By: Sheila Hill
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales wants YOU to feel good about paying your cell phone bill.
You’re probably thinking: Wait, what? Feel GOOD about fattening my phone company’s profit margins in exchange for the luxury of constant connection? Nope, not a chance. Well, today I tell you that you can, in fact, feel good about paying your phone bill by using it for social good.
Jimmy Wales has just announced the launch of his new mobile carrier, The People’s Operator (TPO) that automatically donates 10% of your monthly bill to a charity of your choice (so long as it is a valid 5013c organization), while giving 25% of its own annual profits to charity as well. TPO is a socially responsible mobile carrier based in the U.K., and has launched its service in the United States with the help of Wales.
This does not mean that the company is charging its users an extra 10% to compensate for philanthropic gains; as a matter of fact, TPO shares comparable prices with its competitors. If you’re asking how TPO can possibly afford to donate so much money to charity and still keep their pricing reasonable, here’s how: “We don’t do any of the kinds of heavy advertising that all the other cellphone providers do,” says Wales. “We’re replacing massive marketing spend with massive spend on causes. I think that feels good to people.”
In addition to its state-side launch, the company also released a new, ad-free social network and online community: www.TPO.com . It is essentially a social network where users can donate freely to their charities on top of their 10% monthly donation. While the site does have some of the common social media paradigms such as sharing photos or statuses, TPO is not by any means looking to unseat its superior social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter. Instead, they are hoping that this site simply increases word-of-mouth and traffic to the brand.
“Forty years ago, if you loved something, you might tell five people,” says Wales. “Now the average person has 317 Facebook friends. So you can tell lots of people. And if you want to raise money for your favorite charity on our platform, you’ve got all the tools you need to go out and do that.”
Even so, there are many challenges that accompany switching over to a different mobile carrier, as well as refocusing attention on yet another social network. Wales and the TPO staff definitely have their work cut out for them, but they are hopeful that a combination of social good, viral marketing, and affordable prices (plus the Internet star power of Wales) will help further propel the company.
As for what market is next on TPO’s radar, mum’s the word. Right now, Wales and the rest of the team are solely focused on the brand launch in the US
“It’s like the birth of a child in some ways,” says Wales. “It’s an exciting and scary day.”