The Death of Social Media?

October 8, 2010

Most morbid social media campaign yet? The gist: Take a photo of yourself DEAD and you could end up in next year’s horror movie Redd Inc. According to the company there have been a few ‘inadmissable photos’ so far.

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Above: User generated death.
http://www.reddincthemovie.com/Submissions/Art/Fake-your-own-death/Page2/Art225

 

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The website: http://www.reddincthemovie.com

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It’s making the news… Article about it in the Daily Tele.


The ghost of Michael Jackson visits Meme school.

July 7, 2009

Millions of people have been drawn to this footage which shows a shadowy figure walk across the hallway in Neverland during the filming of Larry King live. Full screen and speakers up to get the best out of this version which reveals a new audible piece of evidence:

Rest in peace MJ.


How to spot a Twitter user with a ‘Fake’ Follower Count.

March 22, 2009

‘They’ have thousands of followers, they adorn themselves with Bio’s which are occasionally obscure but often that of a self proclaimed Guru …and of course you’ve never heard of them before. Should you follow them? Seems reasonable to think that IF they have tons of people following them they MUST be legitimate, right? *cough*. I have been observing various Twitter users for the past three months who offer little value, but do know one thing above all other skills they possess …how to manipulate their follower count to get ahead in Twitter.

image
We’re following you because… ummm… everyone else is…!

Unfortunately Twitter has no system (yet) for other users to ‘rate’ profiles and in the absence of such a system, credibility is for the most part distinguished by ‘how many followers’ someone has. The people I’m referring to in this post are the Twitter users who have discovered how to artificially increase their follower count. Read on and I’ll show you one of the ways you can spot a ‘manipulator’ simply by looking at the historical growth of their account.

Please note: I’m not in the business of naming people I’ve observed. There are no rules on how to use Twitter so technically speaking these individuals aren’t doing anything wrong per se. I even follow quite a few of them simply to observe behavioural patterns.

He’s not who you think he is:
As an example, one of the most "popular" Twitter users in Australia also happens to be one of Australia’s most infamous convicted spammers. Clearly people aren’t aware of his past when they follow him (he obviously doesn’t advertise this fact on his profile). Ironically as he started his Twitter climb to the top in early December he bragged about how he would accumulate a mass following in Twitter with ease, which of course is not that hard when you see ‘how’ below.

How?
The way this individual and others like him amassed followers so quickly was simply by regularly following as many people as possible (within the limits) and un-following anybody who did not follow back. This keeps the follower-to-following ratio roughly in check.

If you were able to break down the first few thousand followers for these people you would see the large proportion are simply ‘return follows’. I believe that a critical mass is eventually reached (usually above 5,000 followers depending on location) at which point organic follows start to occur. This is because making the top lists in sites like Grader, Twiterholic, Alltop lists etc ensures that a profile with lots of followers are ‘promoted’. Whilst many agree that retweets are the most authentic way of attracting more genuine followers, being on a top 100 list will make sure your follower count continues to rise rapidly regardless of content quality or authenticity.

Recently scripts have appeared in the public domain that auto-follow and un-follow as above. An example of one of a person using scripts is shown in a graph below, and we can see how this particular individual has amassed over 35,000 followers in just a few weeks. I am not providing locations to these tools for obvious reasons.

External Evidence:

Ash from www.BannerBlog.com conducted an experiment where he manually followed 1000 people and un-followed them all a few days later. The net effect was he gained 350 followers. here

@AmyIris wrote a python script to mine names from Twitterholic.com and follow/un-follow which produced similar results to the above.

@danzarrella‘s site www.retweetability.com analyses whether or not a profile offers value based on tweets to retweets over followers. I have tested various people I thought were likely to have been manipulating follower counts and they tended to score lowly in this index. (Note this should not be taken as rule of thumb – highly conversational tweeters will also score low on this index).

How to spot a Twitter Follower Manipulator:
Disclaimer: To be used as a guide only. There are always exceptions when looking at statistical data.

Step 1: Visit http://twittercounter.com
Step 2: Type in the username you want to analyse. Select the three month period to examine.
Step 3: Watch for tell tale signs in their graphs as shown below.

