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Getting paid on Twitter: TipJoy

The second edition of our foundation book, Shoestring Venture, is nearing completion and we have just added a section on getting paid through Twitter. While this market was dominated by TipIt, a decidedly problematic solution, TipJoy has just released an API for asynchronous payments through Twitter. Right now, the application is most suited to people raising money for charity, bloggers/podcasters soliciting “donations” or subscriptions, and content providers or app sellers requiring micropayments for content or apps. Of course, the difference between being paid through Twitter and some other conventional method, such as a Web form, is that the Twitter payment is broadcast throughout the payer’s social network. So, if you’re soliciting donations for your podcast and Jill Shmill pays you a buck, then all of Jill Shmill’s friends, who are probably also interested in your podcast, know about it.

TipJoy requires both the payer and the payee to have PayPal accounts (the pros and cons of which are discussed at length in our book. Both the payer and the payee must have TipJoy accounts that link to their Twitter account; this requires giving TipJoy your Twitter login information.

Once a user has linked Twitter to TipJoy, they can pay anyone else with a Twitter-TipJoy linked account by inputting the following tweet:

p $2 @richardhooker

This means “pay” (p) “two dollars” ($2) “to the TipJoy account belonging to the Twitter user richardhooker” (@richardhooker). TipJoy then charges the user’s PayPal account and, when approved, pays the payee’s PayPal account (hence, the transaction is asynchronous). Because the payment is asynchronous, it may require some time to pass before the user has access to any content they’re paying for. And, of course, the payment is broadcast across the user’s social network. So, technically, every customer payment is word-of-mouth marketing. Which is especially cool if they add a comment to the tweet.

Users can pay a Twitter account, a Web site address (http:// required), or an email address. But the payee must have a TipJoy account with this information.

The downside, of course, is the formatting language. There are strict rules for inputting a payment on Twitter including the order in which the code appears in the tweet. I am a long-time user experience expert (dating way back to 1994); in my experience, rules and codes rarely cut the muster in the user experience world. But, like everything else, this is one more tool for your toolbox. And for certain types of products, it’s the right tool. We just have to figure out what those products are.

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