One of the major accusations fired at twitter by it’s abusers is that the model has not yet made any money. Sure, it has over 105 million users, accounts for an increasing percentage of search traffic with 600 million search queries a day – but where’s the cold hard cash that makes it all worthwhile?
In response, it seems, twitter have launched a business model which includes paid-for tweets as branded advertising. There has been some speculation, as a result, over how the rest of the model might play out, with some very likely predictions bouncing around over sponsored links and verified tweets. (Check out Influential Marketing Blog’s take on this, and if you’re in socmed marketing and don’t already, I urge you to subscribe to Rohit’s enewsletter too.)
Paid for ads, sponsored tweets – these things don’t scare me. They’re an obvious next step for a platform whose audience is so varied and captive, whose link click-through rate is so high and whose role in search is growing exponentially. (The click-through thing is terrifying by the way. Even the most wary amongst us, those of us who will never click a link on an email for fear of contamination, will readily click a link embedded in a tweet from someone we follow.) What does scare me just a little is the idea of paid-for registered or verified accounts.
At the moment, celebrity or “big name” accounts are verified as authentic by twitter as a means of managing the huge number of fraudulent accounts set up under famous names. Rohit predicts that, in response to the long waiting list for verification, this could become a paid subscription service, which would extend beyond celebrity and into big name brands. It seems obvious that this is likely to filter down to SMEs too, with even small businesses needing to register in order to cash in on customer trust, until everyone who uses twitter as a promotional tool will require verification. Twitter will become a largely paid-for service – great for twitter, not so for us…
It’s not the financial side I’m concerned about here, it’s the fact that twitter is, and always has been such a level playing field. Everyone has access to everyone else, and if you’re good at what you do it’s a great way to network, connect, promote and get what you do noticed. It’s one of the best means of spotting future talent I’ve experienced, one of the best ways to initiate mutually valuable relationships with people you might otherwise not have had access to – or even known about. If the balance tilts, we naturally go back to the feudal system, back to push-pull marketing, back to leader-follower relationships. The SMEs get lost in the internet ether without verification, and we little leaguers, while we continue to be visible to the big shots, can no longer showcase our attributes in quite so proactive a way.
As I’ve mentioned, there is already a great degree of trust within the twitterverse which might prolongue the decline into feudalism. But either way, it seems a previously open and equal space may well be closed off to many of us soon. And I, for one will be redoubling my efforts in the coming months to prepare for it.