What is the value proposition for businesses joining App.net? This is something I’ve been contemplating ever since I joined the service in August. Unlike Twitter, where big brands have the luxury of being exposed to tens of millions of eyeballs, App.net has a modest user base of around 30,000. Does this mean it’s not worthwhile for companies to pay for an account?
From a marketing and advertising perspective, one could rightly argue that more eyeballs is always a better thing. With Twitter, you can pay for sponsored tweets, where your content would be displayed on someones timeline, even if they don’t follow you. App.net does not have this issue, as they are a paid service. Paid advertising aside though, there is another kind of advertising that’s intrinsically valuable to businesses — brand awareness.
Services like Twitter have opened up an entirely new notion: that is that you as a consumer have easy access to interact with businesses — unlike anything we’ve been able to do before. Many consumers actively search for their favourite businesses to see if they’re on Twitter. It’s a great way to provide feedback, both positive and negative, and receive a response from a human being. For those who may not be aware that the company that built the product they’re using, is on Twitter, those companies have dedicated people that search for keywords that may contain mentions of their product or business. This has been an incredibly powerful way for large brands to stay in touch with their customers, and assist them if they had a negative experience.
It’s 2012. If your business isn’t on some sort of popular social networking service, you’re doing it wrong. You simply can’t afford to not be on Twitter and Facebook. So what of smaller players like App.net? Are they at all relevant? Should you even bother? I would posit that even with its small user base, you absolutely should.
As of this publication, an App.net account currently costs $36 per year. This is a relatively small amount of money, though clearly more than the cost of free that services such as Twitter and Facebook offer. My experience with the service since I joined relatively early, has been an exceedingly positive one. Not only do I not have to deal with spam accounts and promoted tweets, like I do on Twitter, but I have more followers and interact with other wonderful people. I see this as a huge benefit for an individual. For businesses, the overall reach would be a tiny fraction of what one could garner from Twitter, yet there are still benefits.
I will concede that the vast majority of Twitter’s users may not be annoyed by promoted tweets, at least in its current incarnation. They are more than likely not even cognizant about the onslaught of issues third-party developers have faced recently. As Twitter continues to make life difficult for developers, dedicated power users continue to flock towards paid services like App.net. As it continues to mature, those same dedicated users of Twitter increasingly become more attached to App.net. I’m sure there’s a small subset who have been thinking about deleting their Twitter accounts, and I know some who already have.
Dalton Caldwell, one of the co-founders of App.net, has already publicly stated that the service is very much still in its early stages of development and growth. Their core focus has been on building sustainable APIs — to help developers leverage the underlying power and flexibility of the platform — and the first-run experience for new users is no where near where it should be for the typical person who is curious enough to try it. This will undoubtably change over the coming months.
With all this in mind, I think big brands, media, and service-based businesses hve a golden opportunity to become early adopters. You have access to a loyal and dedicated audience, perhaps many of whom may be slightly more technologically gifted than the norm.
As App.net’s APIs become fully fleshed out, and the front-end web app becomes polished to the point where it’s an easy out-of-box experience, the initial subscription costs will go down. As the cost of the service drops, the user base will grow significantly. It does not have to grow to billions of users for it to become a very profitable business. And of course, as the user base grows dramatically, your business will now suddenly have access to a lot more people it can interact with.
Thank you to Ben Friedland for providing a short list media/brand/tech companies that are currently already on App.net. You can check them out below.