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?
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!