There are a number of fundamental flaws in many of the “calculations” being floated as a business model for Twitter.
I am just going to revert to bullets to make this easier to digest.
- Slapping a charge on your biggest fans is financial suicide – if someone has been evangelising your product for 2 years, and using their influence to build your business, it would be extremely foolish to damage that relationship.
- Om Malik is touting bandwidth costs possibly up to 30GB from Robert Scoble – hosting companies… even free blog hosts such as WordPress.com give that kind of bandwidth away these days.
- People choose to follow you, and you have no control of who they are – with something like email marketing you always have an option to prune your list if the costs are not bringing a return – not so with Twitter
- Even if Twitter levied $0.01 per person followed per month, with the first 50 free, they still would have problems coping with highly followed users such as Robert Scoble, Leo Laporte and Jason Calacanis – it would have to be how many you followed, not how many follow you
- With Email marketing, one of the biggest problems is how fast you have to deliver messages – delivering to a mailing list of 100 within an hour is no problem even for a shared host, but to deliver to a mailing list of 500,000, within an hour is a major scaling task. With Twitter, people want their messages within minutes or seconds…
- Twitter as it stands isn’t really suitable for the business use it seems most of the heavy users are using it for. Whilst you could argue it is opt-in, there is no method of clear disclosure – if an email marketer was blasting out commercial messages to an opt-in list without commercial disclosure and his full contact details, he is asking for a legal nightmare.
- Only a small fraction of messages sent ever reach all potential destinations
- Twitter doesn’t provide statistics of delivery rates – I have over 1500 followers, but if I tweet a post a couple of times it is unlikely I will see more than 20 or 30 visitors in my stats – I could improve tracking, use tracking URLs which block bots etc to get a real number, but it would need to be intrinsic to the service to be of value.
You don’t see people moaning on Techmeme about Skype, when you suddenly get a batch of messages from 2 days earlier that were posted to a group.
Friendfeed has the benefit of hindsight, the demand and problems Twitter faces were apparent before FriendFeed was conceived, and Friendfeed really meets a different purpose.
Just remember one of the other pet topics on Techmeme, slow delivery of email messages with Gmail, or slow Google Reader updates, even with resources far beyond the reach of a startup.
As for a viable business model… Twitter have my email address, they should use it, possibly to promote other startups for a small amount of cash or equity. I can easily stand a Twitter email once a week with updates on new features, other Twitter news, and a mention of a few 3rd party services.
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