Some Real Facts About Donald Trump’s Surge In Followers

Over the last 24 hours we’ve received a bunch of inquiries from journalists regarding Donald Trump’s surge of twitter followers on the account, @realdonaldtrump. Along this subject, there has been some easily disprovable information going viral. Considering that SocialRank focuses on granular audience data, we thought we might put together a quick post that shows some real facts about Donald Trump’s followers.

The viral posts above by @txmockingjay and @th3j35t3r appear to be the start of the misinformation. The claim that Trump’s follower base increased by 5M is easily disproved by the greatest tool ever created, the Wayback Machine. Using the site, users can see that @realDonaldTrump had 30.6M followers on May 26th (3 days before the post). Nonetheless, @th3j35t3r and @txmockingjay’s tweets aren’t completely wrong as there has been an odd surge of fake/bot accounts following @realDonaldTrump’s account in the past month.

waybackblahhh

This newsworthy data was highlighted in early February; Mashable’s Kerry Flynn wrote an article using SocialRank data that showed that out of the 24.1M followers @realDonaldTrump had, 5M of them were egg accounts (i.e. no profile photo). Now, as of May 22nd (the last time @realDonaldTrump data fully ran in the system), he has just under 31M followers and 9.1M of them are eggs. This means that out of the 7M new followers, over 4M of them are eggs. Whereas in February his egg accounts made up 20% of his followers, they now make up almost 33% of his followers. Needless to say, this is a very big change in a short time.

Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 9.28.39 PM

Perhaps even more shocking is that in May alone, 927k egg accounts followed @realdonaldtrump. Out of this number, 711k (77%) have never posted. Additionally, each egg account has an average of only 1.6 followers. This begs the question – why are there so many meaningless followers?

Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 9.28.27 PM

We think that the rise of these accounts could be explained by two things:

1) Someone is buying followers for @realDonaldTrump’s account.

2) Being added to the “who to follow” list really juiced the number of egg accounts following him.

Here is some other interesting data that we found on the 9.1M egg followers:

  • 55.8% (5,077,800) never tweeted
  • 17.2% (1,565,200) recently tweeted (i.e. in last 90 days)
  • 27% (2,457,000) haven’t recently tweeted (tweeted but not in the last 90 days)
  • 95.74% of the egg followers have under 25 followers
  • Top 10 most popular hashtags in posts by the 9.1M egg followers:
    • #maga, #trump, #myfirsttweet, #giveaway, #makeamericagreatagain, #periscope, #fakenews, #trumptrain, #tcot, #debate
  • Top 5 most popular words in posts by the 9.1M egg followers
    • realdonaldtrump, trump, president, news, live
  • 46.4% (4,226,609) of the 9.1M have between 0 and 1 followers
  • 7.9K of egg followers have trump in their bio
  • 49.8K of egg followers tweeted #maga
  • 1.9 million of eggs have tweeted since he became president
  • 8 of these egg accounts are verified
  • 927k of his egg followers registered and followed him in May
  • See chart above for the breakdown in the activity of his new followers
  • Tuesday 8-10pm is the most popular time for the eggs to post
  • On 5/24 59,358 of Trump’s egg accounts registered (largest single day)

Feel free to reach out to us at [email protected] if you have any questions on this data. A quick thank you to Max Urbahn, intern extraordinaire, for putting together this data very quickly.

Source: South Park's Twitter account

The Startup T-Shirt Phenomenon: Branding and Conway’s Law

In 1967, programmer Mel Conway wrote a paper called “How Do Committees Invent?” and submitted it to the Harvard Business Review, who promptly rejected it. Luckily for us, the paper eventually ended up getting published the following year in a tech magazine that was popular at the time.

Hidden in this paper was a pretty big idea that gained a lot of fame in the engineering community. This big idea is called Conway’s Law, which goes like this:

“Any organization that designs a system (defined broadly) will produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organization’s communication structure.”

Put in other words, a product will mirror the communications structure in which it arose. To reduce it even further: product and culture end up looking a lot like each other. In 2007, research by management theorists at Harvard Business School found strong evidence in support of this.

