Twitter may be a booming social network, connecting up millions of people around the world, but what's a tweet worth? Music star Soulja Boy and Toyota, both of whom recently launched Twitter promotional campaigns, have vastly differing ideas.
Soulja Boy has 2.5 million Twitter followers, but tweeting to promote the newest album "The DeAndre Way" (along with other traditional marketing efforts) resulted in a mere 13,000 sales over the record's first week of availability—enough to land the album at an invisible 90th place on the Billboard 200. Compared to the 2008 album's "iSouljaBoyTellem," which had 45,000 first-week sales, it's a big disappointment.
The launch of the new album prompted Soulja Boy's tweet feed to register an extra 70 tweets, 20 or so directly referencing the new album and some including a link to iTunes. Compared to the normal 15-20 daily tweets from this account, the push represented quite an effort—and was probably hard to avoid if you were one of Soulja Boy's 2.5 million fans.
So was it a failure? There are a number of things to think about. First, as Billboard.biz points out "Soulja Boy is very much a singles artist," so expecting huge numbers of albums to sell isn't necessarily the right thing—although the album did sell less than the previous one, at first. Twitter may not be the right promotional vehicle for pushing album sales. The timing for the launch may have been off, due to market conditions. Twitter may have been flooded that week with tweets to do with global events, meaning promotional tweets got lost in the flow. There could've been any number of reasons—including the fact that the new album simply may not be as good as the earlier release—why the Twitter campaign didn't work.
As a point of comparison, Toyota is currently trying a promotional campaign that gives $500 to buyers of new qualifying Toyota cars who send a specific tweet to mention their purchase: "If I get my new Toyota during Toyotathon they’ll give me $500 just for this Tweet. http://buyatoyota.com @Toyota #shareathon." Essentially Toyota's PR team are valuing each of these tweets at $500 worth of promotional material. The users have to sign up, tweet, and then get their money if they buy a Toyota by January 3 2011, so there's a degree of marketing-to-sales conversion in the mix, but Toyota's obviously hoping that there's some independent PR value in the event.
Toyota and Soulja Boy's marketing teams will evidently disagree about the value of a tweet. But what can PR folks learn about this? Twitter isn't a marketing panacea—it's a tool that you have to use intelligently and carefully in order to convert digital action into hard sales. Relying on just "putting the news out there" may not necessarily be enough, and a smarter, more integrated tweet campaign may achieve more success. Also: Cash helps!
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