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A brief history of social commerce

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With the holiday season just behind us, it’s easy to forget that what is commonplace behavior now- bookmarking wanted items onto wishlists to share with friends and family, or using Twitter to give and receive product recommendations both spontaneous and prompted- were only just beginning to blossom five years ago.

The new year is the time most businesses write up their reviews of the past year and put together their predictions for what’s coming next. These reflections and predictions don’t have much weight without context, however, and that’s what we aim to provide here: A brief history of social commerce that can hopefully shed more light on why everything that worked in 2013 did so, and give us a better foundation for looking ahead to 2014. As social platforms become more integrated into our lives, social commerce becomes something every company must address, if only from a support perspective.

Social Commerce in 2008

The term “social commerce” was actually first introduced on Yahoo in 2005, but it wasn’t until three years later, in 2008, that it really began to build the foundations of what we recognize now as modern social commerce. 2008 was the year that expectations and suggestions around social media and e-commerce started to actually become business practices. However, the thinking was that social platforms were only good for increasing brand awareness and general marketing; the potential for revenue remained unrealized. Most companies thought of social ventures as a bonus activity, and not a requirement for success. (x)

2009

In 2009 as new technologies become ubiquitous- Twitter, smartphones- online and offline shopping begin to blend together more. Companies take notice of their customer’s changing behavior and build communities for them to interact and share information in. (x)

An argument grows about what exactly social commerce is: A revolution from e-commerce, or an evolution of it? Others argue that social commerce is something that shoppers do together (social shopping) while e-commerce is businesses being in a social space together. (x) This debate will continue to evolve over the next several years, without a final clear answer (though currently e-commerce and social commerce seem to be used pretty interchangeably with the term social shopping being differentiated).

2010

2010 found social commerce really beginning to pick up steam around the world– however marked cultural differences become clear between those who turn to social outlets for shopping in order to save money, and those who come primarily for the fun, social aspect of it (x). An all-encompassing global strategy therefore isn’t going to cut it; brands wanting to engage in social commerce will have to develop targeted, regional approaches.

Group buying endeavors like the aptly named Groupon hit their heyday in 2010, and Facebook begins to turn a real profit, getting skeptics seriously excited about the future possibilities with social commerce. Twitter users follow brands for deals and are often motivated to click through to a site where they can make a purchase, but a click-through doesn’t guarantee a purchase and shopping cart abandonment is an issue. Consequently, this is also the year that stores work harder via social to retain customers and keep them coming back to the physical store to shop (x).

2011

Pinterest, launched in 2010, sees explosive growth in 2011. Its image-based design with easy click-throughs to sources makes it perfect for showcasing products.  Facebook gets its own term for social commerce on the platform: F-Commerce. Options range from built-in storefronts that lead off-site to make purchases, but that include varying levels of social engagement (“ask a friend” about a product, for example) to complete in-Facebook purchasing with companies like 1-800-Flowers. The future of F-commerce is uncertain, but seems promising if some kinks- like having to go off-site to complete purchases- can be ironed out.

Since 2011

A lot shifts as e-commerce picks up steam in conjunction with social platforms, from 2011 onward. F-commerce sees decline from clumsy design; big stores like Gap, Nordstrom and J.C. Penney close their Facebook shops. A few tweaks could revitalize F-commerce, however, since Facebook’s core user group remains loyal and users still consult their social networks when shopping.

Pinterest continues to gain market share (possibly in part due to its long tail sales cycle), but may have a solid challenger in relative newcomer Polyvore, a social commerce site that allows users to build “sets” to express their style, then buy.  Other platforms- like photo sharing site Instagram and blogging site Tumblr- begin to experiment with advertising, which may eventually lead to e-commerce efforts. Google+ has potential too, from the sheer size of the user base and potential SEO benefits.

With the “Internet of Things” fast approaching on the horizon, 2014 looks to be the debut of things such as t-commerce, or buying H&M underwear via your smart TV during the Super Bowl. What about Twitter commerce; shouldn’t that be t-commerce? In 2013, Twitter hires its first Head of Commerce to help enable shopping directly via its 140-character posts.