Examples:

Growth profile of a regular Twitter User
Below:

A normal twitter user has the marked pattern of a steady growth. variations are rarely significant.

image

Below:
You can see that even celebrities follow a similar growth curve although a slight "J-curve" is evident. Despite the follower traffic being on a much larger scale the variations are still minor. (Note – @stephenfry’s curve contains several unusual jumps but these have been attributed to large scale UK media coverage).

image 

Manipulated Following Pattern:
Below:
The following user has a marked number of days where there have been unexplainable spikes. (No evidence of Retweets or any other source explains these spikes in this instance). You can see where the true line of growth has been manipulated by mass following other users. The result is a significant jump in people ‘following back’.

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Below: An example of mass manipulation by a Tweeter using scripts to increase their following to incredibly high levels in a very short space of time. These sudden jumps are a characteristic marker of follower manipulation.

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Notes:
It is harder to see anomalous jumps in older twitter accounts. There are also exceptions that will cause spikes and jumps, but spikes can usually be attributed easily to a source such as massive retweets, or publicity/media.

Conclusion:
I expect to see an increasing trend in this kind of activity in the coming months as Twitter grows. There are many people who will equate a large following to something they can benefit from. Hopefully as Twitter matures as a platform, it will be harder to manipulate followers. Maybe a rating system would allow people to find great people to follow as an alternative to ‘follower mass’ alone.

Final word:
It’s up to you who you follow, but if you find you’re getting little value from this new breed of "successful" Twitter user, the best advice is to simply ‘un-follow’. You may also want to consider using www.socialtoo.com which has an interesting blacklist feature in development.

This article by @eunmac


Fake Stephen Conroy Twitter account censored by Telstra?

March 17, 2009

Note*:
The @stephenconroy Twitter account has ‘reappeared’ since the initial writing of this article. It was certainly down for us (which the SMH also points out below).

Update:
– Telstra has published some ‘facts’on the situation (here):
– @StephenConroy has stated he has been asked to stop Twittering (here).

Much more than a prank – a piece of Twitter History:
So the Twitter account @stephenconroy as written by Leslie Nassar, a Telstra employee, was today shut down. Whilst some called Nassar a prankster, those who followed @stephenconroy know that this was a brilliantly written, satirical, entertaining and fun parody that was never in doubt as a fake. In fact it brought some well needed humour into a debate about censorship and the internet filter in Australia. We even played a part publishing a list of suspects (which really was all part of the fun and quite the opposite to being a witch hunt as some saw it).

image Even the real Senator Stephen Conroy seemed to think the character was healthy satire (as stated in an SMH article), and >1500 followers on Twitter were regularly drawn into @stephenconroy’s daily musings and conversations. Amongst the followers were many of the “Twitterati” (high reach Twitter users) as well as journalists and other key influencers. It is safe to say that Nassar has a strong base of support in the community.

The Censorship Debate:
It raises an interesting debate and all eyes will now be on Telstra to handle the matter with dignity and fairness. There is clearly a conflict of interest for the corporation given its pending deals with the government. However most neutral observers would agree that Nassar kept the debate a considerable distance from his employer. The broader reaction has been one of disappointment at the termination* of the @stephenconory twitter account (although it is suspected that Nassar may have removed this to avoid conflict with his employer). Many consider the profile a part of Twitter nostalgia given the brilliantly written tweets that were posted daily. History has shown that brands that censor rather than support in these situations do not fare well. We’ve set up a poll below to let you voice your opinion:

TAKE PART IN A POLL:
Did Telstra make the right decision in silencing @stephenconroy?
http://twtpoll.com/3gzjri

Finally:
If you feel strongly (ie: should Telstra ask Mr.Nassar to continue to run the @stephenconroy account please post a comment below).

Todays smh article:
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Click image to visit SMH story above.


Who is Fake Stephen Conroy? Full list of Suspects.

