Is Twitter considering charging business users?

Filed as News on February 10, 2009 6:46 am

Twitter’s ongoing search for ways to monetise the service and generate an income may include charging corporate users for the privilege of sending out their tweets.

That’s according to co-founder Biz Stone, speaking recently to Marketing magazine. “We are noticing more companies using Twitter and individuals following them. We can identify ways to make this experience even more valuable and charge for commercial accounts,” he said.

A small sample of companies au fait with Twitter gave mixed feedback to the proposal. While LoveFilm said that it would depend on “price, demand and what else is around”, MD of We Are Social, Robin Grant, said that Twitter could charge for display ads or to access customer information for marketing purposes, while the VP of Dell, Bob Pearson, suggested that the company would look elsewhere if things became “complicated and costly”.

While Twitter is growing in popularity and edging towards the mainstream, it’s not the only micro-blogging service available. Though Stone suggests individual accounts will not be charged, many smaller companies may baulk at having to pay to use Twitter, while larger ones could quite easily switch to another service or rely on other methods of communicating with potential customers.

What do you think? Is this a valid proposal? Should companies continue to have access to free marketing via Twitter or should they pay?

Marketing Magazine (via Pocket Lint)

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  1. By monkey posted on February 10, 2009 at 6:59 am
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    If that is true, I think some companies will pay

    Reply

  2. By David Barnes posted on February 10, 2009 at 7:26 am
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    Companies that launch without business models need to be careful about giving everything away for free from the start. You can always decide to give more away later. It’s harder to start taking things back.

    If when Twitter had launched they said, “up to 500 followers are guaranteed free … if you need more, contact us & we’ll arrange something” then they’d be in a much stronger position now. They could have still let people bust the follower count for free initially, but then introduce payment later.

    If you’re using Twitter seriously and have built up 500 genuine followers, wouldn’t you pay $5 per month to lift the limit to a 1000? I would, without question. But if they impose this limit now, existing users would object.

    Reply

  3. By Andy Merrett posted on February 10, 2009 at 7:35 am
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    I quite agree, David. It’s potentially going to be hard to establish exactly what counts as a company and what as an individual, as well, particularly when it comes to individual entrepreneurs/traders, SMEs, and employees Twittering semi-officially for a company.

    Reply

  4. By MichaelHiles posted on February 10, 2009 at 10:20 am
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    If they did, some other entity would come along with a different model, say attaching ads to tweets. Twitter isn’t the only player. They’re one of many.

    IMHO, the syndication services like Ping.fm are the ones to watch.

    Reply

  5. By Tony Beach posted on February 10, 2009 at 10:24 am
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    Twitter has a great thing going on now….I’ll help them earn so much they’ll need Brinks trucks weekly to take the money to the bank…….check it out….only two weeks old and earning up to 5% daily….sign up here and learn more….

    Reply

  6. By Scott Mahler posted on February 10, 2009 at 1:27 pm
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    I think this is an aweful idea, and may serve to end their rising climb in the social media sphere. One of the reasons so many of us use twitter is the fact that it offers a free way to network and promote yourself and your business. While they say this charge would be only for larger companies, it is a slippery slope and how do we know what matrix they use to identify who is a big company and who is not.

    Twitter has become popular because people feel free to speak their mind, promote their business and ideas and network and learn from other users. This kind of move will cause most of us to rethink how we go about doing that going further. And by the way, there are many twitter users that have started their own social media sites, so twitter may find us all moving over to those.

    Reply

  7. By Joseph Curran posted on February 10, 2009 at 2:11 pm
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    I don’t like the idea of paying, but then there is no free lunch… if it is only the bigger companies that pay for the privilege of hawking what they need to and there is some way of figuring out who that is then it will be alright. Like one of the comments from a tweeter said, “if your a company and you have a lot of followers and they impose a limit,” which when you exceed, you have to pay a small fee, then I think that would work…
    What big company would shoot themselves in the foot when they already have an audience, refuse to pay, and try to go somewhere else and start over… that would be a bad move on anyone’s part… Besides it just becomes part of their advertising budget… Big companies can evaluate the value they receive for their advertising dollar and decide for themselves if it is worth the buck.
    Note, I am not for anyone paying, but we all have to realize that there is a difference between the individual user, the small entrepreneur, and the big companies here… I have had someone I used to follow who sent me nothing, but ads for their product.. If that is all the someone does, maybe they need to pay for the privilege…

    Reply

  8. By Sebastyne posted on February 10, 2009 at 6:23 pm
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    I think they should try and come up with something extra for companies (pro members) to pay for, while leaving the current services as they are. As Andy above said, it is hard to make a difference between an individual twittering about the company they work for and a company account. If a company uses Twitter for purely advertising purpose, who wants to follow them anyway? There could be “a pro account” with some features available only by paying. I agree that Twitter should find a way to get more money out of their massive success, but this is not the exact right way to go about it.

