Twitter Inc. said users of its microblogging service who post links to other websites will be able to see an expanded view of content from new partner sites, such as the Wall Street Journal and MSNBC.
The company, which lets users share 140-character messages,said the expanded postings will show video, photos and longer excerpts of news stories from a broader list of media partners. The service begins rolling out to website and mobile users June 13, 2012, Michael Sippey, product team director at San Francisco- based Twitter, said in a blog post.
Sample of Twitter's expanded content feature showing a tweet from the Los Angeles Times
Brian Blau, an analyst at Gartner Inc said.
“This is going to cause people to stay on twitter.com, because all of the sudden you have a little bit more information. You can read the next tweet and stay on the site, being a more valuable consumer of the site.”
The service will be available on Twitter for Apple Inc.’s iPhone and for devices that use Google Inc.’s Android soon, Sippey said. The company, with more than 140 million users, expects to generate at least $1 billion in sales in 2014, two people with knowledge of the matter have said, based on advertising demand.
COMMENTARY: I love Twitter's new expanded content feature. Sort of reminds one of Google's web view during searches. But, why just offer expanded content to partner sites like The Wall Street Journal @wsj and MSNBC @msnbc, when you can offer this to other users. I would gladly pay a small fee so that my Twitter followers can view some of the content of my blog posts. This could be quite a revenue generator. The idea of showing text, image and video content right on your Twitter newstream is quite exciting.
Back in 2007, I was practically tarred and feathered when I wrote a post giving reasons why marketers need to pay attention to Twitter.
Now that Twitter is six years old and has 140M+ active users, creating over one billion Tweets every three days, the platform is more important than ever before. Here's what I think today: it's a stronger platform for advertisers than Facebook will ever be.
In fact, I'd put my money on Twitter to be here and be growing long after Facebook fades away. I think Twitter will monetize with brand partnerships like its current brilliant global one with Pepsi, and its partnership with ESPN. These are non-obnoxious, non-obtrusive ways to use advertising and promote content and brands. They will endure long after intrusive advertising on social platforms, including Facebook, have failed.
Marketers need to remember that Twitter is about give and take. If you just use it to pimp your stuff, you'll be zapped in mid-tweet: blocked for good.
Here are the top 10 things I think are important about Twitter for business:
Twitter's a top source of news. It's real-time news from every corner of the world. Follow journalists, colleagues, competitors and anyone else who posts relevant, insightful information about your industry. Said David Carr in the NY Times, "By carefully curating the people you follow, Twitter becomes an always-on data stream from really bright people in their respective fields, whose tweets are often full of links to incredibly vital, timely information."
You can ask questions and get answers from experts. There are more than 650 Twitter Chats on every conceivable topic.
Advertising on Twitter actually makes sense.Promoted Tweets have a one to three percent average engagement rate according to Twitter's advertising blog. If your promoted Tweet is interesting and relevant, people will engage with it. People are on Facebook to have fun with their friends and family. They're on Twitter to get news, learn, have fun, and engage with brands. I believe advertising can be part of the mix.
Twitter's a great customer service channel.Ask Comcast, Best Buy, Verizon, and any of the many brands who monitor their brands 24/7 and resolve customer issues before they become big problems.
The more you give, the more you get.If you follow the 12:1 rule – add value and help others 12 times, promote yourself once – you'll get more than you give from others on Twitter.
Twitter is already strong in mobile.While Facebook is way behind in mobile, 55% of users access Twitter on mobile, with 40% growth quarter over quarter. Promoted Tweets fit perfectly into the mobile app.
Twitter gives anyone a chance to become an influencer.Anyone with valuable information to add, who's willing to spend the time to engage with others, can become an influencer on Twitter. It's about being part of the conversation. Listen well before you talk, and you'll find when and what to add.
Twitter humanizes companies.People want to deal with people, not companies. When companies Tweet in a human voice, in a meaningful way, they can establish relationships that are stronger than on other social platforms because they are in real time and ongoing. Case study: British Heart Association.
140 character Tweets make you a better communicator and a better writer. It's hard to get a complex idea into 140 characters. Anyone can make a point in 1,000 words. Who's got time to read 500 posts that are 1,000 words long? Not me. But one can easily read 1,000 140-character Tweets in a day.
Twitter is a great real-time search engine. Better than any other in my opinion.
Agree, or disagree? I'll close here with some pretty mind-boggling Twitter stats:
Twitter has 140M+ active users.
55% of users access Twitter on mobile, with 40% growth quarter over quarter.
Twitter users create over one billion Tweets every three days.
60% of Twitter users tweet; 100% are listening.
79% of people follow brands to get access to exclusive content.
During this year's Super Bowl, one in five commercials contained a hashtag.
Promoted Tweets get an average engagement rate of one to three percent.
COMMENTARY: I tend to agree with the B.L. Ochman's article about Twitter, but it still remains to be seen whether Twitter can fully capitalize on these strenghs and monetize them to their full potential. eMarketer has forecasted Twitter's advertising revenues will reach about $250 million for 2012. This is a far cry from Facebook's ad revenues of $5.74 projected for 2012.
Although Facebook has 900 million active users (usings its own measurement), Twitter is growing more than twice as fast in new users. Facebook is having a real problem monetizing mobile, where both Google and Twitter are strong. Facebook's ad-supported revenue model has come under attack and growth in users has slowed to a crawl, having reached a critical inflection point. In short, Facebook is quickly running out of eyeballs and this will ultimately result in slower growth in advertising and hitting a peak.
Courtesy of an article dated June 1, 2012 appearing in AdAge Digital
About 15 percent of U.S. adult Internet users also use Twitter, based on data from February, the report said. That number is slightly up from the 13 percent who said they used Twitter in May 2011. That figure was up from 8 percent who used Twitter in November 2010.
The report also showed that while new user growth is slowing at Twitter, the percentage of engaged users is climbing.
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According to the Pew study, 8 percent of Twitter users are actively engaged with the site on a typical day, a number that has doubled since May 2011 and quadrupled since late 2010 when only 2 percent of online adults used Twitter on a typical day.
Click Image To Enlarge
Total Registered and Active Users
Tweet on the Fly
So what's making users so much more attached to the microblogging site? The answer might lie in mobile users. According to Pew, smartphone users are more apt to be Twitter users, and the 140-character messages are ideal for users trying to get information out while they're on the go.
Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group said.
"I'm not all that surprised to see that Twitter's growth is primarily focused on the base of users tweeting more often."
He added that the report is both good news and bad news for Twitter executives.