GitHub: A Case Study

Source: http://www.wired.com/2013/09/github-office/
Source: WIRED

One classic illustration of Conway’s Law resides in the very fabric of tech startup GitHub. In a series of posts, longtime employee Zach Holman summed up GitHub’s culture in three guidelines (paraphrased below):

1. Set your own hours.

2. Avoid meetings.

3. To get creative, get in the zone.

At GitHub, a $100mm+ company, this means that much of the non-essential communication takes place in chat rooms so as to keep distractions minimal. It means that the company hosts happy hours, sponsors gym memberships, and organizes teaching workshops. In fact, for its first two years, GitHub didn’t even have an office — employees worked remotely (and many still do).

Why is this important, and what type of culture, exactly, is GitHub trying to build? Holman puts it this way:

“We want employees to be in the zone as often as possible. Mandating specific times they need to be in the office hurts the chances of that. Forcing me in the office at 9am will never, ever get me in the zone, but half of GitHub may very well work best in the morning.”

Or, in the words of Ryan Tomayko, another early GitHub employee, “Your team should work like an open-source project.” Funny, because a lot of open source projects are powered by GitHub. GitHub is a lightweight, cloud-based tool that programmers use to work on code together. Software for collaboration and open-source projects. Just like the culture and communications structure it has built, GitHub the product is asynchronous and distributed — that is, teamwork anywhere, anytime. 

If you want a slightly more tongue-in-cheek exploration of Conway’s Law in action, observe the sketch below, courtesy of Manuel Cornet: 

Source: http://www.bonkersworld.net/organizational-charts/
Source: MANUEL CORNET

According to Cornet’s very data-driven graphs above, Amazon the company is culturally as hierarchical as the product (which is essentially a hierarchy of categories and subcategories containing things you totally need to buy). Google the company is culturally just as structured yet cross-dependent and cross-referencing as Google’s products. And Microsoft, well, yeah.

However, while Conway’s Law explains in some ways the relationship between culture and product, it’s missing a crucial piece: How does this alignment between product and culture get cemented? How does it become formalized, reinforced, and calcified?

Through branding. Namely, through monopolizing language and imagery.

The Startup T-Shirt Phenomenon

http://www.buzzfeed.com/katienotopoulos/heres-a-tumblr-for-photos-of-bros-in-startup-shirts#.wvlN2onRn
Source: BUZZFEED

A couple years ago, Owen Thomas wrote a profile on Palo Alto, the “small California town where billion-dollar dreams are made.” This is the prototypical startup town, where companies like Google, PayPal, and Facebook got their start, and where many notable tech bigwigs call home. In what is pretty typical of the tech scene these days, you’ll see a lot of branded t-shirts. Thomas makes special note of this fact:

“You’ll often see Palantir employees walking around in polo shirts with the company logo.”

But startup t-shirts on their own aren’t evidence of any reinforcement of Conway’s Law. They are just the tip of the iceberg. In his essay The Anthropology of Mid-Sized Startups, Kevin Simler points to the t-shirts as a small piece of “the many rituals I’ve seen startups use to reinforce trust, solidarity, and company (or team) pride.” He lists out a handful of other ways in which this team-building ritualization happens: team sports, themed dress-up days, wall art, shared meals, and other activities.

We can break these reinforcing rituals down into two categories: images and language. Many successful businesses use these two levers to reinforce both internally and externally their culture as well as their product. One company in particular does a great job of this: Dropbox.

Dropbox and Freedom

http://allthingsd.com/20120815/inside-dropboxs-reverse-engineered-company-culture/
Source: ALL THINGS D

Dropbox allows you to save, store, and access your files from anywhere you want. Wherever you go, all your documents, files, songs, and videos are with you. When Dropbox first came out back in 2007, this was freedom for people who had previously been tethered to their floppy disks, CDs, USB drives, and other easily-lost and easily-damaged storage devices.

The images Dropbox uses to represent itself entirely embody this idea of freedom. The company is renowned for its artful, humanistic use of illustrations, instead of the pseudo-industrial aesthetic common with other startups. Even their Error 404 page keeps with the “freedom” branding — you land on the design team’s interpretation of MC Escher’s impossible cube.

The language and copy the startup employs also reinforces the idea of freedom: from the landing page’s “Your Stuff, Anywhere” to the “Keep your stuff safe and accessible wherever you are” located in various locations on the website.

(If you want to nerd out further, more examples here, here, and here).

http://www.alltechflix.com/hosting-website-on-dropbox/
Source: ALL TECH FLIX

This “freedom” ethic definitely extends down into the culture of the company. The organizational structure is largely flat and engineering-driven. Dropbox is renowned for its “You’re smart, figure it out” mentality, its wildly creative hack weeks, and its recruitment videos starring muppets with MacBooks.

