Vodafone is letting its customers to tweet for free over SMS. The trial offer has been welcomed by analysts, but dismissed as opportunistic by bloggers.
Vodafone is offering its Twitter-using customers free tweets over SMS, for the next month. After the offer expires, sending a message to Twitter will cost as much as a normal SMS, while SMS updates of other users will be free.
Analysts think the trial offer is a good thing, but bloggers are not so sure. “The deal is interesting in that it echoes a wider trend in the mobile industry,” said IDC Analyst Jonathan Arber. He thinks that getting more people to tweet over SMS will boost SMS revenues.
“SMS is the ideal delivery mechanism [for Twitter],” he says “given that it is device agnostic, and the pricing is easily understood by consumers. That is assuming that you can get them to pay for mobile access to a service they are used to enjoying for free.” Social networks are becoming more “conversational” he says, which should work well over SMS.
However, this looks like a resurrection of an old Twitter mode, to some users. Twitter used to provide free text alerts to its users in the UK, but was forced to stop sending doing so a few months ago due to cost issues.
“SMS alerts had a place in the early days of Twitter,” says Will Head at iGizmo. Since then, the mobile web has improved, there are clients for mobile devices, and many users are on flat rate mobile Internet access, so the additional cost of any Twitter use is already free
Besides, people following large numbers on Twitter could find their SMS inboxes swamped, warns Head. “SMS is a nice feature when you’re first starting out on Twitter, but it doesn’t really scale as you add more users and your feed gets more and more busy,” says Head. Arber disagrees, thinking that SMS tweets are just what the mass market might want: ” IDC is yet to be convinced that Twitter will hit the mass market in the same way that Facebook has done, and it is these mass market customers to whom Tweeting via SMS is likely to appeal.”
The Vodafone service does have one bright spot, though: the ability to select which users’ tweets get sent to the phone. That’s a feature that would be useful in the wider world of Twitter, says Head.