Charging for Twitter

An interesting debate about whether Twitter should charge for corporates for using their service has been sparked by a news item by Marketing Magazine. Quite understandably Twitter are looking to monetise the service in the most effective way possible. Charging companies for use would seem on the face of it a logical and straightforward way of generating revenue.  After all companies like Dell are using the service to market and sell their products, why shouldn’t the medium (or media owner) get some sort of remuneration for this?

For Dell, Twitter must be a highly effect marketing tool.  Some of the reasons why Twitter is so effect for Dell have been highlighted by HolisticSearch’s blog post on the matter.  The people following are largely willing volunteers which is much more targeted than sending out bulk mail shots from to your customer database. Another point to recognise is the chance for the Tweet’s to get syndicated through other means.  At less than 140 characters a promotional Tweet is concise enough to inform those who are interested without bombarding those who are not with unwanted information.

Given all these superb benefits, the question must be why would DELL be averse to paying for this method to connect with potential customers?  Well, for a start, they have been use to using it for free, so you can see why they might be aggrieved at having to pay for it now.  Also there is the issue (which is raised in the article) of what constitutes a “corporate” Twitter account.  Are celebrities as much part of this as well, should Twitter start charging them as well.  Frankie Boyle, a leading UK comedian on Twitter, recently Tweeted about an up coming show – should he be charged for the privilege of promoting himself?  There is also a very slim line between a corporate and personal account – for example if Steve Job’s Twitter account were to promote new Apple products on a daily basis, would that constitute business use?

Some have come up with the idea of Twitter having some sort of “premium” option whereby extra features were available to those who pay a fee such as getting demographic information about users or being able to group them.  However the information available about the users on Twitter is much less detailed than that of other social networks such as facebook.  Also at present I would say that Twitter users are broadly split into two groups consisting of :-

(a) sad people who want to be deluded into thinking they are friends with celebrities

(b) the web community

Thus is the information too narrow to be of any commercial use anyway?

At the moment there is no word over how much Twitter are intending to charge companies for commercial use.  This comment from Twitter to Marketing Magazine is rather like the stories the Government leak on proposed new legislation to Sunday tabloid newspapers – they are testing the water to see what the reaction might be.  And with $20 billion of financial backing, it’s hardly surprising.  Should Twitter begin to implement a charge for corporate use (in whatever form), surely someone else would come up with the same technology, possibly improved, and offer the same service for free?  I am sure Google would happily run the same service and spray profiles with adsense ads.

Simon Rattray - PPC Consultant