Will people pay to belong to a social media community?

social media love speech bubble

Fairfax will launch its new social media platform, Connect Pink, in June in the hopes of connecting women in regional Australia. The question is, will users be willing to pay a nominal fee to join this new social network?

I was recently invited to a business breakfast to learn all about a new social media platform, to be launched in June.

Fairfax Media are hoping that their Connect Pink social media platform will become a focal point for regional Australian women online. The aim is to make this social media platform more ‘local’; that is, a place you can connect with friends and family and catch up on the latest news. The news portion of the service makes it slightly different from current platforms, in that you can choose the categories of news that you want in your feed, which will be provided be Fairfax.

The difference is that this will be a paid social media service. In order to belong, you’ll be asked to pay a nominal fee that will go directly to a charity – in the first year that charity will be the McGrath Foundation. Will this put a lot of people off joining? Ros Marsden, director of sales and marketing for Connect Pink, says no. Fairfax believes most people won’t have an issue paying $5, if they know the money will go to a charity.

Another advantage I can see to having members pay to belong, is that they’re therefore prepared to use their credit cards online – so you can think of them as qualified buyers. This may be a selling point to the businesses Fairfax is trying to attract to the new platform. Just like Facebook, Connect Pink will be offering business pages to regional businesses. There’s an annual fee for having a business page, somewhere in the region of $1000.00, which will entitle you (as a business) to advertise to members in your region. If you’d like to advertise outside your region you’ll have to pay for the additional areas. In addition to this, there are a number of marketing widgets that businesses will have access to, including SMS alerts and downloadable vouchers – each of which will also incur an extra fee.

Key to the success of Connect Pink will be if Fairfax can convince regional business this is a great place to advertise, and one that will get them close to their target market with a high return on investment.

The question is, will people (including businesses) pay for something they currently get for free? It really comes down to why people use social media in the first place, and many use it to connect with family and friends and to stay up to date with what’s happening in their world. In order for Connect Pink to make a headway in the social media sphere, they’re going to have to present the benefits of ‘belonging’ to this new platform very strongly.

People inherently resist change. Moving from one type of social media to another takes time and commitment, and what if your friend/family don’t come with you?  It’s going to be a hard sell for Fairfax to convince many of the 10,703,160 Australian Facebook users to jump ship and use Connect Pink. The initial push to have every regional Fairfax paper covered in Connect Pink advertorials will probably result in an initial boost in membership, but only time will tell as to whether this will be a lasting social networking platform

Personally, I use Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Zite and Flipboard to keep up with my social news and events. Granted they aren’t all combined, although I do follow a few news-y Facebook pages, and as a result can cover most things inside my Facebook account.

  • It will be interesting to see if they can pull this off. It would make it possibly the first paid social media site…(?)

    I guess we’ll be seeing a LOT of advertising from Fairfax regarding this over the coming months.

    • I don’t know of any other ‘paid’ social media sites, although there may be some in various niches and geographical locations. We all think of Facebook & Twitter when we think about Social Media, but there are thousands of different social platforms out there of varying size..

      And yes Fairfax will give this new concept a decent run in all their magazines – I’ll be guessing that if you live in a regional area covered by one of their papers you won’t be able to miss it 🙂

  • I doubt that people would be paying to be a member of a social media site, unless if it’s supposed to contain zero ads and plenty of perks.

    Personally I have a hard time even going to Facebook, I can’t imagine paying for it.

    Leadership Retreats

    • Facebook has ads in it John, and I suspect there are plenty of people prepared to pay an insignificant $5 towards charity if they believe they’ll be getting a quality service in return.

      • Ann

        I’d prefer to give that $5 (or a multiple of it) direct to the charity – what’s the value of passing it through a media organisation? Maybe they need to add $5 of their own money to the subscriber’s fee?
        They are competing against free services (some with unobstrusive advertising – think LinkedIn) and need to demonstrate some appeal to the market to get a critical mass signed on.

  • Rebecca King

    Thanks for this info Michelle. I think its great that they are ‘giving it a go’ in the social media space.

    The success will depend largely on the content within and if that is enough to get busy people to remember to go back to the site again and again, the old WIIFM. But in terms of generating some quality content you would think an organisation like Fairfax would be up to the challenge.

    Personally I like all my various feeds and follows and likes etc aggregated and read in something like Flipboard. My own personal newspaper/magazine made for me each day is really hard to beat and unfortunately anything that I have to ‘go to’ is soon forgotten.

