Twitterpated by Twitter

“Twitter is stupid.”  Before you lash out at me for that line – you should know that I didn’t say that.   Laura Fitton of Pistachio said it in her Twitter for Business keynote at Webcom Montreal, November 2008.  Laura is an EXPERT on Twitter and makes her living speaking on and educating business owners about the Twitter phenomenon so she should know! 🙂

I recently wrote about  how important it is to overcome doubt because sometimes when you’re starting a business a “stupid” idea can turn into a run away success.  Twitter is a GREAT example of a “stupid” idea that has become quite a success story.

Twitter may be “stupid” – but it’s a growing phenomenon. I wouldn’t go so far to say it’s a necessary evil – even though it appears to have been an important part of the Hitler regime:

I remember when I first signed up for Twitter – and quickly forgot about it.  I couldn’t imagine why anyone would CARE what I was doing!   A few weeks ago – I placed the widget in my sidebar and started to make an effort to “tweet” and to follow others.  The more I use Twitter – the more I can see how important it is to stay “connected”.

Because I’ve been twitterpated by Twitter, posts like Kalena’s 16 Must Have Tools for Twitter Users and  Twitter – Social Media’s Hidden Gem are now catching my eye.  Because of Twitter, I’ve discovered Darren Rowse’s TwiTip blog which is a blog devoted to all things Twitter.

The thing about Twitter is that it really is like blogging -which is why it’s called “micro blogging”.  Like Blogging, Twitter is incredibly easy to use while at the same time being very difficult to master.  If there’s just ONE blog post you read about Twitter – make it Liz Strauss’ 25 Traits of Twitter Users.  Liz writes:

Certain signs and characteristics seem to show in the folks who live the social media culture. Certain value and actions make people who care about having relationships and conversation before transactions easy to spot.

It’s a must read because, as Liz’s post points out – not everyone “gets” Twitter.  Despite what you may have read in the latest “get rich sitting on your ass” email newsletter, signing up for Twitter is NOT going to get you tens of thousands of visitors to your blog and it isn’t going to put money in the bank for you.

If you use Twitter to brag about how many followers you have – or you just blast Tweets about your latest blog post – then you won’t find Twitter to be a rewarding experience.

Twitter is a communication tool.

I’ll say it again – Twitter is JUST ANOTHER communication tool.   There are other Twitter-like micro blogging applications that are competing with Twitter.  Over at Splitbrain they’ve said goodbye to Twitter and hello to a new micro blogging communication tool.  Does this mean Twitter is a business failure?  Of course not.  It means that someone had an idea about how to make Twitter better.   (Remember this as you’re going through the steps to starting a small business. Can you do it better, faster, cheaper? Then maybe you should!)

One thing I will say for any start up that tries to make Twitter BETTER,  they will benefit from the fact that Twitter “broke ground” with micro-blogging.  It’s taken a couple of years for people to figure out what Twitter was good for and for Twitter to “catch on”.  Anyone who can make a better version of Twitter will have to thank Twitter founders for going through the arduous process of educating the masses over the last two years on the benefits of micro-blogging.

Those who don’t remember history are doomed to repeat it. Over 100 years ago there was another communication tool hitting the scene – the telephone.  It might surprise you to learn that people yawned when they heard about the telephone just like I yawned when I first heard of Twitter.

There’s a story that says the early telephone sales force wasn’t greeted with enthusiast demand when they first began selling their new fangled communication tool.  The story goes that the single most effective “sales spiel” used to “sell” the new way of communicating was to tell people that the telephone made it so they could talk to their neighbors without getting dressed to go outside.  It wasn’t until that “benefit” was communicated to prospects that the telephone began to “catch on” as a communication tool.

Ah – the first tale in the never ending saga of being human in the age of the electronic mob.

Wikipedia reports that “Twitter had by one measure over 3 million accounts and, by another, well over 5 million visitors in September 2008, a fivefold increase in a month.”  I’m seeing other evidence of a groundswell around Twitter as well.

I use the Google Keyword Tool plug in to check for keywords when I begin a post.  (It’s something I recommend you do and cover in more detail in my 8 Week Power Blog Launch course.)  So, as I began this post, I went to check on what’s happening in Googleland around the term “Twitter”.  What I saw was the average search around the term “Twitter” is in the 550K range.  However last month (in November)  that number skyrocketed to 1.2 MILLION searches.    Yet more evidence that people are twitterpated by Twitter!

However, there’s another reason why Twitter is becoming the latest bell of the ball.  See, Twitter promises free and easy communication with a mob of people  Since communication is the foundation of advertising and marketing – well the appeal is obvious.

Advertising and marketing are simply communicating what it is your business can do for people to a mob of people.

