Social Capital: Who drank my Tweet Juice?

October 30, 2009


twitter_pimpcupThe Industrial Revolution gave rise to the middle class’s social equality becoming comparable (albeit within the often harrowing conditions of the then modern-day workplace) with the then ‘noble’ class. In the same way that the technological advancements led by textile manufacturers, metalurgy, and mining distributed the financial juices for social mobility to a greater number of people, we find ourselves in an oddly similar pattern of revolution empowered by social networks like Twitter, Facebook and their peers.

The information revolution lead by Google, Yahoo!, & Microsoft has made a limited number of sources king by defining social equity largely through the empowerment of ‘link juice’, aka SEO. When we want to find something we ‘Google it.’

Social networks have introduced a new source for social equity, and what is arising from that equity is social equality. They empower the middle classes to communicate with the masses, so to speak. Last week’s news of the paid inclusion of Twitter feeds on Google and Bing searches could change the effect of the kings of information on social relationships for good. Just as we now talk about the importance of link juice (and often complain about the tactics people use to pursue it), will we soon speak of “Tweet juice”?

Will this force us to question the authenticity of our social relationships? There is an organic quality to the growth of social networks, but the lure of Tweet juice injects an unprecedented level of self-interest into the social web. How will the nature of our online social interactions change when we must wonder whether someone is following us earnestly or whether they’re using us for our Tweet juice? Will Tweets become a commodity, with hash tags and handles bought and sold in the social media marketplace?

Will this, in other words, mark the rise of social capital?


Good question Jascha. I attended the Coming @ Party last night in Portland, and there was some interesting discussion about how Social Search will could change the way that we interact with people. At some point, will digital communication become more common than spoken communication?

If you have two people who are active in social media, their conversation could evolve from email to Twitter to Facebook, then continue when one of them does a Google search and they respond to something that the person wrote there. As we approach realistic ‘real time’ search, this conversation becomes even more entangled in the Web.

Fascinating stuff.

From Cory Huff on October 30th, 2009 at 4:40 pm

Tweets will not become significantly commoditized because their value is tied to the identity of their source. While search indexing tweets gives you access to more information via search, its value decreases sharply once it is removed from the context of the discussion. We determine who is important to follow, and whether to continue following them, because their voice has something meaningful to add. There is a checks and balances system built around being personally responsible for what you say because abusing the community will lose you your voice or at least stall it from reaching a larger audience. Twitter has already proven itself to be self-healing in communities wherein we amputate the limbs that are self-serving, because we’re disinterested in their noise. A network of self-promoting twitter accounts making its way into a search index is just more web spam, and we’re already using more than the web to better our signal to noise ratio.

From Bryan McLellan on October 31st, 2009 at 6:32 am

Corey. Thanks for the comment. I think the ‘wave’ type perspective of content in search is intriguing, if not a bit scary. I’m not completely convinced that the kings of search today will ever fully embrace this approach outside a targeted application. We’ll see though.

Bryan, thought provoking comment. My opinion is that Twitter’s self-healing aspect is a function of the initial adopting community. It’s also explicitly tied to the notion of identity, which plays a critical role in the notion of checks and balances. Trolls exist on YouTube because identity doesn’t matter. You don’t see the same thing happening on Facebook because identity matters. I see Twitter in the latter category, and while I understand what you are saying with “ While search indexing tweets gives you access to more information via search, its value decreases sharply once it is removed from the context of the discussion,“ I fundamentally disagree. If that were the case, Twitter search would have no value (a service that returns only ‘out of context’ tweets) and as we all know, Google & Microsoft just spent an unannounced, but presumably very large, sum of money on adding these very same out of context tweets. You, rightfully so, have a personal scope for your usage of Twitter, however, I read your comments as projection of that view onto the general populace, which I’m not convinced of.

Although Twitter hasn’t yet been fully embraced by the business community, it’s heading down that path, and there is a precedent set that businesses and individual self-promoters will focus the growth of their identity to support their interests. It’s these Twitter users who are filling their cups with Tweet juice.

From jascha kaykas-wolff on November 2nd, 2009 at 8:20 pm

Granted that there is a class of early adopters who don’t represent the masses.

Aren’t they fundamentally different though? You want ‘link juice’ to get a user to your site, to have the opportunity to woo them into a conversion. ‘Tweet juice’ is at best about selling your brand and establishing trust. You need more than a number of “Foo Company is awesome!” tweets to do that, discussion is still central to that.

I think that your average user will only put up with a certain signal to noise ratio as well, even if it is due to their attention span rather than their ethical beliefs about the medium. Twitter works between businesses and customers because micro-blogging allows a better, fullduplex, communications medium. For instance they’ll send you a tweet over sitting on a hold on a customer service line up to a certain point. Someone has to be listening and it has to be easy to get through to them.

I’ll acknowledge that when I search tweets, I probably go through more effort to validate what is being said than most, which isn’t easy. It’s probably time Twitter had threading for discussions.

From Bryan McLellan on November 4th, 2009 at 12:17 am

Bryan, thanks for the thoughtful comment. At the end of the day we both agree on one thing for sure. It’s about time that Twitter had threading for discussions.

From jascha kaykas-wolff on November 9th, 2009 at 3:57 am

Google makes changes to search algorithms all the time. It has a team of people looking for the loopholes, that’s not happening yet with Twitter.

Tweet juice is more important now, Google PR and other tactics seem to be outdated.

From Zahid Lilani on November 11th, 2009 at 11:22 pm

A very interesting discussion coming hot on the heels of reading Richard Powers’ Pulitzer nominated book, Echo Maker… which while not being about social media at all, is entirely about cognitive thought, relation of self to other, and the astronomically improbable ways a brain will go to towards reconcile reality with its own perception of it. In many ways the Twitopolis is bringing into view for the masses these same organically growing synapses in popular thought.

Twitter content may not have value simply because Google and Yahoo think so. However, that may not stop the majority of the we-brain online from adopting it, because our perception of our relationship to existence is often so intertwined with the reflection of our selves given us by others. A majority of us may organically herd our thoughts into Twitter because we can’t bear that such a large concentration of our mass thought may exist without our imprint and firings within it.

Jascha, your line about the trolls existing because identity doesn’t matter gives much for thought. Every second there is some new ‘tool’ on Twitter to arm either us or the trolls: twitter authentication services (at a fee), ad networks that float their own branches of thought down our twitter streams for a fee (the greater your list and more intense its herd activity, the more $ per tweet).

The speed and proliferation of activity across Twitter may in the end be its undoing. The patterns of thought and discussion may be semi-orderly now, but when usage quadruples, as it could this year, it’s going to be like a brain on crack. The reflection seekers and trolls together may look for somewhere new to spark where there’s more clarity and better mirrors.

Thanks for the wonderful coffee break.

From Laurie McConnell on December 7th, 2009 at 10:06 pm

Laurie, what a wonderful comment. I find the idea that unchecked chaos could be the undoing of Twitter fascinating and I also think their ability to keep infront of their core customers through innovation of their service (introduction of lists, RTs, etc.) will be the measure of their success (along with money, of course). Thanks for taking the time to share.

From jascha kaykas-wolff on December 11th, 2009 at 11:29 pm

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From Krystle Lacasa on June 10th, 2010 at 11:20 am

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