Several months ago I wrote about How I Found Triberr, and Why I’m Begging for an Invitation. We’re getting near the six-month mark so I thought I would follow up on my Triberr experiment. The bottom line: not worth it, I’m leaving Triberr.
When I first joined Triberr, I had some rather simple goals in mind. I wanted to increase both my reach and my traffic from Twitter. And in theory, Triberr should do both. In practice, no, not so much.
But first, let me break this down a little bit. Triberr is a semi-automated way to connect with other people on Twitter. The main goal is that you each re-tweet each other’s tweets. Sure, you can do this all by yourself, but Triberr purports to make this easier. You get into a tribe w/ fellow bloggers in your niche and voila, your retweets go up! It sounds great, but in reality it just doesn’t work that way (or at least it certainly did not for me).
To set the stage, and hopefully deflect some criticism from Triberr fans, let me tell you my setup. I first joined an existing tribe which quickly filled with some really good travel bloggers. But within a month the tribe ‘chief’ dropped all of his tribes. At the time, the way Triberr was set up caused our tribe to simply disappear. I had to manually communicate directly with Dan Cristo to get members re-added and to restart the tribe with myself as chief. But since Triberr is set up to work mostly with newly invited members it would cost me ‘bones’ (and eventually money) to re-invite these existing Triberr members into the reconstituted tribe. The compromise work-around was to have all members rejoin and then get reimbursed manually. This was done, and the tribe was (mostly) back. Since that time Triberr changed their rules and setup so that if a chief leaves Triberr, the tribe stays intact and other members can be promoted to chief automatically.
I have nothing but good things to say about my fellow tribe members. They are all traveling the world and writing interesting things and taking awesome photos and video. It really was an ideal scenario if only Triberr had produced the results I had hoped for.
Here are the problems with Triberr as I see it. These are my experiences, and my opinions, and as usual, your mileage may vary…
Me, I’m a nerd, so I was able to eventually figure things out, but wow, it took me awhile. Almost every single menu item or page required a trip to the ‘forum’ area to figure out what I was supposed to do. And whey I say ‘forum’ I mean the ‘bonfire’ area. Like many sites, Triberr hand-coded their own forum. In the process, they pretty much broke down all of the user interface conventions that have been agreed on for almost two decades now. It adds more confusion to an already confusing interface.
Almost nothing in Triberr is intuitive.
When I first joined Triberr, they had just shut off automation. Basically, Twitter saw Triberr as loading their system with spam. I’m not saying that the posts people were linking to were spammy, but Twitter obviously saw the automation as non-organic. The main issue here was probably Triberr’s use of a URL-shortening service, which is a two-edged sword. Triberr can track their traffic, but so can Twitter.
Or at least that is what Triberr said when they turned off automation. But then they turned it back on, for a price! For only two bones (Triberr’s internal monetary unit) you can automatically retweet things from trusted tribe members. I have always used Triberr in manual mode, but when we moved to Mexico a few weeks ago I realized I would not be able to keep up with my tribe’s output so I set it to auto-pilot. In three weeks I’ve run through almost all of my bone pile. Plus, when in automated mode, your retweets have no editorial content added, like “hey, this was a great article” so it looks more spammy. But now an added problem has cropped up. I can’t find a way to turn off the damned auto-posting! So I guess it will take my bone count down to zero - then what?
Speaking of spam, evidently your Twitter followers (the ones NOT in Triberr) might see your feed suddenly filled with retweets to other blogs and see it as spammy. Ideally, they would love all the new content and click on it. But that depends: did your followers follow you to read YOUR content or someone else’s? Do they see you as a curator of great things to read, or a producer of great things to read? This is important, because joining Triberr turns your Twitter account into a big, sloppy mess of semi-curated content. This is something I had not properly thought about when I first signed up.
It’s bad enough to retweet things you either haven’t read or have only skimmed, but eventually the Triberr setup becomes inauthentic. You end up retweeting because you want others to retweet you. There is a complete disconnect from natural retweets, which happen because something caught your attention and you read it and you liked it so much you wanted to tell all your followers about it! It produces an echo chamber effect and breaks down any natural curation.
On her blog, CityMama wrote about leaving Triberr and one of her friends described Triberr as “inauthentic meets un-fluential” and I will have to agree. She also said this:
There is no short cut to building your social media community, and there shouldn’t be. Relationships matter, in fact, they come first. And they take time to cultivate. You have to enjoy networking. You have to build trust. You have to actually LIKE being social. You can’t fake it, and so far that is what Triberr is in danger of creating: tribes full of fake, inauthentic people, who are doing it wrong.
In spite of all that, part of me would be willing to sacrifice some authenticity if it produced results, as in traffic. Unfortunately the results are somewhere between anemic and non-existant. Triberr provides some basic statistics, but they are even more confusing than the rest of the user interface! And even when I look at them, the numbers don’t match. On one of my recent posts, Triberr tells me I’ve had 37 visits. However, when I click through for details, those numbers add up to 28. Sometimes those numbers do add up, but other times you just get “sorry, we can’t find those details.” They also have a Click-through-rate number, but all of my posts show 0% so if that means what I think it means, then “visits” does not mean what I think it means… So how do I get ‘visits’ without clicks? Beats me.
So I try to measure things using external sources, and that’s when you run into another problem. Twitter now converts all links to it’s own URL-shortening service. So while I can still see Triberr links starting with twrt.me if I hover my cursor over that link it shows up as t.co - so my own analytics on my own web site see all the traffic coming from Twitter. To get Triberr stats, I have to rely on what Triberr tells me, which as I just demonstrated is pretty much useless.
But there are other problems as well. Moving beyond stats, it changed the way I use Twitter. On my personal account I actually skim my feed, responding to or retweeting what others have written. On my travel blog feed, it’s full of all my fellow tribe-mates all retweeting each other, so I see 5-10 reteweets of everything each one of us writes. That is such a pain to wade through that I end up just NOT wading through it. I’ve already theoretically seen all of those articles in Triberr. So I miss what everyone else might be writing. I exclude my non-tribe fellow bloggers.
So here is my conclusion regarding Triberr. It will fill your feed with things you normally wouldn’t read or retweet. It will therefore annoy your existing, organic followers. It will look like spam. It will stop you from reading your own Twitter feed. Your natural, organic interaction will disappear. And for all of that bag of hurt you will receive, at best, anemic traffic that won’t click on anything and you won’t be able to measure if they do or not.
In the end, for me, Triberr is just one, big circle-jerk.