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Twitter Scraps SMS Updates; Should it Have Offered a Paid Alternative?

I wasn’t going to give Twitter’s "we’re stopping SMS text messages in most countries" announcement much real estate today, then a single comment gave me pause for thought.

First, the background:

Beginning today, Twitter is no longer delivering outbound SMS over our UK number. If you have been receiving SMS updates from Twitter via +44 762 480 1423, you’ll notice that they’ve stopped and you may want to explore some of the alternatives we’re suggesting…

…Even with a limit of 250 messages received per week, it could cost Twitter about $1,000 per user, per year to send SMS outside of Canada, India, or the US. It makes more sense for us to establish fair billing arrangements with mobile operators than it does to pass these high fees on to our users.

I’m neither in the UK, nor much of an SMS user, so this doesn’t impact my Twitter usage at all. Still, for those text-messaging pros in the UK, this is a big blow. In fact, one went as far as offering the following:

I’m fairly sure I’m not alone, but I’d be prepared to pay to receive SMSes in the UK…

Which had me asking: why didn’t Twitter ask its users if they wanted to pay for their SMS updates, before turning them off? Now, it could be that this commenter is a lone voice; but there’s a lesson to be learned here–one that companies always seem to forget–ask your customers what they would prefer? Twitter is already using Get Satisfaction to collect customer questions and feedback, perhaps they should have (did they?) asked the community first, before dropping the bombshell.

  • http://www.adoperationsonline.com Otilia Otlacan

    They seem to have finally started speeding towards monetizing their platform, and a first step was to cut unjustifiable (for them, at least) expenses. There was, I hope, some serious analysis behind their decision and the market for a paid service may not be big enough to support the model.

    That, or they’re preparing to sell out…

    Otilia Otlacan’s last blog post..It Finally Happens: Online Ad Spending Surpassed TV Ad Spending in a Major Market

  • http://shazzerspeak.blog-city.com Shazzer

    Twitter definitely missed the boat by not giving folks the option to pay for outgoing SMS. Especially since folks outside the UK were already paying international SMS rates to tweet from their mobile phones.

    I’m not a power user by any means, but I was more than happy to pay my way when (not if) Twitter said it was time to go with a paid subscription. Now, given the way they’ve handled this situation (discontinuing the service with no warner and no realistic alternative), I may not be so willing to sign up.

    Shazzer’s last blog post..Paul Krugman: The GOP is the “Party of the Stupid”

  • http://www.jordankasteler.com/utah-seo-pro-blog/ Utah SEO Pro

    Paid features don’t sit well with a lot of people. I think Twitter was smart just to scrap it.

    Utah SEO Pro’s last blog post..Mobile SEO – SMX Local Mobile 2008 Presentation

  • http://crueltobekind.org Nicole Simon

    The only time I used the international number for sending messages to twitter is a) when I was verifying my phone or b) when I needed to send a message from my phone while being in the US without data access. All other times? mobile data only.

    Would I pay a per SMS fee for delivering DM? probably. And many users have said so from early on that this day will come and twitter needs to think about a kind of prepaid model or they will fail. In trying to get the mobile phone providers to talk to them they are overlooking the fact that SMS is not that kind of business like it is in the US in most cases.

    So it was clear that it is either pay or go away. And this will not change – from my point of view I cannot imagine why a mobile phone provider should team up with them for this kind of service, there is no value in them for it.

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com Nick Stamoulis

    Wow, I agree. It seems like a no-brainer that they’d at least offer that as an option to benefit the customer and ultimately them.

  • http://crueltobekind.org Nicole Simon

    Well it is not as if setting up a prepaid and accounting mechanism is a walk in the park either, but they have been told a long time ago that this is what they will probably face and that people are willing to pay. As in not only saying, but really willing.

    Now, with the behaviour they have lost out on it and people just will start discovering the beauty of complete management through mobile web – as I said, everybody has mobile phones now, and nobody uses the hotel phones anymore ..

  • http://www.myfreeps3.net PS3

    They should have offered it as a paid feature, many people would have gone for it.

  • http://www.txtlocal.com James Martin

    This was always going to happen – it was obvious that twitter could not sustain giving out free SMS text messages to UK customers forever.
    [spam removed]

  • http://crueltobekind.org Nicole Simon

    James, there are so many ways you are missing the point – if you want to make a pitch, at least read what product you are claiming to be able to replace?

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    @Nicole – yeah, I just edited out his pitch. ;-)

  • http://www.fiftystudio.com/news Russell Page

    I don’t think Twitter has people thinking straight sometimes.

    Russell Page’s last blog post..Win Batman Dark Knight tickets

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  • http://symbiancorner.blogspot.com Symbian

    Obviously this service was too expensive.

    Symbian’s last blog post..Free VoIP Symbian app Fring now on Nokia E71

  • http://www.poems.md Ashley

    not so expensive should say

  • http://www.seekposition.com My SEO Experiment

    But they are right – they don’t wont make Twitter has features for people with money…

    My SEO Experiment’s last blog post..My first step – Getting links from blogs

  • http://www.playablefreeonlinegames.com Games

    They should have asked the users first. That way users willing to pay to receive sms from twitter would have come forward and twitter would never have to stop this sms service.

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