Jason Calacanis has a long post up about the value of a Twitter suggested user. He explains that being a suggested user on Twitter is more valuable than buying a superbowl ad:
Everyone loves a timely or fascinating question and, in my estimation,
I would get a one percent clickthrough rate on each question. If I was
able to reach three million followers, and kept half of them (1.5m),
that means every tweet would get 15,000 visits. Five a day means
75,000 daily visits, and over two million visits a month–or close to
50m visits of two or three years. Some percentage of those two million
would participate in Mahalo by asking or answering questions, and if
that number is also .5 to 1%, that means I would get about 250,000 new
members for my service.
He goes on and explains why Twitter is so disruptive:
What is so disruptive about Twitter
From my perspective, the most disruptive thing about Twitter is its
presence. It’s everywhere at all times in a way that only an AT&T “You
Will”-style commercial could have predicted in 1995 (or could explain
in 2009–funny how that goes huh?). People get and give Tweets from
the time they wake up until they fall asleep.
Twitter is a giant, open email box that we all hang out in every day.
I don’t really get it. I may be ignorant, but what Jason is actually doing is pretty much old-school web 1.0 thinking. He is thinking eyeballs, traffic, and getting some users from that traffic and monetizing it. He knows Twitter is growing fast, and he has seen that being on the suggested friends list of Twitter gets you ten thousands of followers every day.
What he fails to mention is that the quality of the followers is below zero. You don’t get a targeted group of people you can communicate with. You get everything, including thousands of spammers and bots invading the Twitter network. You get engaged people, listeners, people that signed up and have no activity, people with 20K followers and 2 tweets, etc.etc.
It makes the reach you have on Twitter as good as any spammer that hijacked millions of e-mail addresses. There is always a sucker that falls for it. The real-time effect is pretty much worthless when put into comparison to the nr of followers and the spam being produced. To me the only benefit, if you can call it a benefit, would be that the audience that follows you remains persistent. How many people have you seen closing their Twitter account actively? Before Jason knows it he is addressing 2M Twitter accounts of which maybe 1% may provide some real value. The rest is like with display ads. Not targeted and a waist of money, space and effort.
If anything, social media evolution should have taught us by now that it isn’t a numbers game. It isn’t about quantity, but about quality. And frankly, quality is hard to be found these days on Twitter with their suggestion list, spammers and bots. It seems to me that 9-10 new followers fall in that category at the moment. Could be that I attract the wrong crowd, but I doubt that it is different for others. Jason is betting on quantity, and that might just cost a lot of money with mediocre results.
Don’t just take my word for it. Check out this perfect example of a discussion that Robert Scoble started on Friendfeed, a service that is supposedly the best around when it comes to engagement. Forget it. It performs as bad or good as any other service out there. Most people aren’t engaged (are they even people?). Most are publishers, some are listeners. A few engage, and those are the types that would engage everywhere. The rest are just people that signed up to promote. They don’t care much about engagement.
We may be getting to a real-time web and a more social media place. But I doubt human nature is changing with the same speed. It’s all over hyped and we need to relax a bit about it. To reduce the web’s future to status updates and refer to this as email 2.0 is more than idiocy. It’s mediocre. And it is scary to think that all our creativity, technological progress, and plain smartness has lead to this ultimate achievement of mankind. Is the real value of Twitter’s ‘Suggested user’ feature really $500K as Jason says? I’d say that there are far easier ways to burn money than that.