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Social Media Higher Learning; Part II

Written by David Harry   
Tuesday, 13 April 2010 13:03

Papers, Patents and Lectures

In the first instalment we went through a bunch of social media / networking patents from the Big 3 (Google, Microsoft and Yahoo). Ok, the big 3 of search at least. There are certainly other big players in the space, we’ll get to that. This time out we’re going to look at some research papers, patents and even some videos relating to the world of social.

Once more, for the record, these are here to get people thinking beyond the everyday. I am not a social guru, just a search geek that is around patents and papers a lot. If you know of some other good resources, feel free to leave a note in the comments


Read more... [Social Media Higher Learning; Part II]

Twitter and the Agents of influence

Written by Terry Van Horne   
Wednesday, 07 October 2009 14:10

(by Terry VanHorne)

Relationship marketing and Social Media Success

First off let me say that I have been around the web for a long time and can tell you that whenever something new comes along we get stories like; Loosing to the social web visualized. Sorry, but with that story, I felt more then just a little smoke being blown up a hole I'd rather not experience.

Yes Social Media is taking off but to use the sites they did in that post and not mention that the greatest recession since the great depression didn't play a role in the dramatic traffic decreases is to see a world no bigger than your Social Media cubicle. A few of the sites listed like the newspapers are likely very affected.

Don't screw up the data

I doubt people are choosing to buy from the Dell Facebook page instead of the Dell website. To the author... I strongly urge you to pull your head out of your a$$, take a look around the world beyond yourFacebook page and see the financial turmoil that may be just as responsible and quite likely more responsible for the down trend on those graphs. Also will you take it back in December when those store graphs are reversed?

Social Media people you haven't discovered one new technique that hasn't been around Internet Marketing for years! Twitter is just improved IRC if you really think about it.


The net, and many of the services like search and stores that these Social Media twits say Social Networks will replace is unfathomable. Sounds like the guys back in the day saying in 4 years we'll all be surfing the net on our phone... 9 years later and it's still a hope of AT&T and Apple and not really that much closer in NA. Believe it or not there are people who bought smart phones for reasons other than to keep their Facebook page updated.




The data

Thanks to Dave for providing the onsite data and help in monitoring the traffic from the first post. I think Dave was just reassuring me because I was very hesitant to post; How I became a Social Convert. The subsequent article Measuring Social Media Success discussed some of the problems with; Measuring Social Media Success.


Searching Twitter for "social media convert" without quotes revealed the following using unique URI's as "source": 152 Total Results

  1. Top 3 Individuals accounted for 82 results
  2. Top 4 Individuals accounted for 90 results
  3. 62 Individuals accounted for the remainder of results.


Those numbers and a little research into some evolving ad platforms started me on the path to realizing that analyzing my Tweet activity and in particular the "influence" of the Agent over followers would be important.



Assumption and Principles of Response Marketing:


Some will wonder why I used the URI to identify sources. Simply there were very few @ or RT in the Tweets. The URI was by far the best identifier for source of the "influence". To determine the source for a metric is tough in an environment where user input plays such a large role in the data being used for measurement of the activity.

IMO, that may be why the RT is being re-invented by the development team. This may well be a piece of the monetization puzzle. The recent capital injection was likely not provided without some indication of how Twitter w/could be monetized.


Only 23 of the tweets, (15%) reviewed included the author in a RT, @ or Via. This is not a good indicator for me as the author. That said, when I checked my shortener I found 44 clicks. By far one "influencer" received the majority of @reply included in the Tweet and there was no use of Via or other indicator of other sources.

Worth noting is that the "influencer" with the highest reuse of the URI, did not receive a single '@' or 'Via' citation (i.e. without using the URI as source the person with the most followers would have been missed entirely were only @ and Via used as means to determining sources in a study).



Determining sources of influence in relationship marketing


The importance of determining the sources of influence in relationship marketing is high as you attempt to leverage your relationship with the influencers. The more influence the person has the more leverage you get in the community from the relationship.


Of the four with the most signature URIs the Followers and Followed were:

  1. 6220 Following ~ 5470 Followers - 38 RTs ~2 accounts
  2. 2660 Following ~ 3508 Followers - 22 RTs ~2 accounts
  3. 7,233 Following ~ 7,343 Followers - 22 RTs
  4. 123 Following ~ 135 Followers - 8 RTs


There are also archives and social bookmarking sites like Tweetmeme, Delicious etc that could account for the lag/evenup. This indicates that click analysis **could be** useful in determining influence especially if the RT level is high over a short time period after the influencer tweets. This would indicate the degree of influence on the Follower by the Agent of Influence. Otherwise there would be equal pageviews and RTs of the content.

