Blowing up on twitter.

Last night, just before getting off the train on the evening commute, I sent out a tweet. It was mildly political and mentioned William Gibson in it- who was the author of the quote I was mentioning. He, in turn, re-tweeted my tweet, and thus began a night of my phone exploding with twitter notifications.

By the morning that’d mostly settled down. Gibson has ~178K followers on twitter, and in the twelve (or so) hours since I sent the original message, that tweet got 92 retweets and 126 favorites. In my world, that’s a lot. When I checked the twitter stats on it, I found that it was seen by just over 20,000 people and “engaged with” by just over 3,000 people. That’s way above any sort of average engagement I get.

So I was curious as how this new-to-me attention would manifest in the rest of my online presence. Would I get subscriptions to my newsletter? Follows on twitter? Would my (this) website see a spike in traffic?


Of the 20,000 people who saw the tweet, two followed me. 23 clicked my bio link in twitter (which has this webpage link in it), and of those, 8 actually got here. Zero subscriptions to my newsletter.

So here’s what I’ve learned: twitter is a land unto itself. Things that happen there are largely isolated there- so if you want people to read something, it best be in the tweet. If you provide a link to something- it’s not getting clicked. Your profile isn’t going to be raised anywhere else. Indeed, any single spike on twitter isn’t even going to do much for you on twitter. The engagement you see there is only there, and it’s isolated from the rest of your online presence.

What do I do with this information? I change the way I tweet a bit. It’s less about links to things now- at least, no links without some of the content attached. I’ll stop worrying about trying to use twitter as a device to drive traffic anywhere else- no matter how easy I think I’ve made that. I’ll let twitter just be twitter.

Solving a Problem

So here’s the situation:

Students of all ages are increasingly turning to their mobile device to consume media. And, since part of what I do is deliver content for online learning, this has ramifications for me. Video needs to be optimized. There are a lot of parameters and vectors for this, but it can mostly be boiled down to this:

What is the video trying to accomplish and where will that video be consumed?

So a video that will be seen for 15 seconds at 60 mph on a highway billboard has different design restrictions than something that will be shown during a prime-time advertisement slot. That much should be obvious. But less so is the assumption that all web-based video will be consumed via a screen of some size. This, while (maybe) once was true, the days of our students by default consuming such video on a 20″ screen on a desktop are gone. The best you’re likely to do is a smallish laptop screen, and it’s more and more likely that it’ll be a 5″ phone screen. The question becomes, then, how to best convey video content (in the sense of video lectures and the like) via such little screen real estate.

We can make whatever stipulations we want- We can say that students need to use a “full” sized screen (whatever that means). We can say that things are best consumed on larger screens. But students will do what I do, and use whatever device is at hand. And most of the time, that’s a phone.

I’ve got some ideas in the works that might help with some of this- some methods that might allow greater student choice and better use of the limited screen space a phone has. I’ll be writing about them more in the future here, as it’s something I actually hope to publish and present on. I’m also in the earlier stages of testing some of this- I’m still learning what’s possible and what works/why. There are technical issues to overcome and consider (bandwidth, for example, looks to be an early hurdle), and there are issues of defining best practices and streamlining the workflow into a manageable and scale-able form. Still, the possibilities are enticing.

Anyway. This will be an ongoing thing- I’ll try to keep relatively up to date here with it, but again, I’ll be holding back somewhat, as I need to write a bunch of this up.