"The bad news is that they're not getting big numbers of new users. But the good news is that their existing -- and sizable -- set of users are using Twitter much more. Given the choice, I think Twitter would rather have a smaller number of highly committed users rather than a larger number of folks who sign up, but then barely use the service. I think advertisers would also agree."
The Pew report also noted that specific demographics show greater Twitter usage.
Of African-American Internet users, more than 28 percent use Twitter and 13 percent do so on a typical day. Young adults -- defined as those between the ages of 18 and 29 -- also are big Twitter users with 26 percent using the site. That's nearly double the rate of Americans between 30 and 49, which is 14 percent.
The Pew study also noted that the younger the age group, the more the usage. Of people between 18 and 24, 31 percent use the site.
Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, said he's not sure that people are more engaged with the site because it's actually stickier. It could be that people are just figuring out more ways to take advantage of Twitter.
"I just think more of them are stickers. Users have adapted to it, learning how to use it better... This is excellent for Twitter. It does not assure rapid growth, but it documents a solid base."
Source: Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project surveys, margin of error, plus or minus 2.7 percentage points based on Internet users. Note: Use for 65+ in 2010 and 2011 was listed as " less than 1 percent."
COMMENTARY: Those are impressive numbers no doubt. Facebook is No 1 in user engagement measured by minutes online. Twitter comes in #4. Surprisingly, Tumblr and Pinterest are #2 and #3 respectively.
Twitter has its sights trained on a group many have looked to to spur growth: small business. Last week, the company announced a limited launch of its "promoted" advertising services, already used by major firms such as Audi and McDonald's, to small businesses.
McDonald's Promoted Tweet (Click Image To Enlarge)
Users and advertisers are already familiar with the concept of tweets as ads: promoted posts, accounts and trends are placed near the top of a user's Twitter feed as well as suggested accounts to follow and what's trending lists. Now, 10,000 eligible American Express card holders and merchantswill be able to "amplify" their businesses' tweets and profiles the same way. Twitter is staying mum on the details, but says it will continue rolling out the service to more businesses in the coming weeks.
In February 2012, American Express announced a giveaway of $100 in free twitter advertising to the first 1o,000 eligible card members and merchants that register for the service (Click Image To Enlarge)
The launch can be read as a validation of the company's monetization strategy. Twitter is on its way to earning about $260 million in ad revenues this year, according to eMarketer. That figure pales in comparison to the hauls Google and Facebook are taking in, but analysts say the expansion of promoted tweets proves there is interest in the type of advertising possibilities Twitter offers. (The company says its ads are much more effective than typical banners ads.) Malcolm Faulds, senior vice president of marketing at BzzAgent, Inc. says.
"It demonstrates that Twitter users aren't upset by the presence of sponsored content."
But will it work for small business? For now, that remains to be seen.
Major companies have looked on Twitter as a direct referendum with customers. David Lifson, CEO of Postling, a social media tool for small businesses says.
"[But] small businesses need to be focused on ROI and not so much on brand image. Jet Blue can spend a lot of time building up their personality on Twitter. For a small business, if they have the time, that's great. But if they don't, they probably need to be specific about what Twitter is worth to [them] and how can [they] just focus on that part."
Smaller firms are likely to be much more aware of the bottom line. Faulds adds.
"The ultimate success of this platform will depend on the ability for small business to see strong benefit from it. It's probably not worth much to get a few more followers. But it's another thing if they can see a measurable sales lift or increases in store traffic around specific promotions."
The heightened visibility that larger businesses enjoy through sponsored posts may benefit small businesses as well. Dave Danhi, CEO of L.A.'s The Grilled Cheese Truck, the second most followed food truck on Twitter with more than 51,000 followers says.
"I spend a solid 3 to 5 hours a day dealing with Twitter and the promoted tweets and hashtags are in my face. I can't see how it wouldn't help."
Small businesses are already familiar with using Twitter to engage with their customers. Mari Luangrath, owner of Chicago-based Foiled Cupcakes, a cupcake delivery company, says 90% of leads and word-of-mouth referrals come to her through Twitter. But Luangrath says she wonders if Twitter's new ad service is overstating its ability to draw new customers. Luangrath says.
"What's kind of misleading about the whole thing is that [Twitter claims] you're going to get automatic followers, automatic revenue, and automatic sales, which is not the way social media works."
While no one has figured out the ROI math of how many tweets translate into an actual sale, the new service does provide business owners with a tool to help get the most out of their Twitter strategy. Users only have to pay per engagement (the Twitter trinity of click, retweet or follow) and can set how much they want to spend per day and per engagement. That's a nice feature considering that most small businesses' marketing budgets are miniscule in comparison to a company like Target (TGT). According to a recent survey conducted by Staples (SPLS), 66% of businesses surveyed said they had a marketing budget of a little over $2,000.
Lifson says he thinks the new initiative is more about lining Twitter's pockets than helping small businesses. He says.
"Google made a lot of money for a lot of years taking advantage of small businesses that didn't know better with Google (GOOG) Adwords. I kind of think Twitter is kind of hoping for the same thing. 'Let's throw this out there. People aren't going to really be able to calculate their ROIs, but they're going to think they need to do it and we're going to me a ton of money in the process.'"
Danhi of The Grilled Cheese Truck, who is privy to information still under wraps as one of the business owners Twitter has contacted, disagrees, saying the service provides invaluable information. He shares.
"You get access to analytics about the best time to tweet, and when your followers are tweeting, reading and retweeting. You can't get that anywhere else because it's their information. It just helps you be a smarter social media person."
Danhi is already a believer in the power of Twitter to influence sales from personally tracking how and when his tweets from @grlldcheesetruk have brought in more traffic. He says he's likely to give the promoted products suite a try. Danhi says.
"It's not about the bragging rights of how many followers we have. It's translating that into sales at the truck."
COMMENTARY: For those of you not familiar with Twitter advertising, Twitter presently offers three advertising products:
What are Promoted Tweets?
Promoted Tweets are ordinary Tweets purchased by advertisers who want to reach a wider group of users or to spark engagement from their existing followers.
Promoted Tweets are clearly labeled as Promoted when an advertiser is paying for their placement on Twitter. In every other respect, Promoted Tweets act just like regular Tweets and can be retweeted, replied to, favorited and more.
All Promoted Tweets are first displayed as regular Tweets to the timelines of people following an account. The advertisers can then promote those Tweets to spark additional conversation. NOTE: In September 2011, Twitter announced that it would be introducing ads into the news stream from accounts that users didn’t follow, it drew a fair amount of criticism. Essentially it means the ad system now more closely reflects Facebook’s, only with its ads being more intrusive into the user experience.
