Anyone and everyone has shared this bit.ly blog post the past couple of days.
The data, which addresses the times of day on different platforms with the highest click data, claims to provide insight into the best times to post on each network. Mashable, ran with that and essentially rewrote the visualization into a post (understandable, it is a little hard to read).
But I’m not convinced that’s really what the data says.
The problem with solely tracking click data is that people need links to click on, and in order to generate links, you need content. If there’s less content (and lower quality) being produced and tweeted at night, on the weekends, and in the early morning there’s a much smaller chance that clicks will be generated. Because there’s less new content produced at these times, there seems to be less activity.
News doesn’t follow a 9-to-5 schedule, but for the most part, content producers do, and are only fully staffed in earnest during regular hours. We wouldn’t be shocked to see that bit.ly’s results would be echoed today as well: there’s a reason Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage was leaked this afternoon, not in the morning or even saved for the airing of the interview. People like to break news during the day, so naturally platforms like Twitter, which rely on up-to-the-minute news and sharing, drive the most clicks the moment content is produced. Facebook does more to spread out when you see content (hence why you see updates from hours ago in your newsfeed), so the results look a little bit more scattered, though within a general range. Tumblr doesn’t rely on news, so its results are more all-over-the-place.
Ultimately it’s the volume and quality of content being produced at these times that drives clicks, not actual activity. Or at least, this data doesn’t prove that, so it’s not worth relying on to figure out when you should post the most.
In reality, you should just post great content all of the time.
I don’t know if you noticed, but my last name is hard to spell.
For years (literally my whole life), I’ve dealt with it. And without regret, I’ve come to accept and nurture it, especially when that one Biggie song comes on the radio (Prae, prea, praetorius… Yeah, I know you can hear it now.) But that doesn’t make the DMV any easier. Or telemarketing calls. Or awards ceremonies where the announcer doesn’t know my name. Or third grade.
See, I never figured that this might carry over to the internet. When I first got online, pseudonyms were all the rage and the only time I had to use my real name was for buying things. I didn’t have interaction that required any sort of legitimate identity. But eventually things changed and even by the end of AIM days I had begun to use my full name online.
So when it came to Twitter, @DeanPraetorius was an obvious choice. “Phew, no one stole my name,” was the first thing to come to mind. Why I even thought that would be possible is beyond me at this point, but hey, it happens to the best of us. And I proceeded to move on with my social media career. Naturally I had already secured that username (with a slight modification that I still can’t explain clearly, and still gives me a bit of trouble) on Facebook, and LinkedIn made it pretty clear my true identity needed to be out there.
So years later I imagine the same look of dread telemarketers must have on their faces when they call me, on the faces of my followers when they try to mention me. Struggling over that first a-e combination and then losing all hope after the r. Maybe I’m exaggerating, maybe it’s an imagined problem to some degree, but at the very least it’s taking up far too many of a few people’s 140 characters.
So I went about trying to change it. No, not my name, my Twitter handle.
Now picking a different identity than that given to you by your parents is never easy (I still remember the countless days that passed as I considered leaving “DeantheGreek” behind in 6th grade), but keeping it short and sweet shouldn’t be that hard right? Heck, D-Roff did it in high school (inside joke, I apologize). There’s plenty of recognizable initials there (though some unpleasant implications if I went for the obvious ones like @DP or @DPP… yeah, third grade was tough), or at least something to work with.
But the obvious ones were gone, @dean long taken (and I got a nasty response just for asking) and @deanp with few followers but some activity (we connected over email, still no dice, but a very nice and considerate response nonetheless). The one that would have really caught people’s eyes (though it would have been equally as hard to do) was taken by none other than my little brother (@praetoriusBIG), and a quick search of a few other ones (@SPQR for historical reference and @Spartan for heritage) yielded no good results. @praetorius wouldn’t have solved any problems except length, but alas, that’s still taken by a distant cousin from Germany (who I probably should connect with one of these days).