Since Twitter is “free” and “easy to use” that makes it a “Free – easy to use marketing tool”.  VIOLA!  A small business owners favorite marketing combo – free + easy!  This is why when a new means of “communication” comes down the path, it doesn’t take long for the marketing “gurus” to line up and announce that the SUREFIRE KEY to making untold riches is to simply utilizing the new method of mass communication.

Oh but here’s the “reality check” in the Twitter as the surefire path to riches scheme–  If you don’t have anything to say – and you don’t know who you’re talking to – then Twitter won’t do much in the way of your marketing or your business.  As a matter of fact, unless you’re a major company (like Dell) whose customers follow you just so they’ll know about the latest sale – you won’t find that using Twitter will put any cash directly into your pocket.

However, if part of your job description is that you have your finger “on the pulse” and to be “in the know” then Twitter is an indispensable tool.  Since being “in the know” is an essential part of every blogger’s job description – that’s why Twitter is important for bloggers.

Are you twitterpated by Twitter?  If so -why?  If not – why not?

Domain Name Registry Scam

The bastards are on the loose again.  You know, the CREEPS  who send you a very official looking “invoice” regarding your domain name registration.   Obviously a LOT of people fill in the form because it looks so damned official.  I’m a “professional” and I have to admit, if I didn’t know better… I’d sign it as well.

It’s bad enough that you have to worry about security online… now you have to guard yourself off line as well.  It’s a form of snail mail domain name phishing.

In case you don’t know, here’s the scoop.   In the fine print it is written that by signing this form you’re authorizing the  transfer of your domain name to THEIR service.  Want to point your DNS to another hosting program.  TOO BAD!  You can’t.  Want to transfer your domain name… can’t do that either… you signed away those rights.

I’ve gotten two emails this week from clients asking about the letters they’ve received via snail mail regarding this scam.

“But I thought my domain name was registered through you?”

My reply, “It is and will be unless you fill out that form and send it in.  Then all bets are off.”

In case you can’t tell, one of my clients made that mistake a few years back.  I don’t think we ever got control of the domain name back.

It INFURIATES me when some slimy bastard tries to use FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) to make a buck.

Well, obviously the scam isn’t working so well anymore, so the slimy bastards have hired a call center to telemarket their service.

I got just such a call this morning.  “Hello.  I’m from Domain Name Registration Services and you will be getting a notice in the mail about changes to your domain name account.”

“Why will I be getting that?” I asked.

“Uh, because there are changes in your domain name registration account,” she replied.

“Why?” I asked again because I can be a horse’s ass sometimes.

She started stumbling so badly it was literally incoherent jibberish.  I began thinking of the dear, sweet woman who wrote to me earlier this week and thought about how different this phone call would be if she were in my place.   That visualization set me off and with that,  I let loose on that poor telemarketer.

You know you’ve reached a new low when a telemarketer hangs up on you.

IF YOU DON’T KNOW ALREADY:

  • Don’t click on links in emails regarding your domain name .  Go to  the web site where you registered your domain name and renew it.
  • If you didn’t register your domain name via snail mail, don’t respond to snail mail messages regarding your domain name.
  • Your domain name registrar will NOT be phoning you about your domain name… even if you haven’t paid the bill.

By the way, these rules apply to your CREDIT CARD, YOUR BANK and YOUR PAYPAL accounts as well!!!

It’s only classified as paranoia if they ARE NOT out to get you.

How “Regular” People Use the Web

Frank Gilroy has a GREAT post on his observations on “6 Things Regular People Aren’t Doing on the Internet.”

He also covers some I haven’t harped upon like “buying big ticket items sight unseen” and “telecommuting” but first and foremost on his list is this: “regular” people aren’t subscribing to RSS feeds.

It’s a common question for tech teachers such as Dave Taylor and despite a WEALTH OF posts and pages on how to subscribe,  according to SlashDot… as of January 2007, only 12% of internet users knew what RSS was and even fewer, 4% used it knowingly.

Most of my clients aren’t creating web sites directed at the tech savvy 4-12%….  instead, they’re focusing on reaching “regular” people…. which is why I recommend that ALL of my clients treat RSS in the same manner  that they treat the search engines.

Treat RSS as if it doesn’t exist.  Any RSS subscribers to your blog are “gravy”.  The real value is in your email newsletter.  The level of trust required to subscribe to your RSS feed is minimal (see Trust is Not Transitive) so even if regular people WERE using RSS to subscribe, it’s still a good idea to have an email newsletter in addition to your RSS feed from your blog.

If your customers are “regular people” you’ve got to meet them where they live.  Regular people may not understand RSS but they do understand email and that’s where your email newsletter comes in handy!

GoDaddy Domain Names and Hosting May Put Your Business in Danger

I’ve had more than one client politely listen to my warnings about using GoDaddy as a domain name registrar/host and then go right on using their services. I do understand their reluctance to accept my warnings at face value. After all, I do offer in the course of my business what I believe is a “better” alternative.