Are Promoted Tweets like other online ads?
Since all Promoted Tweets start out as regular Tweets, there is not a single “ad” in our Promoted Tweets platform that isn’t already an organic part of Twitter.
This is distinct from both traditional search advertising and more recent social advertising.
Where do users see Promoted Tweets?
At the top of relevant search results pages on twitter.com. Promoted Tweets from our advertising partners are called out at the top of some search results pages on Twitter.com and through select ecosystem partners.
In Search Results for a Promoted Trend. Users may also see a Promoted Tweet in the search results when they click on a Promoted Trend.
Home Timelines. In some instances, Promoted Tweets may be visible within a user’s timeline if an advertiser has promoted a Tweet that is relevant to that user.
Enhanced profile pages. Brands or partners with enhanced profile pages may choose to pin a Promoted Tweet to the top of their timelines. For more information on enhanced profile pages, please see this article.
Official Twitter clients. Promoted Tweets from our advertising partners may also be displayed through Twitter’s official desktop and mobile clients, including TweetDeck, Twitter for iPhone, and Twitter for Android, among others.
Third-party Twitter clients. We are currently syndicating our Promoted Products suite to some third-party Twitter clients, including HootSuite.
What are Promoted Trends?
Promoted Trends began as an extension of our Promoted Tweets platform, and are now a full-fledged product in their own right. With Promoted Trends, users see time-, context-, and event-sensitive trends promoted by our advertising partners. These paid Promoted Trends appear at the top of the Trending Topics list on Twitter and are clearly marked as "Promoted."
How is a Promoted Trend different from a Trending Topic?
Users interact with Promoted Trends the same way they interact with any other Trending Topic. They are able to click on a Promoted Trend to view all Tweets containing the trending #hashtag or trend terms. They are also able to Tweet about the Promoted Trend by including the terms in their Tweets. The only real difference is that a Promoted Trend is purchased by an advertiser and clearly marked as being promoted.
When users click on a Promoted Trend, what happens?
Users who click on a Promoted Trend see Twitter search results for that topic, with a related Promoted Tweet from the advertiser at the top. Tweets on the search results page for Promoted Trends are unfiltered, open, and authentic. (Tweets which violate Twitter's spam and abuse policy are filtered out as usual).
Are Promoted Trends on all users' homepages?
Promoted Trends are visible to all users on Twitter.com while they are being promoted. Check your homepage and your Discover tab's Trending Topics list to see what one looks like!
Do Promoted Trends display anywhere other than Twitter.com?
In addition to Twitter.com, Promoted Trends are displayed on Twitter for iPhone, Twitter for Android, and Tweetdeck.
What are Promoted Accounts?
Promoted Accounts are part of Who to Follow, which suggests accounts that people don’t currently follow and may find interesting. Promoted Accounts help introduce an even wider variety of accounts people may enjoy.
Where are Promoted Accounts displayed?
Promoted accounts are displayed in three places:
As part of the Who to Follow widget on the left side of your logged-in Twitter.com homepage and Connect tab
On the Who to Follow page, which you can reach by clicking on View all on the Who to Followwidget or tab
People search results
On profile pages as part of the Similar to you widget
You may see a Promoted Account as one of the suggestions if a Promoted Account is relevant for you.
As with Promoted Trends and Promoted Tweets, this suggestion is labeled as Promoted to distinguish it from other recommended accounts.
How do Promoted Accounts work?
Promoted Accounts are suggested based on a user’s public list of whom they follow. When an advertiser promotes an account, Twitter’s algorithm looks at that account’s followers and determines other accounts that those users tend to follow. If a user follows some of those accounts, but not the advertiser’s account, then Twitter may recommend the advertiser’s Promoted Account to that user. For example, a lot of people who follow several education-related accounts also follow @teachforamerica. If someone follows education-related accounts, but not @teachforamerica, Twitter may recommend @teachforamerica to that user.
Do Twitter Promoted Ads Appear on Mobile Devices?
Yes. To date, mobile users may can see Twitter's Promoted Ads in the following ways:
Promoted Trends and Promoted Tweets in search have been available on Twitter for iPhone, Twitter for Android and the mobile web (m.twitter.com) for some time.
Promoted Accounts and Promoted Tweets in the timeline have been available on mobile web for several months as well.
Twitter Advertiser Analytics Dashboard
Twitter offers advertisers an analytics dashboard for all three types of advertising products. All three dashboards display the following fundamental metrics of your campaign as they happen:
No of Impressions
No of Retweets
No of Clicks
No of Replies
No of Follows
Promoted Tweets, Accounts and Trends Dashboard
Promoted Tweets Dashboard (Click Image To Enlarge)
Timeline Activity (Click Image To Enlarge)
Followers Analytics (Click Image To Enlarge)
Courtesy of an article dated April 2, 2012 appearing in CNN Money
Unless you’re measuring your efforts along the way, Twitter marketing can be a shot in the dark for many marketers. Only through analyzing Twitter marketing data can you pull insights and evaluate whether you’re spending your time wisely to benefit your business. Twitter, however, doesn’t offer a seamless way to see how your marketing is paying off.
Closed-loop marketing is what you should be looking at to track the power of Twitter compared to your other channels, social media or not. This means tracking the path of a user clicking a link in a tweet, to visiting a page on your website, to filling out a landing page to become a lead, and, ultimately, to converting into a customer. And isn’t that ultimately why you’re using Twitter for business in the first place? To bring in new customers?
To see how many visitors are coming to your site via Twitter, you’ll need an analytics tool, such as Google Analytics or HubSpot.
Click Image To Enlarge
While Google Analytics is free, the benefit of using a tool like HubSpot is that you can directly see how many leads are generated through Twitter. Once you tie your customer relationship management (CRM) solution -- like Salesforce and SugarCRM -- to your inbound marketing software -- like HubSpot -- you can also close the loop between your Twitter marketing efforts and sales. (Note: A new feature rolling out from Google Analytics soon might make this slightly easier for Google Analytics users.) Now there is a two-way communication between your marketing activities and sales results. When you visit your inbound marketing analytics, you’ll see not only the visitors, but you'll also see the number of leads and customers Twitter brought in. Then you can compare the effectiveness of Twitter marketing to your other channels!
Set Up Tracking Tokens for Different Sources
Now that you have a marketing analytics tool, you have to overcome the issue of third-party Twitter clients, such as TweetDeck or HootSuite. If a Twitter user is sharing a link to your blog post from such a client, it might not show up in your analytics as a visit from Twitter, even though that link is ultimately being shared on Twitter. This can greatly impact your data.
