I remember reading an article run in The New Yorker not long ago, and it evaluated Facebook users worth to Facebook at about $2.14 in the fourth quarter of 2013 up from $1.21 per user in 2012. As users, it isn’t something we commonly think about because we give out likes and follows freely to others. This causes us not only to devalue our likes or follows but put no value on them. This is of course silly with the understanding of supply and demand and a brief understand of marketing.
We should put a value on our likes and follows because let’s face it others want them. Where there is a want, there is a cost, but what prevents us from charging for likes and follows is the numbers. In social media, the average user is worthless but a group is pricey. In order for you charge for your likes & follows, you’d have to have reach a minimum of 1,000 people, and with that 1,000 people you’d fetch anywhere from an estimated $10-20 per 1k likes/follows, so you’d split that across 1,000 people. You’d probably bring home around one penny or two pennies. I know not the sweet pay day you would have hoped for.
But Twitter charges $2.50-4.o0 per follow in it’s advertising program. Not only is that 250 times what we had figured, but they have people lining up to buy these ad units. How could this be? It all depends on your point of view. As users, we approach social media typically from a social/informational perspective. When we try to put a price on interactions, it just doesn’t feel right. But when we look at this through a business perspective, we’re after sales. For businesses, follows & likes equate to forms of free communication or rather marketing. Marketing is something that’s typically expensive for businesses, and before social media companies often used forms of marketing like direct marketing, which costs thousands of dollars to reach a few thousand people with a return of only ideally 2-3%. Social Media for businesses is a much cheaper more efficient alternative.
In social media, the reach cost (cost to get in front of the user) has plummeted. Facebook charges as low as 25 cents per thousand impressions. That’s insane. If a user clicks, it’s typically a couple dimes. As social media has grown over the past decade, advertising on it has gone from hypothetical fun to a serious business strategy.
Companies are on a mission to improve the amount of likes and follows. To enable that, social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Google, and Yahoo to name a few are on a mission to acquire your attention. Facebook infamously purchased WhatsApp recently for $19 billion dollars. At 450 million users, Facebook essentially spent $42 per user, which is up from what it paid for Instagram’s users, which was about $28. Facebook’s Zuckerberg stated he’d like for it to get monetize at some point, and other messaging apps fetch about $2-3 per user per year. Many companies are doing it too like Yahoo’s acquisition of Tumblr, which was about $33.
As you can tell, it’s become an all out war between the social networks over you liking & following on their particular platform. For this year’s Super Bowl, Facebook & Twitter strategized how to lure users to tweet/post/comment/upload photos on their service to discuss the Super Bowl. Facebook decided to launch new features, partner with Fox Sports News, pay NFL athletes to provide live commentary on the game. Twitter however took to advertisements. Twitter was mentioned in 26 of the 52 companies that advertised during the Super Bowl. The companies would actively tweet about their advertisements after airing. Twitter also has a partnership with the NFL, and so the NFL provided live tweets during the game. It’s funny to think about all this strategizing and planning just to get you to say your 140 characters on their service. All the millions of dollars just to have a bunch of people tweet a silly little joke like “The Seahawks are beating a dead horse.”
To go back to the original question, how much is your like or follow worth? To you, it’s worth nothing. To companies, it’s worth anywhere from around $5 to upwards of $170. To Social Networks, it’s worth billions upon billions of dollars.