Jacob McMillen - The Penny Hoarder

A social media network that pays you to use it? For the Facebook fanatics and Pinterest lovers out there, that sounds like a dream.

Well, guess what? It actually exists, and its name is ts?.

Tsu is part of a recent trend in anti-corporate social media. You've probably already heard of Ello, a new social network that gained blogosphere fame for being permanently ad-free. From where I’m sitting, eliminating ad revenue from your free business model is like shooting yourself in the foot before battle. Despite the hype, I don't see the site going anywhere.

So what about tsu? Tsu is a network built from the idea that social media users are essentially small-scale publishers. Each day, we create original content for our network of friends and family members, and curate exceptional content from around the web for our audience. The sites we use for these activities earn millions from advertisers eager to place their messages directly on our digital doorsteps.

In other words, we are the product. We create the value and the sites we are using collect the paychecks for our efforts.

I have no problem with this arrangement. Sites like Facebook and Twitter provide me with easy access to my friends and even to strangers who I would otherwise have no chance of connecting with. It's free and up to this point, there was no better alternative.

Ts? is attempting to be that better alternative.

How Does ts? Work?

To sign up for tsu, you need an invitation, similar to Facebook’s early days. Consider this link your invitation.

Each invite link is attached to an existing profile, and the activity of new users contributes revenue to whoever invited them to the network. Obviously, this serves as an incentive for current users to invite others.

Once inside, the tsu network works very similar to Facebook or Twitter. However, here’s the big difference: instead of keeping all the ad revenue, ts? keeps only 10% of ad revenue, distributing the remaining 90% among users relative to their activity. In other words, if people like what you post, you get paid for it.

Daily ad revenue on the site is distributed among users based on content views. How much revenue can you expect to make?

At this point, I’ve earned a life-changing $0.02 over five weeks after sharing five posts. It certainly won’t replace my day job, but if you like to hoard pennies, well, you could add two more to your stash. To withdraw money from the site, you need to accumulate $20.

The Pros

I'm sure you'll agree that this is a fascinating idea. But fascinating ideas come and go all the time. Why is tsu something to consider?

1. People Like Money

The biggest reason is the simplest one. People like money!

Would you prefer to interact with your friends for free or get paid have the same interactions? It's a relatively simple concept. Most of us, if we had the option, wouldn’t object to receiving money for our Facebook posting efforts.

People will always opt to get paid whenever and wherever possible. Tsu has latched onto this idea as its central pitch, and it's brilliant.

2. Comparable Functionality

Ultimately, tsu can't possibly compete with Facebook or Twitter unless it actually provides a functional alternative. As you can see in the image below, tsu's profile view and functionality is nearly identical to Facebook's timeline.

make money on social networks

The home page feed is similarly identical to Facebook’s news feed, while hashtags and user tags are used with the frequency of Twitter.

In terms of sheer functionality, the site will need some work to match its competitors, but I'd estimate 90% of users wouldn't even notice the missing features were they to test it out.

Does tsu function at the same level of its 10-year-old counterparts? Not quite.

Is it more than capable of satisfying new users? Absolutely.

3. Lasting Potential

Most of your ability to earn money via tsu lies in being an early adopter and helping new users sign up through your account. But what’s the point of all that effort if tsu tanks in a year?

To make this idea work, it needs funding. Big-time funding.

While in certain worlds, $7 million is chump change, it's still a sizable sum for a social startup and serves as evidence that investors are taking the company seriously. For comparison, Twitter raised around $5 million in its first round of investment. Facebook's first round totaled only $500k, courtesy of an angel investor.

At $7 million, tsu is starting with more than either of those wildly successful networks.

4. Free Marketing

If you decide to take the leap and start using tsu, your success will be directly tied to the brand’s success. The more you tell people about tsu, the more money you’ll stand to make.

As an early adopter, that means all future users of the network are essentially marketing on your behalf. Everyone will be motivated to promote the site, because their earnings will also be directly correlated to the site’s success.

