A few weeks ago I released a mini eBook about link building for SEO titled “Becoming a Clockwork Pirate.” Although I put my heart, soul and everything I know about link building into the 30,000 word digital mini-book, that’s not what made the book most interesting.

What made it unusual was the approach I took in ‘monetising’ it.

One option would have been
charging for it
, but as many of us know there’s no easy way to charge for
online content.

The next option would have been
to ask for people’s email addresses
but after signing up for one too many email
lists over the years I’m always reticent to give over my details, and I
imagine most of the prospective readers of the book would be similarly jaded.

Pay with a Tweet

It was while I was wrestling
with what the best option might be that I came across the “Pay With A Tweet
tool created by Innovative Thunder.

It seemed the perfect solution: not only
did I get something in return for sharing the book (the promotion of the book
to the downloaders’ Twitter followers) but I also reckoned the readers would be
more comfortable giving away a retweet than any other the other options I had
been exploring.

The system is fairly easy to set
up, uses oAuth to ensure that someone has to retweet on Twitter or share on
Facebook before getting they are able to access your goodies. The system from
the New York based creative team is merely a proof of concept rather than an
enterprise solution but it did a pretty good job of managing access to only
those who have spent little social capital.

Actually, since releasing the book
a new service known as Cloud:Flood has been launched. Cloud:Flood works in very
much the same way but is a little bit more flexible than the “Pay With a Tweet”
System. If you have a development team it wouldn’t take much to work up a
solution that worked well with your analytics solution.

The results

At the time of writing this post
the book has been retweeted 1,159 times which, assuming even a small proportion
of those people’s followers saw the retweets, is quite a good return for a
digital product in a saturated market aimed at a few thousand search geeks.

In
total, there have been 1,600 downloads of the book as a few people managed to
find the file without retweeting
(which wasn’t difficult if you have even the
most basic SEO knowledge) and a number of people have downloaded the book a few
times.

I’m confident the approach would
work equally well in other sectors, and there are examples of pubs using it to
give away free drinks and bands giving away download singles. I’ve also spoken
to a film producer about using a similar approach to release an independent
film.

If your aim is reach and brand
exposure rather than building an on-going CRM style relationship, I can
recommend exchanging social capital rather than email capture.
This won’t work
for every campaign but I can certainly envision a large number of situations
and campaigns where this would work perfectly.

What were the downsides?

Some
people didn’t have Facebook or Twitter campaigns. There weren’t many, but then
my book was aimed at the digital haves rather than have-nots.

Also for a short
period of time, retweeting the book completely took over my peers’ Twitter
streams causing a mini-backlash
which I could imagine being much more severe
were the offer more mainstream and popular.

I also had a classic first mover
advantage; people were talking as much about the payment mechanism as they were
the book, and that kind of novelty is short lived.

If every marketer started
using this type of system its popularity could very quickly burn out
. But just
because this tactic has a short shelf life doesn’t mean it hasn’t got value
while the approach is still relatively fresh.

You can pay for Kelvin’s book ‘Becoming a Clockwork Pirate‘ with a tweet here.