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While Twitter has consistently struggled to make a monetisation strategy stick, third party developers may have hit on a solution: haggling.
With paid tweets and trending topics, Twitter has flirted with the idea that buzz can be charged for, but not as directly as a new system devised by NYC marketers Christian Behrendt and Leif Abraham.
Clearly, the pair clearly saw no revenue in Twitter, so have instead directly targeted the tweet itself.
Their ‘Pay with a Tweet’ system is at heart a barter economy.
Download a song or information, or purchase retail goods. When it’s time to pay, use a tweet.
The idea is that by allowing twitterers to pay by tweeting about the goods, the brand, artist or product will receive a free publicity push on the microblogging platform.
Retailers will have to sign up to the platform, where they can then offer discounts and samples to customers who agree to promote the product, along with a non-editable URL leading to the merchant’s website.
Of course, there are problems with this.
Is it worth retailers offering free samples to every tweeter?
This falls back on the ‘free stuff’ social media model, ultimately an unsustainable business model at best, but also one that could be open to abuse.
Currently there are no real checks in place to stop a user setting up a hundred accounts and sending one tweet from each, and if rules are instigated, then surely the ever-present spectre of influence will manifest.
Is it worth giving Joe Nobody a free shirt when Jeffrey Starr will provide much better reach for you? Who gets more?
As usual the malleable nature of influence threatens to undermine monetization strategy, and while it's certainly one of the more genuinely social attempts to wring revenue from the platform, it may need a serious rethink before it can succeed.