Twitter will offer a paid level of service for some users. It could be just for corporate accounts, it could be just for people with more than a few thousand followers, it probably won't be for even a majority of users.The day appears to be fast approaching when
But imagine if it was required that you, dear reader, had to pay for your Twitter account. "All other things being equal" would be an absurd condition to put on the question; if we all had to pay for our Twitter accounts then we'd probably have fewer friends and the service would be worth less to all of us. As a psychological exercise, though: How much would you pay for your Twitter account?
How Much Would I Pay For My Twitter Account?
I would pay
more than $50 per month for my Twitter account, no problem. (My wife just yelled at me when I said that to her.) Is that crazy? I don't think so at all. It's not for some Jason Calacanis-style bulk promotion or anything; I'd pay that much for the impact that the listening and the conversation has on my work.
I pay over $100 every month for phone plus data service; I bet many of you do too. That's a rip-off. Twitter, at least for me and I suspect for a growing number of people in the future, is totally worth $50 per month.
Why? Let me tell you what I do with Twitter. Extrapolate for your own work.
I'm a news writer for a living. Using Twitter, I find news stories to write about -- such good stories, so fast and so often that I wrote a year and a half ago that Twitter is paying my rent. A couple of news tips a month that lead to stories that blow up big on Digg and the investment would be worth it to me.
APIs and Developer Platforms: A Discussion of the Pros and Cons. I got answers to my questions for that story from people with job titles like Senior Online Editor at CIO.com, Research Director of Web Services at Gartner and 7 different tech company CEOs. All of those "interviews" were done by call-and-response on Twitter. I did it in an afternoon. I never could have written that article using the phone.When I'm working on stories I ask Twitter friends for feedback and get incredible quotes for those stories. A year ago I wrote a story titled
We're a blog, so the editorial process here is different from traditional media. We publish first and spell check later. That's some exaggeration, but there's some truth to it too! I regularly get pinged on Twitter by people who tell me about misspellings, broken links or additional details I should look at for my stories. People aren't going to IM me, they aren't going to call or email. They are going to look at an interface that's open throughout the day for them and type nothing more than @marshallk to let me know about what needs to be fixed. That's awesome.
Selective group creation, competitive intelligence, business development, sentiment tracking and data mining horizons are just starting to open up on Twitter. It's a big, dynamic, public, programmatically accessible database of real-time conversation. Would I pay the same monthly fee to access that as I do for telephone service? Hell yeah, I would.
It's Not About Promotion
The fact is, Twitter isn't a terribly effective promotional vehicle. If you're Dell and publishing links to discounted computers, you can make some big sales, but content publishers aren't going to see traffic numbers from Twitter. TechCrunch has a quarter million followers on Twitter and they report referring visitors per month that are probably equivalent to a half day's worth of their total traffic.
It's not about broadcasting your message. It's about listening to a very targeted group of thought leaders in your industry and occasionally interacting with them. Think your industry doesn't have important people using Twitter? Go do some searches at Twellow.com - you'll probably be surprised.
Twitter is an incredible professional development tool. I know that's the case for journalists and I strongly suspect that it is or will be used in the same way in lots of other industries. You show me an industry where you can't find a competitive advantage in learning more, faster and from highly active people in that industry and I'll show you an industry that I at least am thankful I don't work in.
If you don't use Twitter like this, perhaps you've got a limited number of friends and it means something else in your life. That's fine. You probably won't be a candidate for a paid account. If you're interested in professional development and you're not using Twitter like this - that's your loss. That would be like using an iPhone for a doorstop.
There are more open alternatives like Laconica, but Twitter is where probably 10 million people are and lots of industry thought leaders in particular are. Is it worth $50 per month to get the "services" of this "carrier?" It sure is.
You can find ReadWriteWeb on Twitter, as well as the entire RWW Team: Marshall Kirkpatrick, Bernard Lunn, Alex Iskold, Sarah Perez, Frederic Lardinois, Rick Turoczy, Sean Ammirati, Lidija Davis and Phil Glockner.