An interesting phenomena that Dave, (@TheGypsy), and I noticed watching the page analytics is that the the RTs were in excess of actual pageviews, however, by the end of the day the numbers had pretty much "evened out" as a RT/pageview ratio. Which indicates that in this case the RT is given without actually reviewing the content.


This would indicate that the followers of the three individuals largely responsible for the bulk of the retweets, first RT'ed the content and then later read it or the buzz resulted in curious clicks and the article was never read by those who RTed. Either way, and interesting phenomenon.


Social Media influencers



The Power of Influencers


Another indication of influence is that the URI in the message, if it is RTed or highly influenced by the Followed Broadcaster the URI, was left intact and was in fact the way I tracked the RT's to specific user because often they were also not included in the retweet. In fact looking at the timeline you see the roughly 50% single URI were all mostly later in the day with the highest levels of activity almost directly after the three major "Agents of Influence" posted their tweets.

One of the Agents was Dave and I'm humbled the Dojo supported the article the way they did. The principle Agent was known and assumed to be either following Dave on Twitter or subscribed to his blog.

One metric I see discussed occasionally is the value of the RT to the authors/original tweeter. Sorry, but an astounding number of RT'ed messages removed any indication of source and author of the content. As I am a ... cough cough... author/writer wannabe this was a big downer.


Personally, I only remove authors/sources as a last resort and often will not add further comment to the RT in order to do so. Rremoving author/source is a little like taking ownership and for a "social media" topic that seems more than a little "unsocial" or... a sad reflection of the new internet mentality i.e. netiquette is dead... they took it out behind the barn and it never came back.

I came across that as I reviewed the mentions in the twitter search. One thing I have noticed is that the old methods of rolling up my sleeves and reviewing raw data provided significantly more "useable/actionable data" than the the Social Measurement tools. Currently Topsy is a favorite for measuring the overall buzz of old metrics such as clicks and the new click the Retweet.



Influence Measurement Tools


Our fav SOSG, CJ, (@missmcj ) recently Tweeted a great resource, and while reading that I found this fantastic discussion of an algorithm to measure influence or as I refer to them Influence Metrics (see TunkRank influence measurement in action). Watching the research on the human side of the "social phenomena" will be interesting. I don't believe it is just the volume of followers and your message is missed due to large numbers of tweets to review.

The human element or influence in a tweet is harder to measure. However, if you assume a few things about human nature like trust in the value of the information being shared, the degree of edits to original "elements of twitter" of tweet RT, @, via and URI. You could also assume by the time lapsed between broadcast and RT to be a measure of influence as people with a higher degree of influence over their followers will get a quicker response.

Another action of the follower that is possibly an indication of trust and or respect is the edit of the URI.


Twinfluence is calculated on the number of followers and doesn't really measure influence in any meaningful way. It is one way to measure influence but it is more about reach than influence. I want to measure and determine the "direct influence" of an Agent not reach. I'd prefer 1 follower who had a hundred followers and influenced 10 people to take an action over an Agent with 5000 who influenced 30.

Twinfluence misses the mark

As an example I have an account where I am developing a local stream with news, weather sports, local events etc. To that I've followed a number of the local tweeps looking for individuals with entertainment and information value.



The Flaw in Follower Counts


This has been an awesome experience as I have discovered an amazing community of internet developers, marketers and entertainer/bloggers. To say that until recently my experience locally has been abysmal, is an understatement. My experience has only been with dinosaurs and the uninformed.

I was recently honored by a #FollowFriday from a person with a very large following. The recommendation resulted in a small spike in new followers. However, when I first started using Twitter a tweet from Dave and Rob Watts resulted in many more new followers, at that time I had half as many followers myself.


I offer that information as indication that the number of followers possibly provides a flawed measurement of influence, assuming, influence is determined to be the ability to sway opinion and more trust-ability to influence actions by followers.



How do we Measure Influence?


Identifying "influence" is a part of my relationship marketing strategy. I assume that I'm going to bring visibility to that person, and in doing so leverage the activity so that the person with the most ability to influence is given the most attention (i.e. many years of marketing has taught me the ability to influence decisions is a skill that can be taught but is often just as much personal charisma as anything) Therefore teaching people how to influence can be a less effective method then just hiring people with character.You either have it or you don't.

The Influential's, for me, is the definitive paper on measuring Influence on Twitter. Followers are metrics of reach not a measurement of influence. Measurement of influence seems difficult if you are talking the whole Social Web, however, there are features of Twitter that are true indicators of Influence. The use of ReTweet, @reply and attribution in tweets provide metrics for a much better system to measure influence then the follower audience numbers etc. IMO, the reuse of URI is also a citation/attribution worth consideration.


