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Moonfruit and Techcrunch

For the past few weeks I’ve been working with Moonfruit. They have been working to replace their rather aging web site with something that looks a lot more contemporary.

Today was the day that the new version went live. And it was also the day that I got an interesting lesson in how marketing works in our digital world.

The company’s co-founder Wendy Tan White had been interviewed by Techcrunch and we were expecting that article to be published at about lunchtime. In order to get an idea of when the article went live, I set up a search panel on TweetDeck watching for mentions of “moonfruit” on Twitter.

During the morning there was a steady stream of mentions. This was largely people pushing their Moonfruit-hosted web sites. Then at about 12:25 that all changed. Where previously each update of the search was bringing in two or three new results, suddenly there were twenty in one go. And then another twenty. And another. And another.

On closer inspection I saw that the vast majority of them were exact reposts of this tweet from @techcrunch.

500 Startups Bites Into Moonfruit’s Simple Site Builder For Design Fans http://tcrn.ch/dYbp98 by @mikebutcher

Some of them were retweets, but most of them were automated reposts (often using Twitterfeed). In the first twenty-five minutes I estimate that the story was reposted 400 times. By now (about nine hours later) the number must be two or three times that.

I was astonished to see this volume of reposts. I knew that a story on Techcrunch was good publicity, but I had no idea just how good it was. That’s an incredible number of people who have been told about this article – and, hence, the Moonfruit relaunch.

But there’s another side to this. Why are there so many automated systems set uo to repost tweets from Techcrunch? I know that Techcrunch is a useful source of tech news, but doesn’t that mean that anyone who is interested in tech news will already be following @techcrunch on Twitter? If every tweet from @techcrunch is repeated a few hundred time and @techcrunch posts a few dozen tweets easch day, isn’t that a few thousand pointless tweets? I’m sure that these two or three hundred reposters aren’t amplifying Techcrunch’s reach by two or three hundred times. I’d be surprised if they were amplifying it by even ten times.

So what is the point of these hundreds of reposting engines? Is it some kind of spam system? Or an SEO trick? Or are there really hundreds of people out there who think that their followers benefit from reposted content from Techcrunch?

You might be wondering why I haven’t linked to any of the reposts. Well, of course, in the nine hours it’s taken me to get round to writing this post, most of them have vanished from Twitter’s search engine. Does that mean they were scams that Twitter has cleaned up? Or does Twitter’s search engine just have a really short lifespan?

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