Wednesday, September 15

Counting Impressions: Twitter Follower Nonsense

"What’s the value of a tweet sent by a person with a million followers? What’s the cost per tweet impression?" — Tom Webster

Marketers keep asking the question. And some, like Webster, appreciate that one million followers doesn't have so much meaning.

Counting impressions like traditional media, especially on platforms like Twitter, is junk math. There are too many variables outside traditional impressions because the reason people follow someone or something is not as finite as listening to a radio show or watching a television program.

We watch and listen to programs because we have a vested interest. Twitter is different. The reasons people follow are more akin to the reason for having a full cable package. We have many cable networks not because we watch them, but because they are there. And unlike cable networks, two-way communication means there is a potential for reciprocal broadcasting. Ergo, if you watch my network, I'll watch your network. But unlike Twitter, nobody counts viewers when their televisions are turned off.

10 Reasons Why Twitter Impressions Never Add Up.

• Not every follower is online at any given time. One million can quickly become a few thousand or a few hundred.
• Not every tweet is read. And, increasing the number of tweets can diminish the impact of each tweet.
• Not every follower is interested in what you have to say. Some follow you because you follow them.
• Not every follower likes your topic du jour. Conversations aren't as consistent as programing.
• Not every follower is a follower. Some follow you because they think you're interested in them.
• Not every follower likes you or your organization. Sometimes they follow you to complain or make fun of you.
• Not every follower has any interest in taking action. You can put up links all day and they'll never click them.
• Not every follower can take action. Sometimes proximity or discretionary income can be issue.
• Not every follower is part of your tribe. Sometimes they follow you (or retweet you) because a friend did.
• Not every follower is even a real person. Autobots, auto follows, and auto responders have thousands of followers.

This quick list of ten is only for starters. It hints at the truth. There is no such thing as a Twitter strategy. Individuals have intent and organizations have tactics, and the uses are as varied as the people who make up the greater Twitter space.

Does that mean I'm down on Twitter as a communication tool? Nope. Personally, I have a very narrow intent. I use Twitter to keep up with colleagues, students, and a few friends. That's about it. I listen more than I talk (when I have time to be there).

Other people use it as a broadcast platform (which is what the owners of Twitter say it is). And others use it as a messaging service among friends (which was its original purpose). And others use it to engage customers. And others use it to get book deals based on the delusion that one million followers means something. And some use it to inflate their ego. Good for them.

The reality is that very few people use it to listen (even those who claim to). And even fewer use it to have dialogue. Don't get me wrong. Some do. Not always, but often, those are the people I follow. More importantly, as much as I like them, they cannot sell me a watch. I own two watches. I like them.

In closing, I might add that a friend of mine recently messaged 380,000 people asking for donations for a good cause. His solicitation earned $75. Had his request had been on Twitter, that means his tweet would have had a value of $75. Two years ago, I messaged about 1,200 people about a different cause. I raised more then $5,000.

Outcomes count, even though the real reward in supporting that cause had nothing to do with the money raised or any numbers. It was about people, pure and simple. As soon as they become numbers, they don't count so much. Keep it real.
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