Kel Kelly

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Whether it's topical news, internet happenings, social media, public relations, marketing, start-ups, mobile shiz or whatever, I promise to wade through the bullshit and give you my unbuffered perspective.

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Prove Twitter’s ROI? It’s Free Dipshit.

June 14, 2009 4:18 PM

Recently I had the opp to speak on a panel at an MITX-hosted gig called: To Tweet or Not To Tweet. I usually pass on speaking opps. It’s not that I don’t enjoy them, it’s just that I like to do my own thing and fly below the self-promotion radar. However, I think MITX is one of BoTech’s (Boston Technology…yup, I just made that up) biggest assets. In a recent blog post I talked about how Boston’s tech brand image sucks eggs. In this case, it is the perception that trumps reality because there is actually a lot of hot shizz going on here. Like anyone playing in BoTech I think we all have a responsibility to improve the perception, so I agreed to participate. Moreover, there isn’t much I wouldn’t do to help Kiki Mills, MITX’s straight shooting Executive Director. We need more people like Kiki who leave the bullshit behind and tell it like it is.

The panel included a lineup of hot shits who didn’t have a drop of ego juice flowing through their body: CC Chapman, Co-Founder/Managing Partner of The Advance Guard, Phil Johnson, CEO, PJA Advertising & Marketing, and David Puner (aka Dunkin Dave), Media Relations Manager, Dunkin Brands. These guys kept it real and weren’t there to promote their own personal brand like so many of today’s social media icons and their subsequent nonversations. I’m pretty sure all the panelists could make a living doing stand up and this translated into an insight-rich, comedic-infused 90-minute thread of discussion.

Many peeps in the audience were interested in how you measure Twitter’s ROI. There was a honkin’ live discussion with the panel and I received a ton of follow up inquiries, emails, and tweets on the subject after the session. My perspective is quite simple: Twitter is free, therefore if one positive thing happens you have a positive ROI. Seriously dudes. If a single tweet from Dunkin Dave acts as the catalyst for the sale of one donut, the ROI has just leapfrogged the ROI of all other marketing initiatives combined because it didn’t cost a penny.

I totally empathize with the marketing and PR peeps in the audience who have some MBA-crowned CFO up their butt pushing them to prove the ROI. Earth to Finance dipshit, show me some other communications initiative that is free and positively impacts sales and brand perception while allowing for an ongoing dialogue with your customers. I suggest the CFO step out of his or her comfort zone that hasn’t changed since he/she first started making love to spreadsheets. What cracks me up most is that the marketing and PR peeps — who are viewed by some Finance heads as gum on their shoe — have actually produced a marketing initiative that is free yet they are being interrogated like a prisoner of war regarding ROI. What’s up with that? Here’s an idea, once you have launched Twitter, take all the money out of the research line item in the budget. Don’t reallocate the money to any other marketing program, just let it go to the bottom line. In addition to the gajillion other things Twitter can do, it can replace all the expensive, highly-limited perspective a company gets from traditional research initiatives like focus groups.

What are your thoughts on Twitter’s ROI?

Disclaimer: In this post I am poking fun at the stereotypical Finance head. Not all Finance peeps have this perspective…in the same way all PR people are not flaks looking to pitch lies to the media, all Sales peeps are not self-centered, money-driven slobs and all lawyers are not ambulance chasers. Just havin’ some fun while hopefully imparting insight.

Posted by Kel | in Uncategorized | 21 Comments »

21 Comments on “Prove Twitter’s ROI? It’s Free Dipshit.”

  1. Ben Carcio Says:


    Great post, 100% agreement (first for us).

    Twitter is just another form of human conversation, word of mouth, or referral marketing, which never has been “tracked” by the bean counters. They just lumped the return in with advertising or top-line revenue. The fact is Twitter has a trackable ROI, with posts, follows, retweets, replies. Combined this with zero cost technology and a resource friendly text-only 140 characture limit, the ROI is probably pretty frigging high.

    So, next time some budget wielding executive askes for an ROI on Twitter, ask how they’re tracking the ROI on word of mouth, which last I checked has been around for like a billion years.

    Love BoTech btw. You nailed it.


  2. Karen Lynn Says:

    Great coining of the phrase BoTech. That’s catchy.

    I’m new to Twitter and at first, didn’t get the point. Now that I’ve been on it a while…it’s sinking in, and I agree that Twitter is nothing but a plus. Maybe it doesn’t seem like it could be an effective tool because it’s fun. And fun things can’t possibly make money :) But I don’t even sell anything on the net. I tweet about my passion for a hobby/sport that seems to resonate with more people that I figured would care. But response and collaboration regarding a mutual interest to me, is money in the bank. It’s community and dialogue and discussion and I like ALL that. That’s my ROI.

