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Playing Hooky, Midlife Crisis, And Other Blips - An Article From a About Targeting Intelligence

Playing Hooky, Midlife Crisis, And Other Blips - An Article From a About Targeting Intelligence

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Published by EricB2204
An article from www.socialmatica.com
An article from www.socialmatica.com

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Published by: EricB2204 on Jan 26, 2011
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05/12/2014

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Playing Hooky, Midlife Crisis, and other Blips

I’ve been following two guys on Twitter; let’s call them Bob and Mitch. Bob and Mitch are both in the same industry, have blogs where they talk about their industry and are fairly well-known and respected within the industry. Bob is a little more chatty than Mitch and I got used to expecting more frequent messages on my phone from him. (Side Note: if you’re following someone in a different time zone, don’t leave your phone on next to you in bed.) I soon discovered that Bob was also a little more casual in his tone with his tweets whereas Mitch was all business. I kind of felt like I was beginning to know Bob, but felt somewhat distant from Mitch. At the same time, I began to respect Mitch’s restraint and focus and maybe began to rely on him a little more for actual relevant information. If you get 5 tweets from someone in a day and only 1 in two days from the other, you naturally start to put more value and pay more attention to just that 1. And then something happened to Bob. His updates, which were normally kind of folksy, became only folksy. I wasn’t seeing anything that had anything to do with his profession. I was hearing about his daughter’s homework, how good bacon is (we can all agree on that), various rants about political figures and complaints about transportation systems. He changed his picture on his Twitter page, to something kind of odd. At first it was just kind of amusing, but soon became tiresome and I thought that maybe it was time to stop following him. And then, he stopped sending updates. I was worried about him. What was going on? Trouble at home? Identity crisis with his profession? Was he sick? After a month or so of this, he resumed tweeting, and he seemed fine. He was even talking about relevant stuff again. Meanwhile, Mitch had been going along, dutifully keeping me informed, even if he was much less interesting a guy. Changes in the behavior of a Twitter user, whether sudden, gradual, obvious or subtle, affects how the user is measured. Let’s also consider errors. As with any system you rely on to report data to you (Twitter API), you’re occasionally going to get errors. How do we handle these changes or errors? If you are calculating the measure of influence from say Twitter, and you see a sudden drop in a person’s numbers, how should that be handled? You can say to the Twitter user “Well, sink or swim, it’s your funeral! You just went from hero to zero in one week”. Maybe they’re taking a vacation, maybe they’re having some kind of technical difficulties, or maybe they are having a midlife crisis. Or maybe there are errors in the data. And how do you determine if there’s been a contextual change in the tweets, if not a statistical change in the numbers of tweets, retweets and mentions? Anyone measuring these things needs to be collecting not only raw statistics but also content/context statistics that tell you how relevant a person’s tweets are to their identified industry or group. If you see that number going down, you know something is happening that you might not know by just looking at the raw numbers. The fact that a person is tweeting, but is no longer tweeting anything relevant to why people first started following him, is important to consider in his measurement of influence for that group. I believe you also need to cut the guy some slack. If you see a sudden drop in his numbers for the week, instead of publishing the new hammered number, some adjustment can be made to cushion the blow. If he continues down his path of destruction, then he will eventually hit bottom, but it will take a little time, you let him down gently. And if the changes were because of errors, then you’ve done right by him and haven’t unfairly damaged his reputation. The error will hopefully be corrected the next time around and the numbers will be back where they should be.

I actually don’t have the same opinion about the other direction. If his numbers dramatically go up in a week, go ahead and let him have the jump. It’s less likely that it’s an error, and may be reflecting some important event that week. It’s an ever changing numbers game with Twitter and any algorithm that measures a Twitter user’s behavior or influence has to be sensitive to both the obvious and the subtle changes in the person’s behavior.

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