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Plurk 1 Month In – Small Can be Good

plurk.jpgI’ve just celebrated a month of playing with Plurk (join here if you’re not already a Plurker) over this last weekend so I thought it might be a good opportunity to spend a little time analyzing my experience with this new(ish) social messaging tool.

Summary of My Experience

Let me cut to the chase – While Plurk is smaller… for me it has been more effective at driving traffic to my blogs, the numbers and quality of interactions has been high, there is real opportunity to build profile and it’s becoming quite feature rich. Read on to learn more.

The decrease in performance and lack of new features at Twitter has caused many of it’s users to explore different social messaging tools like FriendFeed a smaller group have run to Plurk. The weight of numbers using the service is considerably smaller from what I can see – but it’s an enthusiastic community and I’ve been enjoying engaging with them a great deal.

Traffic

I am always asked about how much traffic these sorts of sites send to my blogs so lets start with this one. Over the last 30 days here is how many unique visitors Twitter and Plurk have sent to ProBlogger.

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I should make a few of observations to give these stats a little more power.

1. The Twitter figure will be actually higher than this as it only measures people arriving from twitter.com and not any of the many Twitter clients that are out there.

2. On Twitter I have over 7600 people following me – on Plurk I have 865 ‘friends’ (meaning we mutually follow each other) and 579 ‘fans’ (meaning they follow me). So in total Plurk has 1444 followers (less than a fifth of Twitter).

3. I’ve included ALOT less links to ProBlogger on Plurk than Twitter. Every single post I do automatically goes up on Twitter – probably about a tenth of these go up on Plurk.

So all in all I’d say that Plurk probably does better at driving traffic.

The community there seem to love the sharing of links. The cool thing is that when you share links discussions often pop up around your links also. For example – this plurk had almost as many comments on it as the post it linked to here on the blog!

Interaction/Conversation

Social Messaging sites area all about networking and conversation. So how does Plurk do on that front?

I’ve written previously (and given an actual example) of how Plurk differs from Twitter in it’s conversations (ie that Plurk tends to be more interactive between one persona and a group of people on Plurk as followers interact with each other as well as the Plurker). I still find this to be true.

On average I’d say that when i post a question Plurk AND Twitter that I get more responses on Plurk despite having less than a fifth the followers. This is because conversations on Plurk tend to stay alive longer as they are put on your followers timelines not only when you write them but when people respond to them (a feature called ‘new responses’). This means people tend to reply or comment not only once on your initial plurk but later on as others comment.

I have to say that having each plurk and it’s responses contained into the one thread of conversation is gold when it comes to referring back to previous conversations.

Size and Key Influencers

I have heard a few people critique Plurk for not having ‘key influencers’ and for being ‘too Small’. Twitter and FriendFeed have their Scoble’s while on Plurk Robert Scoble has a lot of fans and friends but has only plurked twice since June 10.

While it’s true that there might be a few less ‘cool Web 2.0 kids’ on Plurk there are still some amazing people. I actually find that the quality of conversation, wisdom and expertise on Plurk is as high as it is on any other social media site. People are people and while there are fewer numbers I actually enjoy the intimacy of Plurk – something that perhaps would not be achieved if all the cool kids brought a huge influx of numbers over.

That’s not to say that some bigger personalities wouldn’t be welcomed on Plurk – but just because they are not active doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile.

Update – The lack of ‘key influencers’ and smallness on Plurk also leaves more room for others to fill their shoes. I’ve seen a number of Plurkers really take on leadership in that community over the last few weeks. The Pond might not be quite as big but they’ve made a name for themselves and are leveraging that profile really well. I suspect that on Twitter they may have become a little lost.

Features

I’m enjoying the development of Plurk in terms of features being rolled out. With Twitter the emphasis seems to be on keeping it running rather than breaking new ground. There is some great development happening around Twitter by developers (I’ve recently loved playing with TweetDeck for instance) but Twitter itself has had few new features added to it. Plurk on the other hand has had new features being added every week (if not every day or two). It’s not perfect and still has bugs from time to time (and I wish it’d release an API to let developers build tools for it) but there’s an energy and feeling of excitement about it that I really enjoy.

