For a real example, to see how easily manipulated Twitter is for example, take a look at Edelman's Tweetlevel, a service that tries to demonstrate the value of social-media, by creating metrics their PR professionals probably work to enhance for their clients. I have no idea what an Edelman sales-pitch is like, but I can imagine it is starting to revolve around selling how great their Tweetlevel numbers are for 'representative' clients. Even more amusing will be the game that other PR agencies will play with it. Imagine agency X walks in to Edelman's own clients and shows directly in Tweetlevel how much better the client could be doing if they moved to work with agency X.
Oh and for the sake of transparency, my Twitter names (yes I have a semi-professional one and a company one) rate quite awfully. No excuses, except that I find it hard to actually engage with people on a meaningful level and get my work done without a paid resource to help, which would really defeat the object of engaging with people in a sincere way.
It seems that I am happier spending half and hour a day writing some lengthy, sometimes original drivel on this blog, than half an hour total distracting myself every ten minutes to type 140 characters and point to a website that I found only for the purpose of manipulating my Twitter follower count. And if you occasionally enjoy what you read here, that makes it all worthwhile.
For another perspective, take a read of William Gibson's "Idoru", amazingly published in 1996. Gibson gives a high-energy and insightful view of how the Net becomes overwhelmed with corporate interests and legislation, and a dark-net called the Walled City springs up to allow people (by invitation only) to live and express themselves in a meaningful way, outside the grasp of corporate manipulation.
Yes - this blog is attached to a company website, but the thoughts expressed here are my own. Since the product you may buy from the website is also representative of my thinking, that seems to be the fairest marketing you can hope to get.
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Interesting analysis but I would have to disagree with respect to your conclusion about TweetLevel.
The key objective behind creating tool is not to create metrics to show the value of Edelman's social media outreach but more to understand and identify who are the key influencers and engaged tweeters within any given micro-community. It is the conversation that counts.
What's more I can guarantee that the numbers can not be manipulated. Personally I don't care who is in the top 20 in twitter overall - it is who is important (out of the many thousands) within a topic that I need to know so that I spend both my clients and my limited time engaging with the people who have the biggest impact.
As long as the conversations are happening on Twitter then Edelman need to be part of them. Merely lurking and reading what is happening is no longer an option
Jonny, its good to get an opinion from closer to the source of TweetLevel. As your post shows, there is a specific formula for calculating the the metrics and the final TweetLevel, and I would not question the fact that this is set in stone. I am suggesting that the 'big brother' manipulation comes in a more subtle form by all PR agencies with a social spin - if this type of metric matters to a client (and you can decide whether it does, or whether 'leads-generated from PR' for an example is a more valuable metric) then the agency already believes they have a way to achieve the results - engaging a range of Twitterers, to retweet and communicate the message.
Whether there a value in all this depends on your point of view. I suppose that if you can grow your Twitter audience ten-fold, and at least 5% of that audience are meaningful listeners, rather than part of the big communications industry love-fest that Twitter seems to be, then you have grown the potential to get your message out there to relevant buyers. Of course, I believe I'm entitled to completely change my opinion next week when I suddenly feel positive about the social-media world again, though for now I will continue to focus my discussions, professional networking and lead-gen efforts on sources my website analytics tell me are working.
I recommend other readers to take a look at Jonny's post. It certainly takes you behind the scenes of what is a very smooth, well produced site.
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