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Trend Watch: Monetizing Your Friends

Written by: Bill Sherman on Wednesday, 3 September 2008, 5:22 AM

Back in 2001, Thomas Davenport and John Beck released a savvy business book titled The Attention Economy. Some days, I think that marketers learned the wrong lesson from the book. Businesses and advertisers are now encouraging people to monetize their social networks.

Yesterday, Eric Schonfeld, over at TechCrunch, blogged about a new tool called Twittad which allows individuals to place ads on their Twitter homepages and set prices for advertisers.

Not familiar with Twitter? here’s the elevator pitch. Twitter offers micro-blogging. You can send send 140 character text-messages or IMs to anyone who subscribes to your Twitter feed. Twitter has gained traction with the bloggerati, but it has not really achieved mainstream recognition–partly because it’s hard to say anything meaningful in 140 characters.

Today, I’m going to focus on Sure, some of the people who use Twitter are professional bloggers or companies that have a “fan/userbase” realtionship with those who follow the Twitter feed (tweets). However, from what I’ve seen, most people who use Twitter are individuals connecting with their friends.

If you use Twitter to stay connected with your friends, should you also sell ads with the intent of monetizing those friendships? I’m really interested by that question, because it seems such a short-term relational mindset.

Businesses are used to buying mailing ists with contact information of people who meet certain demographic, psychographic, or affinity criteria. How long will it be before some marketing group approaches general individuals and asks them to sell/rent the contacts within their social network?

Imagine that a few years from now a business approaches you. They’ve identified you as a key influencer in whatever demographic they’re trying to reach. They have a new product/advertising campaign, and they want to rent (whichever of the following you value most):

  • your phone’s contact list;
  • your LinkedIn connections;
  • your old school Rolodex; or
  • your e-mail contact list.

Would you sell/rent that information to a business? And if so, what price would you require?

One Response to “Trend Watch: Monetizing Your Friends”

  1. Laurel Papworth Says:

    Oh it might be helpful if we stopped thinking of social networks as ‘social’ networks as in ‘party’ networks or even ‘friend’ networks and started thinking about society networks or customer communities. The same tool can then be monetised in different ways.

    Definitely companies building customer communities will be attracted to monetising visitors. The member with 20 real life friends, less so.

    s’not one size fits all, tis it? 🙂

    September 3rd, 2008 7:41 pm

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