Twitter to charge – a marketing ploy?

Jocke and I spent a lot of the weekend talking about how social media media services are planning to make money long-term, especially in light of the current economic client and falling advertising revenue. We agreed that income should be made either through ads or through consultancy work. Charging for a service is totally against the nature of the social web and would immediately force people elsewhere.

Twitter must have been listening to us (and everyone else having the same discussion), because the cover story in today’s Marketing Magazine is about Twitter potentially charging for commercial use. Co founder Biz Stone is quoted as saying:

‘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.’

This is interesting. Twitter obviously realises that if it was to charge individuals they would immediately move elsewhere. But companies have realised the marketing potential of Twitter and are unlikely to move away from where their customers are. Potentially, they can therefore increase the number of Twitter users, but at the same time charge companies to talk to them.

Reading the article, however, I was thinking that this is really premature. I don’t think that companies have yet to realise the full potential of Twitter and are therefore unlikely to pay. Several companies are indeed quoted in the article as sceptical to a charged-for service. Instead, I was thinking, Twitter should have waited a bit longer before making this announcement.

And, lo and behold, Twitter yesterday blogged about how it is unlikely to ever charge for using its service  ‘regularly’. What it is discussing is new services directed at companies:

‘However, it’s important to note that whatever we come up with, Twitter will remain free to use by everyone—individuals, companies, celebrities, etc. What we’re thinking about is adding value in places where we are already seeing traction, not imposing fees on existing services. We are still very early in the idea stage and we don’t have anything to share just yet despite a recent surge in speculation. When we do, we’ll be sure to let you know.’

Touché. A whole bunch of press.

And a couple of million more new users for Twitter.

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