My opinion on the methods for identifying sources is that using @ and Via citations as the only identifier is a flawed strategy due in part to the length of a tweet and the RT comment on the information being pointed to. This could be why the RT is being changed by the twitter team. Using the URI is also a show of respect for the source.



About the author; Terry is an old school SEO/IM geek that works out of International Website Builders and the founder of - You can also hook up with him on Twitter. It seems he's become a regular here on the Trail... so I wanted to, once more, give a great big THANKs to T for hanging out and sharing his experiences.


Be sure to check out the first part of this series; Measuring social media success


Measuring Social Media Success

Written by Terry Van Horne   
Wednesday, 30 September 2009 13:47

The Search For Social Media Metrics

(the following post is from Terry VanHorne)

One of my favorite jobs is doing traffic audits. After publishing ' How I became a Social Media Convert' and monitoring the early activity I was looking forward to doing a traffic audit because we always learn more about a target audience from the audit then from any other sources. The difference between conventional traffic audits and Social Media audits is the extra layer of sources.

You have Twitter as the web source, however, from a marketing standpoint the second source of "who took the action" using Twitter is more important than the traffic source in your analytics. In some cases a third source may be important. The device can have implications if it is a download or device specific promotion.

Measuring social influence

Much like when we started marketing using websites the realistic near term goals were identifying the means to which we could leverage the communication and infrastructure of a business using the technology. To some degree Social Media isn't much different and to a large degree is just a reflection of the improvements to the original web technologies and devices.

There is still a long ways to go on the sales side. After all in many ways Social networks are walled gardens running on proprietary platforms which stifles marketing innovation by limiting the players and degree of innovation possible.



Measuring emerging markets


When measuring an emerging market channel or internet activity it is important we understand what metrics matter and which don't. Finding suitable measurement metrics that recognize the full value is an important factor in monetizing websites and services. Social Media metrics are in their infancy as marketers differentiate the positive signals from the negative noise.


My bias is rooted in finding a means to monetize Twitter applications and services. My initial feeling is that old metrics of clicks, pageviews and sales/conversion will not measure full value in some cases and will inflate value in others. I have been reviewing advertising models for a twitter service International Website Builders is developing.

Finding the best metrics to measure Social Media activities is the topic for today. In part two we'll discuss the suitability of different metrics for advertising. Today we'll look at traffic audit data and access the marketing value of the data.


Social Media Noise or Measurement Metrics

I am surprised that so many of the blog posts and articles we read daily are about the measurement of value from a Social marketing activity.

This is a good indication of the anxiety/resolve the industry is feeling due to our ability to establish consensus on yardsticks for success and more importantly "obtainable goals" for Social Media activity.


Quantifying success in $'s, IMO, will be illusive for some time as Social activity is studied and consensus drawn.



Tracking Root Sources of Clicks


Using Twitter as the source of traffic is like an SEO only auditing traffic as far as Google. The most intriguing facet of Social Media is the human element. The source of all traffic from Twitter is attributable to humans not content. Shorteners  and URI edits make tracking a clicks true source a daunting task. Many people are changing the original shortened URI in RT's so they can monitor the outcome of their activity. This makes me skeptical of any metrics based solely on clicks.

The recent announcement by Twitter that RT would be changed and incorporated into the application is an indicator that Twitter has determined that this is a problem that will get worse as more people adopt personal shorteners outside of those in the Twitter eco-system. Two possible reasons for the move to incorporate RT are that this will cut down the chars needed to add the citation and take away for removing/editing URI's and citations. This is thought to be an abuse in many circles and these changes would curtail this to some degree.


IMO, there is a strong case for Twitter doing this in preparation for an ad platform. Presently all ads platforms on Twitter are 3rd party I do not see that as a best case scenario if I were investing 10's of millions in Twitter. In essence when you allow others to monetize the app you have put the revenue stream in an unstable environment and limited your ability to garner a fair share.




Pageviews and Site Metrics


Pageviews are useful metrics for the same reasons they are in SEO. This metric measures the number of requests for the page so could be used for measurement of content quality and interest when combined with other page metrics like bounce rate, time spent on page and from site metrics number of pages viewed (degree of engagement with the site). Time spent on the page will provide insights into quality and degree of engagement of the content i.e. they use an app etc.

All the page and site metrics combined will indicate a lot of different aspects of engagement. We can measure the suitability of content using site and page metrics which can be combined with RT to determine the users perceived quality of content. Usability is an important aspect of engagement because the easier a site is to use the more engaged a person can become because they are focused directly on the engagement not figuring out how to use the site.


Sales/conversions are easier to track but have the same problems as clicks where attributing "exact source" is concerned. Sales also have the added problem of engaging potential customers when they are at best browsers and seldom in buying mode. We believe any goals based on sales are misguided. We don't believe sales are a poor goal we see them as a way to distort value and to some degree setting unrealistic goals in the current environment.



