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If Facebook or Twitter Charged $30/Month Would You Pay?


Posted by on May 20, 2008

Would you pay to use social media platforms such as twitter, facebook, linkedin, etc? If so, how much would you be willing to pay? Below I have outlined a few reasons why a subscription based approach would not work for social media platforms. I would love to hear your ideas/thoughts/comments on this hot topic. Do you think social media platforms should charge? What say you?

For platforms such as twitter and facebook, which have been free for quite some time, suddenly switching gears to a subscription-based model would hurt them. First of all we all know what the common social media platforms offer and we already know what we like and don’t like about them. So taking that into consideration would you pay $5/month for facebook, twitter, linkedin, etc? How about $10/month, or $30/month? In a recent interview with Guy Kawasaki, Guy mentioned that he would charge twitter users $30/month. Now I think Guy is a smart fellow but charging users of a social media platform such as twitter $30/month seems a bit ridiculous. So why do I think a subscription based model for social media platforms may not be the best revenue stream?

Adoption

Social media platforms such as twitter and facebook are catered toward the masses, and only function properly when the masses are using them. Imposing a subscription fee would greatly reduce the amount of people that would use a service such as facebook or twitter, thus decreasing the overall usage and subsequently the overall effectiveness of the platform.

The Existence of Other Social Media Platforms

If you want to charge me $30/month to use your platform well then guess what? I am going to find another one that can do what yours can…for free. And I won’t be the only one to do so either. Let’s say twitter imposed a monthly subscription fee, well here I come Jaiku, and I’m willing to bet a lot of other people will follow.

Barriers to Entry

If you look at the barriers to entry in the social media space, you will realize that they really are not that great if you are aiming for a particular vertical, especially when you can use something such as ning to create the network for free. I have already written about how social media platforms are beginning to segment into verticals, if the big guys start charging, the segmentation will increase rapidly as people begin to search for new social networks to join.

Too Much Credit to Social Networks

Nowadays social networks are very commonplace and sometimes I think we give them a bit too much credit. The emphasis of a social network should be on relationships and interaction. Why would I pay money to interact and engage with my friends when I can find alternative means to do so for free? Sure social networks are great, heck I use several myself, but there are just so many free resources and tools out there that can easily replace paid for social networks. Let us also not forget that the currency is shifting from money to attention. I should not have to pay you to use your platform; you should be providing something of value to me in order to get my attention.

These are just a few reasons why I think charging for social media platforms may be a bad idea. Now, let us say a new social media platform is looking to launch, should they charge? Well of course that depends on what they have to offer that the other social networks do not. There is no scarcity of choice here so charging may not be a good idea when there are so many alternatives. Linkedin has a great revenue model. They charge a subscription feel for their premium service. They are not trying to force ads on people and have them pay to not see them, let us be honest here, what kind of a revenue model is that? If you really have something valuable, something unique, and something remarkable, then people will see that and then perhaps you can begin charging for it.

Thanks for reading!

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  • http://sachendra.wordpress.com Sachendra

    Subscription or license models have not worked very well in the past, remember how premium mail services were washed off when Google offered free 1 GB accounts, and the entry barrier to Email is much higher than creating a social media site.

  • http://www.qualitysmith.com Jane Buck

    I would absolutely not pay. I disagree that the barriers to entry are small. The largest barrier to entry resides within the person’s personality test…I network vs I don’t network. Without mass population there is nothing to hold everyone’s interest. I’m there on Linkedin at 500, Facebook is a challenge to connect to more than 100 and Twitter is even harder because a just right amount stays interesting but following too many and you lose your topics.

  • http://www.pandemiclabs.com Brennan

    Charging $30/month would be applying an old model to a new service and would fail.

    Why?

    Because, while they provide tremendous service, both facebook and twitter are clonable if need be.

    The value they provide is largely based on the size of their network… shrinking their network (via charges) would lessen the value of everything they do. What they should do, and are already doing somewhat in facebook, is charging corporations for access/advertisement and charging users for additional features… simple.