Conclusion

Plurk has not replaced Twitter for me and I don’t foresee that it ever will. However for me it’s been a rich source of ideas, community, connections and conversation. I’m finding new ways of using each social media tool that I interact on every day and see real potential in my continued use of Plurk. Yes it’s smaller than some other social messaging options – but size doesn’t always matter….

How to Monitor the Quality of StumbleUpon Advertising Campaigns

In a guest post Neil Matthews of ClickQualityConsultant.com writes about how we can monitor the quality of paid visits from a StumbleUpon advertising campaigns.

Darren advocates using paid advertising from StumbleUpon in his post Run a StumbleUpon Advertising campaign for your blog, as a way to build your blog’s audience. In this post I would like to expand on this and talk about how to monitor the click quality of your paid Stumbles to see if this type advertising is the correct fit for your blog.

What do I mean by click quality? I mean that the clicks are bringing a return on the advertising investment you make. This will vary from blog to blog. You may be after an increase in subscribers, for people to click more often on ASsense ads or that they contact you for consulting services. If you are spending money on StumbleUpon clicks you need to know how the campaign is performing and if this type of advertising works for your blog.

Firstly a quick recap on StumbleUpon (SU). I like to think of SU as TV channel surfing for the net. The Stumbler installs a toolbar into their browser, sets the type of site they are interested in and begins to stumble. SU selects a site at random from their database which matches your likes and sends it to your browser for your surfing pleasure. If the site is of interest you, you may engage and begin reading more deeply, you can then grant a thumbs up or down to the site to show if you approve of the content of not. The other option is just to skip past the site surfing for a new channel.

Running a paid SU advertising campaign, you pay 5 cents per display to have your site presented to the Stumblers in the demographic group you select. Your daily cost is set by the number of displays you want per day. For example 500 displays per day will cost 25 USD.

Stumblers are notoriously fickle, and if you are paying for clicks, it is important to check if the campaign is producing quality clicks, or are people just clicking away from your site. SU has its own quality check, it shows how many people have given you the thumbs up or down, this is reliant on the visitor, we need more quantifiable analytics to see if this form of advertising is bringing you any return on your investment.

The first thing to do is to highlight which referrals from SU are paid and which are organic. To do this, I amend the landing page of my campaign by adding a parameter to the end of the landing page URL for example:

http://www.clickqualityconsultant.com/?source=su

Note that I use su rather than stumbleupon. Using the term stubleupon in paid ads is against their editorial policy and your ad will be rejected.

Next I analyse that traffic with an analytics package. For the purpose of this post I am using Google Analytics, it is free and very simple to use. Installing GA is relatively simple. To collect metrics you will need to create an account and then install a piece of JavaScript code onto every page you want to monitor. I have the code installed into the footer of my wordpress theme so that every page is monitored. Please refer to the Analytics site for details on installation.

Once my SU ad is running and I have collected a decent enough number of clicks for statistical analysis (a couple of hundred should suffice) I move onto the process of identifying the quality of those clicks.

From the analytics package I can get an overview of the landing pages on my site, as we can see from the screen dump I received 179 clicks from StumbleUpon

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Drilling down into this metrics I am presented with the behaviour of the visitors from the stumble upon source

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This give me good and bad news, only 12.35% of the visitors are bouncing away from my site immediately, there is a certain level of stickiness about the page and people on average are spending 41 seconds on my landing page. I am getting the engagement I was looking for, the disappointing side of this campaign is that nearly 90% of the visitors are reading one page and then leaving, there is no depth to their visit. That is the area I would focus on improving.

I think my problem is that I am sending Stumblers to my home page rather than to a specific landing post which can draw readers in more deeply.

Do I think I was getting good quality clicks from SU? Not really, the action I want is for visitors to move from the content into my consulting page. I would probably be better served sending traffic directly to that page rather than the home page.

Using this information I could the split test another landing page with a different source parameter and see how the two stack up against one another.

