Super Chirp , a service that lets Twitter users earn money from private “premium tweets” to paying subscribers launched yesterday. At first glance, it's an
interesting idea for non-profits with avid supporters
who might be willing to “donate” for access to special content — but
will Super Chirp fly? And if so, could it be a good fit for your non-profit?
It's been a couple years in the making, apparently, but Super Chirp is not an entirely new concept.
Back in mid-April, TwitPub floated a very similar “marketplace to buy and sell premium tweets.” A few days in, @twitpuber
reported “decent growth so far in terms of memberships… planning on
some promotions in the pipeline and help publishers in other areas as
well.” The website is still up and presumably working, but it's been more than 6 weeks since the last update on its official Twitter account.
If TwitPub slipped under your radar (as it did mine), perhaps it's because there really wasn't much buzz about it online, apart from rather lukewarm reviews by Ed Oswald at VentureBeat and Rafe Needleman on CNet:
I’m having a hard time seeing the value here. It all sounds an
awful lot like those premium text messaging services you see advertised
on TV (you know, “Get daily horoscopes sent to your phone free!”) or
that you can subscribe to through services like Frengo. And I’m not
sure TwitPub’s business model will hold water. There are already
Twitter users out there doing for free what TwitPub aims to charge for…
~ Ed Oswald
On Twitter as elsewhere on the Internet, there is so much great
content available for nothing. And for the truly critical information
that I would pay for, the medium is not important. If I’m signing up
for some kind of major financial or business alert, I want it to find
me wherever I am — e-mail, IM, phone, Twitter, everywhere. TwitPub
doesn’t reach that far. In other words, for frothy, fun content it’s
too expensive, and for important information it’s not rich enough. ~ Rafe Needleman
TwitPub's slow take-off doesn't look like a promising outlook for Super Chirp, does it? The two services are enough alike, one has to wonder whether Twitter
users are any more ready to embrace paid content now, with Super Chirp,
than they were two months ago with TwitPub.
But then, two months can be a very long time in the rapid-changing world of social media...
Super Chirp does have a headstart in the credibility stakes as it comes from 83 degrees, the small software company whose notable products include the customer service portal GetSatisfaction and 30 Boxes online calendar, among other success stories.
At 83 Degrees, we are no strangers to building businesses around
“premium content.” In 2002, we created the first large scale user
generated content site that had a successful “freemium”
model — Webshots. At the time, the only other large content sites that
made money with subscriptions were the WSJ Online and ESPN.com. We got
close to 250,000 paying subscribers and learned a lot about the whole
Michael Arrington of Techcrunch suggests that Twitter itself might be the deciding factor in whether Super Chirp will fly:
“If Twitter launches something like this directly, Super Chirp could
become irrelevant quickly," he warns. "Although, if I were running Twitter and
Super Chirp got traction, I’d buy the service and port over the
publishers and paying users to keep it all going.”
There is certainly a strong appetite for ways to “monetize” Twitter. Any successful platform, making it pay is the obvious next step. And for non-profits, an effective method of fundraising on Twitter could
mean a bit more: a rising balance in your PayPal account can demonstrate a tangible return
on the time your staff and volunteers put into social
media, always helpful when it comes to accounting to a sceptical board.
But are “premium tweets” a fundraising gold mine?
Do the math: Premium subscribers pay between $0.99 and $9.99 per
month — you set the price — of which Super Chirp takes a 30% cut, and
the usual PayPal fees will also apply. Unless your organization has a
hefty following on Twitter — and unless your followers are motivated
to pay well for the content you’re delivering in 140-character bursts —
it seems to me that the financial return to a non-profit organization
is unlikely to be life-changing.
And for non-profits, there’s the very real risk of alienating your supporters by shutting out
those who are unwilling or unable to pay for a premium subscription.
While “exclusivity” is a great sales tool for country clubs and designer boutiques, non-profits are normally much more focussed on spreading their message as widely as possible.
That said, I do think Super Chirp could fly.
It’s a dream set-up for Internet marketing “gurus,” adult websites,
shopping channels, celebrities and celebrity gossip magazines, maybe
even the mainstream media outlets… Any of these businesses could
profitably use the service to send their premium subscribers a coupon
code for a special discount, for example, or links to restricted-access
But will it fly for non-profits?
How could Super Chirp — or premium content by any other delivery
channel, for that matter — be made to work for your non-profit