Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Value of Twitter Following from Brand Savant

Thank you Brand Savant for this interesting musing on how much a follower on Twitter is worth.  It's a thorny question.  Click here for the entire post.  Here are some excerpts.

I saw an interesting question this morning on the Twitter from Shiv Singh:
What’s the value of a tweet sent by a person with a million followers? What’s the Cost Per Tweet Impression?
I’m going to marinate on this for a few days, because it’s a thornier problem than one might initially surmise. Here’s where the problem gets deep. First of all, unlike, say, a banner ad, there is no guarantee that I will be “served” the impression of a tweet, if I miss it in my timeline. In contrast, if a website says it served a million impressions of an ad, then itwas served to roughly two million eyeballs. Of course, many of those eyeballs may have blocked, ignored, or quickly scrolled away from that ad, but I can at least quantify what those of us who research the Out-Of-Home media space call “opportunity to see.”
With a tweet, it’s a little less straightforward, since one million followers don’t equate to one million impressions. If you follow over a thousand people on Twitter, your timeline is cluttered to the point that you’d likely have to actively seek out tweets from an individual Twitter user in order to guarantee that you had “seen” a given tweet from that user.
Contrast that to someone on Twitter who, to return to Shiv’s original question, has one million followers. Let’s take Tony Robbins, who currently has 1.8 million followers. Tony is what can fairly be called a Twitter “broadcaster,” and I make no value judgement whatsoever about this. If he tweets something, I suppose I might reply, but my Twitter affections shall go unrequited – I have no expectation of a reply from Tony. This isn’t to disparage him; merely an acknowledgement that a million followers doesn’t scale. I don’t expect a reply, because I know that he has too many followers, too many possible conversations to engage in to have even seen my tweet, and I generally don’t like talking to myself (or to someone “managing” the Tony Robbins Twitter account not named Tony Robbins.)
At some point, then, a Power-Twitterer stops engaging people and becomes a broadcaster, because they have no other choice. If LeBron James actually does answer someone’s tweet, it’s the Twitter equivalent of answering one piece of fan mail – an “example” of engagement that doesn’t prove the rule. If someone with 1,000 followers tweets a question, I think those followers expect that this is an entree to a conversation. If someone with a million followers tweets a question, I daresay the vast majority of those followers realize the question is rhetorical. (I admit there is also the confounding variable of the retweet to deal with here, but engagement also comes into play in retweet behavior.)
Perhaps, therefore, the number of followers a given Twitter user has becomes a sort of barometer of engagement expectations. South of some magic number, a tweet is an invitation to connect. North of that number, a tweet is an inefficient broadcast advertisement. In this sense, that number is like a “Dunbar’s Number” for a new age of asymmetrical, asynchronous conversation. And that actual number, the “elusive statistic” referred to in the title of this post, is less important than what the number is perceived to be by the followers of a given Twitterer.

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