    Thanks for another great post!

  3. Kel Says:

    ben, i just sent out a media alert announcing the 100% agreement between us! your analogy to word of mouth is fantastic. Or even raise the bar and compare it to expensive tv ads. if ever there was a “feel good,” impossible to measure marketing initiative, tv takes the gold medal. let’s see if we can get botech to stick. we need some rebranding here! thanks for all your wiki smaht comments my friend.

  4. Kel Says:

    karen lynn, you hit all the high notes in your comment and i couldn’t agree more. i never even try to explain twitter to anyone anymore. i always force them to use it. immersion is the only way to understand it. on the panel i suggested buying a few drinks for the dipshit ceo who didn’t get it and then show them twitter once they have a buzz on. while i don’t advocate drinking and driving, i do advocate drinking and tweeting. haha! thanks so much for your comment. i greatly appreciate it.

  5. Jack Speranza Says:

    Though not a “finance dipshit” — nor an “ambulance chaser ;-) — I’m not sure I can dive in head first with you on this.

    Yes, the Twitter service, as well as most of the more impressive tools and apps that leverage its usefulness are “free.” Time and effort are not.

    As I tend to find myself working with ultimate bootstrappers, there’s a definite attraction to “free.” Unfortunately, right after money come time and expertise (it’s amazing you can bootstrap anything when you start thinking about it!)

    If you can’t measure the ROI of your efforts at building your brand (whether through Twitter or otherwise), how can you intelligently pick & choose the best way to allocate your resources?

    One of the few sayings I like from Ronald Reagan’s presidency was “trust, but verify.” I trust that Twitter (along with the time and effort that goes into strategically using it for business) is a good thing. I just want to verify my returns on those efforts against other options that are available so I can maximize its effectiveness given the resources at hand. Is that so bad?

  6. Kel Says:

    jack, nothing you bring up is “bad.” i look at it this way — assume the marketing resource is a fixed cost (just for grins & giggles). in other words, the cost is already there; you are not deciding to hire a fulltime twitterer. now you need to look at the allocation of that person’s time relative to marketing programs. for most brands, twitter is not a time intensive initiative — dunkin donuts would be a good example of an exception. sending, replying or dming a tweet takes a matter of seconds. if the cost of the initiative is zero, you would be hard pressed to find another free initiative that positively impacts sales and brand perception while allowing for an ongoing dialogue with your customers. let us not forget that one of the biggest weapons relative to twitter is from a monitoring and trend perspective. that insight is priceless….oh yea and it’s free too! startups/bootstrappers can start to level the playing field through a smart twitter strategy. btw, you made me laugh when you quoted reagan’s presidency — seems so out of character for you! nothing but love…

  7. Pam Says:

    Twitter seems to be all about spontaneous, passionate, communication. A perfect corporate application is power product users who have taken over customer support organizations with their friendly online “chats”. But, the mutual benefits are quantifiable by anybody.
    In product design/brand/messaging, how do you transition from all “controlled” focus groups behind 1 way mirrors to random participants in “uncontrolled” online settings? Someone has to connect the dots for the those with less imagination.

  8. Kel Says:

    pam, you hardly have “less imagination.” having done dozens of focus groups when i was on the client side, i can tell you the “controlled” aspect is often what makes the research flawed. think about it. a person is invited to participate in a focus group. they think about their role all day. they are usually being given a gift certificate or something, so they often times over-inflate their role in the process. as such they over-think their answers — to sound smart — in a way that does not accurately reflect how a normal situation or response would unfold. of greater concern is that a focus group may only have ten people participating, yet companies will sometimes plan products and/or marketing strategies based on the feedback of this small, limited group. i view today’s crackadelic, user-generated content web 2.0 world as a huge opportunity to get visceral feedback from a large group of people within any given demographic and psychographic….and it’s free. looking for feedback from pet owners, you can get to them…and fast. tweet a question. include a url to something visual if you need to and in a matter of minutes maybe even seconds, you will have feedback. the uncontrolled nature of web 2.0 allows for honest feedback, something many brands never got in focus groups. hope this helps! thanks for the comment and inquiry pam.