How do you decide if SU works for you? I would say the following metrics need to be analysed for your campaign:

  • Bounce rate – are visitors staying or moving on straight away. A sub 50% bounce rate is good
  • Length of visit – How long are people engaging on your sit, if it is only a second or two, less than the time it takes to read you posts, this is a bad sign?
  • Depth of visit – Are people reading more than one posts, have you caught the readers attention?
  • Goals – Google analytics has the option which allows you to set goals, in this example the goal was to move from the landing page to my consulting page. My research suggests that a 1% conversion rate of visits to goals is the minimum you should look for.

I have used this method across a number of different platforms including Facebook social ads, and when I buy advertising banner space. Monitoring and testing the quality of your paid advertising is the key to a good return on investment. If you don’t get the quality you need from that advertising source, drop the campaign and spend your money on quality clicks. If SU is poor consider Adwords, Yahoo, Facebook, MySpace or one of the many other paid internet marketing programmes.

Can I add a caveat to close this post? You may be tempted to use this method to reconcile the number of clicks paid for to the number of clicks received, but I would say that Google Analytics data can be wrong due to people running their browser with JavaScript disabled. If the code on you page is not activated, then no visit data will be captured. Click fraud investigations require log file analysis tools to ensure the validity of your claims.

Test your quality, make incremental changes and test again. This is the way to get the best bang for your buck.

Social Media – Should You Use it Or Focus Upon Building Your Own Properties?

Steve Rubel has a thought provoking post today asking the question – should you rent or buy social real estate?

In it he explores the idea of using a service like Twitter (where you ‘rent’ and build up a community on someone else’s property) versus having your own blog on your own domain (buying).

My immediate reaction to the post was that it’s not about renting OR buying but for me has always been about renting AND buying (something I think that Steve really is arguing for also as he embraces both philosophies).

I hear bloggers who argue strongly for only building your own web properties (building a blog on their own domain on their own hosting on a platform that they have complete control over) and while I completely agree with their reasons for taking that approach (ultimately you have complete control and flexibility) I have found a lot of life in building a presence in other ‘rented’ online spaces also.

Twitter would be the primary example of this (and more recently Plurk). While I understand I have less control and flexibility with both of those social messaging services they have been invaluable for me and have helped me achieve things that I’d never have been able to do by solely focussing upon my own online properties.

I’ve talked about some of the benefits of Twitter for Bloggers and some of the features that I like about Plurk so won’t rehash them all here (many of the same benefits apply to FriendFeed also) – but wanted to make a few extra points.

3 Tips for Renting Social Media Properties

I think the main tip that I’d give with exploring any sort of ‘rental’ approach to social media is to enter into it with clear goals, realistic expectations and balance.

1. Goals

I explored the common criticism of Twitter in my post Twitter is a Complete Waste of Time! and shared how unless you work out WHY you’re using it you will often be wasting your time. For me I’ve played with many types of social media and in every situation had little idea what I was doing in the early days. However my goal is always to quickly work out what it’s strengths are and to find ways of using them to achieve my overall goals as a business person.

I guess what I’m saying is that you don’t need to have strict and formal goals written out next to your computer – but don’t just aimlessly wander around social media sites with no purpose. Take the time to identify what you want to achieve and work towards that.

2. Realistic Expectations

It is well worth keeping in mind that there is no perfect medium or platform and that each one has it’s weaknesses. When your expectations are too high for anything that you invest time into you could be setting yourself up for a fall.

Recently I spoke with a blogger who six months ago had quit blogging to put all of his efforts into Twitter. He made a big bet that it would be the next big thing and that he was going to position himself for that. Over the last month or two of Twitters growing problems with their architecture this blogger has come to regret that decision. It’s not that Twitter is bad or finished – it’s just that his expectations of that service were too high.

3. Balance

The retrospective advice of the above mentioned Blogger Twitterer was to not give up on one medium to focus upon another until you’re absolutely sure that the new one will work. He wishes he’d worked hard to build his Twitter presence AND his blog and had used each one to grow the other. I think a lot of bloggers could learn from this – I see many bloggers running from one thing to the next to be a part of the latest big thing. The result is that they really don’t build a presence of substance in any place.

Sure explore different social spaces – but don’t put your eggs all in one basket AND don’t spread yourself too thin (no one said that ‘balance’ is easy).