Overall, online retail is only expected to grow, with Forrester predicting sales of $370 billion by 2017. Increasing portions of the population use the mobile and tablet devices they use for social platforms to shop as well, which reinforces the idea of growing social commerce. It will be interesting to see how quickly being able to buy something directly from whatever platform- or object- you happen to be using becomes ubiquitous, and whether one platform or object will be able to rule the lion’s share of the social commerce field.

So, with all of that, what are your predictions?

 

Note: The Evolution of Social Commerce: The People, Management, Technology, and Information Dimensions by Chingning Wang & Ping Zhang (pre-publication version)- was a tremendous help in forming the basis of this research, especially in the summaries of the years before 2010. Paragraphs and sentences built from its ideas have been marked and linked (x).

Written by Sarah

January 16th, 2014 at 12:35 pm

The Golden Globes are Sunday!

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It’s that time of year again – awards season! The 71st Golden Globe Awards are this Sunday, and as usual, we’ll be there to track the social media conversation around the event and help out on the #redcarpet.

So, we were wondering… In the days leading up to the first major awards show in Hollywood this season, which movies, TV shows and actors are Twitter and Tumblr buzzing about?

Well, Tumblr can’t get enough of Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, who are coming back for a second year as hosts of the show. Most of the top posts about the Golden Globes right now are GIFs of the comedic duo, taken mostly from the commercials for the upcoming broadcast (like this one from gillianjacobs).

After Tina and Amy, Twitter and Tumblr are both excited about Tatiana Maslany from BBC America’s Orphan Black and Jennifer Lawrence - or JLaw, if you prefer, which we do – from American Hustle. And there’s a lot of talk about Jared Leto from Dallas Buyers Club, Leonardo DiCaprio from The Wolf of Wall Street, and Bradley Cooper from American Hustle.

As far as movies and shows go, Tumblr’s favorite films right now are American Hustle12 Years a Slave, and Dallas Buyers Club. Twitter also loves Catching Fire, partly because Taylor Swift’s song from the film was nominated. And Orphan Black is wildly popular on both networks. Breaking Bad and Scandal are getting some attention on Twitter, while American Horror Story is popular on Tumblr.

Want to follow along with the conversation this week? Find @GoldenGlobes on Twitter and on Instagram, and participate in the conversation with the #GoldenGlobes tag. And stay tuned here, as we’ll update with more social data about the show next week!

Written by Jenn D

January 7th, 2014 at 11:31 am

TweetReach’s Top 10 Posts in 2013

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Written by Sarah

December 31st, 2013 at 10:24 am

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What Black Friday sales is Twitter most excited about this year?

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As we like to do every year around this time, we’re checking into what Twitter is saying about holiday shopping, particularly around Black Friday. This past weekend- a full week before Black Friday officially starts- things were starting to really accelerate on Twitter, with an average of about 5,000 tweets an hour posted about Black Friday over the past two days. And so far this month, 780k people have posted 1.3 million tweets about the biggest shopping weekend of the year.Black Friday on Twitter

Which upcoming Black Friday sales was Twitter most excited about over the weekend? Amazon was the most talked about sale, with Walmart a close second. And so far, the product topping everyone’s wish list is the Xbox One.

We’re tracking all Black Friday tweets this week, so we’ll keep you posted!

Written by Jenn D

November 25th, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Posted in Events,Trends

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FX’s ‘Archer’ nails it with social media

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Archer’s 4th season premieres on FX on January 17th, but fans going through withdrawal have had something special to keep them occupied while waiting for the new episodes – FX set up some very entertaining social media accounts for three of the show’s main characters. In honor of the upcoming new season, we thought we’d take a closer look at this fantastic social campaign.

ISIS Head of HR Pam Poovey graces both Twitter and Facebook with her presence; Secret Agent Sterling Archer, whose Facebook page is the main page for the show, also has his own Twitter account; and the world’s most unsettling Head of Applied Research, Dr. Algernop Krieger is on Facebook and Twitter.