The solution is a tracking token. A tracking token is added to the end of a link, allowing your analytics tool to pool a certain group of traffic. Different tools employ different tokens, but a generic one looks something like this:
By attaching this to the end of your link, anyone who clicks that link is signaling to your analytics tool that they are coming from Twitter. The same type of tracking tokens apply to different channels, such as email, paid media, and referral traffic. Investigate your marketing or analytics software to make sure you have tracking tokens in place and your data gets assigned to the right categories. HubSpot’s social media publisher, for instance, automatically adds tracking tokens to social media updates sent using the tool.
Use the Right Metrics
At HubSpot, we look at our analytics constantly. And as a data-driven marketer, you should be following your progress monthly -- if not weekly. Here are the metrics we recommend you keep track of:
Twitter Follower Month-to-Month Growth - By pulling the number of Twitter followers and net new followers, you can get a sense of the growth of your Twitter reach monthly. For example, if you were to compute the following growth in March, you would pull the numbers from February and March: (March Twitter Followers - February Twitter Followers) / February Twitter Followers = Growth % Tracking this percentage monthly will allow you to see whether your tweeting strategies and campaigns are helping to boost your reach, or have become a waste of time.
Twitter Visitor-to-Lead Rate - Similarly, by pulling Twitter visitor numbers and Twitter lead numbers, you can calculate another percentage to help you track your lead growth. Twitter Visitors / Twitter Leads = Visitor-to-Lead Rate
Keeping track of your Twitter visitor-to-lead growth rate will help ensure your social tactics are translating into leads for your sales team. If you want to track this growth more closely to see how specific campaigns impact it, you can create daily goals. Decide on the number of leads you want to generate monthly. Then divide that number by the number of business days in that month, and that will give you your daily goal.
Your monthly goal should sprout from an understanding of what your leads have looked like in recent months. Don’t set a goal of 1,000 if last month you had 150. You can take the same approach to your othersocial media channels, like Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. HubSpot’s marketing software keeps track of that social media visitor-to-lead rate, so you don’t have to maintain various Excel spreadsheets to generate these insights:
(If you'd like to set this tracking up for your organization, you can sign up for a free 30-day trial of HubSpot and explore how your social media stats are faring.) - Click Image To Enlarge
Further Qualify Leads
If you’ve executed your tweeting strategy, set up the proper tracking system, and earned some leads, should you now pass these new contacts directly to Sales?
Twitter leads, one might argue, are not yet qualified enough for a conversation with Sales. This is where lead nurturing comes into play. Follow up with your leads, offer them more of the resources they're interested in, and further educate them about your product(s) or service(s). Whether you decide to nurture these new Twitter leads through simple drip marketing or more sophisticated behavior-based communication, you need to focus on getting them further through the sales funnel.
Check Other Engagement Metrics
In addition to the hard metrics like leads and customers, Twitter engagement is associated with other metrics that are unique to its environment. For instance, how do you measure the effectiveness of using a hashtag? Or a mention of a specific campaign?
Let's cover a range of free tools that can help you measure Twitter-specific interactions.
Tool 1: Twitter Counter - One of the fundamental metrics to track is your follower growth. Twitter Counter allows you to easily examine your follower growth over time. More importantly, you can see your net new number of followers per day by hovering over each day. This data can be used to see how many new followers a certain campaign garnered on the day it launched. If your following remains constant over time, this could indicate that you’re not using Twitter as well as you could. Your goal should always be to increase followers so your reach grows. Expanded reach results in more leads and customers.
Tool 2: Twitter Advanced Search - While Twitter may not have a beautiful internal analytics tool, it does have a beautiful advanced search tool. This search tool allows you to break down your search terms very specifically: by content, users, location, etc. This feature helps you track the success of a specific tweet and story. For example, when HubSpot acquired marketing automation company Performable in 2011, we could run a search looking for tweets with the words “Performable” to see how many people were interested in the news. In a similar fashion, you can use this search tool when running campaigns to see if your efforts sparked any conversation.
Tool 3: Hashtags - Another successful way to track how well a certain campaign is performing is to label it with a hashtag. Tools such as HooteSuite and Hashtracking allow you to see how many times a hashtag has been used. Furthermore, they can help you track a topic beyond what you say about it or beyond what you link to. For example, HubSpot started an #inboundjobs hashtag, which any company can include in their tweets to look for inbound marketing candidates. Potential applicants (a recruiter’s potential leads) can also find jobs via this hashtag. Now, we can track the popularity of inbound job openings and opportunities through the hashtag, even if we aren’t the ones linking to or talking about a job posting.
Tool 4: Bitly - Many of you know about bitly. It not only allows you to shorten links to be Twitter-friendly, but it also provides you with the ability to analyze the number of clicks on that specific link. To access the metrics tracked by your bitly link, add a + sign to the link (e.g. http://bitly.com/wpIlMC+) to view clicks and referral details over time.
Be Smart About Twitter Measurement
Twitter is more than just a network for engaging in the conversation and creating a positive brand image. The days of updating on-the-go tweets and leaving it at that are over. You must test and analyze all your efforts to understand whether it’s even in your business’ best interest to be vesting much time on Twitter.
Don’t invest a ton of effort in marketing on Twitter unless you can measure the results of your activities. If your closed-loop marketing process leads to extremely low numbers of leads and a pitiful ROI, then it’s okay to back off and do less to maintain your account rather than use it heavily. Test the waters on other social media channels, and find the ones that provide your business with marketing dollars. In conclusion, be smart about the way you prioritize your marketing initiatives, and keep an eye on the specific benefits this social network can offer your business. Good luck!
COMMENTARY: Measuring the return of investment on social media has remained very elusive for the majority of social media marketers. In an article dated February 22, 2010, Brian Solis, a noted social media guru, makes this point abundantly clear when he discusses how to measure return on investment from social media. The measurement should not be restricted solely to monetary values. Many CMO's are experiencing problems determine their revenues resulting from your social media campaigns, so many of them are measuring non-monetary values, specifically how a brand is perceived by its fans. Brian lists several such non-monetary ROI measurements:
Return on engagement – the duration of time spent either in conversation or interacting with social objects, and in turn, what transpired that’s worthy of measurement.
Return on participation – the metric tied to measuring and valuing the time spent participating in social media through conversations or the creation of, social objects.
Return on involvement – similar to participation, marketers explored touchpoints for documenting states of interaction and tying metrics and potential return of each.
