Earning Money from Twitter - A Penny for your Tweet

I have always been inspired by the image of Archimedes and how excited he might have been running out of his medieval bath tub in his birthday suit with his now famous war cry of ‘Eureka’. It is equally interesting that on introspection, I have found that my best ideas come when I am in the loo or in the shower. During one such time, I discovered a few business models for Twitter in one of my Eureka moments and decided to pen it down for posterity.

Before venturing into business models, let us first classify different segments of people on Twitter. We will call them ‘Twitterites’ (for lack of a better word). Now, here is what I think (if Jack Dorsey of Twitter allows me to analyse his data, I can check these hypotheses) are the segments which exist.

The first segment and the one with the maximum amount of followers (number of followers is an important dimension on which I have done the segmentation) is the Twitterati (celebrities with thousands of followers). Now, here is a ratio, which I call into use, called the Stability Ratio – the ratio of number of people you follow divided by the number of followers you have (Stability = You Follow/Your Followers). The Twitterati has a skewed ratio, where the number of followers far outnumbers the number of people that they follow. They are the people whose tweets are also read (theoretically) by a large number of people. Now, having a large number of followers is not enough; one should be active on the Twitter circuit – a tweet a day is a powerful engagement tool. So, the Influence Index = {(number of tweets * number of re-tweets by followers)/number of days in the period under consideration)} would be another interesting ratio to look at to determine who has the strongest impact on the Twitter universe. One can complicate matters to quantify influence further by adding dimensions like reach etc., but we will not go down the path as it will make this otherwise interesting topic look more like a geeky technical paper and invite patent infringement lawsuits from Klout (a US-based company that measures a user’s influence across the social network).

Celebrity power

Twitterati is the segment that brands and people, who traditionally advertise in mass media, will soon start utilising to send out brand messages through their tweets. The branding and messaging need to be subtle, else Twitter will get reduced to a television channel where people will selectively not read tweets that are advertisements. For instance, Amitabh Bachchan would tweet “T9000 I am in Hilton, Ahmedabad – wonderful experience! Meeting fans at the opening of the Brio bar at Hilton & releasing Anupam Kher’s book.”

Now, Hilton pays for the tweet, Gujarat Tourism pays for the tweet and Kher’s publishers pay for the tweet. Three brands propagated with one tweet! This will give birth to a new generation of super copywriters, who would compose tweets for brand ambassadors. The tweets would also differ from day to day but provide the same underlying message, unlike television ads, which run the same ones for months. This is where the tweet ads will change the existing rules of advertising. For instance, using the Amitabh Bachchan example above, the subsequent tweet on the next day could go something like this, “T 9001 The best thing about Hilton is Hilton – my realisation after reading Anupam’s book! At Mandvi beach today – virgin and picturesque.”

I dream of opening a new agency for Twitter advertising/marketing as a self-owned venture some day. I promise nothing but success for advertisers. It will be game changing, personalised and real. The mindless spends on making eye catching videos will come to an end and the monopoly of television ads will slowly but surely come to an end. You will pay per follower that a Twitterite has. People with exceptional talent for Précis writing (you need to adhere to the word limit on Twitter) will be hired.

While on the subject of stability, I maybe accused of inverting the ratio on purpose, to show instability of the Twitterati, based on some long lasting grouse of having never made it big in the show business. But Amitabh Bachchan has a stability ratio of 0.000115, Huffington Post has a stability ratio of 0.002811 and Deepak Chopra’s is 0.003224. Just like cyber squatters, there are Twitter squatters. Even a fake Bill Clinton handle has a stability of 0.001187. So, lower the stability ratio, the more popular a Twitterati is and brands would look to utilise them in campaigns.

Cashing in

The next segment can be called the ‘Followers’ – they have a very high stability ratio, very few followers, but follow a large number of people. Now, we all know that managing to follow even 100 people is difficult on Twitter, especially if they are compulsive Twitter users. But this band of followers will follow people with zeal and passion. A lot of them are excellent readers, who have a lot of patience. Most of them are looking to connect with the rich and the famous, eagerly waiting to gain the bragging rights on tweets and sharing them at table conversations. Brands would love followers to grow as they would be their largest audience for their ad campaigns through the Twitterati.

Twitter needs to divide the Twitterati segment into further sub-segments, which can be aptly named as ‘Super Premium’, ‘Premium’ and ‘Valuable’, and price the marketing campaigns accordingly. The pricing would also be scientific, based on pure numbers and not vague valuations. An added service that Twitter could provide is to gauge the conversations of the followers to find their interest areas and to provide the top interest areas for followers of prospective brand ambassadors (or Twitterati), so that prospective marketers can choose their brand ambassador based on this additional information on the interests of the followers. So, if the majority of the followers of a journalist are interested in health, then health-related products can be marketed through this journalist. Or if a significant portion of the followers show a keen interest in travel, hotels could use them in their campaigns.

The world of Twitter will also throw up very interesting candidates for brand ambassadors beyond our traditional repertoire of film stars, celebrities, sportspersons etc. There would be local school teachers, principals of schools, intellectuals, journalists, socialites etc., who would have a great impact on a catchment area and who could be co-brand ambassadors with the actual brand ambassadors.

Making it count

Sharing revenue from advertising with Twitter users can be an interesting proposition for Twitter to make campaigns go viral and hence, charge a premium for such campaigns. If a Twitter user takes part in a RT (re-tweet) campaign, he/she gets 0.1 dollar per RT of a campaign. This will completely turn the advertising campaign model on its head. Depending on the target number of unique RT’s that a client aspires for, it pays a fee of 0.1 + 0.1 = 0.2 dollars. Half of it goes to Twitter and the other half to each Twitter user. If there are 10 RTs that a Twitter user is able to do for different campaigns, he earns US $1. The number of people that the RT reaches in a certain campaign period will be multiplied to provide Twitter its revenue share. Thus, assuming that on an average, a RT reaches 10 people and there are 0.1 million RTs, then Twitter earns a million dollars per campaign. If it does 1000 campaigns in a year, it will do a cool US $1 billion dollars in revenue. Now, there is some policing required to restrict misuse of RTs. Every person will be allowed one RT per campaign. Only people who have been active on Twitter for at least two months prior to a campaign will be eligible to earn money through RTs. This will ensure more engagement from people on Twitter. Twitter will also have to restrict the number of handles people can create from a single IP – preferably only one handle from a single IP. The list can go on, but we need to stop somewhere.

I look forward to hearing from Jack Dorsey soon!

Tags: Sales and Marketing, Viral Marketing, marketing analytics, Analytics, Social Media, Buzzwords

Snehamoy Mukherjee

Snehamoy is a part of the Strategic Leadership Team at Axtria, a New Jersey based Analytics firm, where he is responsible for business development, solution development, delivery leadership and strategy formulation.