Twitter’s World: Click … or Clique?

Twitter traffic:  dominateed by a tiny fraction of users.
Half of all tweets are generated by fewer than one-half of one percent of Twitter accounts.
What’s happening these days with Twitter? The micro-blogging service continues to light up the newswires every time there’s a civil disturbance in a foreign land, because of how easily and effectively it facilitates planning and interaction among the dissidents.

But what we’re also finding out is that Twitter is overwhelmingly dominated by just a small fraction of its users.

In fact, Cornell University and Yahoo recently published results of an evaluation of ~260 million tweets during 2009 and 2010, which found that ~50% of the tweets were generated by just 20,000 Twitter users.

That is right: Fewer than one half of one percent of Twitter’s user base accounts for fully half of all tweet activity.

Just who makes up this “rarified realm” of elite users? It turns out that they fall into four major groups:

 Media properties (e.g., CNN, New York Times)
 Celebrities (e.g., Ashton Kutcher … Lady Gaga)
 Business organizations (e.g., Starbucks)
 Blogs

Even more interestingly, these “elite” users aren’t interfacing with the rest of us “regular Twitter folk” as much as they are simply following each other: Celebs follow celebs … media companies follow other media companies … bloggers follow other blogs.

The Cornell/Yahoo research report, titled Who Says What to Whom on Twitter, can be found here.

But one wonders if the report should be retitled Much Ado About Nothing?

Celebrity endorsements in advertising: All that glitters is not gold.

David Duchovny - Baume & Mercier Celebrity EndorsementWe love our celebrities, don’t we?

Christina Applegate takes motherhood … to celebrity status.

Zsa Zsa Gabor is a fabulous celebrity … and a panel of experts has been commissioned to find out why.

 His very existence … makes Prince William a celebrity.

Because the public goes so (Lady) gaga over celebrities, celebs have been used to hawk products and services for decades. Often, they can add pizzazz to what is otherwise a pretty routine advertising campaign. But how effective are the added glitz and glamour in ringing up additional sales?

I’ve long suspected that the value of celebrity endorsements might be over-hyped. Now we have some quantifiable proof. Ace Metrix, a California-based ad measurement firm, evaluated ~2,600 television ads shown during 2010. The company tested 263 unique national ads featuring celebrity endorsements, spanning 16 industries and 110 separate brands. All ads were tested within 48 hours of breaking nationally in order to capture immediate rather than “cultivated” ad effectiveness.

The celebrity ads were then evaluated against a control group of non-celeb ads in order to determine their comparative effectiveness in generating ad “lift” (better performance).

What the Ad Metrix analysis found was that only ~12% of the ads using celebrities showed more than 10% lift over average advertising norms in their respective industries. Even more startling, ~20% of the celebrity ads yielded 10% or worse (net negative) performance over the average advertising norms.

Here are some of the celebrities who had a “net negative” effect on their clients’ TV advertising effectiveness during 2010 – worst listed first:

Tiger Woods (Nike) – I guess this hardly comes as a surprise!
Lance Armstrong (Radio Shack)
Kenny Mayne (Gillette)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (Nationwide Auto Insurance)
Donald Trump (Macy’s)

Which celebrities managed to generate better-than-average scores? Queen of the heap is Oprah Winfrey for her 2010 spots for Liberty Mutual and Progressive Insurance. Ed Burns (iShares) and Carl Weathers (Bud Light) took the other top honors in positive lift.

Peter Daboll, head of Ace Metrix, had this to say about the findings: “This research proves unequivocally that, contrary to popular belief, the investment in a celebrity in TV advertising is rarely worthwhile. It is the advertising message that creates the connection to the viewer in areas such as relevance, information and attention, and this remains the most important driver of ad effectiveness.”

Interestingly, Oprah’s ads weren’t pitching products per se, but rather addressing current issue topics – in this case, warning against texting while driving. So one way to get through to the consumer via a celebrity is if the content is informational rather than a sales pitch.

But if the goal of the advertising is product sales, chances are the more the celebrity is truly “connected” to an advertiser’s product or service, the more successful he or she will be in engaging the target audience beyond simply the “curiosity factor.”

You can read detailed findings from the Ace Metrix analysis here.

What Facebook Looks Like Today

Facebook's world mapBy now, everyone knows that Facebook has pretty much won the social media wars, as early entrant and rival MySpace hemorrhages employees as it tucks its tail between its legs and slinks away.

And Facebook itself is a good chronicler of the hyperactivity of Facebookers wordwide. Recently, it published some stats on “what 20 minutes on Facebook looks like.” Among the revelations:

 ~10.2 million comments uploaded every 20 minutes
 ~2.7 million photos uploaded
 ~2.0 million “friend” requests accepted
 ~1.8 million status updates posted
 ~1.6 million wall posts
 ~1.5 million event invites sent out
 ~1.3 million photos tagged
 ~1 million links shared

Fan designations (or “likes”) are now reaching stratospheric proportions for some celebrities. And who were the most popular in 2010 based the “most liked” status? The results show a major skew towards the younger generation … and toward entertainers rather than political, scientific or academic leaders:

 Lady Gaga: ~25 million people “like”
 Eminem: ~24 million people
 Megan Fox: ~20 million people
 Vin Diesel: ~19 million people
 Rihanna: ~19 million people

Where does President Barack Obama rank by comparison? He’s at ~17 million “likes” – right along with Bob Marley, Li’l Wayne, Justin Bieber and Shakira.

Personally, I found the trends in relationship status to be the most interesting. There were quite a few relationship changes … but perhaps not as many as you might expect considering that there are an estimated 600 million active users on Facebook these days.

For the record, here’s what happened with personal relationships in 2010:

 ~44 million people changed their status to “single”
 ~37 million changed their status to “married”
 ~28 million changed their status to “in a relationship”
 ~6 million changed their status to “engaged”
 ~3 million changed their status to “it’s complicated”

Notice that the number of people who migrated away from marriage were nearly equally matched by those becoming engaged or getting hitched. As the famous French saying goes, Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. (The more things change, the more they stay the same.)