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Posts Tagged ‘monetize Twitter’

Twitter Distinguishes Itself From Other Platforms Through Parody

If you sign on to Facebook or Google+, you’ll find very little patience on either platform for rogue accounts. They want you to be you and that’s it. Not so on Twitter, were hilarity (thanks to anonymity) rules the day.
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A Viable Business Plan For Twitter: Keep An Eye On Spotify

My recent article that asked readers how they would react to Twitter announcing a one dollar per month subscription rate raised many interesting responses and questions. At the time of writing, about 63% of voters said they would pay this low subscription rate for a better, more professional service, which for Twitter is, I think, encouraging.

Many readers felt that Twitter would be better if they implemented a premium subscription service on top of the existing free platform. Those who subscribed could receive additional features and tools, such as

  • A bigger share of the API
  • Spam filters
  • A better personal message system
  • A way to edit posted tweets

and more. By investing directly into Twitter, we’d be endorsing our confidence in the future of the system, and as a result Twitter could remain independent – the importance of which should not be underestimated – because of the monthly revenue stream.

You’d sign up with a credit card, or pay via system such as Pay Offline. This would allow Twitter to verify everybody with a premium account, and not just celebrities. It would also add credibility to these accounts, because they would be accountable through their lack of anonymity. (You could still tweet under an alias, but because your account had been verified other users would have confidence that you were a real person saying real things.)

A one-time, free trial would be available to those who wanted to taste the premium service, perhaps over 14 days.

Businesses who have many of their employees on Twitter could buy a license, which allowed them to have X accounts (and was perhaps invoiced). Individuals could do this, too. This would be competitively priced, but perhaps businesses would pay a little more, and in return Twitter would group these accounts together in some way.

Otherwise, it would be one credit card per account. This would further eat into the spam problem on Twitter, which mostly exists because it’s easy and free to set up a disposable email address, and therefore easy and free to set up a disposable Twitter account.

And what about those who didn’t want to pay? For these guys (of which I’m sure there would be many), I think Twitter needs to look closely at Spotify‘s business model, and how well their premium subscriptions take off.

Spotify has about six million songs on their database, all of which you can access for free. The catch? You have to listen to the occasional advertisement.

Or, you can pay 99 pence for a one-day, advert-free pass (which is fantastic for parties). Or you can pay £9.99 per month, and have full access to Spotify’s premium service, which includes the much-hyped and possibly game-changing mobile access, better sound quality, exclusive access to pre-releases, and absolutely no ads whatsoever.

Much has been made about advertising within Twitter, but the size restrictions on a tweet means that anything punched into there is going to look awkward and feel intrusive. Much better for ads to appear within timelines. I think Twitter could copy Spotify’s model and send one advertisement every 25 tweets (for example) to those who wish to use the service for free.

It might look a bit like this:

A Viable Business Plan For Twitter: Keep An Eye On Spotify

(ÃœberTwitter does this now, but only ÃœberTwitter users see the adverts.)

These ads would push out to all the Twitter clients, too, and would work exactly like Google Adwords, scanning your Twitter bio, the things you typically tweet about, trending topics, and the tweets within your timeline, and be as relevant as possible. The goal is, after all, for you to click on them.

Delivering ads based on trending topics alone could be a hugely successful – after all, they are trending for a reason – although Twitter would need to work harder to stop spammers gaming the trending topics feature.

Every 25 tweets might be too often, or it might not be often enough. It might have to be impressions per hour. A little experimentation is in order. Some coding wizardry would also need to be implemented so that ads didn’t just scroll off your screen if you’re following a gazillion people.

Don’t like the ads? Pay your dollar, or whatever rate Twitter decides is fair.

This gives us two monetisation streams for Twitter.

  1. Subscriptions, and
  2. Advertisements

As with everything else in life, more subs means you can sell more ads. And business needn’t worry too much about those paying customers, because an awful lot of people, and all newcomers, would choose to access the service for free.

I’d also like to see Twitter incorporate Reddit and Facebook’s stance on adverts and let you vote them up or down accordingly, querying your reasons why for the latter. This would further improve the quality of the ads that you see.

And if you decided you no longer wished to pay (or couldn’t pay), you simply dropped back to the free version of Twitter, and lost the extra features. All your tweets, etc, would be unaffected.

All of this means that everybody wins. Twitter wins, because they have a viable business model and two income streams. The users win, because Twitter could remain independent and continue to add features and grow. The power-users win, because they get to pay for a bigger slice of the pie and better stuff. And the casual user wins, because they can continue to access Twitter for the asking price of just a few adverts per day.

If Spotify really takes off, and there’s every indication that it will, Twitter doesn’t need to look much further for a very workable and network-acceptable business plan. It’s all right there, happening in front of our eyes.

I don’t see much of a downside. You?

Remember, Twitter: The Early Bird Gets The Worm, But The Second Mouse Gets The Cheese

The title of this article (at least, the part after the colon) is one of my favourite Stephen Wright jokes. Actually, it’s not fair to limit it as simply a quip – it’s a sound philosophical observation, and one that may very well apply to Twitter, the company, if not Twitter, the idea.

