How much is a single tweet worth these days? According to Sponsored Tweets, quite a lot. The Twitter advertising platform has gotten a lot of press for how much it charges advertisers to access the Twitter feeds of some of its clients. For instance, reactions to Kim Kardashian's tweet price (reportedly $10,000) could easily have their own Twitter feed.
But as high profile Twitterers try to cash in on their growing popularity, there are increasing disclosure issues. The Federal Trade Commission released new guidelines this fall proving that they are getting serious about presenting advertising to consumers online. And if pay-per-tweet options become serious business, they could easily attract regulatory scrutiny, an issue I've written about here.
In light of the issues surrounding Twitter sponsorships and advertising, I caught up with Ted Murphy to discuss the issue. As CEO of Izea, Sponsored Tweets' parent company, Murphy focuses on sponsored conversations across platforms from Twitter to Facebook and all manner of blogging platforms. According to him, the issue of advertising disclosure in social media is easy to resolve. But that doesn't mean the FTC won't be coming after a few brands and individuals in the near future.
What is the value of paying for a Sponsored Tweet?
It depends on what the advertiser is looking for. If they're looking for a major celebrity and they want that level of endorsement, when you look at what it would cost to get a big star to talk about your product, that might actually be a pretty good value. On the other side you have people that are more PR focused, they're looking at the amount of clicks that they can generate or the amount of sales they get from a campaign. We provide metrics to let them track more of those those things if they're a brand marketer or a direct response marketer.
What about disclosure issues? Is Sposored Tweets going to have problems with that going forward?
For our platform, it's actually built in. We have a disclosure engine that gives people a list of disclosures that they can choose from and they submit that back to our platform. They have to include one of those disclosures for a tweet to go out. The great thing about that is it manages compliance for the advertiser and gives them an audible record of disclosure. Where advertisers need to watch out is if they're doing deals with people and those people will start to tweet about the products without disclosing a larger relationship between the advertiser and the person who's tweeting, that could lead to some larger issues.
What I've seen recently is some celebrities tweeting about an advertiser that they have a material connection to, but they're not necessarily being paid directly for an individual tweet. My advice for advertisers is that you've got to make that part of your contract. If you're not doing that through a platform, you need to make sure it's part of your contract that those relationships are disclosed in all cases and you're not potentiailly liable for something that may be an innnocent mention but some people may feel misled.
Doesn't it get difficult to add a disclosure in 140 characters?
Everyone needs to be very aware of the guidelines that are out there. People kind of make a big deal about it - especially celebrities, they've never really had to disclose these realtionship before. But to be honest, it's not a hard thing to do.
Where do you think the FTC is going to come down on social media?
I think that there's going to be a case probably within the next 12 months. My guess is that it's probably going to be somewhere around the dieting space where you have people talking about products that can have some very real health implications. Certainly advertisements are at a bit more risk than bloggers or tweeters if they're not disclosing. And I think it's less likely that the FTC is going to crack down on someone talking about a digital camera. But they do clearly point out those types of endorsements as well in the guidelines.
I would say that the higher profile you are, the higher the risk. My hope is that that doesn't have to happen and the industry self-regulates. But as time goes on, if there are habitual offenders ignoring those guidelines, I think the FTC could say "Here's our chance to show we're serious." And they'll start cracking down.
But isn't social media rife for disclosure violations as people's online and offline worlds blend?
It's pretty clear where the line is when I pay you and there's a transaction and I'm paying X dollars for you to tweet something out. But it's less clear when I tweet about my company all the time and they're paying my salary. For instance, I disclose it in my bio, but not in every single tweet that I'm the CEO of Izea. I think that those looser relationships have a material conntection, but it's not really a direct sponsorship.
A lot of what happens on Twitter is self-promotion and people talking about their companies and what they're involved with. That's when it becomes a little less clear. If you're working as someone as an advertising spokesperson, you should disclose in every tweet or kind of promo that you do for them. But if you're an employee or a member of an organization, I don't know what the answer is there.
How are you able to charge so much for individual tweets?
What we're seeing is that it all comes down to engagement. We see some people join our network with 100,000s of followers but very low engagement. A lot of those people are celebs that have been on a featured Twitter list or built a following very quickly, but they don't engage people. Their fan base is not as active as maybe some other people with smaller followings, who have built it in a very grassroots way. It's not uncommon to see someone with 10,000 followers get more clicks on a Sponsored Tweet than someone with 100,000 followers. It also depends on what type of account it is. A news account gets much lower click-throughs than an individual who's really interacting with people, for instance.
What is it about Kim Kardashian that makes her so valuable on Twitter?
Part of that is her following, but also her fan base is pretty well engaged. She shares a lot of information on a daily basis. She tweets out pictures, things that are personal to her life. The combination of her engagement along with massive following makes her a pretty attractive person to work on a campaign.
Do you think her $10,000 rate will be topped any time soon?
It has already been topped. We did a $20,000 tweet recently. I can't say who it was, but the price all came down to the reach of the individual, the match with the adveritser, and what they were looking for. It was actually an incredible value for the avertiser, since the net cost per click came out to less than $.50 per click.