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  • Writer's pictureBart Melton

Microtipping at the scale of the internet




If you see a penny, $0.01 for non-Americans, on the ground, you're probably as likely to pick it up based on the old superstition of having "good luck" as you are to pick it up for it's monetary value. Sure, a penny was significant 100 years ago, but it hasn't been for decades now. It is a trivial amount that isn't worth your time. So much so that there have been repeated calls for the government to stop making pennies. One thousand pennies though, that is $10. Most of us, not named Gates or Bezos, would stop to pick up $10. One hundred thousand pennies is $1000. Now we are talking real money. At least as long as you don't have to carry it to the bank in wheelbarrows. That is one of the greatest things about the internet. It's scale. One individual can put out messages that reach thousands or millions of people. What if all of the people who saw or heard your post, video, podcast, or tweet each gave you one penny. To them, that one penny is trivial. It is nothing to give. Nobody cares. Nobody wants just one penny. When a million people each give you a penny, you're having a very good day... at least for most of us. If 100,000 people gave you $0.01 each day for a year, you would earn $365,000 in that year. If 100,000 people gave you $0.05 each day for a year, you would be a millionaire!! Those pennies and nickels ($0.05 for non-Americans) don't sound so bad, when they are given at the scale of the internet, do they?

One of the problems with most internet tipping systems is that they have a minimum of $1.00. Consider Twitter's new Tip Jar. All of the options for tipping have a $1.00 minimum, in addition to the feature being for the app only and requiring you to go to the person's profile to find out if they have tips turned on. Complexity of interaction aside, how often do you see tweets that are, on their own, worth $1.00 to you? Let me guess, extremely rarely? What about YouTube videos? Facebook or Instagram posts? Still a swing and a miss? The reality is that it is very rare that a single social media post, or even a news article, is going to be worth one whole dollar to the vast majority of us. That means that for someone to give you one dollar or five dollars or more, they have to be invested in you, the creator enough not only for them to give you the money, but to take the time to fill out forms, enter credit card information, and so forth.

The 1/9/90 rule for internet communities says that 1% are very actively engaged (such as commenting), 9% are occasionally engaged (such as liking), and 90% are lurkers. It is a basic rule of thumb, not an accurate measurement for every community. For some, it could be 50/30/20, but those are usually very small groups. If you ask your followers to each tip you or subscribe for $1 or $5, that 1% are probably engaged enough to do that. Even if you have a great audience, it is still most likely only 1-5%. Now, imagine for a moment that Twitter (or Facebook or Instagram or wherever) had something like this (on the right):

How often do you think it would get used, in comparison to Twitter's current Tip Jar experience? How often would you go Like, Tip, doomscroll on? It is one cent, who cares, right? I mean, that tweet was funny, good advice, heartwarming, or you just like the creator and what is $0.01? If you have a million followers and 10% of them liked your post and clicked tip, that would be a $1000 tweet. We know who is buying the rounds tonight! That 1-5% might be willing to give you $1-10 or even $100 or $1000. Monetizing them is easy. Give them a donation button and they will click it. They are highly engaged and will look for opportunities to contribute. They are the bread and butter of your community. Don't dismiss the other 95-99%. In the past, ads were typically the only way to monetize them, but that is changing as microtipping becomes more widely available. Microtipping online really started with the adult webcam world. Twitch is probably the major force in mainstreaming microtips. Facebook and Instagram have a form of microtips for live broadcasts. Many other companies are coming up with their own microtipping systems. One up and coming live-streaming company was testing their platform, which has $0.01 tips as "loves" or "hearts". In a one hour test broadcast, the person doing the live stream earned $146 from 140 people. That is more than $1 per person, $0.01 at a time. People mashed that button over 14,000 times in one hour. Often, people don't think about trivial amounts of money as being real. Particularly not when those small amounts are "gamified" as some form of tokens. People who would never tip $1.00 at a time, will mash a $0.01 button all day long and end up tipping $2.00.


There is real power, and real money to be made, in microtips. When you think about receiving tips online, don't just think about the default $1.00 or more. Ask yourself how often you are willing to tip $1.00 or more compared to how many posts and videos that you see each day. It is a very small percentage. Compare that with how many would you tip a trivial amount for, if you had the option? Your audience is no different. If you are their favorite creator or influencer, they might tip you that much, but the vast majority will not. So give the vast majority the option to tip you at a level that they are more comfortable with. You will never get 100% and probably not even 50%, but at the scale of the internet, even 10% can be very significant.

If you are a creator or influencer or even a non-profit such as a animal rescue, imagine if you could get even 10% of your audience to get into the habit of leaving a $0.01 or $0.05 or whatever they were comfortable with each time they liked your post. Click Like, leave the tip, done. How much money would you make per post, video, or tweet? $100? $600? $5000?


Your 1% can still go to your Patreon, Ko-Fi or other tipping processor to give more, but why not monetize at least some of the remaining 95-99%? Are 10,000 pennies not worth picking up?

If you are looking a microtipping solution that can be used anywhere, CentiPenny offers Tip Me (https://cptip.me), a simple tipping platform. Nothing complicated about it. Just 1-click tips. Fast, easy, and convenient. All you have to do is share your link.



CentiPenny offers other tipping solutions as well, including our Virtual Tip Jar, which can be placed on a blog or publication to allow in-page 1-click tips and donations. You can find out more at www.centipenny.com.

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