March 9, 2009

This week the “REAL” Politician, Senator Stephen Conroy acknowledged the “FAKE” Stephen Conroy (http://twitter.com/stephenconroy) via (article on SMH) as “healthy satire” so we thought we would start the cheeky hunt for the person behind the mask. We don’t really want the person ‘outed’ per se as it’s much more fun not knowing, but below is the list of 25 suspects to date:

image Name: Fake Stephen Conroy
Location: Canberra
Bio: I’m a 45 year old politician who’ll do anything to please you, baby. Don’t worry girl, I gots “protection”, and it’ll degrade my performance all night

Firstly, let us pay homage to the Fake Stephen (FSC). He’s actually pretty funny, satirical and most agree that the character is very well written. So… who’s doing the writing? We suspect it’s someone who’s already active on Twitter already – ie; they have two accounts running. At time of posting FSC is only following 69 people so we suspect that the guilty person may be linked to many of these in some way. We trawled various stats, engines and monitored conversations as well as looking through the #nocleanfeed list to come up with the following suspects… 

Update : Although we did discover the real identity of Fake Stephen Conroy during the compilation of the list, we did not include him in there. Unfortunatley the attention appears to have forced his hand  and in fact FSC outed himself a few days ago as Leslie Nasser from Telstra (http://www.linkedin.com/in/leslienassar)

The Suspects behind FST (Fake Stephen Conroy):

  Suspect Modus Operandi Suspect Rating
1 image DuncanRiley
Tipsters think that Duncan is a hot candidate for FSC. That cheeky smile which looks almost identical to FSC’s may hold the key.
9/10
2 image[99]  Warlach
A serious suspect, Warlach has been around long enough to know the tricks. Known to have created fake twitter accts in the past. Is FSC his creation?
9/10
3 FullTimeCasual
A new entry on the list but a red hot suspect. His suspicious lack of a photo in his twitter avatar may mean he can slip into the darkness easily if found guilty.
9/10
4 image DHughesy
We have been informed that this infamous Aussie comedian may be practicing using FSC for some cool new comedy about Twitter. We suspect FSC’s words are too big for Hughsey, but he still makes the list.
8/10
5 image[95] BarrySaunders
Normally gets highly involved in twitter conversations but not with FSC. Makes him look like a real suspect in this case.
8/10
6 image[101]  Servantofchaos
Respected blogger and Tweeter, possesses a similar sense of humour to FSC. A prime suspect.
8/10
7 image TrevorYoung
FSC insiders say suspect is based in Melbourne. Trevor Young’s writing skills certainly fit the bill as a PR WARRIOR…
8/10
8 image[106]  Mspecht
Definite candidate for the job and big nocleanfeed enthusiast. No twitter history with FSC makes him a suspect.
7/10
9 image[114]  Turnbullmalcolm
What better way to oust the current government than being the mastermind of the FSC twitter account? Must be a suspect.
8/10
10 image Wolfcat
Should have been in the list earlier – has been active on Twitter for a while and knows the tricks.
8/10
image[115]  cameronreilly
Top 5 Tweeters according to Grader.com, long history in the interwebs and definitely would have no fear of being FSC.
8/10
image[76] JonoH
First person who FSC followed. Must be a prime suspect.
8/10
image[107]  Jimboot
One of the more active people in ‘nocleanfeed’ a hot tip to be FSC.
7/10
  image renailemay
The only published interview with FSC was conducted by the Editor of ZDNet.com.au. This makes him an instant suspect. Is this man the Peter Parker of Twitter? Hmm…
7/10
image_thumb[26] Silkcharm
She has her mitts in everything else social so makes the list by default. Very few msgs to FSC makes her a prime suspect.