What’s notable about Archer’s social media is the amount of work put into these accounts. They all interact with each other in the voices of the characters. Some updates include new creative content that has been created explicitly for Twitter and Facebook; others include stills from past episodes of the show.

It’s not just snippets of text; it’s Pam taking a selfie in a Three Wolf Moon-inspired shirt.

The best part? This isn’t a social media campaign run by a faceless agency. Pam Poovey’s Twitter account is run by none other than the actress who voices her, Amber Nash, and voice talent Lucky Yates runs Krieger’s accounts. This makes the banter between those accounts so much more enjoyable; the actors get to have fun inhabiting their characters and taking them out for verbal runs at each other between episodes.

Tweets are often also automatically posted to Facebook. At least one fan seems to prefer to see different content on the separate platforms (danger zone!).



Sometimes posts will show up on Twitter that aren’t on Facebook, however:

This is probably related to the specific nature of the content. According to the Archer Live! Tour, the actors have been asked to tone it down a little to better fit within the norms of the social platforms.

The accounts post similar content to both Twitter and Facebook, but now try to fit the content to the appropriate channel. For example, the Archer Facebook page and the Archer Twitter account both responded to a tweet from Lucky Yates as Krieger, but the content was formatted differently for each site. On Twitter: 

And the Facebook version:


This is an improved use of both platforms, since early tweets from Pam that also went to Facebook would simply cut off on a longer message, with a link to her profile to read the rest. Adapting the content to fit each specific platform is a smarter way to manage a transmedia campaign across multiple channels. Fans don’t necessarily want to switch from one network to another to read the full conversation.

While the accounts don’t respond to fans who reply to them, that hasn’t hurt the engagement at all. Fans use the #ArcherFX hashtag along with the characters and the channel’s official Twitter account, and more than a million people were reached through thousands of tweets during first two weeks of January leading up to the season premiere. Activity spiked on Saturday, January 12th, the night of the last Archer Live! Tour date. This final show of the four-city tour took place at Irving Plaza in New York City, and you can read a great recap of it on Uproxx, if you’re interested.

This sort of integrated social TV campaign is a great example of what many shows have started to do both between and during seasons. It’s an effective way to engage and reward loyal fans of the show by sharing behind-the-scenes content, while simultaneously drawing in new fans who might be intrigued by what they see and want to tune in to the new season.

Giving the voice actors the freedom to run social accounts for the characters they’ve been portraying for years is also ingenious. It feels more authentic for fans, who can tell when something is written in Pam or Krieger’s voice, which leads to higher engagement rates and increased enthusiasm for the upcoming season.

FX knows their audience well, and is doing great work in social media by participating in the conversation about their show – in the characters’ voices – where their fans are having that conversation. And it’s completely awesome. Definitely not babytown frolics.

Written by Sarah

January 16th, 2013 at 11:28 am

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Checking in on the 2013 Golden Globes on Twitter and Tumblr: What did fans think?

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Awards season is upon us, and this year it kicked off with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler taking over hosting duties at the 70th Golden Globe Awards. We love the Golden Globes; this is the third year we’ve monitored tweets about the event (see our 2012 and 2011 coverage). This year, we’ve been tracking all the social media buzz before, during and after the awards show that aired on Sunday, January 13, 2013, again in conjunction with mhCarter Consulting and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. And we didn’t just stick to Twitter either; for the first time, we also took a look at the night’s Tumblr data!

What were the big numbers on Twitter? 

First, let’s talk Twitter… How did the Golden Globes do on Twitter? Tweets spiked several times the night of the show, showing us when the audience at home was the most excited about events onscreen. The first spike was in the initial minute of the show, which saw 7,700 tweets. Things got chattier after that; when Adele won the award for Best Original Song (Skyfall for the Bond film of the same name) Twitter activity spiked to 13.4k tweets per minute (tpm). Adele was later beat out by the appearance of former President Bill Clinton taking the stage to introduce Lincoln;  tweets further spiked up to 18.5k tweets per minute, claiming the highest tpm spike of the evening.