Tsu has essentially created thousands of little brand evangelists who are promoting the site right now in hopes of creating new income. By joining, you can indirectly put them to work for you.

5. Viral Buzz

"Viral" is the ultimate buzzword, but when the buzz begins, it certainly can be effective.

From simply a click-bait perspective, a social network that pays you is plain cheating. Think of the headlines.

"It's Finally Here! A Facebook That Pays You!"

"How Would You Like To Get Paid While Chatting With Your Friends?"

"These Social Geniuses Found A Fatal Flaw In Twitter's Business Model. You'll Never Guess What They Did Next!"

Go ahead and expect a more to come. By the time you read this, some of these headlines will have probably already graced your Facebook feed.

The simple truth is that tsu is tailor-made for viral marketing. It hasn't hit its stride yet, but it probably will.

6. Facebook's Profit Margins are Massive

One of the main challenges upstarts face is limited resources. You know the market leader is doing well, but how well? Is there enough to go around?

Taking a profitable piece is much easier than completely displacing the leader. Facebook's earnings report demonstrate just how big a pie is available.

In the final quarter of 2013, the social giant posted profit of $523 million with cash-on-hand totaling an astounding $11.5 Billion. If the ridiculous profit involved isn't enough to directly drive users away, it certainly is enough for ts? and its users to nab a sizable piece of the pie.

The Cons

While there are certainly some intriguing reasons to give tsu a try, you might find yourself nodding along as you read these drawbacks.

1. You Like What You’re Using

Face it. For all their issues, social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. work exactly like you want them to. They are fantastic at facilitating engagement and have become entrenched cornerstones of modern life.

While using tsu doesn’t mean you need to stop using these other networks, it’s also not as if you have a major dissatisfaction with the way your current networks work. There is probably nothing motivating you to leave Twitter in favor of a new platform.

2. Tsu Doesn’t Offer New Functionality

Why did you sign up for Facebook? It was new platform offering new ways to connect with people you knew or knew in the past. Why did you join Twitter? It offered new levels of access to people you would never have had access to before. Why LinkedIn?

You get the idea. Each new network gaining mainstream status has offered a new level of functionality to users. Something that wasn’t offered by the previous network is being offered by the new one.

Using this litmus test, tsu is dead in the water. It doesn’t offer anything new; its designers rely fully on your assumed desire to make small amounts of money from your social activity.

3. People Have Already Set Up Camp Elsewhere

Why do you still use Facebook? Why did your grandma join Facebook last year?

The answer: Everyone is on Facebook

As I write this post, Facebook has more than 1.3 billion monthly users. Twitter has more than 280 million monthly users. LinkedIn has more than 330 million monthly users.

Social networks are most useful when everyone you know is using them. While tsu might be able to transition enough users over to their platform, at the moment, you are going to be interacting with mostly strangers.

Should You Join tsu?

You are learning about ts? at the beginning. Join now and you’ll be in a fantastic position to make some money if the site ultimately takes off.

If it doesn’t take off, you’ll end up spending a lot of time posting status updates for no one to read, with maybe a few bucks to show for it.
While it’s too early to know for sure, it could be a fun experiment -- and one that might wind up earning you more than just $20 a year.

Your Turn: Will you join tsu? Do you think it’ll stick around, or will it be another addition to the list of failed social networks?

Jacob McMillen is an experienced copywriter who enjoys helping people do what they love and make money online.

Money-saving challenges have been all the rage this past year. You know what I mean -- the idea that turning saving money into a game will help you bank more of your hard-earned cash.

The most famous is likely the 52 Week Money Challenge, where participants save $1 in week one, $2 in week two, and so on for a total of $1,378 yearly savings. Other challenges include:

  1. The No-Spend Challenge: Only 100% necessary purchases are allowed. Participants cannot spend any money on non-essential items for a set length of time.
  2. The Spare Change Challenge: Place all spare change in a jar and watch it add up over time. (Your parents probably did this one as a lifestyle rather than a game.)
  3. Total Savings Competition: Compete against friends and family to see who can save the most money (or the highest percentage of their income) in a given year.

