When newbies sign up to Twitter now, they are presented with a list of 100 suggested users to start following. Simply being on that list can boost your followers well above 100,000. Several people and organizations on the list (such as Al Gore, Lance Armstrong, Kevin Rose, the New York Times, and CNN) now have more than 250,000 followers each. Many of the most popular Twitter users are on the list, including TechCrunch (we have 214,465 followers). It is insane.
Mahalo CEO Jason Calacanis, who is no Twitter slouch himself with 61,266 hard-earned followers, thinks that being one of the top 20 on the suggested list will be worth as much as a Superbowl ad within five years. He is offering Twitter $250,000 to lock in a spot on the suggested list for two years, or $120,000 for one year. I emailed Calacanis (who is our partner in putting on the TechCrunch 50 conference) and he confirms the offer is dead serious. In fact, he contacted Twitter co-founders Jack Dorsey and Evan Williams last week about it, and is lobbying investor Fred Wilson. Calacanis writes:
I believe that in five years the top 20 recommend slots will be worth $1m a year each–super bowl commercial level in fact.
. . . this is 100% dead serious. I’m thinking of sending the check today anyway…. if it sits on their desk they might just cash it.
He wants to lock in the price now because he thinks it is a great marketing opportunity. It is not unusual for people on the suggested list to gain 10,000 new followers every day. That comes to 3.6 million a year, and even if half unsubscribe, that is still a direct channel to more than a million potential customers. Those are customers who feel a connection with you because of the personal nature of Twitter messages.
If other companies feel the same way, sellingthese slots could be a lucrative side business for Twitter. At $120,000 a pop, 20 slots would generate $2.4 million in revenues the first year. There are already brands on the suggested list, such as JetBlue, Zappos, Whole Foods, and Dell Outlet. Why not make them pay? To avoid spamming, Calacanis suggests a simple rule:
people who buy the slot will lose it if they abuse it. they are limited to 10 tweets per day and they can’t spam the list. if I suck folks unsubscribe. if i spam (i.e. go above 10 tweets per day) they knock me, jetblue or Zappos out of top 20.
I think Calacanis just can’t stand the fact that he is no longer one of the top Twitter users and wants to buy his way back to the top. Dave Winer argues that the suggested list is a bad idea in general. But maybe Calacanis is onto something. How much do you think a top-20 Twitter slot will go for in one year?