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The value of a tweet: Analytical trumps transactional

In context, businesses can use Twitter as a sales conversion driver. However, proper social programming and timing is crucial in order to make this happen.

Example 1: An MMA (mixed martial arts) clothing company hosts a real-time fight-viewing party on Twitter. Just as the contending fighter makes his entrance into the octagon the company tweets out an image of the fighter’s walk-out shirt, with a link to the product page on its online store. Inspired fans then click through and many of them actually purchase the shirt.

The value of a tweet in this instance is hundreds of dollars. The same tweet pushed out one week later could be worth nothing without the weight of the magical moment of inspiration behind it.

Example 2: A marketplace holds a real-time social forum aiming to increase awareness of its toys category. The conversation gets hijacked by community members and turns into an impromptu discussion on old-school board games. After a lengthy Twitter debate, the community decides that Monopoly reigns supreme. At that moment, the social event host tweets out links to classic Monopoly sets and dozens of transactions occur. All of this is made possible by thoughtful community managers ready to react with relevant product content and links.

Social conversion sounds easy, doesn’t it?

The true value of a tweet can often be measured by calculating the branded-tweets-to-sales ratio. However, there’s a big snag. Fishing for conversions via Twitter too many times can be perceived as spammy. Few marketers have mastered this social commerce science and many don’t have the energy to properly stage inspiration enough to make a significant difference in sales. But branded tweets do hold a concrete value in some cases.

I’ve found that tweets from the community hold a greater value. Twitter parties, social events, and socially integrated content can draw out clusters of tweets from engaged fans. Any one tweet may be of limited value to a business, yet when marketers have the patience, discipline, and the right framework to analyze tweets from social experiences as data sets, they can redefine their planning strategies and make a more efficient business.

Here are two examples of how the analytical value of a tweet can unlock business planning gold:

Example 1: A leading movie studio integrates social conversation alongside an online video of a red carpet world premiere in which fans are able to submit comments and questions passed along by the host to attending movie stars in real-time. By looking at the geography of the real-time tweeters, it becomes clear that certain stars resonate more in China than in Europe. Upon the movie’s release, box office records are set in China, while ticket sales lag in the U.K. If the studio is listening properly, they can predict these results before the movie’s release and even break ground on new projects starring popular actors aimed at specific geographic regions. Potentially, Twitter can be the ultimate focus group telling studios which personalities they should invest in for different movie markets. The other option: tweet to sell tickets. In fairness, this has worked too.

Example 2: A sports network creates a social media hub in conjunction with a world sporting event competition. The goal is to provide a second-screen experience for their television coverage of the same event. Fans tweet-cheer during the matches and mass tweet sentiment is tracked in relation to the participating teams. It becomes obvious that European teams are more embraced by the sports network’s social community and southern hemisphere teams are shunned. This information could be used to decide the nationalities of on air personalities for the next season’s programming, sending ratings through the roof along with increasing advertising revenue.  The value of measuring these clusters of tweets would be significantly higher than trying to tweet links to jerseys, wouldn’t it? Even if Twitter-based sales conversion does happen, the result has an incremental value for the business. On the flipside, treating large groups of tweets as important data sets for business planning can send a businesses on the road to a more profitable programming.

Each of the examples mentioned, illustrating the transactional and analytical value of tweets, has actually occurred in the real world. I have yet to find a business that is unable to extract exponentially more value from tweeted information than using branded tweets as simple sales drivers.

Companies ought to challenge their social marketing teams to achieve both. Opportunistic marketers should be able to find magic moments of social conversion that could help justify a Twitter marketing budget. But impact marketers will put all of the listening pieces in place to harness social wisdom via real-time tweet data that will truly be meaningful for their business. Twitter should be looked at as the ultimate real-time business planner if a company wants to realize the true value of a tweet.

Jon Fahrner is CEO of BumeBox.

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