Return on attention – In the attention economy, we assess the means to seize attention, hold it and as such measure the responses activities that we engender.
Return on trust – A variant on measuring customer loyalty and the likelihood for referrals, a trust barometer establishes the state of trust earned in social media engagement and the prospect of generating advocacy and how it impacts future business.
According to Solis, elusiveness continues to prevail however. The study found that the exact impact of social media tactics evade the grasp of CMOs.
53% are unsure about their return on Twitter
50% are unable to assess the value of LinkedIn or industry blogs
Roughly 15% believe there is no ROI associated with Twitter and just over 10% cannot glean ROI from LinkedIn or Facebook.
Solis believes this is the direct result of not tying activity to an end game, the ability to know what it is marketers want to measure before they engage. Doing so, allows marketers to define a strategy and a tactical plan to support activity that helps us reach our goals and objectives.
Twitter Inc.'s been spinning quite a turnaround story in the press lately. The microblogging service "has finally turned a corner," declares the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek. "It's a juggernaut," a company executive tells the magazine. But the hard numbers we've been provided paint a very different story.
A source with close knowledge of Twitter's financials leaked us revenue, profit, and other figures from the company's recent past. They are not encouraging.
It's notoriously hard to build a profitable tech startup, even in these bubble times. But Twitter, the business, has been provided a huge leg up by Twitter, the technology platform. It counts somewhere north of 100 million global active users. But more than the numbers, it's the quality of users that should have the company raking in ad dollars.
Celebrity Status - Twitter is provided a huge quantity of free celebrity content that sites like the hugely profitable Facebook would kill for, from the presidents of the United States and Russia to top film and TV stars like Tom Hanks, Steve Martin, Oprah Winfrey, and Ashton Kutcher, all the way down to gossip magnets like Lindsay Lohan and Kim Kardashian.
Venture Capital - It has also raised an insane amount of cash, with net inflows of around $760 million. The company, now six years old, has had plenty of time to experiment with extracting gold from its enviable mine of content.
But for years and years, Twitter has failed to do so.
Year 2009 - In previously-leaked Feb. 2009 financials, the company estimated it would take in zero revenue for its first two financial quarters of the year, a strong indication it had been operating without any business plan for the previous three years.
Year 2010 - Twitter generated total revenues of $28.5 million in 2010, for example, the company had to spend and write off more than three times that, leading to a net loss of $67.8 million, according to new financial data on the company provided by our source. For 2010, the company was hoping to draw in $140 million in sales, about five times what it ended up taking in. (At the time they leaked, Twitter called the numbers, originally obtained by a hacker, "not polished or ready for prime time." In a blog post dated February 2, 2012, eMarketer forecasted total revenues of $45 million for the year 2010.
Year 2011 - Twitter posted a net loss of $25.8 million on revenue of $23.8 million through April 30, according to the same source. In that same period, Facebook took in 26 times as much revenue, converting nearly a third of it into profit — and that was only through the end of March. In a blog post dated February 2, 2012, eMarketer forecasted total revenues of $139.5 million for the year 2011.
Since then, Twitter's spending has only grown. Headcount, for example, doubled from around 450 in mid 2011 — per our source — to nearly 900.
Twitter declined to comment on any of the figures in this post.
Those new numbers add a depressing chapter to Twitter's history as the biggest blown business opportunity in media or tech.
The New Spin
So how is Twitter now posturing as healthy in the press? It's touting its corporate culture, for starters. After having three CEOs in just three years, Twitter has managed to hold on to current chief Dick Costolo for 17 months. Costolo told Businessweek.
"We're trying to build a lasting company."
Twitter CEO Don Costolo
Costolo and his lieutenants also listed for the magazine a series of corporate team building exercises they've convened, including a six-hour leadership course for executives, visiting 140 Chief Marketing Officers in 140 days, and creating a list of 10 company principles, like "grow our business in a way that makes us proud." Typical corporate dross, in other words.
Company executives have been stingy with meaningful performance metrics. Twitter told Businessweek's Brad Stone it has an "engagement rate" (ratio of people who click on ads after seeing them) of 3-5 percent, versus 0.5 percent for typical banner ads.
What about profit or revenue? The only such figure Businessweek cited was a 2012 revenue estimate of $260 million from the consultancy eMarketer, nearly 10 times what the company took in during 2010. Twitter said it never vetted that number. A company spokesman said when asked about the article.
"We don't comment on our finances, on or off the record, or on background. So, no guidance [to Businessweek regarding] eMarketer."
Stone declined to comment.
The Uncomfortable Truth
So here's a less sunny version of the financial scenario Businessweek presented:
Twitter's Business Model Questioned - Twitter's business has been a joke, will have to be rebuilt from the ground up, and as far as we know is still in terrible shape.
Twitter Losses Continue - Seven months into his term as CEO, and 20 months after joining the company as chief operating officer, Costolo was still spending or writing off two dollars for every dollar of revenue, and there is no hard evidence that Twitter's fortunes have improved in the 10 months since. In fact, the company should be doing worse, if you judge from its disclosure that its worker base has doubled to 900 people inside of a year.
Things may not be as dire as history would suggest. Twitter's gung-ho product VP Satya Patel told Businessweek that 2011 "was the year we began scaling… our ad business… And 2012 is the year when we demonstrate it's a juggernaut." The best is yet to come, in other words. Which is approximately what Costolo was saying when he began his first year as CEO back in Oct. 2010: He wrote.
"We're ready to accomplish more in the next two years than we've accomplished in the last four."
Twitter's top dog has eight months left to make that prediction come true. He may yet. Top tech investors are certainly betting on it; in August, they poured $400 million into Twitter at a valuation of $8.4 billion, and bought existing shares for another $400 million, in what was reportedly the largest venture investment round in history. This was soon followed by a $300 million purchase of Twitter shares by a different investor. So the company would seem to have plenty of runway. With that kind of cash in the bank, upping revenue isn't a life or death proposition.
And Twitter has HUGE advantages.
There's the big user base which reached 465 million users just recently.
There's Twitter's role in enabling high-profile protest movements.
There's all the free celebrity content.
There's the fact that no viable direct competitor has emerged in the past six years.
There's also the fact that the service has convinced the vast majority of its users to share their thoughts, interests, and relationships publicly, a highly exploitable level of visibility that has even Facebook envious.