To some extent, CEO Drew Houston seems to have deliberately designed for this:

“One of the biggest challenges to growth has been something banal– inter-office communication. When the team was small enough to fit in one room, information just spreads naturally. But as we grew larger we had to start deliberately trying to figure out how to get the right info in the right people’s’ hands.” 

Dropbox’s product is all about freeing users; Dropbox’s communications structure is all about freeing employees; and Dropbox’s branding simply reinforces all of this to employees, users, investors, and journalists through imagery and language.

Branding Blind Spots

http://venturebeat.com/2014/11/22/former-employee-says-zocdoc-is-a-frat-house-where-female-employees-are-regularly-harassed/
Source: VENTUREBEAT

But all cohesive systems have blind spots; the very strengths they are designed to highlight can create glaring weaknesses. Organizations are no exception.

For example, Uber has gotten itself in trouble countless times in the past year. Perhaps by necessity, a company challenging a highly entrenched incumbent (taxi industry) has a highly efficiency-oriented product, a by-any-means-necessary culture, and sleek corporate branding. The blind side of this product and organizational design might be the reports of sabotaging competitors and naysayers. GitHub and Dropbox have also recently had to respond to their own cultural “blind spots” (GitHub’s institutionalized hostility towards women; Dropbox’s fortification of “frat boy culture”).

The lesson for businesses? Be very deliberate and rigorous about the culture you want to build, because it will show in the product. Then reinforce through authentic branding. In the oft-quoted words of Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, “Your culture is your brand.” In this case, your culture might be your product, too.

We now leave you with an illustration of what SocialRank is all about — feel free to overanalyze it in the comments section:

socialrank-mascot

 

Courtesy of FIFA Infinity

The FIFA Bump: How a Video Game Makes Music Go Viral

As our productivity begins to wane around 6pm on most evenings at the SocialRank office, we turn to FIFA 15 for a break. If addictiveness is an indicator of a great product, the world’s most popular sports video game might also be its most well-designed. While mashing buttons on our XBOX controllers and waxing poetic on the new season of South Park, we become the unsuspecting targets of some of the most shrewd marketing ever: the game’s soundtrack.

At almost every possible stopping point in the game (pressing pause, navigating to the main menu, waiting for the game to load), a new track from some unknown British band begins to play. While mostly unrecognizable at first, these songs gain familiarity the more we play the game. Months later, these same songs begin magically appearing on our favorite indie radio stations and music blogs.

We suspected that there was something of a “FIFA Bump” going on. The artists appearing on the game’s famously awesome soundtrack were going on to make it big. In an interview with Pitchfork, EA’s music exec Steve Schnur seems to agree with this theory:

“ […] FIFA has introduced the Black Keys, K’naan, Chromeo, Datarock, MGMT, Lykke Li, Bloc Party, The Ting Tings, Franz Ferdinand, Foster The People, Ladytron, Robyn, Shiny Toy Guns, Damian Marley, Airborne Toxic Event, Matt & Kim, the Temper Trap, Two Door Cinema Club, Grouplove, Imagine Dragons, Crystal Fighters, Kimbra and plenty more […] Their labels, publishers and the artists themselves believe that their appearance in our soundtrack was key.

The FIFA Bump

Courtesy of Butteryobread
Courtesy of Butteryobread

In late 2011, a young Los Angeles-based pop band with only one album to their name blew up out of seemingly nowhere. By October of that year, Foster the People had played a set on Saturday Night Live, signed a record deal, and got some love from Sirius XM. They also had a song prominently featured on FIFA 12, which was released on September 27, 2011.

We wanted to see what shape this rise in popularity took, so we looked at Youtube search trends for “Foster the People” between 2008 and 2014. It turns out that the band’s popularity peaked in the immediate aftermath of FIFA 12’s release, and then waned at the start of the new year:

Data via Google Trends
Data via Google Trends

Correlating one band’s popularity with the release of a FIFA game, though, is not very convincing evidence.

