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Twitter Gets Freemium Model

Social media blog Mashable has posted about the availability of a US-only Twitter service that allows people to charge for content. Called Socialcord, it allows you to charge followers for text and multimedia content through their phone accounts. According to Mashable, four US service providers are collaborating with Socialcord for 45 per cent of each micropayment.

It's interesting to see how businesses are responding to the problem of how to monetise the gargantuan fan-bases of big-brand content providers, both off and online. This is an example of the so-called concept of a Freemium business in action.

This method of paying for content in small amounts through your phone bill isn't very new. UK mobile phone operators have allowed their customers to download games, songs and ringtones and charged them through their monthly bill for years.

Socialcord is a step along, because Twitter is ostensibly a device-free service. Undeniably, the trend is towards people consuming an increasing amount of content over mobile devices, which may not be suitable for placing advertising. But, it appears Twitter followers can also pay for premium content on a fixed-line internet terminal (or a PC as we used to call it) as well as a mobile device.

Will it create any significant amount of revenue for Twitter users (and the participating companies)?

Possibly, but only depending on the content available.

Making it easy to pay miniscule amounts for small snippets of content is one part of the equation. The other is compelling, unique content (there is a great deal of unique content on Twitter that isn't compelling) that people will pay for.

Here's some premium social media content that I think people would be very happy to pay for:

  • Katie Price's Facebook profile, including friends list.
  • Prince Harry's party video clips on YouTube.
  • Bernard Madoff's Linkedin profile, including contacts list.
  • Sir Alex Ferguson's (or any other Premiership manager) Tweets leading up to the Saturday game (William Hill, et al take note).
  • Silvio Berlusconi's Tweets at G8.
  • Vivienne Westwood's photos on Flickr.
It's that scarce, but compelling material that can be paid for easily without making a big purchase decision that will break the deadlock between content providers, who need to make big revenues to keep producing, and content consumers, who have come to expect free-to-air media.

(Pic: carrotcreative cc2.0)