Ellen highest RT Exposure

@TheEllenShow’s tweet about the hosts saw was the most popular tweet of the night, accumulating the highest exposure and most RTs during the show, with nearly 22 million impressions and 7,991 RTs.

Overall, more than 108 million unique  Twitter accounts were reached by tweets about the Golden Globes - and that’s just on the day of the show. This is up over 14.4 million from 2012, and over three times the reach of Golden Globes Twitter chatter from 2011. Contributors more than doubled this year – from 296K people talking about the Globes in 2012 to 599K in 2013 – and the total number of tweets increased by more than 50% from 2012s (from 822K to 1.3 million).

Looking at all of the data since the nominees were announced on December 13th, 2012, total reach was over 160 million unique accounts, and more than 756K different Twitter users contributed more than 2.1 million tweets.

What were some of the specific things people were talking about on Twitter? 

As part of the excitement approaching the 70th Annual Golden Globes, @GoldenGlobes asked fans to tweet their questions for the nominees with the hashtag #askGlobes; the questions would then be asked of the winners backstage.

One of the top contributors to the hashtag was a fan account for Meryl Streep (@MerylStreepSite), asking and retweeting other Meryl fans’ requests to ask the actress what she thought of her dedicated fans, or “Streepers”.

Streepers

Unfortunately, Meryl didn’t win so the Streepers never got their question answered. Jennifer Lawrence took the trophy for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical, for Silver Linings Playbook– and breathlessly joked about beating Meryl when she took the stage to accept.

The @GoldenGlobes confirmed backstage that “JLaw” has been her nickname for years.

The #askGlobes hashtag for the Golden Globes account was one of their top 5 hashtags for the night of the show; producing a total of 2,016 tweets with a peak activity time of 6pm PT, when the hashtag saw over 4.7 million impressions. The @GoldenGlobes retweeted the questions asked of the winners, with the answers, and kept promoting the hashtag:

What were people talking about on Tumblr? 

Tumblr saw 47.6k posts about the Golden Globes the night of the show. Flouting convention, the majority of the posts were text posts rather than photos: 31K text posts and 18K photo posts. However, the photo posts saw much higher engagement rates. For the total 1.8 million notes, nearly 1.5 million of those notes were on photo posts (814.7K reblogs and 668.2K likes) compared to the smaller 231K notes for text posts.

The most popular post was a GIF of Anne Hathaway accepting her award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture, for Les Miserables: 

Anne Hathaway Acceptance

This post from Beaver Paralyzer earned 66.6K notes in just a few hours, which includes 153 direct reblogs, 36.9K amplified reblogs, and 29.5K likes. The reblog tree for this post was impressively extensive, showing the majority of reblogs occurred out past the 9th degree, suggesting a very diverse pool of curators:

Tumblr top post reblog tree

Indeed, the entire tree doesn’t easily fit on a screen; that’s a little more than half of it there.

The second and third most popular Tumblr posts were also GIFs, in this case two GIF-sets of the hosts making jokes between awards. They’ve already garnered 41.8k and 37.2k notes, respectively.

What does this tell us about watching TV and simultaneously using social platforms? 

While many think of Twitter as the main social channel to talk television – Twitter has their own dedicated @TwitterTV account, after all – more and more people are flocking to Tumblr as well, for its expanded ability to “liveblog” a TV event beyond the relatively text-limited Twitter platform. The ever-popular GIF just doesn’t work as well on Twitter as it does on Tumblr.

Comparing the overall number of tweets made to number of Tumblr posts between December 13 and January 13, there were twice as many tweets about the Golden Globes: 2.1 million tweets vs. 1.0 million Tumblr posts and reblogs.

Looking at unique participants paints a similar picture: 756K users posted tweets on Twitter, and 20K posted on Tumblr, but that Twitter number includes RTs. If you count rebloggers on Tumblr, that’s another 303K (not to mention another 255K likers). The Twitter numbers don’t include favorites, which would be similar to Tumblr likes, but these numbers are still closing the Twitter/Tumblr output gap: 322K posters and rebloggers on Tumblr to Twitter’s 756K tweeters.