So we looked at the aggregated popularity levels of every artist featured in the FIFA 12 game (as determined by Youtube search trends). The peak in this graph fell on the exact week following the release of FIFA 12:

Data via Google Trends
Data via Google Trends

The FIFA 12 soundtrack featured other up-and-coming artists such as Grouplove, Kasabian, and Spank Rock. These artists also saw a bump in their popularity during this time. We observed a similar pattern when viewing the same data for artists from all subsequent versions of the FIFA video game: on average, an artist’s popularity hit its high point during the week of FIFA’s release date.

Explaining the Virality of FIFA’s Soundtrack

What should we make of the phenomenon of the “FIFA Bump?” As Schnur suggests, maybe the video game’s wide appeal and distribution do much of the legwork; artists appearing on the soundtrack simply get brought along for the ride.

Intuitively, this makes sense. Under normal circumstances, a song has a 35% likelihood of being skipped within its first 30 seconds of play (according to a Music Machinery analysis of Spotify data). However, in FIFA, the same twenty-some tracks play in the background repeatedly, and so they receive more opportunities to grow on listeners. If someone really doesn’t like a particular song, he has to go into the game’s settings and manually disable it.

The Zimmerman Effect

Courtesy of Gawker/Youtube
“Cuddly Cat Gives Owner a Heart-Warming Hug” (Gawker/Youtube)

But there’s another explanation that involves a legend in the world of viral content.

Neetzan Zimmerman gained acclaim during his time at Gawker for developing a comprehensive system to track the flow of content as it moved up from small blog to slightly bigger blog and teetered on the cusp of going viral. The idea was to take content that had already demonstrated strong appeal to a smaller audience, and then to give that content the right “push” (packaging and distribution) for it to go viral. Zimmerman easily and consistently topped Gawker’s leaderboard for getting the most page views on his posts.

Through this perspective, Foster the People’s success looks a bit different. The band didn’t explode because of appearing on FIFA’s soundtrack. Rather, the band’s popularity was a runaway train gaining steam. Foster the People had already seen one of its songs go viral in the music blog world, was featured in Nylon magazine’s online advertising campaign, and played a set at Coachella.

Schnur and his staff certainly knew this: his team brings with it decades of experience in music marketing and album launches. They very shrewdly picked up on Foster the People (as well as other up-and-comers), capitalizing on and extending momentum that already existed. We could also call this the BuzzFeed/HuffPo Effect, but using someone’s last name sounds more legitimate.

(Of course, there remains the possibility that the FIFA game franchise itself rides the annual boom-bust cycle of album releases and artist launches.)

Building for Simplicity & Depth

FIFA Gives You Wings (Giphy.com)

At first glance, we might think that Schnur and the music team only filter artists by viral factor. But the type of music that makes it onto the game is actually quite predictable and appears to optimize for a pretty specific profile. Over 65% of the artists on FIFA soundtracks from the past 4 years are UK/USA-based, and over 70% are labeled by Wikipedia as “pop,” “synthpop,” or “indie rock.” The rest is an eclectic mix of everything ranging from Brazilian funk to German hip-hop.

The FIFA soundtrack is just a microcosm for everything the FIFA video game franchise has been doing right over the past several years. Product development steers away from lowest-common-denominator gimmicks and instead caters to the game’s biggest fans. In an interview with Polygon, producer Santiago Jaramillo put it this way:

“I think the main thing that keeps us ahead of the curve is focusing on the right thing. So, staying away from gimmicky features that sound marketable, are costly and at the end of the day, our end fans — it’s not what they want […] What people want more than anything is a solid, good fabric of gameplay experience that focuses on the fundamentals. […] It’s a simple, simple game, but when you add depth to that simplicity, that’s when you create the gameplay experience that FIFA has been able to do.”

And one of the many ways the game’s developers have added depth is to relentlessly pursue a product-market fit for every touch point within the game, from gameplay to presentation to music. What you get as a result is a deep product with growth and marketing built-in: a vocal fanbase, a catchy soundtrack that isn’t just Nicki Minaj remixes, and simple design with subcutaneous complexity. This is what really allows the “FIFA Bump” to work as well as it does. The product “markets itself.”

Case in point — a goals compilation video (pulling from user-submitted content) gets shared on Facebook 2,150 times and liked 22,000+ times in less than 2 hours:

 

With the FIFA video game, everything is set up to make it impossibly easy for fans to do all the marketing. Like spending 10+ hours writing a blog post about it.