7/10
image[107]  Jimboot
One of the more active people in ‘nocleanfeed’ a hot tip to be FSC.
7/10
image[109]  Trib
With a mass of followers and outspoken character, he’s conveniently located in Canberra. Is he the real FSC?
7/10
image[106]  Mspecht
Definite candidate for the job and big nocleanfeed enthusiast. No twitter history with FSC makes him a suspect.
7/10
image[127] JJprojects
With 3000+ followers, a twitter junkie, nocleanfilter advocate put JJ high on the suspect list.
6/10
image[113]  Nickhodge
Microsoft’s local pin up Twitter Star has a dry earthy wit similar to FSC. Talks to FSC a lot, but could this be a cover?
6/10
image[111]  andrew303
Known to have more than one twitter account, is Australia’s most followed person on Twitter the guilty party?
6/10
image[96] Stephen Conroy (the real one)
The perfect double bluff?
You see… he’s not on Twitter, …or is he?
6/10
image[108]  Bronwen
Describes herself as combatant, maybe FSC is Bronwen’s side project. No contact with FSC to date – is this an alibi or evidence?
6/10
image_thumb[18]  Aramadge
News.com.au reporter that may see FSC as an interesting side project for a forthcoming story.
5/10
image[86] Granleese
First person to respond to my request for information and leads about FSC. Makes him an instant suspect.
4/10
image[112]  Mpesce
One of the last remaining people with a cross on their avatar’s mouth, is this inventor the real inventor FSC?
4/10
image_thumb[21] Mumbrella
Journo Tim Burrowes loves controversy so why not create it himself? Perfect motive with timing similar to launch of his mumbrella blog. Did FSC attract a few extra visitors?
4/10
image[97]  Acatinatree
Filmmaker. Active, lots of followers. Has a sense of humour. FSC might just be a side project for her…?
4/10
image[100]  markpollard
Strategist, highly active in Twitter, His no fear cheeky sense of humour puts him on the list.
3/10
image[105] KevinRuddPM
He doesn’t use his own Twitter account too much – possibly because he’s so busy running the FSC twitter account.
3/10
image[110]  eunmac
As the author of this post, this could just be a diversionary tactic. Maybe I am FSC, or maybe not? Hmmm.
3/10
image[119] OzDJ
Came up as the first suspect when I used a Twitter tool to find similar people to FSC.
3/10
image[91]  Eskimo Sparky
Husband, Father, Political impersonator? Is an instigator of prior twitter crimes such as Velociroflcoptersaurus.
3/10
image_thumb[20] Stilgherrian
Political, outspoken, but would he send so many tweets to FSC?
3/10
image[98]  Likeomg
Social Media Advisor at Amnesia and copywriter. Would certainly possess the skills but may be too occupied by other things.
2/10
  image JoelyRighteous
Has not been posting much recently. Possibly to distracted by his FSC account?
2/10
  image Davidlmorris
Very quick to dismiss some of the suspects on the list. Is this the real FSC revealing himself inadvertently?
2/10
  image LesleyWhite
Conveniently “wishing” she was on the list may make her an outside possibility.
2/10
image[131] Julian Cole
He manages to get his name on every other list so may as well stick him in this one just in case he is FSC…
2/10
image[123] DanWarne
Another journalist for the SMH active on Twitter. Pops up on FSC’s follower list too. Is he just interested , or IS IT HIM?
2/10
image SpellrUs
Claims he should be a suspect. Always struck me as being too much of a nice guy, but you then again, those are the ones you have to watch…
2/10
image_thumb[19] ProBlogger
Too busy tweeting tips to be a real suspect, but may be a dark horse in the matter.
1/10
  image InJoke
There is no chance that InJoke is the real FSC, but they felt that it would help them with the ladies if they made the list. OK good luck with that…
0/10