I wrote way back in April 2007 on my free Blogger account about the GoDaddy Tar Baby. (You can actually see that at that time, I recommended the service for my clients. UGH! More crow for me to eat…. see my post “Quasi Scientific Blogging Observations).

Back to the Tar Baby that is Godaddy…. for those who think that the stories are of the “urban legend” category, Mashable offers this recent report GoDaddy Pulls the Plug on RateMyCop.

Daily Blog Post concurs and offers commentary on the “quality” of the hosting services at Godaddy as well.
Trouble has been brewing at GoDaddy for a while. Here’s an article I wrote a while back about GoDaddy’s troubles for my clients (it’s a PDF…. so you might want to save this rather than try to open it in your browser.)

Shortly after I wrote and posted that article, Godaddy began donning the cap of “internet police”… the horror stories are chronicled at the site NoDaddy.com In response, I created a GoDaddy Transfer package for my clients.  Quite a few took me up on the offer.

I will admit, I still use Godaddy’s domain name registration services for picking up domain names I have yet to put into “action”. See the following for why I won’t actively develop a site under any domain name I have that is registered with Godaddy.

Hey, I’m just like everybody else. My preferred ICANN registrar charges a LOT more than Godaddy does…. and I don’t want to pay more than I “have” to for my excessive list of domain names. But I’ve been getting a LOT of “update your information or else” emails from them and it makes me nervous… because I DID pay for those domain names because I DO want access to them!! Paying less than $10 per domain name loses it’s attractiveness when you realize that they can be taken from you on a whim.

I hate it when you find out the price being charged is just a fraction of what you’ll pay!

Questions about Web Site Traffic: Hits vs Visitors

I’m having these conversations more and more often… so I probably need to address it here… again. It’s about web site log files and the analysis of them.

web site solutionsHere’s how it goes: Web site owner contacts me… says his web site is getting 3,000 unique visitors each and every month. Then says despite the huge traffic, the web site in question is not working.

Is there anything I can do to help?

When these come in via email, I begin with detective work. Since I don’t have access to this person’s log files, I go and look at said website with the Alexa and Google PR tool installed in Firefox. Alexa tells me said web site is 11,080,071.

WOW! I didn’t know Alexa WENT that high. I know it’s not reliable for sites out of the top 100,00 and according to Aaron Wall in his post “Wow! My Alexa Ranking is Great!“says that

Just a few people from each browsing my site with an Alexa toolbar caused the rankings to nearly double, which is a huge change on a logarithmic scale for a site in the top 10,000.

So yeah… the Alexa toolbar is not a reliable measure of traffic. It only measures how many people who have the Alexa tool bar installed have visited the site. Those visitors tend to be web master types who are nosy about other people’s traffic. But for 3,000 visitors to come to a site in a relatively short period of time (one month) to a relatively NEW site (less than 6 months old), WITHOUT any other form of promotion is highly unlikely.

Next, I head over to Compete.com. No data for the site there either. Hmm…. the site IS a WordPress blog but it isn’t linking out and according to it’s PR ranking (which is zero) it’s not getting a lot of link love from reliable sources. It’s also not registered with any of the social networking tools for blogs like Blog Catalog or Technorati.

At this point, I have to question whether we’re seeing VISITOR or HITS.

To clarify, a hit is defined as a “call” made to the web server. Every time a visitor enters a web site, depending upon the structure of the page, they will cause MULTIPLE “hits” to the server. If a web site or blog has 49 small graphics on the page, every time a visitor loads the page, the site will register not one hit, but perhaps 50 or more hits on the server (49 graphic files plus the html file. PLUS any java applets, etc which are also “hitting” the server).

With this in mind, 3,000 “hits” may actually translate into 60 unique visitors.

A good traffic analysis program will actually TRACK the visitor’s movement throughout the site. I ADORE the program Click Tracks for this, but it can be a bit pricey for the “non-professional” webmaster. If you’re serious about using your web site to market your business, it’s a GREAT investment. (I need to upgrade my version as I see there are lots of shiny new toys in their latest version!)

So as you look at your log files, whether it be AW Stats and Webalizer (both are better at providing amusement rather than hard data, but they are free and readily available) remember that a VISITOR is not the same as a “hit”. It’s also important to note that I’ve had a couple of cases of client blogs with fewer than 100 visitors per month who are actually seeing client referrals from their blogs. I’ve also heard complaints from people with blogs with incredibly high visitor counts who aren’t seeing ANY referrals of clients from their blogs… which is the opposite side of the same coin.

The moral to that story: A handful of interested potential clients reading your blog is much, much better than a throng of visitors who want something for nothing.