Courtesy of SoFreshAndSoGreen

How Drinking Bottled Water Became a Thing

From 2003 to 2010, the famously skeptical magician duo Penn & Teller hosted a Showtime series called Penn & Teller: Bullshit. During each 30-minute episode, the two magicians sought to “hunt down as many purveyors of bullshit” as possible. Since the series aired during the rapid rise of Dasani and Aquafina, Penn & Teller decided to run several blind taste tests taking aim at overpriced bottled water.

Their hypothesis: that, at best, we can’t tell the difference between tap water and bottled water; at worst, we like tap water more than bottled water.

The duo took their experiment to a trendy Southern California restaurant, where they enlisted a (fake) water sommelier. The sommelier brought guests a water tasting menu, listing luxury bottled waters such as “L’Eau de Robinet” and “Agua de Culo.” After sampling them, most patrons were wow-ed by how good the water tasted:

“Definitely better than tap water […] It’s got a flavor that, it almost feels like a beverage other than water, but without sugar or any additives.”

“Seems smoother than tap water.”

“Better than LA County water!”

In actuality, all this luxury water was sourced from a garden hose out back behind the restaurant. And L’Eau de Robinet and Agua de Culo weren’t real designer waters: one is the French word for “tap water” and the other the Spanish for “ass water.”

Patrons placed a high value on the water simply because it was bottled and packaged to appear fancy.

In another blind experiment run by ABC’s Good Morning America in 2001, the show’s producers pitted tap water against water giants Poland Spring, 0-2, and Evian. The results: New York City tap water won out by a comfortable margin.

Data via Good Morning America
Data via Good Morning America

This is the state of the bizarre multibillion-a-year bottled water market. The evidence is inconclusive as to whether bottled water actually tastes better or is healthier than tap water. Yet designer water brands have been able to, through clever marketing and distribution, transform a public good into a product sold at a thousand-percent markup.

All of this is pretty astounding stuff when you consider that, in 1975, the bottled water industry was almost non-existent. Back then, the average American consumed 1.2 gallons of bottled water:

Data via Beverage Marketing Association
Data via Beverage Marketing Association

35 years later, Americans have come to drink 28.3 gallons of bottled water per capita, which is now second only to carbonated soft drinks.

There are many variables at play that have contributed to the phenomenon of half-finished bottles of water strewn across office space (see: drinking more water, eating organic, simple convenience). But to limit the discussion to just these would be to overly simplify a trend that has a pretty intriguing back story.

Disruptive Marketing

In the mid-1970s, French mineral water brand Perrier launched a massive marketing campaign in the United States to bring the company’s signature bubbly water to American shores. Soda sales were slowing down, and Americans were becoming more and more health-conscious. As previously mentioned, though, people didn’t really drink much bottled water in 1975. While Deer Park and Poland Spring were around back then, their sales numbers weren’t great (Poland Spring was actually on the verge of bankruptcy).

So the marketers and copywriters at Perrier came up with a genius angle for selling water: they called it “Earth’s First Soft Drink”:

Future Perrier ads would tout how natural, pure, youthful, and straight-from-the-earth their bubbly water was. Other bottled water brands followed suit, and this positioning is still pretty common — just search for “bottled water ad” on Google Images and you’ll see bottles of water wrapped in leaves or overlooking a valley or something to that effect. Other “growth hacks” used by bottled water brands: rousing public fear of tap water with ads calling it poisonous; and creating/sponsoring national campaigns to urge people to drink more water.

To be fair, tap water is an easy target because a) it’s had a dubious reputation in the past, b) it’s overseen by the government, and c) it’s the antagonist of the “poison the water supplies to bring the Second Coming quickerconspiracy theory.

Clever marketing and brand positioning played a large role in the emergence of bottled water in the United States. However, the industry would not have reached the heights that it had without “Big Bev” and the scale of distribution at its disposal.

Economies of Scale

Around the turn of the century, big food & beverage companies made their splashy entrance. In 1994, PepsiCo introduced their own bottled water brand, Aquafina. Then Coca-Cola launched Dasani in 1999. These two brands stood to compete with Perrier, Deer Park, and Poland Spring (all of which had been acquired by Nestle by then). In part due to massive food & beverage corporations now entering the space, bottled water has become even more lucrative. Between 2000 and 2010, bottled water consumption per capita grew by an average of 11% per year.