Any tech startup would envy those assets. Any media company, would, too. Twitter only got around to opening a New York office to serve Gotham's big advertising community this past October. Meanwhile, traditional media firms have spent years desperately trying to remake themselves for tech platforms and to wring the last dollars out of their old businesses. Newspapers, magazines, and makers of books,music, movies, and television — all have had to struggle to right the ship after having their business models upended by the digital media revolution.
In the big scheme of things, Twitter's laughable first five years of financial performance might just be an entertainingly weak introduction to a decades-long saga of epic riches, fame, and glory. But they will retain enduring value to disadvantaged entrepreneurs the world over, teaching that while free money, loads of powerful friends, and legions of hangers-on are nice to have and hard not to want, all those things do not add up to a real or sustainable business.
Twitter By The Numbers
Jan. 2011 – Apr. 2011
Revenue: $23.8 million
Cost of revenue: $18.7 million
R&D cost: $13.1 million
Sales and marketing cost: $5.4 million
General administrative cost: $12.0 million
Total costs and expenses: $49.2 million
Loss from operations: $25.4 million
Loss from interest and other: $404,000
Net loss (non GAAP): ($25.8 million)
Jan. 2010 – Dec. 2010
Revenue: $28.5 million
Net loss: ($67.8 million)
Assets: $221.5 million (as of Dec. 2010)
Liabilities: $221.5 million (as of Dec. 2010)
Ownership - Greater than 5 percent, as of mid 2011:
Benchmark Capital Partners V.I., LP
Institutional Associates Fund, LLC
Institutional Venture Partners XII, LP
Jack Dorsey, Trustee of Jack Dorsey Revocable Trust (under agreement dated Dec. 8, 2010)
Spark Capital II LP
Union Square Ventures 2004 LP
[Source: All figures via a source with knowledge of Twitter's finances.]
Correction: The eMarketer estimate of Twitter's revenue was for 2012. We originally said it was an estimate for 2011.
COMMENTARY: It's unfortunate that Twitter gets such a bad rap for not generating revenues a lot sooner. I even got on the neysayer badwagon myself back on 2010, but in a blog post dated February 2, 2012, eMarketer forecasted declining revenue growth for Twitter between 2012 and 2014 and the following advertising revenues:
Click Image To Enlarge
I don't know where that figure of 900 employees came from, but I doubt that's correct. The figure Twitter CEO Don Costolo forecasted was 450-500 by the end of 2011. I had forecasted ad revenues of $200-225 million for 2011, but according to eMarketer they came in at $139.5 million. However, keep in mind these are forecasts. Nobody really knows the real revenue numbers except Don Costolo and a few of his lieutenants.
Twitter continues to experience phenomenal growth in total users, unique monthly users and tweets.
Twitter had an estimated 465 million users at the end of February 2012. 25% of them are in the U.S. (Click Image To Enlarge)
If eMarketer's forecasted revenues for Twitter are accurate, I have conservatively estimated that the company will operate near breakeven by the end of 2012 and not require additional outside capital, and should be fairly self-sustaining moving forward. Considering that it only began to sell advertising in Q3 2010, Twitter will reach breakeven sooner than Facebook did which is quite an accomplishment. I don't give a shit what Gawker says.
Courtesy of an article dated March 9, 2012 appearing in Gawker and an article dated February 27, 2012 appearing in the Brian Solis Blog
China's popular micro-blogging platform, Sina Weibo, expects that 60 percent of its users will verify their identities by a government-mandated deadline of March 16.
According to the BBC, the government is requiring users to provide the service with their full name and phone number. Only those with verified accounts will be allowed to continue to use the service.
Similar to Twitter, which is blocked in China, Weibo allows users to post short messages and collect followers. Sina Weibo claims it has 300 million users.
The Chinese government has required users of the service to provide their personal information in order to stop the "spread of harmful" false rumors. Among those rumors are a story that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had been assassinated while staying in the country's embassy in Beijing, and another claiming that people had collected syringes infected with HIV in the city to use in attacks.
In 2011, the number of Internet users in China soared to 513 million, half of which used micro-blogging services such as Weibo, a January report from the government-run China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) found. Last year, the CNNIC said that the number of microbloggers quadrupled, and the number of Internets users in the country increased by 12 percent in December alone, compared to the same time frame in 2010.
The Internet in China is, of course, closely monitored, and the government is particularly sensitive about the spread of purported "rumors" on microblogs. Last August, these platforms caught the scrutiny of the so-called "Great Firewall of China" because of discussions about the health of former Chinese president Jiang Zemin as well as talk about the government's mishandling of a high-speed train crash, prompting Beijing to tighten its grip around Weibo.
Commmunist Party secretary Liu Qi paid a personal visit to Sina's offices and told the company that it must "resolutely put an end to fake and misleading information" and better manage users on its micro-blogging platform.
The identity verification tactic is the government's latest step in controlling microblogs, and as they grow, they will likely face more government regulations.
Sina Weibo Top User Rankings
As China’s strict new real-name policy on microblogging sites such as Sina Weibo came into effect, the platform’s most-followed user Yao Chen has become the first to reach 18 million followers.
The government policy was brought into effect on March 16 in an attempt to stop users from spreading “harmful” or false rumours while using a pseudonym but some users are concerned that enforcement will lead to further government censorship on social networking sites.
Chinese actress Yao Chen (picture) is the first Sina Weibo user to hit a total of just over 18 million followers. Her fan count is just shy of Twitter’s second most popular user Justin Bieber whose list of fans has grown to 18.57 million.
Lady Gaga, Twitter’s top microblogger, has raced past 21 million followers after hitting a record 20 million fans just weeks before. In a blog post dated February 8, 2012, Lady Gaga announced that she would launch littlemonsters.com, her own social network.
This week Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez both reached out to their fans on Twitter to thank them for their support as they toured the world.
“Tonight we ended a 13 month tour. It was a beautiful trip around the world and I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything. Thanks guys.” Gomez posted a video on YouTube and tweeted: “It took me a while to get it up but, I wanted to send out a Thank You video to all cities/countries I visited.”
Third party estimates put Twitter at more than 500 million registered users. Sina reported that it had more than 300 million registered users on Sina Weibo in February 2012.
