Archive | January, 2012

I Bought Twitter Followers Behind the Bike Shed

31 Jan

It started as a “Did you know?”

And of course, I didn’t.

“You can buy Twitter followers,” a colleague continued.

And what started as an innocent conversation about social media became a little murkier.

I expressed amazement, well perhaps not exactly amazement, but certainly a degree of surprise.

Which isn’t surprising, as one way or another the internet is a continual source of surprise.

And I forgot about the conversation until a couple of days later when my colleague sent this link:

I got to Twitter late and after a year of tweeting I had 52 followers.

So it naturally crossed my mind that finding a following organically was taking quite a long time.

Especially if you subscribe to the theory that one digital year is equal to ten human ones.

There is a metaphysical point where ideas become action, however small the initial step may be.

A few keystrokes revealed there are actually several sites offering to fix you up with a twitter following.

At around $25 a thousand for real followers, which are people with a twitter account, as opposed to dummy accounts set up by bots.

Affordability alone made the opportunity tempting.

But it still felt shabby somehow, like buying a degree, or not changing your underwear every day.


If Klout can “trade” in my social media brand, why can’t I trade up in it?

Surely the main point of the digital era is that the old rules no longer apply.

Reputations don’t have to be hard-won.

You can go-viral any time – but probably not with just 52 followers.

All I want is more exposure for my blog, and wasn’t this simply the digital equivalent of paying newsboys to stand on the corner shouting, “Extra, extra?”

Then I read a Mashable story claiming Newt Gingrich followers are spam bots.

Hell, if it was good enough for the GOP…and at least my followers would be human.

Ethical dilemma resolved – I got into buying mode.

At which point 1,000 seemed kind of paltry, why not go for a Klout busting 5,000?

So I loosely specified the interests I wanted my followers to share (advertising, marketing, creative thinking, ideas, current affairs, etc.) and anted up around $85.

The process would take 12-20 days and I was warned not to follow or unfollow anyone while it was taking place.

By Friday at 8.16 AM I had 109 followers

At 11.50 AM there were 185.

Over the weekend they plateaued at around 340 (something to do with the algorithms – If you want a more detailed breakdown of process and options Tyler Cruze’s blog is very informative) before continuing to climb to 951 at time of publishing.

About half only fit my profile very loosely, but they certainly open up the randomness of Twitter…

My feed is full of all kinds of stuff.

Religious nuts, porn nuts, Beliebers…in several languages.

In retrospect maybe I should have started with a 1000.

But there’s always a learning curve.

Has it made a difference to hits on my blog?

It’s probably too early to say.

Social media experts tend to agree, it’s not the size of your following, but your connection to them.

They bang on about not diluting your personal brand.

I get that up to a point.

There are a few of the original 52 I banter with sporadically, they’re interesting and informed, if they were in town, I’d buy them a beer or whatever.

But just how much damage can you do to a personal brand of 52 followers?

I listed them, so not too much I hope.

And if any of my newly enhanced following are reading this, I’m sorry I bought you.

But stick around and I’ll treat you good.

I promise!


The Only Statistic That Counts

16 Jan

I like to get away when I can.

So I’m lying in a hammock in Tulum sipping an ice-cold Pacifico.

The hammock is gently rocking thanks to a constant offshore breeze.

Four pelicans glide overhead in formation and then dip where the turquoise water meets the almost white sand.

Tulum is a beach town in Quintana Roo, a state in south-eastern Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsula.

Watching the pelicans until they fade into grey smudges, it’s hard to believe I’m in a country engulfed in a drug-war.

But as the BBC reports, according to federal government figures, 47,515 people have been murdered by narco-terrorists in the last 5 years.

Conversely, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the murder rate in the Yucatan is 0.1% per 100,000 of population. No US tourist destination even comes close, to being as safe as I am here.

Statistically, 0.1% is insignificant, unless you are the unfortunate one-in-a-million.

In which case the statistic becomes hugely significant, albeit posthumously.