The bottled water market is now dominated by the same people who sell us fizzy sugar water and ovaltine:

Data via Statista
Data via Statista

The economies of scale available to these giant corporations have allowed them to achieve relatively easily a level of distribution that smaller companies haven’t been able to replicate. Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and Nestle have wisely leveraged their existing distribution contracts with airports, convenience stores, and the like to make their bottled water ubiquitous. And when you have the ability to distribute and market widely, who cares if the product isn’t mind-blowing?

Cultural Imprinting

Courtesy of Melting Asphalt
Courtesy of Melting Asphalt

Disruptive marketing combined with economies of scale have created a feedback loop that has imprinted on our cultural consciousness the idea that it is normal, healthy, and convenient to treat bottled water like it’s a “lifestyle” drink. Over at his brilliant blog Melting Asphalt, Kevin Simler explains the concept of cultural imprinting:

“Cultural imprinting is the mechanism whereby an ad, rather than trying to change our minds individually, instead changes the landscape of cultural meanings — which in turn changes how we are perceived by others when we use a product. Whether you drink Corona or Heineken or Budweiser “says” something about you. But you aren’t in control of that message; it just sits there, out in the world, having been imprinted on the broader culture by an ad campaign. It’s then up to you to decide whether you want to align yourself with it. Do you want to be seen as a “chill” person? Then bring Corona to a party.”

This is particularly important to keep in mind when thinking about how all these bottled waters have branded, packaged, and sold themselves. Fiji Water is an “artesian aquifer water” that is “untouched” by human waste. Poland Spring is “green”. Smartwater is sexy. Dasani and Aquafina are pure, splashy fun. Which personality do you want to be associated with?

But, as Penn & Teller showed us, when we’re primed to think a certain way about something in fancy packaging, we tend to fall for the sleight-of-hand. So what if Fiji Water was found to have more arsenic in it than Cleveland tap water? Or that Poland Spring was sued for using groundwater instead of water coming from a natural spring? Or that Dasani and Aquafina were both found to be sourced from tap water?

What a weird concept indeed. However convenient bottled water is, the demand for it has been largely manufactured by the people selling it.

But don’t mind us at the SocialRank office as we continue to stock our fridges with Fiji. That shit is great.

Courtesy of Social News Daily

Customer Service as Reality Distortion

While studying the psychology of waiting in line at grocery stores, David H. Maister of Harvard Business School came up with something called the Satisfaction Equation. According to this very complicated calculus, a customer’s satisfaction is equal to the difference between her perceptions and her expectations, or:

S = P − E

In the sluggish and often frustrating world of air travel, this equation might as well be called the JetBlue Equation. JetBlue’s well-known customer service efforts (especially on social media) deliver high-quality experiences when passengers are expecting the worst.

For example, last week, traveler Rebecca Joffrey was irked by the loud music playing over the P.A. system near her gate at JFK Airport. She turned to Twitter to vent; a few minutes and five tweets later, JetBlue got the airport crew to turn the volume down. (You can see the full interaction below.)

 Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 3.12.03 PM

This type of organic (and immediate) response is what JetBlue strives for — approximating “people talking to people,” as their head of social media Laura Meacham puts it. It comes as no surprise, then, that the airline consistently scores highly in Consumer Reports’ annual airline satisfaction ratings.

image2

Where is this customer satisfaction coming from? If Maister’s equation holds, the best airlines are those whose service can most dramatically outpace travelers’ expectations. And when expectations are routinely exceeded, we can expect there to be fewer people grumbling in the corner about how miserable their experience was.

This common sense seems to be confirmed by the data. After plotting customer satisfaction ratings against how often complaints were filed to the DoT, we got a fairly strong correlation– the lower the complaint rate, the higher the airline’s customer satisfaction:

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 3.55.34 PM

As expected, Southwest and JetBlue (as well as Alaska Air) are the cream of the crop, while legacy carriers Delta, US Airways, American, and United reek of mediocrity. Meanwhile, way out by its lonesome on the bottom right is Spirit Airlines.

Perception vs. Reality

But this is where things start to get very interesting. While crunching the complaints and satisfaction data to see which airlines migrated to the top-and-left of the graph, we realized there was a fairly large assumption being made– that if customers aren’t complaining, then surely we must be treating them right.

But what if that’s not true? What if the perception of good service is overpowering the reality? Just because passengers aren’t complaining doesn’t mean that an airline is actually delivering on that specific service.