Most popular people on Twitter:
Lady Gaga (21,042,894 followers)
Justin Bieber (18,574,890)
Katy Perry (16,235,613)
Britney Spears (14,261,168)
Kim Kardashian (14,128,548)
Barack Obama (13,084,879)
Taylor Swift (11,756,340)
Selena Gomez (10,969,110)
Most popular people on Sina’s microblog (Weibo):
Yao Chen (18,006,766 followers)
Dee Hsu (17,412,257)
Yang Mi (15,231,999)
Xie Na (15,101,705)
Kevin Tsai (14,720,573)
Zhao Wei (14,480,905)
Leehom Wang (14,390,159)
He Jiong (14,101,954)
Li Bingbing (13,061,076)
Chen Kun (12,514,872). — AFP-Relaxnews
COMMENTARY: Sina Weibo is operated by Sina Corporation (NASDAQ:SINA), a public company. Sina Corporation reported revenues of $482 million for the year ending December 31, 2011, but in Sina’s Q3 2011 the company had to write off $350 million on its wireless MVAS business and its acquisitions in China Real Estate Information Corp (CRIC) and Mecox Lane (MCOX), both of which made sense at the time of acquisition when the company was expanding its real estate and ecommerce advertising verticals. The result was a net loss of $336 million for Q3 2011, and a net loss for the entire year 2011 of $302 million.
Sina's stock has suffered a series of ups and downs. Sina's stock peaked at $142.83 on April 20, 2011, but by June 20, 2011, its stock had plunged to $77.62. Following the writedown of its wireless and real estate businesses, its stock price plunged to $67.90 on October 3, 2011. By January 9, 2012, Sina's stock had dropped to an all-time low of $50.69. It has since rallied, and is currently trading at $70.91. The Chinese government is cracking down on all its social networks, and now requires all registered users to verify their ID. According to Sina management, the governmental requirement will negatively impact their earnings due to higher expenses to comply with the new regulations, and this will more than likely affect their future stock price.
In a blog post dated February 14, 2012, I reported that Tencent Weibo, the No 2 microblogging site in China, had announced plans to enter the U.S. market with an all-English site, and would compete head-on with Twitter, the No 1 U.S. microblogging social network. Rumors that Sina Weibo may follow suit and also enter the U.S. have not been confirmed, but anything is possible. -
For nearly a year now, I have been warning my readers about China's social networks because of their eradic earnings, questionable traffic data, less stringent accounting requirements, and volatile stock prices. I would carefully watch all these Chinese social networks as the Chinese government's censorship hammer comes down hard. This should be a warning to Facebook and Twitter, from making any overtures to enter the Chinese market.
Sites like Tumblr, Meebo and Pinterest not only refer traffic to Facebook and Twitter, but gain viewers in return
As second-tier social media sites become more popular with consumers, these sites are finding their place within the social media ecosystem, referring traffic to larger social networks, as well as seeing traffic arrive from Facebook and Twitter.
In November 2011, Compete analyzed referrals of US traffic to Facebook, and found that, in addition to retail sites bolstered by holiday traffic, Meebo and Pinterest were two social sites increasing in influence. Meebo’s US referral traffic to Facebook grew 314.48% in November 2011 compared to the previous month; Pinterest’s referrals rose 57.22%.
Pinterest is a social site to watch, as it is gaining users at a rapid rate. According to Compete, the top sites visited by US internet users after visiting Pinterest included several social networks:
Facebook, 13.94% of the time.
Blogspot, 8.74% of the time.
Tumblr, 1.67% of the time.
Etsy, 1.57% of the time
As a visual-focused social network, it makes sense that Pinterest would refer traffic to other sites with photos and visuals, such as Tumblr and Etsy.
Additionally, larger social sites are referring traffic back to these second-tier sites. This demonstrates that consumers may be experimenting with these newer or second-tier social sites, but they also feel the need to share content from the larger networks and point it back to Pinterest or Tumblr. According to Compete, the following sites increased their share of traffic referred from Twitter from October to November 2011:
Tumblr's climbed 817.78%.
Meebo's climbed 262.05%.
Mevio's increased 48.61%.
CafeMom's grew 40.80%.
While referral traffic isn’t a traditional measure of success for a website, looking at social networks in this way demonstrates the connectedness of the social media world. Marketers that want to test how their brand works with a second-tier social site like Pinterest or Meebo should work to connect their social media strategies and accounts to best take advantage of the increased interconnectedness in the social media ecosystem.
COMMENTARY: If you blog or use social networks, and would like to increase the traffic to your blog or social network page, I recommend that you provide an RSS feed to all your posts between your blog and other social networks, and vice-versa. In my case, whenever I post something to my blog, it automatically posts to Twitter. I also use an RSS feed for all my Tweets from Twitter to Facebook, so I am covering "two birds with one stone." I have not been able to get my RSS feed to work for Google+ and Twitter to work properly, so I cut-and-paste my Tweets to Google+ daily, to get all three major social networks synchronized. The result. My blog traffic has increased from 15,372 visitors/month at the end of September 2011 to 44,100/month as of today. If yo do the math, that's an increase of 286.9%. It works people.
Courtesy of an article dated February 10, 2012 appearing in eMarketer
In a bid to broaden its revenue streams, Twitter is rolling out the self-serve ad platform to 10,000 small and midsize businesses through a partnership with American Express.
Starting February 16, 2012, American Express cardmembers and merchants can register to use the platform on a first-come, first-serve basis and also receive $100 in advertising credits to put toward bidding on promoted tweets and promoted accounts -- hopefully whetting their appetites for more. Twitter had begun the rollout of self-serve, which lets advertisers make electronic payments instead of being invoiced by the sales team, in mid-November with a group of fewer than 20 advertisers and expanded the group to about 100.
Twitter CEO Dick Costolo
CEO Dick Costolo noted that opening the self-serve platform is a key development for Twitter in a potential banner year. The company is also focused on reaching the market for its political ad products and scaling its international ad offerings.
Mr. Costolo said.
"So many hundreds of thousands and even millions of small businesses have been using Twitter effectively for years already, so by opening up our ad platform to all these folks as a mechanism for them to amplify the value they're already creating."
As is the case for any of Twitter's 3,000 advertisers, small businesses can set bids for promoted accounts on a cost-per-follower basis and for promoted tweets on a cost-per-engagement basis. In the latter case they pay only when users actively engage with the tweet (by retweeting, for instance.) While national brands might be bidding on keywords or hashtags associated with major events like the Oscars, which makes bidding competitive and expensive, small businesses would be more likely to bid on highly specific terms and to localize their bids, according to Mr. Costolo. (Twitter currently allows for city-level targeting at its most specific.)