My approach to using ‘Rental Properties’ to Build My Own

Let me say up front that my approach is not the only one that works – but here’s the way I am using Twitter, Plurk, Facebook and other social spaces:

Steve makes a good point in his post – “Twitter has community built right in.”

The thing with successful social media sites is that they are where people are gathering – in numbers. The numbers are way beyond what most bloggers could hope to interact with on their own blogs.

I’ve written about my philosophy of finding readers for your blog many times. The first three steps in that process are:

  1. Define Your Target Reader
  2. Identify Where and How they Gather
  3. Join their Established Gathering Points

When I do step 1 and 2 on this process when thinking about my blogs I come up with a target audience who are gathering in social media sites like Twitter and Plurk. This leads me to step 3 – joining and participating in those space.

Now this is relevant for my blog but not everyone’s. You see not everyone has a target audience who use social media. However the same principles can apply….

For example – I was chatting with a craft blogger recently who was struggling with growing her readership. I asked her to go through the above three steps and she defined a group of readers who were gathering in craft forums. When I suggested she should go participate in them she asked whether it was a good use of her time to participate in other people’s online properties instead of building her own (sound familiar?). I suggested that she do both – participate where your potential readers are already gathering but also work hard to build your own properties.

Concluding Thoughts

My take home advice is that there’s nothing wrong with rental properties and there’s nothing wrong with buying them. In my own personal experience with actual real estate I’ve done both at different times in my life. In fact I always treated renting as a good stepping stone to getting into the market myself. We found properties that were affordable enough that we could save a deposit for our own place.

Perhaps there’s something in that for us all – participate in the social space and other people’s web properties in a way that gives you a leg up to build your own.

Using Facebook Pages to Promote Your Blog

Today Mike Henry explores Facebook pages (as opposed to profiles) and how they can be use to promote their blog, business, product or profile.

Darren wrote a post recently on 12 tips for building relationships with other bloggers. They are all great tips that could be expanded into individual posts or even an entire blog, particularly in the area of social networks.

Using social networks can be a fantastic source of traffic and generating a community around your site. There is a minefield of information on marketing on social networks, so I would just like to write about one technique that has worked for me with Facebook.

Many people have profiles on Facebook and people are quick to put their URL in their profile. This is great for your friends to see what you are doing, but is difficult to expand beyond your networkd of friends. Most people using Facebook try to keep their “friends” to people they have actually met or have some kind of relationship with.

The answer to this is Facebook pages. Facebook pages were created for authors, businesses, politicians and celebrities to build a community around whatever they are promoting. Unlike Myspace, individual profiles can only have a limited number of “friends” in Facebook and there is no way to send email to all of your friends at one time.

Once you have created a page on Facebook, people can then become your “fan” or “supporter”. You don’t have to accept people as a fan and they can’t see your individual profile. On a page you can then easily add relevant pictures and video. You can have a discussion board and add any of the thousands of applications to your page.

One of most powerful features of Facebook pages for marketers is that you can send email updates to all of your fans. For people who limit their friends to just the people they actually know in Facebook, you can expect that the messages they receive in Facebook have a higher chance of being read than emails sent to their regular address. Also there is no chance of messages going to a “junk mail” inbox, your messages are assured of 100 per cent deliverability.

facebook-pages-barack.jpg

Barack Obama has one of the most popular pages on Facebook, with over 800,000 fans. Could there be a better or cost effective way for him to reach his voters?

Facebook has cracked down on people putting up pages to businesses, brands and people that they have no claim to and you may have to provide proof that you are the owner of the business or product that you are promoting.

Facebook pages require little maintenance and if you have good keywords in the title of the page you create, people will find your page naturally. You can promote your page through Facebook’s PPC advertising, but personally I haven’t found it necessary to get decent traffic to my page. Facebook also provides interesting analytics to your pages and you can even see gender and age breakdown of your fans.

As it becomes more difficult to compete in search listings and delivering your messages through email, creating a Facebook page is an easy and effective way to connect to your community

How To Promote Other People’s Content and Drive Traffic to Your Own Blog

Much has been written on the topic of how to utilize social bookmarking and networking sites to promote your own blog posts. Submitting your posts to sites like Digg, StumbleUpon and Reddit – posting about your posts on Twitter and Plurk….

