When I was in San Francisco back in April it didn’t take long for me to get introduced to the most popular social game in town: how will Twitter make money? I played the game in three or four different groups, made some obvious beginner’s mistakes, and had fun.
Unfortunately for those still playing the game I think I solved the problem. I now know how Twitter should make money. Judge for yourself.
Twitter should make money by charging those users that follow more than, say, 1,000 people. In general, it should charge maybe 0.1 or 0.2 cents per person you follow per month, with the first 1,000 for free. Discounts for power users who are following tens of thousands of people should probably apply.
Note what I’m saying: it’s the following number that counts. The number of followers is irrelevant.
The small user who follows a couple of dozens of friends plus quite a few celebrities doesn’t have to pay a thing. The celebrity who’s followed by hundreds of thousands of people but himself follows only a few dozen doesn’t have to pay, either. That’s good, because these two groups form the core of Twitter. Without them the service would lose a lot of its appeal.
The two groups that are going to have to pay for their Twitter use are large companies who use Twitter as a communications medium, and ego users who follow a lot of people in order to get them to follow them back and increase their follower count.
If a customer services department makes serious use of Twitter it has to follow all of its followers because that allows for direct messaging and more-or-less private communication. They should pay for the privilege, just as they pay their phone carrier, their bulk mail carrier, and other companies that maintain communications channels.
The ego users have proved that following a lot of people seems to be a recipe for getting lots of followers. I don’t understand why this is so, but meanwhile I’ve seen so much evidence that I dont’t doubt it is so.
I’m very glad that my plan requires these ego users to pay. I’ve felt for a long time that they pollute the tweetosphere a bit (and especially the top hundred lists). Their very high follower count is only impressive when you don’t compare it to their following count, which is usually a few percent higher.
If the ego users have to pay for the privilege karmic balance is restored and I’ll be a lot happier. Besides, Twitter will make a lot of money and its continued existence will be safe.
(Oh, and Twitter, if you actually implement this scheme you owe me an invitation next time I’m in San Francisco.)
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