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How Do You Twitter: Mr Tweet?


Before you ask I have to tell you, yes, Mr Tweet is an actual owl. A 6 foot owl with a very smart shirt and tie. I had the pleasure of interviewing the legendary recommender in all his feathery glory. Here’s what he had to say about Twitter!

Who are you Mr Tweet? (In 140 characters or less :p)

mr tweet
Your personal networking agent, recommending you great people, and of course, recommending YOU to great people. All in all, helping you kick ass. (did i make it in 140?)

How exactly do you work? All complicated algorithms I’m sure but could you explain it to us simple folk?

mr tweet
Well, first and foremost, I think all our users are much smarter than we are. The smart comments and feedback constantly reiterate this again and again!

1) Essentially, we look at what you are tweeting, following to “guess” what your personal interests are.
2) Then we look at what everyone else is tweeting, following to assess who are the great people who are either reputable or sharing good content.

The most mainstream example I can think of is Amazon recommendations. As a side note, recommendations consists of a very significant driver of revenue for them. The vast majority of systems today drive people towards the “popular”, whether it is in terms of content (digg, tweetmeme) or people (check out Twitter’s suggested users feature).

We believe less in popularity, but much much more in personalized relevance. You can see more examples in Influence is in the eye of the audience, (not the beholder) and my Interview with Leo Laporte on MrTweet.

You have over 100,000 followers. Amazing! How did you grow to where you are now?

mr tweet
Haha, sorry to disappoint you, but there is no magic answer here. Mainly via word of mouth. Our users have been extremely active in recommending us to their friends, providing recommendations, etc.

Will we still be tweeting in 5 years time?

mr tweet
I am 100% sure we will still be. Just who will be tweeting, and how often they will be tweeting. A quick scan of the landscape unveils sharp divides across both dimensions.

You have the average moms who are absolutely addicted to Twitter. You have social media folks who sign up, but do not use it ever again. You have the actors who use their “followers” to broadcast, and keep their “following’ list relatively clean.

The traditional definition of “mainstream'” users is already completely undermined. Twitter will be around forever, but it is impossible to predict in what form or shape.

Can a big name brand really be trusted when using Twitter and social media in general?

mr tweet
Haha, depends on who is tweeting and using social media, and how much power they get. Right now, some brands are on Twitter mainly to do damage control (if someone big complains, better respond. If someone small complains, who the $%^& cares). Some are on Twitter to really identify and solve problems for all users.

It is very early, and hence hard to tell who belongs where, but I think it will soon become more clear.

What are your thoughts on the power of the ‘Retweet’?

mr tweet
Very interesting, but vastly misjudged in the way people are looking at it now. A simplistic measure of “how many retweets @ABC gets” is completely wrong. For example, someone who built a big network regardless of tactics, post sensationalist postings (“McCain found with male hooker”) regardless of substance, and posts a lot will make it up the list, and fast

Internally, we are very careful to use this as a measure. It is much more important who RTs something.

Is there a Mrs Tweet? :)

mr tweet
Haha. Yes. we will reveal their identities in due time.

Do you feel we are losing our ‘real life’ social skills with the rise in social media?

mr tweet
Not at all. I still have coffee with real friends. Social media facilitates the ability to create and maintain weak ties, which means you are not very close, but does not necessarily mean that there is no value in there. In fact, if you look at this classic 1973 sociology paper by Mark Granovetter, most value is being driven by weak ties.

Do you have any exciting plans for 2009?

mr tweet
Haha, we think they are very exciting, but ultimately users will tell us whether these are exciting. =)   Will unveil them soon!

You make thousands of recommendations every second. Who would be your number one recommendation though?

mr tweet
On a purely personal basis, i think @andrew_chen has the best tweets on web apps and entrepreneurship. But once again, it is all about personal relevance. =).


Mr Tweet! It was an absolute pleasure to chat to you. I personally have found so many brilliant twitterers through following you. If you want to have some [amazingly relevant] recommendations then follow MrTweet.

Further Interviews

I’ve interviewed a whole host of other Internet gurus over the past few weeks including Guy Kawasaki, Tim O’Reilly, ProBlogger, Smashing Magazine and Chris Coyier so don’t forget to check them out.

Be sure and follow me at @paddydonnelly if you want to find out first about the next exciting Twitter interview.

Comments (5)

  1. Great stuff from Mr Tweet! Good to see the ‘How do you Twitter’ chats are still going

  2. Jennifer Bongar

    5 Mar

    “I still have coffee with real friends. Social media facilitates the ability to create and maintain weak ties, which means you are not very close, but does not necessarily mean that there is no value in there.”

    Very well said, Mr. Tweet! Exactly my sentiment. Thanks.

  3. Liam

    5 Mar

    I agree with Jennifer. Well said, Mr. Tweet!

    I think some people think Twitter is just another MySpace/Facebook/Bebo but it’s power seems much greater.

    Everybody who uses Twitter to their individual advantage should follow Mr. Tweet.

  4. Jeff Hurt

    5 Mar

    Mr Tweet, how many tweets does it take to get to the center of the Twittersphere? (Couldn’t resist.)

    Thanks for the wise twit-dom, Mr. Tweet & Paddy Donnelly! And Mr. Tweet only said “Who” 11 times unlike other owls. This is a wise ole owl for sure.

  5. Great interview and another great insight into Twitter. Keep these coming, find them very useful :)