All of these techniques can work to drive significant traffic to your blog – however there’s another tactic that can be quite powerful that I’ve not seen many people write about. It’s similar to the idea of submitting your posts to social media sites:

  • It still involves social media sites
  • It still can result in significant traffic being driven to your blog

However there’s one main difference. It involves submitting other people’s posts to social media sites.

Let me give you a live example of how promoting another blogger’s post drove significant traffic to my blog:

Yesterday I noticed a little traffic coming to my post on my switch to Gmail and using it drastically reduced my email workload. The traffic was coming from another blog who had picked up and extended my ideas. The post was good and the blogger had generously linked back to my own post quite prominently in the opening paragraph.

Many bloggers would see a post like this linking to them and feel happy about it – but leave it at that. But what I decided to do was to promote it heavily via my own social media networks. I immediately dugg it (it had already had a few diggs), voted for it in StumbleUpon (again it had already been submitted) – but then decided to ‘sneeze’ the link out to my networks.

I Twittered and Plurked it and also shot the email to a few other key bloggers who I thought would find the post helpful (one linked up on their blog and another couple Twittered it too).

An hour later the post was on the front page of Digg and had quite a few extra Stumbles. The result was quite a bit of traffic coming over to my post from the link in the first paragraph. By no means was it as much traffic as the post itself would be getting but it was still significant.

I didn’t ask anyone else to vote for it on Digg – but knew that by promoting it it would naturally get Dugg as the post has a Digg button prominently on it. I also don’t think that it was my efforts alone that got the post popular on Digg – the article was good quality and deserved some attention – I just gave it a little help.

The Benefits

This practice is one that has multiple benefits.

  • Obviously the first one is that you drive some traffic to your own blog indirectly.
  • You also build some good will with the blogger that you’re promoting. Helping someone achieve a front page article on Digg is something people generally get excited about.
  • SEO – there are some secondary and longer terms SEO benefits from being linked to by another blog that gets on the front page of Digg. A post getting to the front page of Digg gets a lot of other blogs linking up to it in addition to the link from Digg. This means that that post gets some good ‘Google Juice’. This of course flows onto your own post. Even if it doesn’t go ‘popular’ even your extra links on Twitter and Plurk can give the page a little ‘juice’ that can have flow on effects.

A Few Words of Advice and Warning

  • I should say that I don’t do this for every post that links to me. I only select the best posts and ones that I think add value to those in my network. I don’t purely do this in the hope of getting traffic – I do it with the goal of linking to good content for my network and building relationships with other bloggers.
  • Don’t just share links to your own posts or posts that link to you via Twitter or Plurk. Regularly share posts that add value to your network from lots of sites. Otherwise you’ll get a reputation as being too self centered and spammy. Your followers and friends will begin to see you as a valuable resource if you provide them with genuine value over time.

Ways to Promote Other People’s Content

There are a variety of things that you can do to promote other people’s posts in this way:

  • Submit them to Social Bookmarking Sites
  • Share the links on Twitter/Plurk/Pownce
  • Share the links on Facebook/Myspace etc
  • Promote the post to other relevant bloggers
  • Blog about their Posts
  • Share the link on Google Reader

Feel free to share some of your own ideas on how you’d go about promoting other people’s content.

The Main Difference Between Twitter and Plurk (to me)

Over the last week I’ve been experimenting with a social messaging/micro blogging service called Plurk. Over the last week I’ve seen many comparisons between it and Twitter – but wanted to show one of the main differences that I’ve observed:

To illustrate let me show you a ‘tweet’ and a ‘plurk’ message that I posted an hour ago:

I shot this question out to my ‘followers/friends’ on both services – “What is the #1 reason that you blog?”

The response was instantaneous on both services. I got great replies on both. There were many more Twitter answers than Plurk ones – but that is because I have around 10 times as many ‘friends’ on Twitter as I do on Plurk.

However there is one main difference….

The responses that emerged on Twitter were a whole lot of individuals responding to me in isolation. Your followers on Twitter don’t know what other people have answered.

