How do you monetize something that was built to accommodate universal free sign ups to gain market share ? There’s a number of excellent blog post lists of monetization mechanisms. Rather than just beat a dead horse and come up wit my own list, I’d rather drill down into what is shaping up to be an interesting case study in leveraging the ubiquity of your community. Monetizing the community via monetizing ubiquity by the way is one of the three models I find most promising (the other two are membership versioning and micro transactions, which I’ll cover at a later point in time on this blog).
The case study in the making is an announcement the time and expense web application Harvest will now be “powered by Twitter”. Peel away the marketing ballyhoo and you’ll find a synergistic gem here. What this means is users tracking time and expenses in Harvest will now be able to enter in expenses by sending direct messages, or punch in and out while on the road by sending direct messages to Twitter. In other words, Harvest is eschewing development of a mobile app and simply piggybacking on Twitter to provide that connectivity. The monetization in practice is simple: Harvest collects a membership fee, gives Twitter a residual. Instant revenue for Twitter, and Harvest not only saves on development costs, but more importantly increases exposure without having to resort to direct advertising.
Here’s the punchline: So how much is the value of selling your ubiquity? Ask Harvest what their cost of sales would have been had they not partnered.
It’s pretty obvious Twitter is promoting the visibility of third party add ons to develop future revenue streams, and Harvest is just the beachhead. That’s why they are promoting Twitterholics on their blog and CEO Ev is promoting apps like Tweet what you eat. This is of course the launching pad for other similar monetization partnerships. Congrats to Ev and the team. It’ll be fun to see where they take “Powered by Twitter“.