What Biz Stone, Jack Dorsey and (to a lesser extent) Evan Williams have introduced to our culture is a game-changer. There is no doubt about this in mind. The concept of micro-blogging – exchanging concise but powerful tranches of information with an engaged network of contacts – is here to stay.

And it’s going to get bigger, and bigger, and bigger. When Twitter moves above 100 million active users, the mobile phone companies are going to get nervous. And when Twitter – or whatever supersedes them – heads North of 250 million users, I guarantee that SMS text message prices will be slashed to a fraction of what they are now (which is almost all profit charged to the end user at an obscene mark-up) just so they can compete. After all, why would you pay 20 cents to send one message to one person, when you can send that same message to however many people you like – tens of thousands, even – for free, using the same mobile handset? Fifty times a day.

There’s some buzz right now about Twitter raising some new venture capital which values the company at around $1 billion (MG Siegler at TechCrunch has a nice angle on this). Skeptics continue to point at Twitter’s lack of a clear business plan and, more importantly, revenue. There’s talk of premium accounts for brands and even advertising, but it’s still very speculative. And however Twitter decides to monetise, it’s essential that it doesn’t come at the expense of their user base, because that’s where all of the value is, and always will be.

In its brief history, Twitter has quickly set two benchmarks. It’s the first professional, adult social network – Facebook, MySpace and the others were (and are) dominated by a younger demographic. More crucially, it’s also the first time business has been able to build large, relevant and engaged communities. And because of this engagement, permission-based marketing opportunities are not just available, they’re welcome.

What this means is that there’s an enormous amount at stake for the brands that get really, really big on Twitter. I don’t think is any better illustrated than what has happened to the social media blog, Mashable. Mashable was already a pretty big deal before Twitter took off, but thanks to a consistently strong push on the network (and a lucrative spot on the suggested user list) the website has leap-frogged rival TechCrunch, both in web traffic and on Twitter itself.

Mashable has about 1.5 million followers on Twitter. This ranks them in the top 35 on the network, but is still quite a bit short of the numbers boasted by the more-popular celebrities on Twitter. Ashton Kutcher, Ellen Degeneres and Britney Spears are all closing in rapidly on four million followers. Despite flat and even negative growth for Twitter and social media overall in the past couple of months, each of these will likely have edged past five million followers by the end of 2009. In six months, that number will be closer to ten million.

And the brands will get bigger, too. By this time next year, several businesses will have more than five million followers on Twitter. Five million people they can sell product to multiple times each and every day, seven days a week, three-hundred and sixty-five days a year.

For free.

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Would You Pay For Twitter?

Would You Pay For Twitter?Over at The New Yorker there’s an excellent review today of a new book entitled, Free: The Future Of A Radical Price. The article makes some worthy points about the ‘value’ of free in light of the strong endorsement made by the book’s author and is a recommended read. (Seth Godin also recently shared his thoughts.)

I really like the observation that “free is just another price”. Twitter, of course, is a free product. It’s not too radical a proposition to suggest that if Twitter had carried a service fee from day one I almost certainly wouldn’t be writing about it now.

But Twitter needs money, and right now the business plan isn’t exactly forthcoming. One way for the platform to generate some much-needed revenue would be to charge for a premium version of the service. This would be entirely opt-in, but ‘pro-Twitter’ users might receive extras such as

  • A bigger share of Twitter’s API
  • A 30-second edit window for tweets
  • A once-daily email digest of new followers
  • Block management
  • Better personal messaging capabilities
  • Spam filters
  • 24/7 technical support

and so on. This would be billed monthly and would carry a nominal price – maybe $9.99/month. Maybe $4.99. If you cancelled your subscription or your cheque bounced, Twitter dropped you back down to the ‘basic’ version of the service. Nothing was lost except your ability to tap into those extra features.

For everybody who didn’t want to pay, Twitter would simply carry on as is; they wouldn’t see any difference in the network at all, beyond Twitter’s standard platform updates. This is critical – there cannot be an obvious void on the front-end of Twitter (the stream) that in any way penalises the non-payer.

There will be many features that I haven’t mentioned that are important to you. That’s how I would like you to think about the question in this poll – if Twitter introduced a premium service that had the extra features you wanted – you is italicised because that’s the key part – would you pay for it? This is a simple yes/no game – you’d either pay for these extras, or you’d never pay, no matter what goodies came with a premium Twitter account.

Please feel free to expand on your answer in the comments area. In fact, I really encourage it – I’m very curious as to whether this could ever be a viable business model for Twitter.

Me? I’d be happy to pay a small monthly fee. It’s not unusual for free online services to carry a ‘pro’ alternative and I think it would be a great way for Twitter to generate some of that essential cash. But different people have different needs, and I wonder if there are enough of ‘me’ out there to make this work.

UPDATE: I’m going to add any interesting feature suggestions to my list as and when they’re made.