Category Archives: Twitter

The #yycflood and the unsung hero who kept @calgarypolice Twitter feed going

Its been a few weeks since the floods in southern Alberta hit so unexpectedly and caused so much damage. There has been alot of coverage of the recovery efforts and all the incredible people that have contributed to these efforts. This post is going to focus on the role of Twitter and how important it was to the thousands of people in Calgary and surrounding areas including on a very personal level how critical it was for me considering I was in Halifax the day that this event was happening. Lastly – I want to highlight a very important moment with respect to Twitter and an unsung hero who was critical in ensuring that news and information kept going out to Calgarians.

On June 20 I was in Halifax. I had the pleasure of speaking to our Atlantic Canada sales team. Throughout the day I was receiving updates from my wife with respect to weather warnings. By the end of the business day in Halifax the updates started to sound more critical with flood notices being issued and updates of more and more damage to the west of Calgary. By the time I had finished dinner with some of my YPG colleagues the updates where getting pretty serious with a number of communities in Calgary being evacuated and my neighbourhood was definitely on notice. (As an aside – check out Ristorante a Mano in Halifax, incredible restaurant).

By the time I got back to hotel all hell it seemed was breaking loose in Calgary. I immediately jumped onto Twitter and started to follow the #yycflood twitter stream. It was pretty evident from some of the early pictures that where being posted on Twitter that this flood was nothing compared to what happened in 2005. This is when I started to make the necessary changes to the travel plans to get back to Calgary as soon as possible, coordinating with my parents who live in downtown Calgary and helping to remotely make arrangements to ensure that everybody had a safe place to stay for the night in case of evacuations.

One of the early primary sources of official information was from the @calgarypolice twitter feed. They where doing an incredible job helping to faciliate information between the @cityofcalgary twitter feed and the general public by answering specific questions. Here is an example:

Screenshot of communication between Calgary police and residents regarding the #yycflood flood

Screenshot of communication between Calgary police and residents regarding the #yycflood flood

As the flood worsened and the volume of updates/responses to citizens increased, the twitter account for the @CalgaryPolice got shut down at around 7pm pst time. Considering the volume of tweets all of sudden from this account it would make sense that Twitter’s security system would halt this account. I know a lot of people got emotional when this happened (how could twitter shut this account down considering what is happening) but to be fair to them they monitor account activity and not context. The key at that moment was to get the @CalgaryPolice account back up and running to provide these critical updates to Calgarians.

Below is a collection of images with time stamps on communications to get this twitter feed up and running again. As you will see below, one of the unsung hero’s of the early moments of the Calgary Flood was Sylvain Carle, platform relations manager for Twitter. He was instrumental in making sure that the @calgarypolice twitter feed was back up and running in under 40 mins from the time it was blocked. After the reactivation of the account the @calgarypolice provided hundreds up dates on the 20th and 21st and answered hundreds of tweets of concerned residents.

Text message string between my wife and I regarding the Calgary Police Twitter Feed

Text message string between my wife and I regarding the Calgary Police Twitter Feed

Direct twitter message with Sylvain Carle - Twitter

Direct twitter message with Sylvain Carle – Twitter – to help in reactivating the @CalgaryPolice feed

String between Sylvain Carle, CST Jeremy Shaw and other Twitter users including myself

String between Sylvain Carle, CST Jeremy Shaw and other Twitter users including myself

Account Re-Activated thanks from the Calgary Police (although they thanked the wrong account)

Account Re-Activated thanks from the Calgary Police (although they thanked the wrong account)

For me personally, twitter has always been a primary source of news information. However, until you go through an event where real-time communication becomes your life-line you don’t really appreciate how important Twitter’s platform is. When I think of the events of that night I am so impressed at how technology played an instrumental role in potentially saving life’s and calming the general public.

Lastly, I would like to once again say thank you to Sylvain again for jumping into action. His efforts where critical in ensuring that communication continued to flow from the right sources and no doubt in my mind helped hundreds of Calgarians indirectly through his actions. Thanks Sylvain (@froginthevalley).