Tumblr GG Community

We can wager a guess that those Tumblr numbers will continue to catch up to Twitter numbers as Tumblr gains popularity as a place to discuss a live television event together. This is especially likely considering Tumblr’s reputation as a place for TV show and movie franchise fandoms to set up shop and blog (and reblog) about the characters and worlds they love. Why not start doing it live as well as between seasons of the BBC’s Sherlock?

In the future, we expect to see more fans switching back and forth between Tumblr and Twitter during an awards show or their favorite series, on their phones or laptops, using both sites to their respective strengths. Social TV watching has really only just begun.

That was neat! I want more! 

We’re glad to hear it. If you liked this look at Twitter and Tumblr activity for the 2013 Golden Globes, stay tuned for our more in-depth case study on the event. We’re going to take a deeper look at the various social initiatives the HFPA put together around the show, including the #GlobesParty Instagram promotion the Globes ran to get fans involved at home, and more. Check back soon!

Written by Sarah

January 14th, 2013 at 4:16 pm

The AP sells sponsored tweets to Samsung during CES

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And we took a look at one of them. This week, the Associated Press decided to sell sponsored tweets during the annual CES tech trade show on its @AP Twitter account. A lot of blogs and news outlets discussed the ads, but actual engagement with the sponsored tweets was quite low. Here’s one of the tweets in question:

This sponsored tweet from Samsung got a total of – wait for it – 15 retweets. The activity leveled off rather quickly; 12 of the 15 retweets happened immediately, followed by two in the next hour, and the final straggler the following morning. Then nothing else. There wasn’t very much lasting traction to this tweet, as seen below:

The tweet did generate a total reach of 1,584,824 unique Twitter accounts, but that’s really not much more than the 1,538,203 followers the @AP account itself had at the time of the tweet. A quick look at the top contributors might account for the reason: @AP was the top contributor, followed by @HuffPostMedia and a Japanese Global Media Studies Professor. It would make sense for multiple accounts to follow most or all three of these contributors, as they’re all journalism-related accounts, but it didn’t result in much additional spread of the original ad.

The reach for everyone talking about AP’s sponsored tweets was much higher, with nearly 550 tweets from more than 500 contributors in the past few days, reaching 4.3 million different Twitter accounts. The activity, however, still dropped off rather quickly:


Everyone is talking about the AP selling their tweets (or they were), but the interaction with the sponsored tweets themselves remained low. The three sponsored tweets were only retweeted 21, 15 and 14 times respectively. There were far tweets with more opinions on the subject than actual RTs: opinions tacked onto RTs of articles about it, occasionally added in front of an AP retweet, or sent out and tagged with the AP’s handle. Some, however, went for a more direct route.

Replies to AP about their sponsored tweets were not terribly positive:

They were about as snarky as some of the news and blog coverage was. But why?


Perhaps because people think that as a news source, the AP should remain neutral, and maybe particularly on Twitter, a platform that is poised to become the go-to place for breaking news even more than it already is for its heavy users.

Looking at the data on the entire discussion around AP sponsored tweets seems to back up that idea. Here are a few examples:



The opinion that a major, historically trusted news source should remain neutral might explain why people are upset over the AP selling sponsored tweets, but haven’t been in the past when celebrities have done the same thing (there’s even a company set up exclusively for celebrities or other popular Twitter personalities that want to endorse products on Twitter). Celebrities are expected to supplement their income with product endorsements, and are not followed or revered for their journalistic integrity.

Sponsored tweets aren’t anything new – Mashable wrote an article saying just that back in 2009 – so the amount of attention and news being generated by the AP selling tweets has been puzzling to some. Others, whether or not they’ve paid much attention to it before, simply see it as an expected form of native advertising. Different from the Promoted Tweets that Twitter launched in April of 2010, sponsored tweets are a deal between a vendor and a celebrity or other well-known figure with a large Twitter following, with Twitter getting nothing out of the deal, except perhaps to say that advertising works on its platform.

