Unless you work in advertising, there’s no particular reason you’d have heard of the service Ad.ly. The service matches up brands with relevant celebrities who then tweet about, or have ‘their people’ tweet about, a product or service. It rose to prominence a couple of years ago, with it and services like it making headlines when it came to light that Kim Kardashian was raking in $10,000 per Twitter endorsement, and came under scrutiny more recently in the debate on how explicitly sponsored tweets had to be indicated as such.
Whether or not a tweet from Kim Kardashian is actually worth $10,000 is another story, but it does raise the issue of whether or not there’s an inherent value attached to tweets by non-celebrities. There are those out there who would argue that trying to attach a monetary value to a tweet is pointless, but there is another point of view. While it’s difficult to measure the impact of a tweet relating to a brand by an average Twitter user to their followers, there is another way to look at how much tweets are worth. Many small business owners and freelancers rely on Twitter as a method of lead generation – by taking into account a few different variables, it shouldn’t be too difficult to work out how much money a tweet is capable of generating.
Consider the following example – a reasonably well known web designer has around 2,500 followers. He sends out three tweets about wanting to take on new projects and each one is retweeted 50-60 times (yup, he’s a popular guy!). There’s a high probability that, because many of his followers also work in the tech savvy fields of design and development, they’ll have more followers than the average Twitter user. The average user has 208 followers, so let’s assume that these retweeters have an average of somewhere around 1,000 followers. Based on the above, the designer’s callouts for work have something close to 150,000 ‘impressions’ or chances to be seen by people on Twitter.
The result? In the above example, based on a real case study, 15 conversations about potential jobs were generated by the activity. Of course, not all of these will result in actual work right off the bat – some of those who got in touch may only want in-house talent, or at least talent that’s local to them. Likewise, the designer may have reasons for not wanting to go ahead with some of the jobs. Let’s be conservative and say that a third of those conversations lead somewhere, which makes five jobs. Based on the fact that a designer’s day rate can be upwards of $500, this means he stands to make at least $2500 from three tweets. That comes out at some $830 and change per tweet. Not quite on par with Kim Kardashian, but not bad!
It could be said that generating five ‘leads’ per 50,000 impressions isn’t particularly efficient. In lieu of measuring visits to his Twitter profile, which could be found by using a trackable bit.ly link, leads/conversations can crudely be associated to clickthroughs. That figure comes out at about 0.01% CTR, which is roughly one tenth as effective as the average web banner campaign. However, it didn’t cost him a dime and turnaround was virtually immediate. With that in mind, it’s still tempting to call the ‘campaign’ a success.
There are tons of business owners out there who think that Twitter is an easy way to generate business. As can be seen above, it’s not…at least, not without a few thousand engaged followers and people who are willing to retweet you to a relevant audience.
Let’s say a business or freelancer who has the average figure of 208 followers tweets about being available for work. Based on the above ‘retweet rate’, they could expect maybe 4 people to retweet that callout. Even if each of those people has an average of 1,000 followers, which is probably unlikely given that the fictional business has comparatively few followers, that will result in 4,000 impressions. Based on the calculations above that would only generate 0.4 potential leads, which in all likelihood won’t amount to any work. They could keep hammering out ‘available for work!’ tweets every ten minutes to improve their odds, but if they do that it’s unlikely they’ll keep those 208 followers for long…
The calculations in this post are pretty fast and loose, but that’s because they have to be – when you’re dealing with social media it’s difficult to be anything else. Posting a tweet a few hours, or even minutes, later or earlier can mean the difference between 0 retweets and 300. The unpredictability of social media is part of what makes it interesting, but it’s also what makes it crazy to rely too much on it for jobs.
The answer to the question ‘how much is a tweet worth?’ is ‘it depends on how you look at it’. You might say it’s $830, since that’s how much the web designer above can theoretically make from one tweet. You might say it’s 1.6¢, since that’s the theoretical value of each of his tweet’s impressions. You might, based on the activity of users who don't have thousands of followers, declare it to be zero.
Of course, you could also say that the real value of Twitter is supplemental – sharing knowledge, making connections and interacting with your customers. That’s probably the smart one to go with; it’s never smart to build your entire business model around a website that could get hacked tomorrow and disappear forever.