    Reply

  9. By Thomas posted on February 10, 2009 at 7:01 pm
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    I would imagine that corporate members who pay Twitter get something very important in return: IP protection. Celebrities and companies have enough trouble dealing with copycats and spoofers, and having a “verified” official Twitter account with active enforcement of copyright protection would be worth paying for.

    Reply

  10. By jeff weir posted on February 10, 2009 at 7:14 pm
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    Your comment that larger businesses “could quite easily switch to another service or rely on other methods of communicating with potential customers” requires further scrutiny. It’s not about what is easiest, or cheapest. It’s about what is most effective. Metcalfe’s law states that the value of a network is proportional to the number of connected users. We know this intuitively when we pay to use say ebay rather than one of its many free alternatives.
    If there’s another free or cheaper alternative that will deliver results, businesses should be using it already, in addition to twitter. I agree with Joseph Curren above: “What big company would shoot themselves in the foot when they already have an audience, refuse to pay, and try to go somewhere else and start over”.

    Reply

  11. By Francesca posted on February 10, 2009 at 8:13 pm
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    Once Twitter starts charging companies, it will create a commercial environment, and sort of remove the human element companies share with their followers. The (free) personalization factor is what makes Twitter such a desirable network for people. Also, they should realize many of their users joined because of these companies!

    Twitter, if you’re listening – please consider other options for generating revenue. As an active tweeter, I have a feeling this will not respond well with the majority of the user base.

    Reply

  12. By JOhn Doe posted on February 10, 2009 at 8:55 pm
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    Wouldnt surprise me. Might as well if they can squeeze a dime out of them!

    RT

    Reply

  13. By Lora Ladd posted on February 11, 2009 at 12:02 am
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    As a small business owner I don’t think it’s the best idea to charge all businesses to use twitter. I am in favor of being given the choice to pay for a ‘perk’ account with extra features that haven’t been introduced yet. Twitter deserves to make some money.

    Reply

  14. By Neil Matthews posted on February 11, 2009 at 4:20 am
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    Businesses will want some additonal features if they pay for their accounts, things I think may work are access to user demographics and the ability to mass follow these people

    Here is the scenario I could see:

    Corporation A is opening a new store in my location, from their paid account they have a function to select all users in that location, and click on follow

    I see the follow, and may or may not be interested, if I follow them in turn, they can then start sending me tweets about the store opening.

    It has got to be a pull option to keep people happy, rather than a push of a marketing message

    Reply

  15. By David Barnes posted on February 11, 2009 at 10:30 am
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    Twitter has posted on its own blog that the standard Twitter service will remain free for all.

    My own comment was really a larger point about launching free services — make sure you place some limitation on what you’ll offer for free EARLY. Then you can lift it later if you want.

    Take Gmail for example. When Gmail launched they said “never delete another mail”, but the max size of the mailbox was 1GB. Everybody switched, because even with the 1GB limit Gmail was still a fantastic service.

    This gave Gmail a choice — later they could either impose a charge to go above 1GB (which would generate revenue), or announce an increase in the size of the free mailbox (which would generate goodwill). They eventually upped it to 2GB — result was lots of extra positive publicity.

    Flickr is similar — a great free service, but with clear limits. If you want to break those limits, you pay.

    When Twitter launched, a limit of 500 or 5000 followers wouldn’t have stopped people signing up & using it. Who expected to have more than a few hundred followers when they signed up for Twitter? But it would mean Twitter had more revenue options now.

    Reply

  16. By Katana posted on February 11, 2009 at 6:53 pm
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    it’d be better for them to charge them and regulate it highly than for companies to begin figuring out ways to spam twitter etc

    Reply

  17. By Brandon R Allen posted on February 12, 2009 at 12:18 pm
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    @David Barnes Totally agree. You make things much more difficult when you launch a product without a clearly defined way to monetize. It would be easier for users and Twitter to have a rough game plan established before launching. I don’t think we’ve heard the last of this discussion either.

    Reply

  18. By Pushkar posted on February 16, 2009 at 1:43 pm
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    It doesn’t expect to make money anytime soon. Key to twitter is its reach if it can successfully defeat popular news sites consistently it will be the king. Then they will start charging whopping money to businesses (affiliate style) & promote ads in a big way.

    Reply

  19. By Stacy posted on March 1, 2009 at 8:05 pm
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    If businesses are charged, then actors/celebs should be to. They are selling themselves and with these big celebs dangling 50K + followers, they have the power to promote anything.

    Reply

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