P.S. – For another good read on Social Media’s role in the Calgary Flood, check out the blog post by Danielle Montgomery called Calgarians fight disaster with social media on the Edmonton Journal.

Which is the Best Canadian ‘Mobile Web’ Local Search Product for the iPhone?

Well it is Friday night and I had another week of travelling. This week I was down at the Chirp Conference (first developers conference for Twitter) in San Francisco. The team at TechCrunch did a great job of covering the conference, here are some articles to check out if you have not already:

Twitter has 105,779,710 Registered Users, Adding 300K A Day
Twitter Adds Places To Its Geo-Tweets, Just Don’t Call It A Check-In
Live From Chirp: Twitter’s Platform Roadmap
Ev Explains Twitter’s Move Into Mobile Apps: “Otherwise We Are Failing Users”

So enough about Chirp, this has been covered extensively this week.

While I am waiting for my wife I was playing with my iPhone, actually wishing I had an iPad (after the Chirp conference and speaking to a number of people about their iPads, I am convinced that I need to buy one, but that for another day). Back to my iPhone – I was playing with Mobile Web, not iPhone applications and I got to wondering about the Mobile Web experiences for Canadians?

So here is what I did.

I visited the following sites through my Safari browser on my phone. Google.ca, YellowPages.ca, Yahoo.ca, and 411.ca. I tried to visit yelp.ca, but it gave me their actual website, not their mobile enhanced so they are not included.

I then entered the exact search term “restaurants toronto” for each site and was presented with their results. The screenshots below are the results page for each of the above websites. Check them out yourself.

So here is what I want to know? Based on the screenshots below for the search “restaurants toronto” and nothing but the screenshots below, which mobile application provides the best results? I am going to leave it as best results, you decide whether best results mean content, look and feel or brand loyalty.


In alphabetical order:

411.ca
411.ca Mobile Web - Restaurants Toronto

Google Web
Google Web - Restaurants Toronto Search

Yahoo Web
Yahoo - Restaurant Toronto Search

YellowPages.ca
YellowPages.ca - Restaurants Toronto Search

One more screenshot from an application that I am testing on my iPhone (it is not available to the general public yet) called Urbanizer, mood based searching. This application is going to rock. You can subscribe to get notified when it is available in the app store.

Urbanizer
Urbanizer - Restaurants Toronto
Urbanizer - Restaurants Toronto

If we are missing your favorite mobile web application, put the URL in the comments, I would be happy to add it to this post.

Blippy.com – Will You Share What You Buy?

Through Facebook.com (my profile) we decided to share who we were, where we went school, our personal photos and more. Using LinkedIn.com (my profile) we decided to share everything about our business life and business connections. Twitter (my profile) allows us to share our 140 character thoughts. With FourSquare (my profile) we now check-in everywhere and share our location with our friends.

Now there is Blippy.com – the service that allows you to share your purchases. On the Blippy.com website the tagline is simple : Blippy is a fun and easy way to see and discuss what everyone is buying.

Here is a screenshot from my Blippy.com Feed:

Darby Sieben Blippy.com Feed

At this point I am only sharing my purchased from iTunes. But if you want to share more of your purchases you have the following options:

Accounts You Can Share on Blippy.com

Most of these services are not available in Canada but you have the option of sharing your credit card or banking transactions. As a Canadian you have the following financial institution support on Blippy.com – American Express, ING Bank, and Capital One (although it does not explicitly say Canada). Here is a screenshot of the financial institutions supported by Blippy.com:

Financial Institutions Supported by Blippy.com

This past week I was forwarded this site to my colleagues and friends asking for their feedback. Some of them thought it was quite innovative in terms of asking your friends for feedback on whether they liked or disliked a movie or song. Others thought it was inappropriate to share this information on the web and flat-out told me they never would post their purchases online. Other thought it was completely stupid that somebody who post this info and that others would actually want to read it. One thing for sure is that Blippy.com evoked a reaction.

I actually think this concept is interesting. Think about it – everybody shares with their friends and family what they like and dislike. Did you see that movie? What did you think of it? When people come over to my house, they ask us how do you like your massage chair or your 4-door fridge (these are 2 common questions we get from most people). You can read about my Inada Massage Chair purchase.

