17 June 2013

Social Media Hype Du Jour: What’s A Tweet Worth?

by Freddy Tran Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango LLC + Social Media Evaluator

I’m waiting for my payment of $138,552.96.

I’m not sure who’s supposed to pay me, but I know the exact amount. According to the article “What’s the Value of a Tweet?” by the consulting firm SumAll, the “revenue generated from a business tweet” is $25.62. Since my Twitter account is entirely business, and I’ve tweeted 5,408 times as of today, I should get a six-figure windfall. And that’s not counting the revenue from each retweet ($20.37)…

At this rate, I should be able to retire before I’m 50. Until then, I guess I still have to perform quotidian tasks like critically analyzing social media hype. So let’s see how SumAll came to their conclusions.

The article skimps on the all-important details (usual practice for social media experts), but here’s what they say:

“After doing extensive research on the affect [sic] of tweeting on revenue, we found that there is in fact a correlation between tweets made and dollars earned… When looking at businesses before they started using Twitter and then after they sent out their first tweet, we found that initial tweet was worth $25.62.”

And geez, I just wrote that most Twitter engagement is worthless. Who knew I was leaving so much money on the —

Wait, did SumAll use the C-word? No, not that C-word; I’m talking “correlation.” Yes, correlation: the white rabbit of delusion that leads many a naïve business down a dark twisting hole from which they never return. “Correlation” shows whether two or more phenomena tend to happen at the same time. For example, I noticed that it frequently rains whenever I wear my blue shirt, so there’s a correlation there. But is my blue shirt making rain fall? Or is the correlation due to the fact that I like wearing blue on cloudy days?

Back to our SumAll correlation, the article leaves out the critical details of the study, so we can only speculate on why there’s a correlation between a business tweeting and its revenue increasing. Some possibilities:

  • The overall economy just happens to be improving at the same time the business started tweeting, or…
  • The business was already growing, so they could finally afford to hire a social media person or agency, which means their increased revenue led to their tweeting and not the other way around, or…
  • After a long spending freeze, the business finally decided to open its wallet with a new marketing campaign that included Twitter… and Google search ads… and billboards… and a Super Bowl commercial… and a herd of neon camels in bikinis carrying signs, or…
  • The business started selling a killer new product that everyone is buying, and someone said, “you should tweet about it,” or…
  • The founders of Twitter like to shower tweeters with their spare cash.

We could go on and on, and our guesses would be as good as any, because without clear data showing causation, correlation means NOTHING.

Now let’s give SumAll the benefit of the doubt, and assume that they did prove that tweeting directly increases revenue. What’s missing in this article is the WHY. So again, we’ll just have to speculate the reasons…

  • The business used Twitter to connect with a prominent journalist or blogger or celebrity, who excitedly hyped their product, or…
  • The Twitter account consistently demonstrated the expertise of the executives, so an investor who had been considering the business finally jumped in, or…
  • The business used Twitter to get to know a prominent buyer in the industry, then crafted a pitch customized to that buyer’s needs, or…
  • The tweets caught the attention of the founders of Twitter, who like to shower tweeters with their spare cash.

Or did I already say that? Whatever. Without that critical data, it’s impossible to know what works on Twitter and what’s a complete waste of time.

The article certainly doesn’t help with its convoluted explanations:

“Based on SumAll user data, the number of impressions is worth less than a penny, far lower than the impact of direct email campaigns yet a bit higher than an AdWords impression. To put it in perspective, the value of Twitter to business falls between email marketing and pay-for-click digital advertising. Additionally, we found six tweets per day to be the optimal number but don’t expect that more tweeting will equal more money. A rapid decline in value occurred after the first tweet  and it’s nearly impossible to triple revenue from tweeting alone.”

Did you get all that? Do you know what to do next? If so, then you understand gibberish better than I do.

Then, of course, comes the obligatory disclaimer:

“Overall, the impact Twitter makes varies greatly from business to business. Each social platform will work differently for each company based on its industry, product and marketing tactic, making the understanding of which specific digital marketing efforts drive results even more valuable.”

Oh, how I would love some understanding of which specific digital marketing efforts drive results. But the article doesn’t even explain what kinds of businesses or products SumAll studied. A fashion ecommerce site? A gourmet taco truck? Nonfat decaf medical marijuana brownies? Tickets to a Justin Bieber gated-community drag race? Instead, all we get is a ridiculously specific number — $25.62 — and an otherwise complete lack of specifics.

Amazingly, even without the critical data and clear explanations, the article still got featured by Forbes and here on my blog…

Gasp! I just realized that I’ve been wasting all this time here blogging, and I need to make $25,000/month just to lease the cool office space I’ve been dreaming about. Fortunately, I hear that I can make all that with just about 1,000 initial tweets. How tweet is that?

See you on Twitter!

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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches graduate-level marketing communication courses at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

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Chikashi Miyamoto
11 years ago

Could you please write a blog that explains what each blog about another blog is worth because I’m wondering whether I should be doing it for money or for amusement…

11 years ago

What’s it worth to you? 🙂

Chikashi Miyamoto
11 years ago

15 minutes maybe :]

Jeffry Pilcher | The Financial Brand

So we can tweet our way to riches??? Sweet! Looks like I’ve got to get busy spam tweeting.

11 years ago

I know. And all this time I thought I had to actually work to make money.