The ROI From Twitter: "Don't bother" telling your CFO, O'Reilly says

O’Reilly Media held a Webinar this afternoon that was promoted as delivering “power tips” on how to use Twitter.In the question and answer period, after Tim O’Reilly and Sarah Milstein delivered their tips, one of the questions was: “How do you quantify the benefit of Twitter to a CFO?
Written by Tom Steinert-Threlkeld, Contributor

O’Reilly Media held a Webinar this afternoon that was promoted as delivering “power tips” on how to use Twitter.

In the question and answer period, after Tim O’Reilly and Sarah Milstein delivered their tips, one of the questions was: “How do you quantify the benefit of Twitter to a CFO?”

O’Reilly’s response:

“I wouldn’t bother.” It’s very difficult to quantify the return on investment of Twitter, to an organization, he said. Instead, he takes a Nike stance on it: “Just use it.”

Just use it and the value will become apparent, he contends.

Sure, he acknowledges that the around-the-clock pressure to issue insightful tweets of your own and at same time constantly watch the tweet streams of folks you follow can be a time sink. “It can be very addictive,’’ the founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media told the 1,055 participants in the online presentation.

So I thought I’d use one of the “power tips” and see if there was an answer. The tip: If you want to see what’s been said on a subject, just search on the term in Twitter. You’ll find that discussion of the subject will lead you to useful links and insight on the subject.

Maybe I’m not willing to click far enough down on the stream, but searching on “ROI from Twitter” doesn’t produce much. Indeed, the primary support for the concept might appear at first blush to be a single article in Advertising Age that declared that a New Orleans pizza joint (backed by the ubiquitous Mark Cuban) had generated 15% of a day’s sales from a Twitter promotion.

Didn’t say how the promotion worked, but basically you get the idea that commercial establishments will set up Twitter accounts and if you follow them, because you like them, you’ll get codes that act as coupons in your Tweets that you can cash in on at the place of business. Cool.

But the R.O.I. on Twitter still seems to be just that. Its coolness.

Here’s the response to the question of whether to talk with your CFO about whether to use Twitter, in the chat board accompanying the O’Reilly presentation.

from [Name Withheld] to All Participants: I am a CFO and the value is what you make it by choosing who to follow that is of interest to you; Just try it; It is a cool tool.

In fact, it seems a bit ironic, but one basic point of the Webinar was to provide an R.O.I. on Twitter. Or at least knowledge about Twitter.

O’Reilly and Milstein are the co-authors of “The Twitter Book.

And that point was constantly reinforced in the presentation, from mentions in the slide deck to references in the chat stream.

from sara peyton to All Participants: Congratulations! We have a winner! Matt Borghi will get a free copy of THE TWITTER BOOK. Just send your shipping information to webcast@oreilly.com and we'll ship it to you. from Marsee Henon to All Participants: The Twitter Book - http://bit.ly/TheTwitterBook

from Janet Swisher to All Participants: Is the twitter book available on Safari Online Books?

from Marsee Henon to All Participants: Yes the Twitter book is on Safari Books online

from ilene hoffman to All Participants: O'Reilly books are available at BORders, btw

from Marsee Henon to All Participants: The book is for sale everywhere now. We've got print and ebook version along with Safari Books online

So, hopefully, Tim and Sarah got their R.O.I . from Twitter and this free Webinar. You have to make money from this stuff, or it will cease to exist.

But even Tim and Sarah didn’t have a good answer as to how Twitter will actually generate an R.O.I from Twitter. Also in the Q&A period, Milstein (Twitterer #21) came up with the answer that Twitter is going to follow the Craigslist model.

That is to say, the vast majority of tweeting will be free. But some kind of “business services” would be for a fee.

What those services would be, though, were not specified.

So I doubt that Evan Williams and Biz Stone are rushing over to their CFO at Twitter tonight with ‘power tips’ on how to start making money from Twitter, based on this clue.

In the meantime, here are some of the tips that might help you, if you’re not feeling the power of Twitter:

1. Create more value than you capture. This is not about what you can pull out of a stream of ideas, but what you can put in 2. Amplify others. This is not about you. It’s about the best ideas – and bringing them to the surface, for those who care about the subject. 3. Pass it along. Act as a curator of what’s important, funnel the best links and messages from people “who have something to say” to your followers. And you’ll probably get more followers. Because you’re a Tweet stream editor, now. 4. Status comes from what (and who) you pay attention to. Not just your own voice. 5. Queue up your tweets. Don’t just fire away. Keep a Word doc open where you compose and tweak your Tweets. When they’re really on point and useful, then send. 6. Space them out. A corollary. If you have a fresh good tweet to send, send it. Otherwise, pull from the queue. No one knows it’s old, if you haven’t sent it yet. 7. Check stuff out – before you send. That great new form of wind power just might not work. What you are seeing might really be just a great piece of Photoshop work. Don’t be suckered. Or you’ll lose credibility. 8. Consider this “mindcasting.” And whatever you send, reflects on your mind. 9. Repeat yourself, with a twist. Most Tweets only get attention for five minutes, then fade away. Find a way to update or refocus attention on an idea or link, more than once, to get broader audience. 10. Share stuff that matters. Otherwise, Tweets will fall and fail under their own weight. During this one-hour Webinar, there were more than 600 Tweets about it. Who can read them all?

And when it comes to business use, try these tips:

1. Don’t just blast out press releases and promotions. If everything you send tries to sell something, you’ll be ignored. 2. Instead, interact with customers. Ask for feedback on something you’re company has done. Respond to customer problems. Establish personal relationships. 3. Ask: How can I help? Turn the tables. And, who knows, you just might end up with a sale. Or at least, a loyal customer.

Editorial standards