What is your online presence worth?

Mark Cuban has an interesting post that asks if ESPN.com has a Twitter problem. It seems, to him and he may well be right, that ESPN is not getting as much traffic from Twitter and Facebook as they would like.  Their reporters have too few followers and ESPN doesn’t seem to be able to correct that. Cuban suggests that online sports properties who hire people with effective Twitter accounts could win traffic that ESPN would like to have.

He’s probably right. This suggests the question of what is the value of an online presence? Twitter for one. Blogs for another. Facebook perhaps as well. I think it is pretty clear that they have some value but how is it determined.

I went looking for sites that set values for Twitter accounts. http://whatsmytwitteraccountworth.com/ says my Twitter is worth $1,102. Yawn. http://tweetworth.com/alfredtwo says $4,984 and that is with very stale data – I have 50% more followers then they show. I’m not sure how they calculate these numbers but clearly they use different formulas and I have no way of accessing the validity of them. Worse still I think that formulas like this can’t possibly have enough context to affix a real value. Of course this could be because I assign a much higher value to my Twitter account. The people I follow are invaluable to me!

In the marketplace an item’s value is usually determined by what someone is willing to pay for it. Lots of things go in to determining what someone will pay of course. We’re really still early in valuing social media exposure. In times that this it is tempting to use formulas that only look at raw numbers. I don’t think that tells the whole story or even close to it though.

Lady Gaga has over 9 million followers. I have no doubt that her account has a lot of value to her. It lets her promote herself, her brand, her concerts, and what ever else is part of her business. But would her account, or more correctly the set of people her tweets reach, have the same value to someone else? Probably not.

If you are just trying to reach a lot of people with something most people are interested in knowing about her account would have some value. If you are looking to promote an ESPN.com article about the NBA it probably isn’t as valuable. Mark Cuban, with “only” 386,000 followers, may be more valuable. If you wanted to reach tech geeks Robert Scoble, with “only” 173,000 followers may be worth a lot more to you.

In the latter two cases you are getting a higher percentage of people who are actively interested in the topic. Better yet, those are people who are retweeted, there messages are passed along, to still more people who are interested in what you are promoting. That sort of things adds up quickly. But how do you measure it and how to you assign a value to it? I think the jury is still out on that.

Still I think it is clear that having an online presence in social networking is valuable. As time goes on companies are going to place more and more value on that sort of thing. I know people who have gotten jobs based in part on their blogs. I as sure that there are companies who look at Twitter accounts and other online presences. Smart companies look beyond raw numbers and try to see what the target audience is and how well messages spread though a person’s online activities.

Are we at the point where companies shop for people with specific online audiences? Probably in a few niches like tech news we are probably already there. Will it grow? I think so.  But only time will tell if companies are going to be willing to count online presence in the same ways they count more traditional forms of goodwill that a potential employee brings to the table.

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