The Internet may not have been made for statistics, but its binary DNA seems made to order for their proliferation.

Sites like Survey Monkey and Poll Monkey make it easy for anyone to spit out fresh, crunchy stat bites.

Not unnaturally, the flip side of proliferation is desensitisation.

9% unemployment is terrible, it weakens society and affects us all to some degree, naturally I sympathise–but hey I’m alright Jack!

Hell, I’m on vacation.

Unemployment statistics, like crime statistics only really matter when they affect you directly.

The further they get from the centre (you, family, friends, and friends of friends) the less you feel their impact.

If that sounds callous, it’s only 51% callousness brought on through extreme statistical overload.

The proliferation of statistics inevitably means a correlative decrease in credibility.

You can find stats to support any and all points of view.

From the cynically disingenuous, beloved of lobbyists and politicos, to the deliberately goofy, it’s misinformation by the numbers.

Until the only statistic that counts is the one you believe.

It’s as well to remember it’s a belief and not a fact, unless you can prove it, and chances are you can’t.

As the man said, there are “Lies, damned lies and statistics,” the question is which man?

Fittingly, the quote has been attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, Alfred Marshall and Mark Twain.

So it’s a one-in-three chance we even know who coined the phrase.

Time for a second beer, or will that be my third?


Every cliché was once original

4 Jan

{buns! not buns}

I was walking past the Pizza Pizza near my office.

They had a sandwich board outside, appropriately advertising sandwiches.

And not just any sandwiches, but sandwiches on “artisan ciabatta buns!”.

I asked the guy behind the counter and of course, the buns are frozen.

Now whether food can be both “frozen” and “artisan” is questionable.

But as the LA Times reported on Sept 28, 2011 “Wendy’s has its Artisan Egg Sandwich, Ralphs Markets offers Private Selection Artisan Breads and Starbucks sells Artisan Breakfast Sandwiches”.

More intriguing than foodie nomenclature, is the speed of the word’s downward trajectory.

In just a few years, “artisan” has become a cliché to be avoided, and evidentially it’s not alone.

Lake Superior State University just released its 37th annual list of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness.

Their methodology is hardly scientific – the public basically nominates words they’re fed up with.

This ad-hoc approach probably explains how “occupy”, as in Occupy Wall Street made the list.

According to Wikipedia, OWS only started on September 17, 2011.

Can a word really reach it’s sell by date in less than 4 months?

Apparently it can.

From kilobytes to petabyte, language is changing faster.

And it can legitimately be said that acceleration is just as much part of the zeitgeist as innovation.

“Faster, Faster until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death”, as Hunter S. Thompson said.

Our love affair with speed is inextricably bound with our need for the new.

So we don’t just consume tangible products like cars and fashion and technology.

We also consume ideas, creating a vortex of novelty and redundancy, and nowhere is the churn more pronounced than with business jargon, where today’s hot phrase is tomorrow’s cliché.

And if you blinked, well you know…

And business publications from Inc to heavyweights like the Economist and Harvard Business Review implore us not to use certain clichés.

But dismissing a phrase simply because it’s a cliché seems foolhardy, because not all clichés are created equal.

Low hanging fruit may be an evocative metaphor, but it’s an unnecessary piece of business jargon.

You’d be better off saying: easily attainable objectives or rapidly achievable results.

It’s easy to forget every cliché was once original.

Thinking outside the box, contrary to popular wisdom, is an extremely elegant phrase.

You may not be aware of the phrase’s origin describing a solution to the nine dot puzzle.


It’s a metaphor rooted in reality and purpose and one that’s not easily paraphrased.

But use thinking outside the box in a meeting and you’ll be lucky to escape with a funny look.

The problem with thinking outside the box is not that the phrase is a cliché, but it’s a cliché that’s become diluted through misuse.

While E=mc2 and the iPhone are examples of thinking outside the box, your new promotion for acme widgets almost certainly isn’t.

But we crave the next new, so we shoot the messenger anyway.