  9. Pam Says:

    All true. Instant, candid feedback is the best and as you stated, available.
    The challenges of controlled demographics, confidentiality, etc. may be more related to taking calculated risks than cost. If project approvals are tied to customer data, it does come back to validating Web 2.0 as a credible source.
    Thanks for the insights and perspective Kel, from you and your readers.

  10. Kel Says:

    pam, thanks for adding to the discussion thread. i’m sure everyone appreciates your perspective as much as i do.

  11. Brennan Says:

    I think when looking at ROI on Twitter you have to add in the time you spend on it and how much your time is worth to you. When working on social media most of the time it is impossible to really get an accurate number on ROI anyways because effects outside of the general way of calculating ROI such as you don’t know who was influenced to buy something in a store because they saw it promoted well on Twitter/Facebook.

  12. Kel Says:

    hi brennan! thanks for posting a comment. i think i address your comment in post # 6 above. to add to that, i will share a funny but spot-on analogy cc chapman shared with the panel. cc said that when you get up in the morning and put on a pair of pants, you are not asked to measure the roi. you know you need them and you know they add value, but there is no quantifiable means to measure the roi you are getting from them. tee-hee.

  13. Christopher Says:

    It’s great Twitter is free. There’s a lot that can be learned from listening to the conversation out there, even if you aren;t commenting a whole lot. That being said, a couple questions that have been on my mind: Does a covnersation on Twitter tend to be more effective for consumer-centric brands and products? Are there any cases where Tweeting has worked effectively for companies who are virtually unknown to the masses?

  14. Christopher Says:

    And by the ‘masses’ I mean consumers. And I also should clarify that ‘virtually unknown’ in my last comment should be changed to ‘targeted towards’ consumers rather than businesses.

  15. Kel Says:

    christopher, thanks for the comment. i think twitter is as effective in b2b environments as in a b2c…just like a phone would be. clearly b2c scenarios present an opp for more followers. however, b2b companies need an effective, zero cost means to connect with customers and get realtime feedback. i use it in my business and it has been amazing. i actually landed a fortune 50 company as a client just because their director of marketing followed our tweets. i also believe it helps level the playing field for low awareness brands. net/net is it good for everyone!

  16. Jen Harris Says:

    This was great!
    For 4 years I have been getting the ROI question every day. Here is an example I use with the “traditionalists”.
    Billboards are measured with eyeballs, Twitter with the number of followers, but more importantly how many times you are RT’d & how many @’s happen b/c of it. Just like a billboard, there is a designated ph.# (Twitter=URL) which can be tracked and be part of your equation with your web conversion rate (if that is your strategy).
    I could go on, but I will not! ;)
    I will say that I believe Boston has a great Tech following…we here in Boise are jealous & want to grow up to be just like you!

  17. Kel Says:

    jen, thanks for the comment! your passion comes through in your post. keep fighting the traditionalists. it is a war worth fighting. if you are ever in boston, be sure to look me up. if i’m ever in boise…’er well scratch that…i never get there. sigh.

  18. Ellen Says:

    While I agree that everyone should be on Twitter, I don’t agree that it’s free. Even if you’re fast, it takes time to post, monitor and respond to replies and be a good citizen and read a few other posts. It’s only free if you don’t consider opportunity costs or the value of your time. Times may change, but in my industry, my customers are still better off spending their extra free minutes posting craiglist ads.

  19. Kel Says:

    ellen, are you in finance? just kidding. even if you calculated and accounted for every miniscule cost associated with twittering, i think you would be hard pressed to find another marketing initiative with a better roi. in spite of all the time associated with tweeting, monitoring, responding, etc., there is no media buy necessary. i have headed up marketing at a $2.5 billion company, a pure start up and virtually everything in between. i always measured roi and based on my experience across every type of marketing initiative on the planet, twitter kicks ass. now, this assumes peeps aren’t just doing “feel good twittering” with no value. i am assuming there are targeted objectives, a defined strategy and smart execution. btw, thanks for taking the time to comment. my world is always expanded when i am lucky enough to hear a different perspective.

  20. Michelle Says:

    While I agree that everyone should be on Twitter, I don’t agree that it’s free. Even if you’re fast, it takes time to post, monitor and respond to replies and be a good citizen and read a few other posts. It’s only free if you don’t consider opportunity costs or the value of your time. Times may change, but in my industry, my customers are still better off spending their extra free minutes posting craiglist ads.

  21. Kel Says:

    michelle, i think if you look at opportunity cost, it’s hard to find a an initiative with a better roi. however, i say that with a disclaimer of not knowing what industry you are in. sounds like your craigslist comment makes it a viable option for the space you play in.

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