I love when mushrooms pop up around my yard after a few days of rain because there’s something magical about new life suddenly appearing “out of nowhere.” I feel the same way about Tweetmeme. A few months ago Loic Le Meur, the guy behind Seesmic, told me that “zis companee iz getting tonz of traffeeq.” I had never heard of it until that day. Then I started noticing the green Tweetmeme “retweet” button on many sites and blogs.
TweetMeme aggregates all the links on Twitter to determine which links are popular. Then it displays the number of times people have retweeted a page—which is a very interesting data point. TweetMeme also categorizes these links to make it easy to filter out the noise and to find tweets that interest you. For example, this category is only about Apple news..
The Tweetmeme retweet button is more useful than Digg as an indicator of the quality of a link because Digg is about a small number of selected people getting stories onto the Digg home page. The assumption with Tweetmeme is that if you retweet a link, you are telling your followers that it leads to a good site, and you are putting your reputation on the line. If you digg something, you are not risking your reputation nearly as much—if at all.
I’ve added the Tweetmeme to both my personal blog and Alltop, so I know from first-hand knowledge how useful it is. American Express is also adding it to this site. It took me a couple of weeks to wrap my head around what Tweetmeme was doing, so to speed up the process for other people, I conducted this interview with the founder of Tweetmeme, Nick Halstead. (Disclosure: I may become an advisor to Tweetmeme.)
Question: What made you start TweetMeme?
Answer: In early 2008 we built a very rudimentary version of TweetMeme purely for publicity—it took a weekend to build with a lot of Redbull and pizza. It was a very simplistic website but it worked and created a massive buzz. We did not make any further changes to TweetMeme until January this year, I was tracking the growth of Twitter and could see that as a source of news aggregation it was becoming a viable platform.
Question: How many sites and blogs have installed your button?
Answer: We do not give out the exact numbers of sites but we serve over 50 million button impressions a day and that is growing exponentially.
Question: How quickly does your retweet button update?
Answer: We have a real-time service when retweets come from Twitter or when people press our retweet button.
Question: If a site or blog has not added your button, can it still appear on your home page?
Answer: It is not necessary to use our retweet button as we still count retweets whether you use the button or not. The button has typically gives websites at least a double of retweets, though so it really does help.
Question: What if I use an URL shortener: do you count all the tweets to a page no matter what the URL appears to be?
Answer: We track literally thousands of different short URL services and count all of them, as long as the short URL points at the same final destination we count it. One thing to remember with our service is that we only count one URL per user—that is, one person one vote. So if you retweet the same story twice we will ignore it the second time around. We also get asked if you need to add @tweetmeme to be counted; this is not necessary because we only care about the link.
Question: Is your competition Digg and Yahoo Buzz?
Answer: Digg and Yahoo Buzz are both crowd sourcing sites. Although we compete for delivering news we feel that we are different because our source of content is real-time and because we filter the content rather than the crowd doing it. This gives us a massive advantage in speed of spotting new trends, plus we have a very broad cross-section of news that can only come from having such a large volume of articles.
Question: Why do people retweet a page?
Answer: Just like any other voting system—a retweet is an acknowledgement that the content is good and that they want to share it with their followers on Twitter. We have some power users who retweet 100+ stories per day.
Question: How can a site owner or blog owner make more people retweet their pages?
Answer: Make the retweet button as prominent as possible. This does not always fit with all page designs but we have found those who put the button top-left definitely get more tweets.
Question: How do you categorize links?
Answer: We have our own filtering technology that we have spent the last two years developing. It takes content in real-time and applies thousands of rules to decide what goes in what category. The third generation of engine which we are about to deploy is capable of categorizing tens of millions of web pages a day.
Question: What is a Tweetmeme channel?
Answer: Taking our filtering technology we can go beyond simple categories and filter content into thousands of different topic areas. A channel is set of content around a focused around a particular topic such as a product (for example, iPhone) or a person (for example, Oprah)
If you are a website or blog owner, I recommend that you add the Tweetmeme retweet button. You can learn more about it here. If you’d like to see the most retweeted stories by topic, go here for the Alltop aggregation of Tweetmeme categories.