Now here's a startup idea that I'd love to see materialize: allow people to embed small financial incentives to questions asked on Twitter. Would be great to plug into PayPal (EBAY), Kachingle or other micro-payment play. Google (GOOG), you were looking for a way to out-do Twitter, no?
There's all this latent power of social networks, formed by people with at least a little disposable income and who have followers in their networks. In the same way that someone would jump on Yelp to find out where to eat or go, why not send a query to your Twitter or Facebook networks? They would potentially have more contextual information about you and your preferences than would, say, be known by Yelp in its efforts to direct you to a particular set of venues. But what makes it more interesting is that a person may want to trade off money for time. For example if they don't have the time or wireless bandwidth to play around with surfing the web or using mobile apps, they may be interested in offering a small monetary incentive for a prompt and appropriate response (which they can check at their convenience).
So let's say someone is on travel and embeds a $0.50 offer in a tweet or Facebook message to the first-best response to a query such as "where can I get a healthy dinner around here?" Followers (direct or ultimately indirectly dialed in through automatic mechanisms looking for such queries) could then message back possible solutions. At their convenience, the requester could look for interesting responses. It would be up to them to decide who to pay, and that payment could then potentially be recorded with a message to give transparency and show fairness. There's also no reason they couldn't pay multiple parties (or none at all).
This would of course open up the possibility of a network of people who work full or part time, tapped into real-time for-pay-only query feeds from social networking sites -- indirect followers, if you will. And potentially even Al-based engines, which could scale beyond the human factor. The key is that a person's past messages and profile give a lot of extra contextual information that can be factored into giving much higher quality responses. And by way of people getting paid out (or not) for responding, a rating system could be formulated.
Besides a low barrier-to-use micro-payment system to facilitate this, one thing that I think would be really helpful is to allow voice queries, for people on the go. So for example, how about a Twitter app (FB and other social network enabled would be nice) that allows one to send voice tweets? Pumping these messages through something like Google's voice-to-text, would then allow the followers to see text (thus scaling the query better). There really aren't many Twitter apps that do voice tweets though -- one of the best Twitter apps I found, for instance, that supports voice tweets is Tweet for iPhone/iPad. With some extra plumbing on both the app and back-end infrastructure side, a truly interesting incentive-driven service for social networks could be created, which is highly monetizable. And by the way, if you're thinking "wouldn't this also be really interesting for various marketing campaigns and other crowd-sourced information gathering?", then we're thinking the same things...
Disclosure: No positions