Former member of The Pussycat Dolls Nicole Scherzinger and a sponsored tweet for Herbal Essences… A little different than the AP and Samsung, or so response would seem to indicate.

Let us know what you think in the comments.

Written by Sarah

January 10th, 2013 at 11:04 am

Marketing the end of the world

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The world may be ending tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a good deal out of it.

On Friday December 21st, the Mayan Long Count Calendar completes a cycle (a b’ak’tun, if you want to get technical about it) which doomsday-ers decided means the end of the world, and naturally everyone is talking about it on Twitter:

If you’ve decided putting off your holiday shopping over this was a bad idea, fear not– the deals are as varied as the doomsday prophecies. Toyo Tires is giving away prizes on their Facebook page to those who are betting the world isn’t really going to come to an end:

A countdown clock is placed beneath this Mayan-themed add, similar to the one on JetBrains’s page offering 75% off of their products (the world might not end, but this deal will!).

There are many more, and probably some we’ve missed: Lonely Planet has travel tips and a gentle nudge to buy their travel guide at the end of them,  the San Francisco Bulls are having an End-of-the-World-themed game Friday night, Old Spice released an 8-bit style game centered on saving the world, and T.G.I. Friday’s invites you to spend your apocalypse with them at their Last Friday Party.

Jello has taken a more interactive approach on Twitter, using the hashtag #funpocalypse to go along with its campaign of offering up a delicious sacrifice of Jello pudding to appease the Mayan gods and avert the apocalypse. Jello has asked Twitter followers to tweet at them what they would do from their bucket list before the world ends, and is giving away $100 to participants to accomplish the task.

Over 7 days of steadily climbing activity on this hashtag, Jello has reached 572,363 accounts, generating 718, 420 impressions. It’s a great hook for the brand right before the holidays, when many potential customers will be planning out their holiday menus, and might now be inspired to add a good old-fashioned Jello mold to the mix.

Another end-of-the-world campaign with a lot of chatter on Twitter is OkCupid’s email asking users of the dating site if they want to “die alone” and prompting them to log in to find a date for the apocalypse:

OkC users met this email with a mix of indignation and humor on Twitter- some called it dark while others made cat jokes- with tweets reaching 168,004 accounts, for a total of 188,890 impressions. Considering the email went out Wednesday evening and this report was run Thursday morning, that’s a lot of quick exposure for the brand, without even employing the use of a dedicated hashtag to prompt discussion.

One tweet from user @josephbirdsong garnered the most exposure, retweets and mentions:


One clever, themed email to users resulted in 26% of the impressions of Jello’s week-long campaign, thanks mostly to one tweet about it from a single user. Identifying social influencers like that is a big key for brands, especially when an email campaign is kept separate from social media; in fact OkC doesn’t seem to use Twitter very much, tweeting only a few times a month. With the social response from this one campaign, they might want to pay more attention to what is being said about them and join in the conversation.

Unless we all turn to ash tomorrow, that is.

Written by Sarah

December 20th, 2012 at 10:49 am

Your in America: Overnight Twitter sensation teaches grammar and Twitter reach

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The latest Twitter account to enchant us all, seemingly overnight, is bringing delight to grammar enthusiasts everywhere: “Your In America Bot” (@YourInAmerica) swoops in on unsuspecting offenders of the English language, who are, entertainingly, mostly trying to shame others for not speaking English.

Created on November 23rd, @YourinAmerica counted just under 15k followers only five days later, with an output of fewer than 100 tweets.

How is that possible? Let’s look at the reach of the single tweet above.

Not bad. But let’s understand how almost 250,000 accounts were reached, when this account has only a fraction of that number of followers, even at the rate it has grown.

Here’s the activity breakdown for the tweet:

So actually 241 separate Twitter accounts contributed to the exposure of this one tweet, mostly by picking it up and retweeting it: 219 retweets, 12 replies, and 18 other tweets were made. On the day this tweet was published, the account had about 8,000 followers, meaning just about 3% of the follower base was able to lead to this much exposure on a single tweet.