On Twitter I saw this page a few minutes after I asked the question:

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There’s some great responses there – (and there were another 60 or so) but the problem is I was the only person who saw them ALL.

On Plurk the responses are all grouped together – not only for you to see but for your followers to see also.

Here’s the beginning of the responses on Plurk a few minutes after I plurked:

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If you scrolled down further you see that I added a followup question – something that people responded to in the thread:

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You can actually view the full Plurk conversation on this page.

This style of conversation means that everyone benefits from the whole conversation – not just me. It means that it’s not unusual for conversations to emerge between your friends as well as between you and your individual friends.

The other thing that I like about Plurk is that conversations are contained and don’t get as mixed up as they do on Twitter.

10 minutes after asking the question on Twitter my ‘replies’ page contained all kinds of messages. Some were still responding to the first question I asked, some to the followup, others were responding to earlier tweets, some had moved on to new topics with me….

Which is Best?

This is the question I’m being asked more and more. Is Plurk ‘better’ than Twitter? My answer is generally that I think both are great. You see there are times where the more communal, multidirectional conversation that Plurk offers is brilliant – but there are other times where you don’t necessarily need it and where the more one on one conversation is more effective.

I also get the feeling that while there is a definite overlap between Twitter and Plurk in terms of who is using them – that there’s a different kind of person using each one. Plurk seems to have emerged out of a younger crowd than Twitter – perhaps this is more useful in some circumstances also.

Top 10 Plurk Users Statistics – What’s the Karma Algorithm

As a quick followup to my last post on my experimentation with Plurk I thought I’d do a quick analysis of the top 10 Plurk Users (as currently rated on the Interesting page). They are rated there on a basis of their ‘Karma’. There’s no explicit definition of the way that they calculate Karma except:

“Your karma score is directly influenced by you and your friends Plurk activity. The more active you are, the more points you’ll get. Using various features of Plurk such as instant messaging or uploading a profile image will also help. Invite your real friends to boost your karma!”

So lets look at some of the average statistics of the top Plurkers and see what seems to count towards a high Karma:

  • # of Plurks – 838
  • # of Plur Responses – 3477
  • # of Friend Invites – 10.2
  • # of Profile Views – 689
  • # of Friends – 82
  • # of Fans – 56
  • Length of time on Plurk – 3 months
  • Also worth noting – all of the top 10 had logged in and been active within the last 24 hours. They are all active in the short term as the long term

I was a little surprised by a couple of the numbers. The description of Karma seems to indicate that inviting friends would count for a fair bit – but the average of the top 10 is 10. The most any of them had invited successfully was 20. Having said that – the 9th ranked Plurker was well under average with # of plurks, responses, profile views, fans and length of time but had the most friend invites so perhaps they do count for something.

Add a ProBlogger Tab to Your FriendFeed

If you are a FriendFeed user AND you like ProBlogger – you might want to check out a greasemonkey script for Firefox users that Duncan created that puts a ProBlogger tab to the top right hand corner of your FriendFeed page.

It means you can view ProBlogger from within FriendFeed – like this (click to enlarge):

Picture 18

He’s also made some others for other blogs and also Gmail and Google Reader (among others) which means you can use FriendFeed as a start page for lots of sites. Grab the ProBlogger Script here.

Playing with Plurk

PlurkJust a very quick post to let readers know that I’m playing with Plurk (another micro blogging/life streaming tool that is a little like Twitter).

At first I only intended to grab my names (problogger and darrenrowse) and use them as placeholders but I’m now starting to find it a really interesting medium. It takes the Twitter experience to the next level with threaded comments, cliques/groups (yet to explore these) and all kinds of other features.

It’s a little quirky and it takes a while to get used to the way updates are displayed (it’s all on a sideways scrolling timeline) but it’s definitely got some potential. Anyway – if you have time in your life for another social media site – check out Plurk. At the least it could be worth reserving your name/s in case it does get popular and you want to use it at some point in the future.

PS – if you’re a ‘Plurker’ tell us what you think about it in comments below. What do you like about it, what don’t you like about it and how would you describe it?