Take a look now at mishandled baggage rate v. baggage complaint rate. As many of us can attest to, losing a checked bag is one of the most annoying experiences any traveler can have. So we expect to see the worst baggage handlers to have the highest complaint rates:

image1

As it turns out, there is no significant correlation between how often bags are actually mishandled and how often baggage complaints are filed. Which makes us wonder if there are certain airlines being unfairly complained about (or not complained about enough). So let’s break it down by airline:

image4

Poor Frontier Airlines. It has the highest baggage complaint rate (in blue), but it actually handles bags pretty damn well (in black). Only Virgin America has a better mishandled baggage rate.

Notice something else that’s bizarre?

Southwest Airlines has the highest rate of mishandled bags. And also the lowest baggage complaint rate. How does that work? Southwest has been known for years for its high levels of engagement with its customers, a poster child for extremely strong customer service.

At least with respect to bags, though, Southwest’s customer service is a reality distortion. Its low complaint rates (and high customer satisfaction ratings) don’t reflect the reality that they aren’t so great at handling your bags.

The Halo Effect & Reality Distortion

Why is there no significant link between how much people complain about an airline mishandling a bag and how often that airline actually mishandles a bag?

One theory is that customer service is very subject to the Halo Effect. Psychologist Solomon Asch defines it as “a tendency of certain personality traits to have an overwhelming effect in impression formation, even influencing the interpretation of other traits associated with the person being judged.”

As it applies to airlines, the Halo Effect seems to be at play when it comes to front-line customer service. As Martin Lariviere of the Kellogg School of Management puts it:

“When your bag doesn’t show up, your immediate recourse is not calling the FAA; it is speaking with an airline employee. If that employee can show a little empathy and try to help, no one will be rushing to call the Feds. Said another way, well designed recovery processes matter and that is true independent of niches the firm targets or how it prices.”

So if Southwest is treating us well at the help desk after they lost our bag, we might think they’re doing whatever they can to retrieve it. And we don’t bother to file an official complaint. Even if they’re playing hacky sack with our luggage. Weird.

Another theory is a bit more sober: that we love discounts more than we love good service. Seth Kaplan of Airline Weekly lays it out like this:

“I don’t want to accuse people of lying, but sometimes they say one thing and their actions suggest something else. Consciously they might really believe they hate Spirit, but a lot of them on some level have decided that they actually do like Spirit because they don’t like paying a lot of money and they are willing to put up with the things they don’t like about Spirit in exchange for low fares.”

So customer service (especially on social media) might amplify great all-around service for some airlines. Or it might blur reality and make people think an airline is doing a better job than it actually is. Or, in the case of Spirit Airlines, customer service takes a “zero f*cks given” approach: outsource social media management to a robot.

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 5.21.40 PM

Whatever way you cut it, though, how a company chooses to connect social media to in-real-life customer service can have large effects on its brand.

How Twitter Can Solve Its Onboarding Problem (Republished)

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Before working at SocialRank, I was a bit confused as to how Twitter worked. I knew it was a place for celebrities, politicians, musicians, brands, every day people and others to discuss issues, events, and breaking news, and converse with hashtags and @ mentions. I kept seeing tweet #XYZ during TV shows or #brand on advertisements while walking down the street. When I logged on, I honestly had no idea what the trending topics meant or how to place hashtags and @ mentions in a post. One of my first days here, Alex taught me the ropes of Twitter and now I check it at least 5 times a day (probably more). So for this week’s post, we decided to point you in the direction of Alex’s article “How Twitter Can Solve Its Onboarding Problem.”

10 Things You Need to Know About the ALS #IceBucketChallenge

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The ALS Ice Bucket Competition has gone viral. The challenge started spreading like wildfire after Pete Frats, a former Boston College baseball player with ALS, posted on his Facebook. In just over 1 month, $100 has turned into almost $23 million dollars–all through social media and word of mouth. From Lebron James to George Bush to Oprah, celebrities across the world have been challenging each other and participating, all for a good cause.

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10 Things You Should Know about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge:

1- This time last year the ALS foundation had only raised $1.9 million in the same time frame that $23 million has been raised this year.

2- People have shared more than 1 million videos on Facebook since June 1 and there have been 2 million mentions on Twitter since July 29.