    From an advertisers perspective the amount of inbound traffic from Connect Pink to their site will be telling. But with Fairfaxes additional own offline promotion this well could grow into something worth considering for the average SME.

    Keep up the good work Michelle.

    • Thanks Rebecca, glad you liked the post!

      I too believe the success of this new model will revolve around Fairfax’s abilities to spread the benefits of belonging far and wide in Regional Australia.

      It will be interesting to watch this unfold…

  • Wendy Nash

    Great article Michelle .. easy to read and lots of clarity. I agree that the advertising can be a deterrant .. however it there is a better flow and logical, more Right Brained pathways it well could take off and i know for one that I would pay for this. Hopefully it would not begin as $5 and then increase after people have shifted. I guess also if we get the news on here it would be offset by not buy papers and cutting down trees…
    Progress .. always on the move …. all is good ! 🙂

    • Wendy Nash

      …. and the flipboard idea sounds great … thanks Rebecca!!!

    • Thanks Wendy, I hadn’t thought about the possibility of them increasing the $5 down the track. At least all the entry fee will be going to the charity of the year 🙂

      Cutting down less trees would also be a benefit!

  • Bill Thosmon

    I would probably be prepared to pay a nominal fee where it was going to a charity but I would be first be asking what extra quality or value I would get from joining this social media site that I don’t get from existing sites – large or small

    We all only have so much time & attention so a new site would have to fill a need not met by existing options paid or not!

    • Yes Bill you are right we are all time poor – the benefits of the new platform will need to be demonstrated clearly.

  • Mel Ferrier

    Gosh, yet another social media site! As someone who has yet to test the waters in any form of social media, I would be wanting Fairfax to convince me as to why I should finally take that step! The nominal fee is certainly not a deterrant, given it is going to charity. So it just comes down to what Connect Pink could do for me!

    • Yes Mel, they will need to be clear about what Connect Pink will do for you and why you should join.

  • Whilst they are asking for payment…in the end it is a charitable donation and for a very worthwhile cause which already has tremendous support from the Australian community.

    Having said that we are all over-burdened with a number of social media opportunities and destinations as it is so I for one will be looking to see what their unique offering is before considering Connect Pink into the mix.

    • I agree Robert, the small entry fee to the McGrath foundation will not be a huge disincentive for most Australians especially as this is very well know and supported charity.

      The resources at the finger tips of Fairfax Media should help them get an initial injection of sign ups, getting people to adopt Connect Pink as their social media platform of choice will take a little more effort.

  • I think they are going to have to put together a very specific value proposition, beyond ‘connected-ness’ as people already have those platforms ingrained in their life.

    Paid to play is a great idea; if you are wanting to build a list of ‘buyers’ as you pointed out MIchelle… plus there is the argument that if people have to pay for something, they tend to be more committed.

    I think, on the face of it… it’s a risk.

  • Thom Lloyd

    Interesting….. Connect Pink is aimed at a certain target market who may see a nominal fee that will go directly to a charity – in the first year – as a feel good reason to Connect but it will be up to the user who will have to be drawn away from Facebook or other social media sites.
    But there is a need for a small business social media site

    • Interesting Thom… “A Small Business Social Media Site…”

  • Bev

    Thanks Michelle – very informative article. You’re right about the resistance to change, but I guess more and more people are beginning to see the benefits of social media. I wouldn’t personally see the $5 fee to a worthwhile charity as a deterrent, but hopefully this wouldn’t increase?
    With so many social media outlets available I would need to be convinced that Connect Pink has informative benefits for me. 🙂

    • Thanks Bev.
      Social Media has definitely become a regular component of many peoples daily activity.

  • Ali

    I agree with the writer. It doesnt seem that this is sufficiently different to what people can already get.

  • Nez

    If it was going into the pockets of Fairfax, then no, I think it will fail miserably. I think if they make a big deal about the membership fee going completely to charity they might pull it off.

    • I agree Nez, the donation to charity will be the linch pin to getting people to actually pay to belong to this social media platform.

  • Natasha Lloyd Jones

    I’m pleased to be able to inform that the donation to charity will be optional. Also we do not expect people to “jump ship” as we understand people often use several social media sites. They each offer something a bit different as will Connect Pink.

    Connect Pink will offer high quality editorial and also has a swap section. This I expect will be welcomed by parents with kids outgrowing their toys, prams, clothes, furniture etc or a multitude of other items people no longer require.