More cynical sniping at Twitter costs

TwitterbirdGBPToday’s Daily Telegraph has an article, Twitter costs Lord Mandelson’s department £3,175 a year, reporting the UK Department for Business’s calculation of the cost of its employees spent running three Twitter accounts (@bisgovuk, @digitalbritain, @BIS_Science), which have amassed a respectable total of 9,894 followers.

The tone of some of the article is reminiscent of the slightly cynical coverage given recently to a “survey” alleging that Twitter cost the British economy £1.38 billion a year (mentioned in the article; see my post), and also cites the government’s appointment earlier this year of a so-called ‘Twitter Tsar’ or Director of Digital Engagement.

However, at least the article also reports the Department’s view of the value of Twitter:

“We think it is very cost-effective. Twitter is no longer used just by kids. It is a great way of getting our message out to a different audience and it helps us respond to people’s queries quickly.”

(I was slightly concerned that the spokesman apparently believes Twitter was once the preserve of ‘kids’ – until very recently, most surveys showed adults were the major Twitter adopters with teenagers shunning micro-blogging and using texts and Facebook instead.)

Twitter? Tried it, didn’t get it, gave up …

“A cynic is a man who knows the cost of everything, but the value of nothing.” —Oscar Wilde

The revelations follows a question by the Conservative MP Adam Afriyie, shadow minister for science and innovation, according to Wikipedia founder of an IT company and surely bound to be something of a geek…. Not quite.

Yes, @AdamAfriyie started using Twitter in late February and kept up a steady flow of not particularly interesting Tweets – 63 in total – mainly about his meetings and constituency duties through to 6 June. But what is striking about Mr Afriyie’s output is how there was almost nothing useful. It contains no links to information, no retweets and no replies to anyone – indeed, he follows just one other Twitter account (@Tweetminster). That he no longer tweets is probably a relief to his 462 followers (and if we are fixated on Twitter ‘costs’, I calculated his tweets ‘wasted’ the UK taxpayer about £17!).

For the sake of political balance, I looked to see if his Labour opposite number performs any better. Lord Drayson (@lorddrayson) is an altogether more accomplished Twitter user, amassing over 880 tweets to date and over 4,600 followers, with lots of retweets, links and replies to followers. The 488 Twitter accounts that Lord Drayson follows also say a lot about his Parliamentary responsibilities, including social media opinion-formers Mashable, WiredUK and TechCrunch and institutions such as NESTA; he also follows a certain Adam Afriyie….

Well, at least I now know which of these politicians has a firm grasp of the value of Twitter.


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  1. Interesting Paul, as I was in tweetreach I did a quick search on the two MP’s you mention.

    @lorddrayson (Lab) reached 29,897 from 50 tweets

    @AdamAfriyie (Con) reached 3,910 people via 6 tweets (none from @AdamAfriyie)…

  2. Another great post. And of course anyone who still doubts the political impact of Twitter needs to watch last week’s episode of The Thick Of It.

    • cyberdoyle on 12 November 2009 at 9:45 am
    • Reply

    somebody on twitter worked it out last night that the three accounts cost the gov about a grand each. They tweet to about 9000 followers, who then retweet it to their followers. this works out at a few pence a message to a person, as opposed to a stamp, envelope, paper, ink and time. I would think it is a very cost effective way of communicating information and getting feedback. I wish I could find the relevant post but it has dropped off my timeline and I am not very good at sums… I am sure someone with a better brain than the telegraph could do the math.
    Its just showing the power of twitter, rational analysis and criticism of sloppy journos.

  3. Thanks cyberdoyle. Let’s adopt (fairsnape) Martin’s approach and look at the three departmental Twitter accounts’ reach (using Tweetreach)….

    @bisgovuk – reached 16,462 people via 50 tweets
    @digitalbritain – reached 8,476 people via 12 tweets
    @BIS_Science – reached 8,664 people via 17 tweets

    OK, some people will follow more than one of these accounts, but even if you take @bisgovuk alone, reaching over 16,000 people with 50 tweets is good going (@bisgovuk has to date tweeted over 300 times), and these are people who have opted in to get updates, so it’s not a scattergun approach either.

    It certainly beats email. By the time you’ve written an email, sorted out the database of recipients and then broadcast the email, you’re probably talking about 10p per individual email (and that’s just for one e-shot). To reach 3,000 people, that would be £300. To get fifty e-shots out, we’re talking £15,000.

    Makes the £3,175 look very efficient and cost-effective to me.

  1. […] Twitter is often described as a round the clock party. This has been enhanced by the media frenzy earlier this year as celebrities piled in to twitter and had competitions with each other to get to a million followers, and its still going on. You can see why people who don’t use twitter think its all about trivialities. […]

  2. […] More cynical sniping at Twitter costs – Ahem. I’m saying nothing. […]

  3. […] that,” I hear you say. Well, numerous MPs and even Government ministers such as Lord Drayson (post) are online regulars, often finding that Twitter and Web 2.0 tools such as RSS and Google Alerts […]

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