Mr. Costolo pointed to Glennz Tees, an online T-shirt retailer that was part of this winter's pilot group, as a small business that has already had success using the self-serve platform. After a character on "The Big Bang Theory" appeared on the show wearing a Glennz shirt, the owners took to their Twitter account and bought up terms related to the show. Mr. Costolo claims they doubled their holiday sales over the previous year and tripled their Twitter followers.
eMarketer projects that Twitter's ad revenue in 2011 was $139.5 million and will grow to $259.9 million this year and $540 million by 2014. Self-serve is expected to be a cornerstone of Twitter's revenue growth, though its contribution is likely to be small early on while Twitter looks to scale the number of small-business advertisers using the platform, according to eMarketer's principal analyst, Debra Aho Williamson.
According to eMarketer, Twitter ranked No 3 behind MySpace in total worldwide ad revenues, but is expected to vault ahead of MySpace into the No 2 spot in 2012 with $259 million in worlwide ad revenues.
Twitter nudged out LinkedIn for No 2 behind Facebook in the number of U.S. unique active users:
Ms. Williamson noted that Twitter's partnership with American Express is typical of its methodical approach to rolling out new ad products.
"One of the big challenges that Twitter was going to face was keeping rogue advertising or spammers from overrunning the systems, and by partnering with American Express and focusing at first on this small subset, it provides an easier roll-out for Twitter."
The self-serve platform will go live for the first group of 10,000 businesses in late March and then be rolled out more broadly.
Twitter New User Page Redesign
Twitter's new small business self-service platform comes right after Twitter completed the roll-out of its latest user page redesign. The new design comes with the ability to embed tweet and some new keyboard shortcuts, as well as redesigned brand pages:
Twitter's new profile page redesign (Click Image To View)
Twitter Rollsout New Brand Pages
In a December 8, 2011 by AdAge, Twitter unveiled its new brand pages, which it launched with a group of 21 marketers including Coca-Cola, Nike, Disney and PepsiCo in late January and early February 2012. The new brand pages are available for advertisers committed to spending at least $25,000 on its ad products, including Promoted Tweets and Promoted Trends.
Click Image To View Nike's Brand Page
Click Image To View Coca-Cola's Brand Page
Click Image To View Disney-Pixar's Twitter brand page
Brand pages can be customized with large header images that advertisers can use to give greater visibility to their logo or other branded elements, which are often partially obscured by the timeline of tweets in the standard format. They can also be programmed to keep a particular tweet at the top of the timeline, which can auto-expand to reveal an embedded photo or video without the user taking action -- thus giving the page more visual impact.
Courtesy of an article dated February 16, 2012 appearing in AdAgean article dated December 8, 2011 appearing in AdAge and an article dated January 27, 2012 appearing in AdAge
Twitter Inc. has acknowledged that after mobile users tap the "Find friends" feature on its smartphone app, the company downloads users' entire address book, including email addresses and phone numbers, and keeps the data on its servers for 18 months. The company also said it plans to update its apps to clarify that user contacts are being transmitted and stored.
It does say that
"Twitter users may customize your account with information such as a cellphone number for the delivery of SMS messages or your address book so that we can help you find Twitter users you know."
As with many online social services, Twitter allows users to look for friends that are also registered users. In the case of Twitter's iPhone app, users see a screen noting that the service will "Scan your Contacts for people you already know on Twitter." The short description of the feature does not mention that it also downloads every entry in the address book and stores it.
The policy says.
"Log Data may include information such as your IP address, browser type, the referring domain, pages visited, your mobile carrier, device and application IDs, and search terms. Other actions, such as interactions with our website, applications and advertisements, may also be included in Log Data."
In response to questions about the process, Twitter spokeswoman Carolyn Penner said the company is planning an update to the language they use in the mobile app.
Penner wrote in an email.
"We want to be clear and transparent in our communications with users. Along those lines, in our next app updates, which are coming soon, we are updating the language associated with Find Friends -- to be more explicit. In place of 'Scan your contacts,' we will use 'Upload your contacts.' and 'Import your contacts' (in Twitter for iPhone and Twitter for Android, respectively)."\
Penner also noted that Twitter users can have the service remove their contact databases using the "remove" link on this Twitter webpage (see below).
Click Image To Enlarge
The disclosure from Twitter comes after another online social service, Path, came under fire last week for automatically downloading iPhone users' address books without permission. The chief executive of Path, Dave Morin, apologized for the automatic download and said Path would correct it, but also mentioned that such processes were "industry best practice."
Updated February 15th, 12:51 p.m. Twitter has clarified that it does not store names from address books, only email addresses and phone numbers. The company initially told the Times that names were among the types of data it gathered from users'mobile contacts lists.
When users activate the service's "Find friends" feature, "the email addresses and phone numbers in your address book will be shared with Twitter," wrote Carolyn Penner, Twitter's spokesperson. "Later, if one of your contacts signs up for Twitter with one of those email addresses and chooses to be discoverable by the address, we can connect you two."
COMMENTARY: I used Twitter's app for several years, so this privacy violation by Twitter is like a kick to my groin. In a blog post dated March 31, 2011, I reported on Twitter and Google both placed on 20-year probation with privacy audits by the FTC for privacy violations. In a blog post dated November 30, 2011, I reported on Facebook being put on a 20-year probation with annual privacy audits. You would think that during all this time, Twitter would've come clean, and admitted that it was downloading our entire address book. Now Twitter clarified that it "does not store names from address books, only email addresses and phone numbers." Thanks for making me feel a bit better about this privacy violation. cough, cough.
What is really eye-opening is Path's CEO Dave Morin mentioning that such processes (downloading address book data) were "industry best practice." I think it is time that Twitter and Path users report these gross privacy violations to the Federal Trade Commission for further investigation. Makes you wonder, what other tidbits of information about their users social networks are helping themselves to, without our permission.
Protecting your online privacy is of the utmost importance. In today’s connected world, it is far too easy to lose your privacy to the hands of many unscrupulous individuals. What can you do if you have discovered that your privacy has been violated by your favorite social network?
Your privacy rights are addressed with two acts: the 1974 Privacy Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1984. There are also many agencies that handle the enforcement of Internet privacy laws, including the FTC (Federal Trade Commission).
Protect yourself from privacy violations by thoroughly reading any and all privacy policies for any website entities you want to do business with. Do not, in any case provide private information, if you think that website may use your information fraudulently. Make sure you feel secure prior to any financial transactions.
You have 180 days to report these violations under a general statute of limitations. Your individual state may also have other rules and regulations for reporting these violations .
Use the FTC’s online form to file a complaint located HERE. You can report cases of unwanted spyware installations, online shopping fraud and internet auction complaints using this process.
You can try to contact the disputed company directly to try resolving the issue prior to filing a formal complaint. If this fails, file the FTC report and be sure to attach any and all documentation, including prior attempts at resolution.