Twitter Blue further cements the social media giant’s position as a serious player in the realm of paid subscription-based services – a move that has been propelled by a number of recent investments including the company’s Tip Jar and Super Follow features. This new service is likely to improve revenue for the company and drive engagement among creators and ‘power users’.
Twitter’s newest offering, 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.
So what is Twitter Blue – and how could it benefit the platform, its users and the many marketers eager to get a slice of Twitter’s valuable advertising pie?
More changes, faster
Twitter users have long been demanding an ‘edit’ or ‘undo’-type feature. While Twitter’s chief executive Jack Dorsey told Wired that an ‘edit’ option would probably never make its debut on the platform, the new ‘Undo Tweet’ option is a step forward. It enables users to set a timer of up to 30 seconds to preview a tweet they are preparing to send, allowing them to retract a tweet that needs editing.
‘Reader Mode’ allows subscribers to read long threads more seamlessly. It also includes a bookmark folder in which users can better organize saved tweets, as well as display options that allow users to customize the theme color of their Twitter interface.
“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 [in terms of] revenue,” says Mike Allton, a social media influencer and head of strategic partnerships at social media management platform Agorapulse. “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.”
Twitter has also vowed to evolve faster. The microblogging and social networking site announced plans in February to accelerate new product development and speed-to-market. In a US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing, the company said it aspires to have 315 million “monetizable daily active users” by the end of 2023.
Twitter’s senior product manager Smita Gupta says: “We look at [our new] subscription offerings as complementary to existing Twitter business and a way to diversify revenue lines. We have been thinking about this idea for a long time now, and with our ads business on solid ground, this felt like a good time to find additional lines of business.”
Tapping into the creator economy
Twitter Blue may serve as a de-facto digital R&D lab for the company too, according to experts. “Twitter also sees [Twitter Blue] as an experiment to see what’s the toleration level and how much will people be willing to pay for fun features or features that have some utility or ‘pro features’ for ‘power users’, and so this is their first foray into that,” says Matt Navarra, a UK-based social media consultant.
And Twitter has some ground yet to gain. Players like Patreon, Discord and Substack are leading the charge on subscription-based services and creator-focused tools. Navarra says they are forcing the bigger platforms to provide new tools and mechanisms for creators to earn a living and reach their audiences.
Others agree. “This is a long-needed move to monetize in a different direction,” says Mark Schaefer, author of Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins and chief operating officer at social media and marketing consultancy B Squared Media. “I honestly don’t know why it took them so long to do it. Facebook should do the same thing.”
While Twitter’s Gupta notes that the new service “isn’t meant to compete with the likes of Substack” but is focused on providing new features to Twitter superfans and driving revenue, it’s no secret that Twitter is increasingly investing in new solutions for creators.
“Consider some of the other recent developments within Twitter, specifically Tip Jar, Super Follow and Revue,” Agorapulse’s Allton says. Super Follow, unveiled in February, allows creators to charge for access to premium content, while Tip Jar enables users to send small sums of money to those they follow. Earlier this year, Twitter acquired Revue, an open-access service making it easier for writers to create their own newsletters – a Substack lookalike. “When combined with Spaces, the Twitter platform will soon offer creators a real ability to build and monetize their audience, and if influencers see potential and start utilizing Twitter more, their audiences will follow,” says Allton.
Twitter Blue is likely to carry strong appeal for the power users, a valuable segment of the platform’s some 186 million users, says Sherman Standberry, co-founder of social media agency Lyfe Marketing. “My business partner uses Twitter regularly. He’s paying for another third-party service to bookmark his favorite tweets,” he says. “When I told him about Twitter Blue, there was no doubt in his mind that he would subscribe. What’s a few dollars per month when you spend hours on something every week?”
Both Stanberry and Navarra agree that for more casual users, however, the value-add is far less appealing. “At the moment, the proposition isn’t particularly enticing,” Navarra says. “It’s got a handful of features that are probably going to be interesting or fun for a very small group of Twitter fanatics, but in terms of the actual usefulness of any of the things that are there, they’re more cosmetic.” He notes, however, that with some more utility-focused additions, Twitter Blue could gain more traction. “There are lots of things they could add in terms of reducing advertising for premium subscribers or adding a true ‘edit tweet’ function or a whole host of features for people like journalists to find content.”
Opportunities for #MarketingTwitter
We’ll all have to stay tuned to find out what adoption rates will look like for both superfans and regular ol’ tweeters. In the meantime, however, marketers will be eyeing Twitter Blue for new opportunities.
Though Twitter Blue doesn’t currently include any advertiser-specific tools, the company says it could help marketers pinpoint highly-engaged audience members and valuable prospects. “For advertisers, it helps to identify very leaned-in users to specific products and services,” Gupta says. It’s also clear that the ‘Undo Tweet’ feature could potentially help brands avoid everything from a wee typo to a PR nightmare.
Twitter acknowledges that the tool is not built primarily for marketers, but for the platform’s most avid tweeters. “For the time being,” Gupta says, “Twitter Blue is being developed for our most passionate Twitter users. We look forward to seeing and understanding what will make sense for brands down the road, but this first iteration is about finding product-market fit with this group of people who are super engaged and leaned into Twitter and finding out what they would be willing to pay extra for.
“We anticipate social media managers who work for these brands to find value in Twitter Blue, and we will be listening and learning from their experiences to see what will make sense for brands in the future.”
While Standberry says “it’s unlikely” that his agency will invest in Twitter Blue for its clients anytime soon, and Navarra believes most brands are already employing third-party tools for bookmarking and scheduling content, others are keen to get in on the action. Allton says: “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.”
Currently, Twitter Blue is only available to users in Canada and Australia, for $3.49 and $4.49 (in regional currencies) respectively. It’s believed that the service will roll out to other markets in the near future, though Twitter has not yet announced these timelines.