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January 02, 2009

Monetizing Twitter - Karl Long's Proposal

Karl Long has posted a proposal to monetize Twitter (make it financially self-supporting) by asking for more money from people who follow lots of other people. You can read his blogpost here:

Experience Curve: Twitter Business Model To Improve Twitter: http://experiencecurve.com/archives/twitter-business-model-to-improve-twitter

He asked for comments, and I tried to comment, but his blog wouldn't allow me to post my comment, so I am going to put it here, and see if I can post a much shorter comment that links to this.

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I have mixed feelings about this. I agree that monetizing Twitter would be a good thing. I agree that I am willing to pay, to a certain extent. I do not agree that paying by number of followers is necessarily the solution.

If my office paid for me to twitter, then I would have no problem with the idea, at least on my own behalf. As it is, I depend heavily on Twitter and similar tools to do my job, but with the understanding that my employer is struggling financially and that services such as Twitter are unlikely to be funded. Period. You may notice that virtually everything I talk about on my blog is free or points to someone else's information. I don't put money into the tech, and I don't have a budget to do so.

I follow a lot of people on Twitter because I have a lot of interests. I have a blend of folk I follow for personal interests & relationships and those people and organizations I follow because they tweet on one of the many topics that are professional areas of responsibility for me. I find if I try to divide Twitter into a professional and a personal account, I end up hating it. Ugh. I tried it -- didn't work for me. I needed the serendipity, synchronicity, spark and juice that comes from mixing it all up. One of the things I like to do is look for creative and innovative ways to use Twitter. Please, don't penalize people for being innovative.

I suspect that this proposed funding model is based on an assumption of how people are *supposed* to use Twitter. Ahem. Where is the fun in that? I (obviously) am not using Twitter the way most folk do. I do not make the slightest attempt to read every tweet by every person I follow. I know a lot of folks who assume that is what everyone does, and they feel guilty if they don't, if they miss something.

Well, I don't feel guilty about it. I graze Twitter. When I'm hungry or have time on my hands, I spend a lot of time on it; when I'm not, I don't. I try to check it a couple times a day, and reply to @replies and DMs. I use Ping usually to send my tweets, except in conversations. I trust that the really important bits will be picked up by more than one person and will float to the top of the stream, that I will see them even if I don't watch all the time. A friend of mine just figured this out and started to use Twitter more like I am. Check his blog post on this:

Ed Vielmetti: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Twitter: http://vielmetti.typepad.com/vacuum/2008/12/how-i-stopped-worrying-and-learned-to-love-twitter.html

We've all seen accounts from people who are paid to tweet. They have those really boring accounts that repeat marketing news for their company all day long. To keep it lively, you *need* to mix it up -- establish personal relationships, have quirky conversations. The sort of things that are hard to explain and justify to an administration watching the bottom line.

So I would have to pay for this myself, when it comes to it. I did that with Flickr. I use Flickr also about half and half job/personal. I pay ~$25 for two years. This was a personal indulgence and reward. So far Flickr is the only online tool that I have actually agreed to pay for. I am a single mom of a special needs kid. My house deserves a better keeper, if you get my drift. I am not going to pay if Twitter starts to penalize me for using it fully.

Actually, Twitter has already capped my following at 2K, and I find it really frustrating. I am thinking of how to find work arounds. I have this ever growing list of people I want to follow, but can't follow because of the cap. I spent a lot of time the past couple weeks digging through the folks I follow to unfollow some in order to add new ones. I am thinking of how to set up rss feeds for the folk I want to follow aggregated by area of interest. You know -- give up on using the following at all. I am also switching to using the search function a lot more, and switching to FriendFeed, just like Scoble does. Twitter locks us down, fine - we won't use it. Make it hard to use, I'll move. I was one of the victims last summer of Twitter mismanaging their spam blocker. (They deleted accounts for me, @conniecrosby, @davedelaney and a bunch of other folk: http://mblog.lib.umich.edu/etechlib/archives/2008/08/twitter_banning.html). I am not inclined at this point to depend on Twitter or trust them to manage things properly. I like Twitter a LOT, but if they started charging based on following, that would probably be the straw that breaks the camel's back.

Not to mention that it is easy as anything to work around this. If you tell folks it is free under 1000 follows, the spammers will just make a gazillion accounts and push the same stuff to all of them. They aren't going to pay. Whatever limit you set, they will find a way around it. I don't see this model as a solution for twitter spammers, since it is so easy to work around.

OK, so I think that won't work. What would I like better? Well, actually, I like the Flickr model. Flat rate, modest accessible fees. Free for *minimal* use (number of pics posted or tweets sent). The heavy users are the ones that drive the community - don't penalize them, don't drive them away. Personally, I am less concerned about the spammers, because I ignore them. They follow me, I don't care. I don't look at them, I don't follow them back. There might be a few buried in my earlier follows when I followed everyone back, but if I notice them, they are gone. Who cares if someone follows thousands of people if no one follows them back? No one is listening to them, so where is the harm?

Posted by pfa at January 2, 2009 06:10 PM

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