One of the biggest draws of social media platforms is that they’re free. People can meet up with their friends from a distance without spending a dime. They can also have free access to their favorite celebrities and influencers. So what is a social media platform if it’s no longer free? Does it just become a more interactive form of the video platform Cameo?

Twitter’s announcement this week that the company is planning to add a paid Super Follows option is raising all kinds of questions. What will become of the average user – the one who can’t afford access to their favorite online presence? And with that questionable announcement came news that another new feature would likely be debuting called Communities, Twitter’s attempt at a Facebook Groups option. What sort of impact will this massive restructuring have on the platform? The move will also put Twitter in direct competition with an unlikely peer: OnlyFans.  

Twitter’s Double-Whammy Announcements

Twitter

The announcement came down the line Friday and immediately raised more questions than it answered. TheVerge reports, “Twitter announced a pair of big upcoming features today: the ability for users to charge their followers for access to additional content, and the ability to create and join groups based around specific interests. They’re two of the more substantial changes to Twitter in a while, but they also fit snugly into models that have been popular and successful on other social platforms.

The payment feature, called Super Follows, will allow Twitter users to charge followers and give them access to extra content. That could be bonus tweets, access to a community group, subscription to a newsletter, or a badge indicating your support. In a mockup screenshot, Twitter showed an example where a user charges $4.99 per month to receive a series of perks. Twitter sees it as a way to let creators and publishers get paid directly by their fans.”

How Super Follows May Work

Super Follows appears to be a subscription system that works similarly to OnlyFans or Patreon, two immensely successful subscription-only platforms for content creators. Per Vox, “Twitter thinks your tweets — or at least some of them — might actually be worth something. At a virtual event for investors Thursday, the company announced that it’s planning to debut a pay-for-posts feature, called Super Follows, in which users will be able to pay the people they follow for their best tweets.

With Super Follows, Twitter will allow users to make money from content that they make exclusive to particular followers. Sample screenshots released by the company show that the payment scheme could take multiple forms. For instance, a follower could pay a creator they follow on Twitter a few dollars a month to access that user’s exclusive newsletter or to see special tweets only available to Super Followers. They might also be able to join a particular group or access a badge that shows they support that creator.

The idea that you would pay someone for their tweets might sound far-fetched, but a Twitter spokesperson told Recode that the goal is ‘rethinking the incentives of our service.’ Basically, the premise seems to be that this pay-for-post feature will help build more specific communities around specific topics.”

Like Patreon and OnlyFans, Twitter’s Super Follows option will be unatainable to many. Although the pricetag seems reasonable – possibly $4.99 per month – in a world of subscriptions, that’s one more bill that many people can’t afford. Especially now, as the COVID-19 pandemic stretches into its second year, people are looking to shave costs, not add more. Will they find it worthwhile to upgrade to a subscription for a platform they’ve been accessing freely for years? Twitter thinks the answer is yes. But Patreon and OnlyFans have always been subscription services, so fans aren’t missing a free service. It remains to be seen if the transition on Twitter will go as planned but it’s far from certain.

How Communities May Work

Twitter Communities

Twitter Communities is likely to function similarly to Facebook Groups, allowing people to join small sub-communities on the platform that is targeted to their interests. Part of Twitter’s draw is that it’s such a public platform; all content can be accessed by all users, most can be shared by all, and most can be interacted with by all. Will cordoning off that content be a benefit, or an unnecessary risk? Will users prefer to engage in more private and targeted settings with content they’ve been freely engaging in publicly? Again, Twitter thinks the answer to that question is yes, but it’s a curious move. 

Social Media Restructuring 

Social media companies overhauling their platforms is nothing new. Those who have belonged to Facebook since the early 00’s can tell you that it’s nothing like it’s earliest iterations. Once only for college students, the platform has exploded and been remade several times over. But Twitter has remained much the same, with only technical upgrades and along-the-same-line features added over the years. And that is a huge part of the draw to Twitter users. So the idea of overhauling the way people interact with their interests and one another is a curious one.

Is Twitter looking to cash in on the Patreon and OnlyFans rush of the pandemic? Possibly, and they seem to be hitting it at exactly the right time. Both Patreon and OnlyFans revenues have been steadily increasing since lockdowns started in March of 2020. People stuck at home are willing to pay to access their favorite content – to a point. But a SaaStr article suggests that only 2% to 30% of people offered a free trial stick around for a paid subscription. Will Twitter’s conversion rate be similar? Will it drive people away from the platform? The questions are myriad and -for now- the answers are few. But the company promises to release more information in the coming months and will surely want to put user minds at ease. 

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