3- After Pete Frates posted the challenge on his wall, athletes all across Boston started doing the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Then various sports teams across the US. Then celebrities. Everyone joined in! Here is that post from July 31:

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Map showing the spread of mentions of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge on Facebook from Boston outward.

4- “Meet the guy who made ALS ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ Go Viral” (A touching video about Pete Frates)

5- It all started on July 15 when a golfer in Florida named Charles Kennedy was nominated by a friend to do an ice bucket challenge that was not yet designated for a specific cause. He decided to link ALS to the challenge because his cousin was suffering from the disease. Charles Kennedy then nominated Pat Quinn in NY (who suffers from ALS), who then started the campaign with Pete Frates. 

6- $8.6 million was donated to the ALS Association on Tuesday.

7- One ALS sufferer, who has had ALS for 14 years, decided to take the ALS ice bucket challenge to the next level.

8- Just to review the rules: once nominated, you have 24 hours to either give $100 to the ALS foundation or pour a bucket of ice water over your head (or hopefully both), and in turn nominate 3 new people to complete the challenge.

9- Take time to read up more about ALS here.

10- Here’s the list of just some of the awesome celebrity videos from the challenge:

Chris Pratt

Charlie Sheen

Justin Timberlake

George Bush

Oprah

Taylor Swift 

Lady GaGa

Lebron James

Bill Gates

Jeff Bezos 

Mark Zuckerberg

Jimmy Fallon and the Roots

Governor Chris Christie

Steven Spielberg

Ben Affleck 

Justin Bieber (2 ice bucket challengers)

Jimmy Fallon

And arguably one of the most impressive ice bucket challenges, done by Paul Bissonnette involving a helicopter.

Now it’s your turn, have you done the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge?

The Top 10 Most Followed Brands on Instagram

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Two weeks ago we released SocialRank 2.0. In the announcement we mentioned that we will be adding Instagram to SocialRank soon. We’ve begun playing around with Instagram and were inspired to put out our first blog post about it.

Here are the top 10 brands with the most followers on Instagram, and the most liked photos for each brand from the month of July.

1. National Geographic – 6.4 million followers

423,000 likes

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2- Nike– 5.5 million followers

231,000 likes

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3- The Ellen Show5.3 million followers

276,000 likes

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4. Victoria’s Secret – 5.08 million followers

185,000 likes

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5. 9GAG – 4.86 million followers

472,000 likes

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6. Forever 21 – 4.4 million followers

212,000 likes

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7. NBA – 3.26 million followers

172,000 likes

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8. H&M – 3 million followers

78,400 followers

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9. Starbucks – 3 million followers

168,000 likes

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10. Louboutin – 2.86 million

143,000 likes

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Which is your favorite photo?

Social Media Explained Through the Eyes of a Donut

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We were inspired by the famous “Social Media Explained” donut post and decided to act each piece out as well as add new networks.

Here is a list of the most commonly used social media networks for brands and what using each network portrays… with a donut.

1) Twitter – I’m eating a #Donut

2) Facebook – I like Donuts

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3)  Foursquare/Swarm – This is where I eat Donuts

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4) Instagram – Here’s my vintage photo of a Donut

 

5) LinkedIn – My skills include Donut eating

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6) YouTube – Here I am eating a Donut

7) Pinterest– Here’s a Donut recipe

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8) Google+ – I’m a Google employee who eats Donuts

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9) Snapchat – Here is my cool drawing on top of a Donut…that will disappear in 4 seconds

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10) Vine– The life and death of a Donut

And that is social media explained through the eyes of a Donut.

 

 

World Cup 2014 – Followers Before and After

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“There have been more tweets about the 2014 World Cup, before a ball has been kicked, than for the entire tournament in 2010.”

Twitter blog

The World Cup was the most social sporting event since the dawn of social media. It trumped the Super Bowl and the Olympics in terms of engagement, tweets, Facebook likes–the whole nine yards. 16 million tweets were exchanged during the Brazil-Chile game alone (389,000 per minute). Tim Howard became an overnight superstar/sensation via social media: #ThingsTimHowardCouldSave. Even the soccer stars themselves turned to social media to explain, confess, and counter negative press (ex: Luis Suárez).

Now that the World Cup has ended, we collected the number of followers from each of the 32 participating teams from before the event and compared it to the number of followers from each of the teams after the event. The follower count for each of the teams increased significantly throughout the tournament.

Take a look at this graph and infographic:

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