And here’s where it really gets interesting: looking at who is doing the retweeting. @SarahSpain, ESPN1000 host, has a lot more followers than @YourinAmerica and her retweet of the original tweet is actually what generated the most exposure.

In this way, TweetReach helps you figure out who the major influencer is in the reach of this particular tweet, in way that would be much more difficult and time-consuming to figure out manually.

This gives you an idea of whom to cultivate relationships with on Twitter. If you see that one account with a lot of influence (be that a large audience or simply highly engaged followers) consistently interacts with you and/or retweets your content, you know they like what you have to say and are helping you grow your own audience.

For example, the second most retweeted tweet only had 7 retweets – compared to the original, unaltered tweet’s 207- but this is still important to note because it indicates that @alysonfooter has an engaged audience of her own. (Note that these numbers reflect the two messages that were retweeted the most– the original and one with the original message plus commentary. More retweets were also made with different commentary added to the original, which altogether add up to the total number of retweets made: 219.)

Perhaps the most interesting takeaway from @YourInAmerica, however, will be if anyone really does learn a grammar lesson. So far most of the victims seem to have deleted the offending tweet in question after falling victim to @YourInAmerica.

Written by Sarah

November 28th, 2012 at 3:28 pm

#NBCFail? More like #NBCWin! Final thoughts on NBC’s 2012 Olympic coverage

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According to Nielsen, 219.4 million viewers tuned into watch the Olympics on NBC this year. That’s roughly 70% of the US population. If you’re reading this, you were probably one of those 219 million people.

In the more than 50 million tweets posted about the Olympics from July 27 through August 12, some 92,226 tweets included the #NBCFail hashtag. These were posted by 53K different Twitter accounts, and included lots (and lots) of complaints and jokes about NBC’s tape delay, as well as some helpful workarounds for those who wanted to watch live. The first tweet we found that used the #NBCFail hashtag was this tweet from @marcslove posted on July 25, 2012 at 2:29 p.m. PDT (and not the tweet posted a day later from @stevenmarx as reported by certain other sources).

A few other good examples of the #NBCFail tweets are these from @JeremyCMorgan and @tmvogel.

On Twitter at least, people seemed to hate the tape delay, railing against it with their #NBCFail tweets. But the funny thing is, they still watched Olympic coverage on NBC. Did they ever.

A few days into the games, we were convinced that the tape delay was damaging fan participation and goodwill in the games, and NBC’s ratings would be down because of it. But it really didn’t seem to matter – NBC’s ratings were up and higher than ever. Maybe it’s because fans had no choice, and they really had to depend on NBC’s delayed coverage to see the events that mattered to them; live coverage was scarce and difficult to find. Or maybe it’s that noisy voices on Twitter simply don’t reflect larger public opinion. But, what it comes down to is the tape delay actually seems to have made more people watch…

Alan Wurtzel, President of Research and Media Development at NBCUniversal was surprised by the network’s performance, and discussed a few reasons why so many people tuned into NBC’s Olympic coverage. Specifically, he said that people who knew the results of an event “were actually more likely to watch the primetime broadcast”. If this is true, this helps explain why, in spite of a very vocal dislike of the tape delay and rampant spoilers, people still watched more Olympics than ever. If you read tweets and articles about how exciting a particular race or game was, maybe you are more likely to tune in to watch that game when it airs later. Twitter functioned like one giant commercial for NBC’s Olympic coverage.

NBC also credits some of their success to a huge increase in their digital strategy around these Olympics, including an emphasis on mobile and social media. Twitter, for example, definitely helped spread the word. More than 50 million tweets were posted by 11 million different people. Because of this, younger viewers watched more Olympics this year than ever before. NBC says both kids and teens showed double digit gains in viewers this year, which likely contributed heavily to the strong ratings. We know teens are active in social media.

So, was the tape delay really an #NBCFail? Technically, we’ll never really know, because we don’t know how NBC would have done had they aired everything live. But it certainly doesn’t look like a fail from here.

Written by Jenn D

August 14th, 2012 at 3:44 pm

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