For those seeking creative ways to save a few bucks, these challenges add an entertaining element to personal finance. For the competitive, it’s a challenge. For the fun-loving, it’s a game. For everyone, it’s extra money in your pocket at the end of the day.

But let’s get real. How effective are these challenges at positively impacting your finances? Are savings challenges just another gimmick in the personal finance blogosphere, or are they a legitimate path towards financial success?

The answer to that question really depends on your goals when attempting a savings challenge. Let’s take a look at what a savings challenge is... and what it isn’t.

A Savings Challenge IS a Great First Step Towards Financial Accountability

One of the biggest hurdles for savings enthusiasts is transitioning from knowledge to actual implementation in a meaningful, lifestyle-encompassing way. This is why you can find 100 blogs with the exact same basic savings tips. There are only so many ways to say, “Cut out your morning latte,” but audiences will read and reread this tip hundreds of times while sipping their lattes before work.

Am I saying you should cut our your morning latte? Only if you’re ready to upgrade to an Americano.

The real key is to stop simply consuming information and begin taking action: writing down and acting upon tangible goals. You need a metric with which to hold yourself accountable, and savings challenges offer a great first step into the world of financial accountability.

To participate, you have to keep track of money-saving actions. The tracking is the most important part of this process. Compared to the type of budgeting and accountability that should be standard practice in every home, this level of tracking is elementary, but it’s a start. No one hits full stride on their first step.

It’s NOT a Legitimate Savings Plan

Saving pennies for a rainy day is one thing. Planning for your future is another entirely. If a savings challenge that nets you $1,378 in a year is your plan for retirement, you have bought into a major gimmick on a dangerous level. (Click to tweet this idea.)

Standard savings recommendations fall between 10-15% of your income, IF you start saving in your twenties. Begin later, and you’re looking at ever-higher percentages. With a median household income of $51,324 in the US, the minimum savings per year should be around $5,000. Keep in mind, this money shouldn’t be placed in a glass jar; it should be invested in some type of revenue-generating fund.

If your current savings per year is $0.00, increasing that to $1,378 is an AMAZING step! Participating in The 52 Week Money Challenge might be the best financial decision you ever make. The important thing is to view it as a first step rather than your ultimate savings plan.

If you use it to propel you toward further savings, great. If you stop here, you’ll find yourself in trouble down the road.

It IS a Good Way to Increase Your Spending Awareness

Many consumers clock in and out of daily life without any awareness of their spending habits. How much did you spend on groceries? How about gas? How much for entertainment? How much for other non-essential purchases?

If you can’t answer these questions, engaging in a challenge like The No-Spend Challenge is a great way to start building awareness of your personal spending habits. Great personal finance starts with an accountant-like awareness of your cash inflows and outflows. If a challenge increases this awareness, it’s a positive for that reason alone.

It’s NOT an Effective Budgeting Tool

While savings challenges can certainly increase awareness, they should not replace a legitimate budgeting process. Budgeting is the foundation of savings-oriented personal finance. Without a budget, you have no plan and no goal.

As you’ve probably noticed by now, there’s a trend in our analysis of savings challenges. These activities are great entry points to a number of effective financial strategies, but they will never replace the fundamentals of effective personal finance.

If you’re sitting at ground zero, participating in a savings challenge may be the jumpstart you need to take control of your financial future. If that’s you, we fully recommend you join in. For those already practicing healthy habits, a savings challenge might just be an interesting way to allocate spending money or a fun tool for introducing your kids to saving.

Your Turn: Have you ever tried a savings challenge? How did it affect your spending habits?

Jacob McMillen is a blogger, copywriter, and the proudly regretful owner of a bonafide accounting degree. Find him at JacobMcMillen.com or read his thoughts on character and integrity at UncompromisedMen.com.