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Money for Nothing When the Checks Were Free

A double-click into Twitter Blue’s premium service

April 20, 2023

headshot for Carmen Kiew

Carmen Kiew

Strategy Director

Change and rolling with the punches seem to be a theme at Twitter lately, and it can be difficult for marketers to keep track of what’s going on and how to take it all in. With the latest change to Twitter’s verifications, let’s break down what’s going on and what it means for you or your brand.

Like all things Elon Musk, Twitter Blue has been the talk of the tech world and everyone seems to have an opinion. Including me.

Full disclosure (honestly not sure if this makes me more or less qualified to author this post), I am a former Twitter employee.

What’s the deal with Twitter Blue?

Mostly anyone with a legacy blue check is losing it as Twitter rolls out its premium subscription service that “elevates quality conversation on Twitter”. Sooooo…what does that mean exactly? It means brands and users will pay a monthly subscription fee ($8/month for individuals and reportedly $1000/month for brands) to get new features to create improved experiences on the platform.

As a creator on the platform, there is a laundry list of upgrades that could increase engagement, including:

  • Longer tweets
  • Text formatting to add emphasis and tone to your tweets
  • Longer video uploads to share content
  • Higher visibility for your tweets and replies

While there are a lot of new features that people have been asking for, let’s double-click into some of the biggest concerns with Twitter Blue.

Verification doesn’t actually verify anything

The problem: Unlike similar services being rolled out by competitors (like Meta Verified), Twitter makes no promise to guarantee you are who you say you are, which has already led to issues with impersonation and trolling. Previously, Twitter had guidelines around what checkmarks meant: that a user was active, notable, and authentic. By their own admission, Twitter Blue subscribers will not be required to undergo this same review.

Why it matters: Before the Musk-acquisition, Twitter’s blue check was a symbol of status and importance, but more importantly, it helped guarantee you were interacting with who you thought you were. It served as a source of truth on a platform where there are a high percentage of fake accounts. With this new approach to verification (in that there is no actual verification happening), the confusion about what the check means may lead to increased fraudulent activity, spreading of unverified news, and more.

Safety and security is in question

The problem: Twitter has removed text Two-Factor Authentication for all users who are not Twitter Blue subscribers. While you may be thinking, “Hell yeah, no more annoying text codes to type in” this actually creates a big concern around safety and security on the platform.

Why it matters: Authentication and security should be a given, not a privilege, in today’s internet world, where there are massive phishing attempts, impersonation, and security breaches on the regular. While authentication will still exist via security apps and keys, those not up-to-speed in technology might throw in the towel altogether (hi mom and dad!). Twitter states they’re removing text authentication because it’s susceptible to hijacking — which makes sense. But if that’s the case, why would this be a premium feature for Blue subscribers?

An unequal playing field

The problem: Twitter Blue promises that for the low-low price of two lattes from Starbucks, you can increase visibility, uplevel your tweets with upgraded content features, and in theory, boost engagement with your audience. These are all undoubtedly good things, but the real issue lies in creating a bigger gap between those who have disposable income and those who do not — and potentially elevating or suppressing those voices as a consequence.

Why it matters: The lack of transparency around the algorithm is concerning, specifically around the policies in place that decide what tweets are shown, and to whom. Musk claimed he purchased the platform in the name of creating a digital Town Hall, where every person has a voice. While this sounds great in theory, it oversimplifies the idea of “equality” by glazing past the overarching concept that even in Town Halls, the loudest voices get heard, and isn’t necessarily a representation of the people who live in that town.

RIP Twitter?

The problem: Twitter has been pegged as a “dying platform” by some, bringing into question why users and brands alike are choosing to leave. While there have been speculative claims of a buggy UX and uncertainty around what features Musk will change on the platform, there have also been some more serious concerns raised about the way Twitter is choosing to handle sensitive topics. Most notably, news organization NPR has bid farewell to Twitter after being falsely labeled as “state-affiliated media”. Individuals have also felt slighted when Twitter covertly removed language in their policy that protected transgender users.

Why it matters: There have been many high-profile departures from Twitter and brands who have either chosen to hit pause or CTRL+ALT+DEL their accounts altogether. While Twitter stands firm on a strong user base, the numbers behind the scenes tell a different story with a 9% decrease since Musk took the helm. The critical question to ask here is whether or not this is a trend or if this is just a bump in the road. If a tweet falls in the forest, will anyone be there to read it? And will the platform still remain in people’s social media rotations once developing alternatives have launched (Mastodon is at the top of the list, Meta is working on one, while former Twitter employees are working on T2)

Is Twitter Blue worth it?

No one has a crystal ball into the future of Twitter and, of course, these are just my opinions — you do you (I’m not your real dad). I think Twitter is still a very powerful tool to distribute information, connect with one another authentically, and of course, share some epic memes. But I urge you to look under the hood and think critically about Twitter Blue beyond the surface level. While there are many things that will improve your experience on Twitter as promised, there are equally a number of things that need to be thought through with more intention.

Some brands and people will choose to remain on the platform and pay for Twitter Blue because of the valuable audiences they’ve built, while some may decide the juice is not worth the squeeze — it’s all about what’s suitable for you, your brand, and your marketing objectives right now. There’s also nothing wrong with the “wait and see” approach — inevitably, there will be more data on whether this model helps move the needle for those who choose to subscribe.

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