Thursday, June 5, 2008

Would you pay $2 per tweet

Would you rent your Twitter avatar? Ian Schafer is selling a one month sponsorship of his twitter avatar and background image on ebay. I noticed Mark Hopkins’ Mashable article this morning that Schafer has decided to see if he can monetize his Twitter page.

Nick O’Neill also wrote about this topic of monetizing Twitter on his Social Times blog.

According to the ebay ad, This is an auction for a one-month sponsorship of my Twitter feed and page that lives at I've got hundreds followers, many of whom are amongst the interactive advertising industry elite, including numerous journalists.

This one-month sponsorship includes replacing of the existing background image with the image(s) of your choice, as well as replacement of my handsome photo with another image of your choice (ie. brand logo).

I average about 8-10 outbound 'tweets' a day, and your brand would be represented in each.
I'll be blogging this experience at
Lets experiment together.”

Ian’s motive is not profiteering, but to help twitter identify and test out monetization opportunities. In fact, he is donating the proceeds to the The David Wright Foundation. As a Met fan, I suppose I shouldn’t complain about that. Still, I doubt that Twitter asked Ian to help them identify and test out monetization opportunities. In fact, Evan Williams response on the Mashable blog, includes, “As a side note, and for the record, while we don't mind the community brainstorming, we're not in desperate search for a business model. We have some ideas we'll try out when the time is right, but Twitter isn't going to go away for lack of one any time soon (nor will reliability issues be solved with one).” So what’s the real motivation?

Let’s dissect the offer a bit. The current bid is $580. Since Schafer is planning to tweet an average of 8-10 times/day, that would be approximately 300 tweets in a month or $2/tweet. Is sponsorship of an avatar worth $2/tweet. Perhaps depending on the audience and how compelling the messages are, but it seems like a lot to pay for a small image. You can decide yourself from looking at Schafer's Tweet cloud according to tweetstats.

Another interesting Tweetstats fact is there is only one month, April in which Schafer tweeted more than 300 times. Yes, this is marketing and advertising, caveat emptor, but still let’s be realistic. The offer also states that “many of the followers are amongst the interactive advertising industry elite, including numerous journalists.” Schafer’s followers (as ranked by most@ replies- Tweetstats) include Brian Morrissey Digital Editor of Adweek, David Armano of Critical Mass, and Creative Strategist Alan Wolk. Thought leaders for sure, but why pay for the milk when you can get it for free.

This illustrates the lack of understanding and appreciation that mainstream advertisers and media have for twitter. Living in the fishbowl of twitter, we all know how easy it is to follow someone and ultimately, build our network and community. Yet there are those who think they have to pay for that access and impressions.

The situation sounds familiar to the April twitter account auction by Rocketboom founder Andrew Baron who also offered a two day “guest spot” of his account on Craig’s List. Both offer’s were ultimately pulled after the publicity tempest. Do you think Baron gave Schafer the idea? Well, two months later, the prices are better.


Warren said...

As a postscript, Video Clip sharing service, Metacafe won the Ian Schafer bid at $1080. So they are paying in excess of $3.60/ tweet. It will be interesting to see how the results play out.

Metacafe describes themselves as:

one of the world's largest video sites, attracting more than 25 million unique viewers each month (comScore Media Metrix). We specialize in short-form original content - from new, emerging talents and established Hollywood heavyweights alike. We're committed to delivering an exceptional entertainment experience, and we do so by engaging and empowering our audience every step of the way.