I was recently interviewed by Kendra Clark for The Drum and in her terrific piece, she wove together viewpoints from myself and others on Twitter’s new feature, Twitter Blue. Today I’m going to expand a bit on some of the points I made.
As Kendra states, Twitter Blue is “a paid subscription service that gives users access to a slew of new features including an ‘Undo Tweet’ feature and new bookmarking tools. The update joins a line-up of recent updates to the platform, including Clubhouse competitor Spaces and Snapchat ‘Stories’-like feature Fleets, as well as a number of safety tools designed to mitigate terms violations and the spread of misinformation.”
Why now? Why is Twitter releasing Twitter Blue?
As an observer of social network development over the past decade, it’s pretty clear that Twitter hasn’t grown to the level or at the pace they would have wanted, both from a user perspective and revenue. Execs at Twitter have watched flashier networks like Instagram or TikTok surge in popularity and with that popularity comes advertising dollars. While Twitter remains the de facto platform for real-time commentary on events, it’s lacked ‘sticky’ features that would get more users to spend more time there and potentially drive more ad revenue.
Spaces and Fleets, as mentioned, have been implemented to correct this, as well as the total integration of Periscope’s live video functionality, giving Twitter much the same video and audio capability as other networks. Twitter Blue fits into that strategy, but how?
To understand this, we must also consider some of the other recent developments within Twitter, specifically Tip Jar, Super Follow, and Revue. Tip Jar allows followers to send one-off payments to other Twitter users, similar to how video creators use Patreon. Super Follow is a paid subscription service that is rolling out, giving creators the ability to offer premium content. And Revue is a newsletter service which will be integrated together. When combined with Spaces, the Twitter platform will soon offer creators real ability to build and monetize their audience and if influencers see potential and start utilizing Twitter more, their audiences will follow.
It’s a brilliant strategy and if an influencer is taking the time to build audience on Twitter, subscribing to the prioritized support and tweet edit features of Blue makes complete sense.
Is Twitter Shifting Toward Subscription Services Like Other Platforms?
I’m not sure if Twitter’s strategy is directly related to what other subscription services have done in the sense that it’s a shift in business model. I believe that, ultimately, Twitter’s business model remains the same as most other social networks: increase user growth and activity to drive more advertising revenue. Twitter Blue seems more like an opportunity to capitalize on a small subset of power users. With the current benefits of Twitter Blue, it seems unlikely that the majority of users would have any interest at all.
Twitter has also made it clear that although Twitter Blue will offer exclusive features for a subscription, the core Twitter service will always be free to consumers.
Will this paid subscription alienate some users due to the cost barrier to entry? How should Twitter be thinking about engaging all users?
It is inevitable that some users will be put off by this new paid feature, just as every company who offers paid services hits those same dissatisfied customers when adding new premium options. I think, though, since Twitter Blue represents entirely new features that were not previously available for free, negative sentiment will not be justified. If we’d previously been able to edit a tweet for free and now had to pay for the privilege, there’d be greater outcry.
I do expect some anguish from the marketing Twitter crowd who have been begging for the ability to edit a tweet for years and still won’t have what they want, but I think that will be mitigated by the fact that Twitter Blue users only have 30 seconds to edit a tweet. That’s just enough time to spot an error and correct it after you’ve published, which regular users can accomplish just as easily by copying the text of the tweet, deleting it, and sharing again corrected.
The wider play, as we mentioned, for Twitter to engage and monetize all users is still through advertising revenue. As a service, Twitter and social networks overall aren’t providing anything that the mainstream public would pay for.
What are the opportunities for marketers in Twitter Blue? How do you think we’ll start seeing brands use it?
Twitter Blue is a terrific opportunity for savvy digital marketing agencies to extend prioritized support and higher quality service to their clients. I would make sure that every Twitter profile I manage is subscribed to Twitter Blue as part of our arrangement to help ensure the best possible Twitter presence.
Some individuals will no doubt enjoy the ability to make tweet threads more readable, or change the aesthetics of their Twitter experience, but that seems of little benefit to brands.
Any predictions for the future of Twitter Blue? Will it pick up steam? Will it crash and burn? What are the large-scale implications here?
If Twitter is able to fully integrate content creation features for audio, video and text, and successfully able to attract influencers and creators who build and monetize their audiences, there will be great demand for Twitter Blue. That’s a big if, because Twitter up until now has done a poor job of integrating disparate services. Periscope was disjointed for years and that was a costly mistake, as other live streaming platforms excelled while Periscope foundered. The purchase of Revue seems promising, but let’s not forget that in years past, Twitter purchased the blogging platform Prosperous and eventually shut it down, so Revue isn’t Twitter’s first foray into written content.
The swift implementation – and initial success – of Spaces is cause for optimism. Both Fleets and Spaces are prominent on the mobile app, easy to use, and even easier to gain broader audience reach, making them attractive to creators. What remains to be seen is how well Twitter will execute on the promise of giving creators easy tools for managing their activity and presence. This, too, seems to be in development as we’ve seen indications of “Twitter business profiles” which, like Facebook Pages, might give owners access to additional tools like a Twitter version of Creator Studio or Business Manager.
I expect that the next six months will bring tremendous clarity to these questions, as Twitter releases more options and information on their plans.
It should be noted that successful networks like TikTok recognize the value of content creators and the audiences they bring to the platform, and have invested heavily. Over $2 billion throughout the next few years is planned. Will Twitter put that kind of investment on the table to help entice some of those same creators to use their service instead of TikTok? There’s certainly a lot that Twitter has going for them, from near-universal recognition to the capability to offer content in virtually whatever form the creator desires. Such an investment would be the final signal that this is, indeed, Twitter’s strategy for growth in the coming years.
If you’d like to learn more about Twitter’s key new features in 2021, read this.