So, when it looked like I couldn’t make a decision on my own, I looked to friends, naturally, on social media. Namely Facebook. This excellent conversation ensued (my favorite suggestions, though somewhat unusable are @deanpraelove and @DeanVictorious), but we couldn’t quite put a finger on the perfect one.
I have a feeling, I’m not alone here. I want people to know I’m me, especially in a public space like Twitter, and despite my desire to be creative, the easiest way to do that is to use my full name. But it’s not functional, and I may be out of choices. More importantly, I love my name, but it is what it is. I don’t want to have to come up with a new one just because it’s not easy to sound-out, but that choice may be beyond me.
So for the time being, I’m still me, but we’ll see how long that lasts.
I’m not sure we can handle another world-changing social network, but they keep coming anyway. And they keep going. But not all of them.
So why do some stay, and others go?
The reasons, and many there are, aren’t quite what they used to be. The reasons Google+ is becoming more of a ghost town everyday and Path has lost its buzz are way different from the fates of MySpace and Friendster. Inversely, the reasons Instagram and Pinterest as of late have exploded are different from the reasons Facebook and Twitter dominate social networking.
To start, where the big two have succeeded, and others have failed, is creating platforms that satisfy the needs of a broad user base. Sure, it’s a little soon to say they’re here to stay, but it’s hard to argue that Facebook hasn’t turned itself into an effective tool for third parties to leverage. Twitter’s working in that direction, in many ways (in tweet media is a small step of a larger shift). But both have opened themselves up enough to convince others that working with them is better than working against them.
Part of this convincing also has to do with stability and consistency. Friendster was never stable, and therefore died off. The MySpace experience was too varied, too messy. The more Twitter has addressed it’s stability problems, the bigger it has grown. A Facebook outage is rarer than a solar eclipse, and consistency is the name of their game (you know how to navigate my timeline just as well as I know how to get around yours).
Point is, they’re at the point where they’re satisfying our needs before we know we have them, and doing things right we don’t even think about. Google+ would like to satisfy these needs, but they’re playing catch-up and actually proving that scratch is a poor place at which to start. Path might work with the big guys, but they don’t add a significant value.
So why bother with new networks?
Because the most effective new networks now recognize that they shouldn’t go head-to-head with the big guys. Instead, they’re working within their rules to build their own followings. There’s a new game being played: social networks built on social networks (dare I call it Social 3.0?!).
Instagram used Facebook and Twitter to grow to the incredible 40 million user base (an incredible 10 mil boost in the days following the acquisition announcement) they now have by making the core of their product, the photos themselves, available outside of their app. Their only web presence is only accesible through links found on social networks. Pinterest’s explosive growth was spurred by its integration into Facebook timelines.
These guys have identified that the most active internet consumers live on Facebook and Twitter. By integrating them into their own, new, networks, they’ve ensured that their user base is comprised of the type of people that share a lot and participate actively. Assuming the idea appeals to a wide enough audience, is almost a guaranteed formula for meaningful growth.
What may have convinced Facebook to snatch up Instagram was probably the data. They know that the user bases overlap. Not only that, but it’s the same actively-sharing, data-providing audience they’re familiar with. What they wanted was the data provided by all Instagram photos, not just the ones posted to their platform. Robert Scoble recently noted that Instagram has an incredible amount of location-based data, which, when combined with the data Facebook already has, could be immensely powerful. Especially when when it comes matching imagery with specific places and popularity (even if location isn’t specified in an Instagram photo, they’re taken with Android and Apple devices, all of which have GPS and naturally tag locations when the shots are taken).
The moral of the story, is that to be effective at social networking, and to become a player on every platform, you have to play nice. Whether you’re an app or a content provider, working in the ecosystem and not against it is a sure-fire means of success. The basics are already there, so if you’re going to improve things (and be valuable to users) you have to expand on a specific point, like photography, within the current architecture.
Notably, I’m forgetting Tumblr. But, I’m not. That’s being saved for another day.