The cost of Twitter productivity is a bargain

During last summer, there was a spate of mainstream media commentary that social networks like Facebook serve little or no purpose from a business point of view.

Much reporting about companies banning Facebook in the workplace. We were even treated to a variety of opinion that said things like the cost of lost productivity in Australia was about A$5 billion annually, and $130 million a day in the UK.

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Now it’s the turn of Twitter to come under some scrutiny with a post by Irish entrepreneur Pat Phelan.

Never mind what are Twitter costs, what’s the cost of Twitter? asks Pat in a post that quotes some back-of-the-envelope calculations to arrive at a lost productivity total of 30 million hours per month.

There’s a monetary value attached to this:

[…] Our estimates for 2008 suggest @ a minimum lost productivity cost of $20/hour this will represent $300M/month so $900M for first quarter, $600M per month for 2nd quarter so $1.8B, $1.2b per month for 3rd quarter so $3.6b and $2.4b/month for 4th quarter so $7.2b.

In total Twitter should cost economy around $13.5b in 2008!! Isn’t that FB value?

But why only highlight a negative point? What about potential positives? Plenty of people see that there are positives.

I left a comment earlier today on Pat’s post which said in part:

[…] Even without any credible facts to hand that support any claim to show some business productivity benefit from using Twitter, lumping everything into a ‘lost productivity’ bucket makes no sense at all.

While it looks like there might be some tongue in cheek in Pat’s post, it does still highlight a valid issue – how do you look at rapidly-emerging communication channels such as Twitter from a business perspective: a waste of everyone’s time or with some productivity value?

I use Twitter. A lot. Jaiku too (which is where I most frequently see Pat). I’ve found that these tools are becoming quite an indispensable means of engaging with some people, a means that complements (and sometimes, replaces) some of the other ways in which I communicate with them, eg, phone, email and IM.

I guess I’m on Twitter and Jaiku on average an hour every day. That’s actually quite concise for being active in both networks. But I use TwitKu, a web-based tool that lets me interact with both simultaneously in side-by-side windows on my screen. A terrific time saver.

So let’s just run some numbers here:

  • 1 hour/day = 7 hours/week = 365 hours/year. Reverse the annual figure back into months = an average of roughly 30.4 hours/month.
  • Taking Pat’s $ figures, this would work out at a monetary value during the course of 2008 at $608 a month or $7,300.00 for the year.
  • That’s the minimum value of the time I spend on Twitter and Jaiku. Let’s split the value equally at $3,650.00 each per year.

Far from being a waste of productivity time, it looks like an absolute bargain.

If I can engage directly with people around the world via these tools in a way that lets me discuss thoughts, ideas, points, etc, and make quick decisions or actions that via other means (email, for instance) would take five or six times as long (meaning more $/£/€), then I’m going to continue doing it.

I see tools like Twitter as productivity enhancers, not wasters. $608 a month looks like pretty good productivity value to me.

Twitter (and Jaiku) isn’t about idle chit-chat – but it can be just that if you want it to be (and it is only that for some people).

For some highly credible examples of specific benefits from using Twitter, go and read Dan York and the 10 ways he’s learned to get value out of Twitter.

It all works for me as well.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. dan light

    I have to agree with you Neville. I’ve been twittering for a couple of months now and, coming at it as an interactive marketeer with a manifest interest in finding out about new technology and understanding the dynamics of social media, at that price Twitter looks like an absolute steal.

  2. neville

    One of the interesting things, Dan, is how so many people try to put Twitter and how you use it into tiny pigeonholes.

    Twitter really does mean different things to different people (as do Facebook, blogging and so on). You find it useful for your own productivity as I do. Others don’t and will whinge about it’s lack of any value.

    Luckily, everyone has a choice – use it or don’t use it! Simply as that, surely.

  3. Markus Goebel's Tech News Comments

    Let’s get rid of Twitter and Facebook!…

    I like Pat very much. But I don’t need a status update every time his airplain is delayed, he buys a CD of Take That or answers a friend’s question. That’s the kind of information I find in Twitter feeds. For me that’s not useful and causes a false…

  4. Phil Gomes

    I’m reminded of the early-90s claims by outplacement firms that “Wookie Hookie”, stemming from corporate absenteeism during the release of the Star Wars prequels, was going to be EXCEEDINGLY DAMAGING to American productivity.

    *sigh*

    I can’t seem to find it, but one analyst firm playfully did an analysis of the productivity costs of the average office coffeepot, with the same methodologies another firm used to compute the total-cost-of-ownership of PCs. A high-point in geek satire.

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