Breaking Update:
Suspects were seen changing their avatars to that of Stephen Conroy’s – presumably to protect their real identity.

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Above: View in Tweetdeck as some of the accused changed their avatars.

If you are on the list but you strongly wish to deny that you are not fake @stephenconroy post a comment with your full denial and alibi.

If you really are fake @stephenconroy (and not on the list and would like to be, follow @eunmac on Twitter and DM a message. We will keep it a secret.)


Test Yourself: Can you tell which is a 3D image and which is Real?

February 15, 2009

The real world and virtual world are gradually blurring together. Fooling the human mind into not being able to separate these two worlds is still a challenge because our brains are pretty hard wired to spot incredibly subtle details that allow us to identify the fakes from reality, especially when computer graphics are in motion. At some point in the not too distant future it is likely that we will not be able to tell. Can we really trust what our eyes are telling us?

Spotting the difference is harder with still images. Can you tell which ones of these are real and which are fake*? Answers at the bottom or on rollover.

Take the test: Real or FAKE:
(Answers shown as you rollover image)
*Please click on the image for the original references and sources.

(1)
REAL

(2)REAL
(3)
3D FAKE

(4)
3D FAKE

(5)REAL

(6)  3D FAKE

(7)REAL

(8)
REAL

(9)3D FAKE

(10)
3D FAKE 

Want to share how well you did? – Tell us how many you got right in the comments 🙂

Select/ highlight the text between the brackets below for a summary of the answers.
[ 1,2,5,7,8 – REAL
3,4,6,9,10 – FAKE / 3D
]


Fake Virals, Social Objects and Naked.

January 29, 2009

Today I presented at the 6th Annual Future of Digital Advertising for the IAB and AIMIA (#foda09 on Twitter). I talked about a few things, shared some insight on what I thought (hopefully) could help the digital industry further itself this year.

The main body of my preso was on the digital consumer and how brands need reconsider their approach, especially when using social as a tool. I discussed social objects – good ones, bad ones, great ones. I talked about Digital Brand DNA- something that Joe Crump our Razrofish NY Creative Director has pioneered with his ‘Digital Darwinism’ presentations.

In the last year I have come to believe strongly that great digital creative usually contains 7 digital brand genes that Joe Crump identified. See his full preso and video from Cannes (here):

– AUTHENTIC
– ADAPTIVE
– RELEVANT
– TRANSFORMATIVE
– FRESH
– IMMERSIVE
– SOCIAL

OK, so what about that Naked / Witchery Viral? (I’ve embedded their YouTube campaign in case you missed it). It’s clearly a bigger story than I realised (the SMH and Naked have both been in touch with me today as a result). The thing is, I like Naked as an Agency  – I like the way they challenge, stand up, break things, and do things that are counter intuitive. I know the guys well and we’ve worked with them many times on probably 6 or more different clients. In fact they’re one of the best agencies in town to collaborate with especially when it comes to their open approach to digital.

So what’s wrong with the above and why bother raising it, especially in a public forum? Well as you may have gathered my problem is not with Naked at all, it is with fake viral in general. In fairness, Naked were one example of a few I showed. QLD Tourism and Nike were both raised. We have a mountain to climb to be accepted (as advertisers and brands) into the new consumer landscape and these social channels are theirs, not ours. I know that consumers genuinely welcome cool clever intelligent advertising – but I cannot see any evidence that they like being deceived routinely. Comments below the videos often do the talking, especially when the deception is revealed.

Fake Viral for Nike feat Taylor Momsen

image

I’m a big believer in being able to make mistakes in the search for progress (digital is a tough gig, and there are new things we learn every day so mistakes do happen), but why the same mistake over and over? I also can’t understand why the elements of risk associated with generating negative brand sentiment in consumer channels are not better understood. As I tried to point out today, the 2.5m tweets per day, 915,000 blogs per day are heavily indexed by Google and can quickly produce negative organic search results. Let’s face it – search is very important, especially if you are a digital ROI client. Why would any company want to see their first page of Google results polluted with negative blog posts about their brand? The reality is that the social media sword cuts both ways.

Unfortunately the knock on effect is that negative news like the above often impacts other agencies, especially digital ones. I’ve seen brand managers get nervous when they see things like this in the news and subsequently make rapid judgement that the social medium is too volatile and uncontrollable. Budgets get withdrawn. We all start to lose – and that’s where I have a problem, because we know enough about social now to start doing things differently, and do it right.

What’s the solution?
So here’s the thing – Fake Viral is completely possible, and without deception. There have been some great examples from the US. Here’s one from Coors:

Here’s another ad for Coors, deliberately designed to breed consumer imitations (of which there are many). Great use of Social Object Theory:

Rolling Rock ran a hilarious campaign on Moonvertsing (here) which although potentially controversial produced a great digital response. Again completely Fake but with full disclosure from day one. I could go on, but it’s late and I think you get the picture right?

 

In Conclusion:
There are better, bigger, broader opportunities to engage consumers using social media that can still be authentic, mysterious, realistic. Yes it’s a creative challenge but if we can start to get this right there are big wins for consumers, clients and agencies alike. Naked aren’t the first, and won’t be the last to feel the heat on this issue – but they’re a great agency and will rise above it. I do hope that in the future the industry will adopt some of Joe’s 7 digital brand genes, it’s a good place to start.

@eunmac