  • http://www.OneClickSearchEngine.com Uri – Pay Per Keyword Search Engine

    I currently pay for linkedin.com but they do have a specific niche that they are serve.

    Business networking is a bit different from “Social” Networking.

    Frankly, I wouldn’t pay for twitter,facebook or any BROAD Social networking site…

  • http://pixelposition.com Dana Lookadoo

    Quick and simple: No!

    I started participated in Twitter and FaceBook simply to keep abreast of social networking trends to be able to inform and help clients. The networking value has been fun, however. Would I pay $30/month for the fun? No.

  • http://www.perfectescapes.com Randy

    Online Marketing 101 – How to kill a growing business as quickly as possible?

    Charge a monthly subscription rate.

    The only way I could see this even remotely working is if they offer a free basic account and then offer a premium upgrade account with special benefits, much like Flickr Pro. But if those upgrades are barely anything – big backfire potential. And personally, I never pay for any of that stuff – just waited Yahoo Mail to open up their storage after Gmail. You think people are going to pay $360/year or find the next big (aka free) thing?

    But I agree with Brennan – if they start charging, people would move to a free service or someone out there would take a an off-the-shelf app and create something new. How many new social network invitations have you gotten this month? I’ve gotten at least 10.

  • Anthony Carretta

    Great Question.

    I personally use Linkedin for personal networking, which has turned out to be fabulous. It is certainly not anything I would be willing to pay for.

    A pay-subscription service may not be an ideal choice to monetizing these social network sites. Premium services absolutely is an appropriate approach. Charging to list jobs is certainly something recruiters may pay for as people move away from Monster and CareerBuilder in their search for talent.

    I believe MySpace is doing a good job catering to a non-professional younger audience using the Internet for social networking. The site is filled with Ads which doesn’t appear to hurt the site.

  • http://www.thefutureorganization.com Jacob Morgan

    Hi Anthony,

    thanks for the comment. Seems that most people would pay for linkedin if they had to choose one social network to pay for. linkedin does have a paid model for premium services and is doing quite well. you are definitely right about myspace, in fact i think they have gone a bit too far with all of their ads.

    J

  • william

    not a chance.

  • Pingback: Should Social Networks Charge? Would You Pay? | Jacob Morgan's Marketing Ideas and Rants

  • ash

    Its a burnt bridges issue surely? social networks cant now charge unless providing some amazing value add.

    But i wonder what premium services are these sites missing? What is in everyone’s social network feature wish list and what would/wouldnt be worth paying for on that wish list? Or is anything worth paying for if social networks can ad-monetise without marring these new features.

  • http://www.thefutureorganization.com Jacob Morgan

    @ash

    great points. most social networks do not have the premium value ad service. linkedin is a good example of a company that knows when/what to charge for.

    The thing about the social network “wishlist” is that many people are expecting the changes to be made for free. I think it is going to take more than just a feature before a company can charge, companies are going to have provide an entire new service, something that really ads value. thanks for reading ash, i hope to see more of your comments in the future

  • Pingback: If Social Networks Started Charging Would You Pay? Why or Why Not?-- bub.blicio.us

  • paul

    Example: If I had paid $30/month..only to see a 75% reduction of my friends list (because they either won’t pay, can’t pay, or have moved to another free service), would I think it’s worth it, and continue paying? HELL NO! These services are all about connecting with the masses. In this case, it’s not the service that make the people, but rather, the people that make the service!

  • http://www.thefutureorganization.com Jacob Morgan

    @paul

    exactly, I like that, “the people that make the service” :) thanks for commenting and for reading!

  • 8jeff6

    This is useful information.

  • rachaelsee

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  • rachaelsee

    Hi, i am doing a survey on social networking for a school project, and it would great if you guys can help!

    http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/YK22NSW

  • socialjunkie

    i personally have no problem paying to use a site (as its really no different then having a magazine subscription) HOWEVER the site would have to be worth paying for (generating actual valuable relevant content) but to be priced at $30/month? now thats just way too expensive!