there are waaaay too many tools out there. Whos Talkin falls into the void of catch phrase greatness, buzz monitoring. As regular readers may remember, we looked at Google Custom Search Engines and other buzz tools for blog posting, not so long ago. Avid search geeks just have a thing for information discovery, indexing and retrieval.. so it’s natural.


What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s happening?

For all you information magnets and buzz stalkers… I say, give Whos Talkin’ a try. It looks like a pretty good tool that has a future. When asked, some of my other mates gave it a go and agreed that WT does seem to find mentions that other locales (Technorati, Google Blog Search and their ilk) weren’t finding. Add to that the handy segmentation and it’s definitely worth keeping in the tool box.

Lay of the Land

OK… give you a quick look and then you might as well head over and give it a go for yourself…. Simply start off at the clean (Googlish?) home page; put in the term you want to check on (can be anything from topics, names, places, researching blog posts). From there you are presented with the results, in a nice simple interface. For me the text is a tad large, so CTRL- sorts that for me…  

Anyways…I searched the drama du jour …

What is quite handy are the titles in the side panel, these are for segmenting the results. These options include;

  1. Blogs
  2. News
  3. Networks
  4. Videos
  5. Images
  6. Forums
  7. Tags

We can get as granular as you like depending on what you’re looking to do. I find that pretty hand as in the past I cobbled a variety of Google Custom Search Engine’s together to get the job done as I did with Search SEO Pros and Research your blog posts with buzz monitors.

The major teaser at this point of course is hitting the ‘Options’ tab where we’re told some great features are on the way such as saving searches, RSS and even an API (which had a few trail riders drooling). While it is good as is, many of the people that tried it out were asking about the upcoming additions. Thus being and SEO geek, searching out the buzz man was the next call of order…

In talking with Joe it seems apparent the early reactions have done well, “…(the) first week after launch we had a little over 20,000 unique visitors” which is not a bad start, although he followed up with near irony, saying, “… does slow down when the buzz wears off” – he oughta know I’d imagine.


Features and the Future

While the final plans aren’t in place, they are looking to start rolling out a pro version soon;

I am thinking like one package that can do everything you need, and then in the future expand into more packages that folks that are more serious about monitoring might want.” Joe said, while venturing that Pro accounts could have;

  1. Saved Searches,
  2. RSS,
  3. Email Alerts
  4. Trending data.

 Beyond that, as with any good social tool they’re considering an API among other things. You’d have to think there is potential for even a white label version, but I’m wandering now.

iGoogle gadget

He’s even whipped up an iGoogle gadget, which I promptly whacked onto one of my many tabs;

What can I say? That’s just toooo much fun. As you can see I have a few buzz tracking toys on the go there. Having Who’s Talkin right in my Google Homepage was a definite bonus.

Link checking

Another bonus is that you can also use the ‘link:’ command to find websites/blogs that have linked to you in a given article – an added layer of digging that works as well… Here’s a video on that;

And there are a few more videos HERE

WhosTalking certainly has some potential. Where it goes from here is about as easy as predicting when this damned snow will melt away upon my Canadian doorstep. I can tell you that the tool has some handy applications and the team seem committed to growing it even further – a great job for a small shop ( one simply has to root for the underdog oui?) I want to thank Joe for asking me along and for answering questions… and I wish him only the best for the future.

I shall report back when the next changes come out… until then, get yer buzz on



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