Does Blippy.com allow people from long distances participate in those discussions?

Could Blippy.com help you make better decisions by asking people in your network about a product or service?

What about asking a total stranger on Blippy.com what he thought of a restaurant you have not been to before?

Is this so different than facebook, twitter, foursquare or linkedin?

Could Blippy.com be the next social phenomena?

Will You Share What You Buy?

Does Tweeting Drive Google Search Volume?

Twitter has been all the rage lately getting lots of coverage by bloggers and traditional media outlets. I too have been active on Twitter @darbysieben as well as contributing to @yellowpages_ca.

What I wanted to know is whether tweeting can actually drive Google search volume in the same way that traditional media campaigns can increase search volumes. My experiment is very limited in time and scope, so not scientific at all, however, I wanted to share my early results.

What I did was set-up a Google Adwords campaign specifically for the exact match keyword “darby sieben”. On a side note, I encourage everybody I meet to do the following; a) register your own name as a domain name, and b) set-up a google alert on your name. I believe that personal reputation management will be a big trend in the next few years.

Second, I added no new blog posts for the first 20-days of May, my online communication was limited to Twitter only. I have actually run my Google Adwords campaign on my name for some time and see a correlation between blog posts and the increase in ad impressions. So for my experiment, I did not want to introduce the variable of a blog post into the equation.

Third, I tracked my posts on Twitter and the ad impression count through Google Adwords. Here is the chart for the first 20-days of May.

Tweets vs Google Adwords Impressions

It would appear that there is a correlation between Tweeting and increasing search volumes. That said, this experiment is too limited to make any concrete conclusions, but directionally would seem to make sense if I view Twitter in the same way as traditional media. What I believe this does demonstrate is that viewing search volumes alone is not sufficient in and of itself for measuring ROI, rather a more holistic view of what causes search volumes may be more of an indicator of what actually drives usage.

NakedPizza Anyone?

Would you follow your favorite healthy pizza place on Twitter? Through the power of Twitter, originally posted by @perryevans, which I found through a ReTweet by @sebprovencher – I am now following NakedPizza, a New Orleans super-health conscious pizza joint. The article that my twitter friends were talking about is “A Sign Of Things To Come: Naked Pizza Erects Twitter Billboard” from TechCrunch.

So, what did NakedPizza do that deserves such mention? Simple. They are using traditional media combined with social media to stay connected with their customers. Check out the picture below from TechCrunch.

TechCrunch - NakedPizza and Twitter Billboard

From the article – “But if a business can get a customer to add their Twitter handle, it gets a free channel to constantly remind them that they exist. By tweeting out promotions a few times a week, Naked Pizza will maintain a presence in the customer’s consciousness, and the customer gets a chance to score some cheap pizza.

What a brilliant strategy from a small business. Back in 2005, when I operated KS2 Solutions Inc., a Calgary based Internet Marketing firm, I did a lot of public speaking about small business marketing and how SMB’s could leverage the Internet. In February of that year I posted a blog titled, “Are You Letting Sales Slip Away” in which I discussed the importance of staying connected with your customers. At that time, the message in terms of doing this was through a eNewsletter, however, move ahead 4-years and now there is Twitter.

Twitter is likely one of the best tools, since eNewsletters, for constant communication with your customers. From a user perspective, I can follow my favorite local, regional or national brand players who will inform me through tiny 140 character updates about products, specials or whatever. When I compare Twitter to Email, I see 3 key advantages –

1) more viral, easier to share Tweets as opposed to forwarding emails
2) promotes two-way communication
3) small, short and focused messages, no more rambling newsletters about how great you are

I am still a fan of the eNewsletter but Twitter could be the next best thing to staying connected with your customers.

By the numbers, as of this posting:

1942 – the number of people following @NakedPizza
62 – the number of comments on the article posted on TechCrunch (note: was 60 when I started writing this blog post)
4 – the number of times my wife has asked me if I am done yet

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