Giving anything away for free is basically a loss-leader strategy from a marketing point of view- or used to be. We offer a free version of our tool so anyone can try it, use it and hopefully upgrade to one of the Professional versions. But that’s only one part of our thinking. The other part is a bigger idea, the idea of building in community features into SM2, features that any user, free or paid can decide to participate in (or not). By building a large base of users and then adding community features we think we’re going to build brand equity and loyalty.
So what do I mean by ‘community features’? Let’s say you build an intelligent set of folder rules (which is a means of categorizing results in SM2). In the community you could share that set of rules with other users, saving time and building the capabilities of the application in ways that are based on actual use. Another example might be a request for a list of influential blogs in Portugal. This request might get posted in a Community area and if there’s a user out there who already had such a list they could share a folder. When you go global in social media, having users share their local expertise with each other would be pretty cool. We don’t have these things yet but they’re in the pipeline and sooner rather than later.
Social media is a collaborative media so we’re building a collaborative application. To do this you almost have to have a freely available version that is not crippled in functionality or shelf life. Our SM2 Freemium is fully functional and does not expire. You are limited to 5 keywords and 1000 search results (unless you blog about us in which case we’ll double that) but you can clear results to run a new search. Think of something like Gmail which keeps adding capacity and features. It probably doesn’t generate a lot of money from ad revenues but it has accomplished something infinitely more valuable: it is moving users into acceptance of online applications as a mainstream tool, moving them past competitors like Microsoft and Yahoo.
More on our community features coming soon.