Conclusions on Measuring Social Media Goals


The traditional web marketing metrics of clicks/traffic and ROI are IMO, noise in part due to the fragmentation of data across multiple "URI" shorteners. Whether the traditional web marketing metrics are applicable to Social is debatable. Traditional on page usage metrics will continue to be useful as indicators of usability, quality of content, ability to drive sales and to a lesser degree could be an indication of influence, however, that is a bit of a stretch that I will go into in part two.

I mentioned it in the first article I'll say it again... when Google admits it can't monetize MySpace and it's obvious YouTube will be a challenge; then it is obvious that the level of buying engagement on Social Networking sites is extremely low. To be totally clear "users of social networks aren't in buying mode" and that is why SE's are so effective. Buyers are actively in the buying process when searching.


Search and Social work together


Even if it is a person engaging friends and acquaintances about a purchase they are engaged to a lesser degree than if they were actively searching. Secondly even after knowing the exact product somewhere along the line the shopper will likely use search to find the best price or closest location the product is available. For this reason alone I think it laughable when people say Social Media will replace search engines.

Combining Social Media Marketing activity with your search and content strategy will make the transition from engagement to sale or customer contact that much easier by accommodating the customer/contact with content that aids in the buying decision and locating of products, prices and locations.


Search results visibility for comparison shopping or content discovery should be part of any Social strategy or you are running a risk of having a store with no door to enter it. Since much of the material in these Social Networks is nofollowed Search engine crawlers, in particular Google, may not find the content you intend so it is important that information be elsewhere as well so it can be promoted in a way that search engines will find it.


Be sure to check in next week for Part II of this journey....


About the author; Terry is an old school SEO geek that works out of International Website Builders and the founder of - You can also hook up with him on Twitter. As a guy that had to be dragged into believing the world of SMM had long term value, it is good to see others that also resisted... Maybe there's something to this social media after all? hee hee...



Related Articles from The Trail:


As is customary on the Trail we'll leave you with a few articles Dave passed on when he heard I was interested in different methods for determining influence and means to measure Social Media Activity.

Targeting Social Media Influencers Overview of measuring influence to extend reach in a social network.
Social Networks are Open for Profiling


Related Patents:



The goal of exercise is to identify influential persons within a social network.
Ranking Content Based On Social Network Connection Strengths



A trio of patents from Google to further mine social data for better Ad serving, content delivery, association suggestions and the like.
Open Profile Content Identification - Filed Mar 2007 : Published Oct 02 2008
Related Entity Content Identification - Filed Mar 2007 : Published Oct 02 2008
Custodian based content identification - Filed Mar 2007 : Published Oct 02 2008


Why Googles behavioural targeting should creep you out

Written by David Harry   
Monday, 28 September 2009 13:46


A blueprint for a truly social search engine

Not to be left out of the rise of social mayhem, the fine folks at the ‘plex are more active in the social spheres than many would suspect – at least not at first glance. In truth there is evidence of deep hooks and commitment that might even be going a bit too far… does the social stand for social engineering?

Last time out we looked at some of the potential and problems for Google and the quest for social signals. This time out it’s a glimpse at Google’s world of social networking, behavioral targeting and the data streams that they may be, or more likely already are, pursuing.

Now personalization and social search are great and there is certainly a future for them. What’s not so sure is how they are going to get there. While some of the technology makes me dazzle, there are underlying aspect that can make one nervous as well… As a search geek is a love/scare kinda dealy..

First let’s take a peek at some elements in play…..

Read more... [Why Googles behavioural targeting should creep you out]

Can Google be a social search engine?

Written by David Harry   
Monday, 14 September 2009 13:18

Another look at implicit feedback and beyond

Since we simply can’t get enough of the social web world and the trappings of ‘real-time social search engines – it seems that having another look at potential signals Google could be using (today or in the future) would be fun to do. This year alone we've seen increased activity with FriendConnect and Open social not to mention Google Reader even, which recently got more social... it's in the air if you take a deep, slow breath, you can almost taste it.

But how does a search engine become social? This isn't the media darling of the year, 'real time search', this is more about personalizations based on yours, and your networked friends activities. Let me show you what I mean....

Can Google be social?

It is always important to note is that major engines such as Google tend to be constantly evolving. As goes the technology, so does the evolution. This journey into the social sphere that we’re in, will likely be no different. There will be a process of hit and miss layers on top of the existing infrastructure.

Delivering quality results is always a process of understanding user intent, ranking relevant documents and dealing with the ever present spectre of spam. Think of it as the trinity of search…

Read more... [Can Google be a social search engine?]
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