Has Twitter finally figured out how to make money?

The company looks for the answer in Super Follows

Neville Lahiru
Feb 28 · 4 min read
Photo by Ravi Sharma on Unsplash

Ah yes, Twitter. The platform that can’t seem to keep itself away from the news. Whether it's politics or canceling a celebrity over a controversial statement, it’s never a quiet day in the Twittersphere. Lately, the company has been making headlines for less sinister reasons. In a recent presentation for analysts and investors on what’s next for Twitter, the company announced “Super Follows”, a way for you to charge for your tweets.

Wait, why would I pay for tweets?

It sounds ridiculous at the outset. The last thing you want to see is that funny Twitter account you’ve been following has put up a paywall for tweets. Paying for social media content might not seem like a feasible option for a platform with millions of users from all corners of the world. So why even go for this sort of thing?

Think of all the news platforms, independent journalists, digital artists, and yes influencers too. This feature serves as the perfect opportunity for skilled content creators to monetize the existing audience. Essentially, you’re getting paid by your fans.

Mockup of Twitter’s Super Follows feature (Image Credit: Twitter)

It should be noted that this payment feature doesn’t translate to you losing out on existing content. Super Follows lets Tweeps charge for extra content in the form of bonus tweets, access to a community group, newsletter subscription, or a badge indicating your support.

Pivoting to subscription

But it isn’t just Twitter that’s introducing direct payment tools on its platform. YouTube had one for years and it continues to fuel its operations to this day. Patreon has seen success over the years from more content creators. Even Github has a direct payment feature on its platform.

Twitter has been looking at subscription as a viable revenue stream over the past few years. The company was already working on a subscription platform and last year got a glimpse of what it could be in the form of project Gryphon.

Back in January, Twitter announced the acquisition of Revue, a platform dedicated to newsletters. Twitter wasted no time in announcing its new integrated offering targeting writers. This already opened up opportunities for publishers to monetize their existing Twitter following. The recent Super Follows announcement looks to be the company’s next step in its subscription strategy.

Money problems

It’s no secret that Twitter has been having money problems from day one. Its ad platform is nowhere near as compared to what Facebook has (maybe that’s a good thing) and the COVID-19 pandemic has made things tricky for Twitter on that front. Although it looks like ad spending is rebounding.

Twitter has looked at different avenues to solve its financial conundrum including selling it to companies like Disney and Salesforce. Though none of that played out well for either party. In other words, nobody wants to buy Twitter.

What does this mean for us?

This begs the question, what does this really mean for us, the users? For starters, it could mean that more creators and publishers will pump more high-value content to the platform and give us, the users a wider variety of content. This ranges from following your preferred journalist for exclusives or just simply supporting your favorite artist.

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

For creators and publishers, this opens up an alternate channel to build an exclusive audience and monetize your efforts in the process. It could also serve as an incentive for other creators that might have second-guessed on being active on Twitter before. But there’s always the question if creators and publishers will dedicate the time and energy to build content with a focus on drawing the Twitter audience, apart from whatever done on the platform already.

Will Super Follows finally help Twitter fix its revenue problems and offer something for the users? Perhaps, perhaps not. It’s not clear what the pricing structure will look like and what Twitter’s cut will be. We still don’t know when we will see these features roll out to the public. Either way, it seems like interesting times are ahead for the platform.

Local laws affecting the global tech space

But the idea of paying for content on social media is starting to gain steam. This is largely fueled by the recent spat between Facebook and the Australian government over a new law. The law in question would require Facebook to pay publishers for linking their news. In protest, Facebook banned Australians from viewing news on their feeds. But a few days in, the company reached a deal with the Australian government and restored news content for local users.

Now, Facebook has pledged to invest $1 billion in news over the next 3 years, matching Google’s $1 billion commitment. One can’t help but notice the timing of Twitter’s subscription feature announcement amidst all of this.

But this isn’t the first time where local laws have affected the global tech industry. For instance, sex workers like Lucie Bee are fighting to stay online thanks to US laws.

This begs the question of how laws set up in one country can end up affecting the global tech industry. Twitter’s Super Follows is bound to attract publishers and creators of all forms, including those focusing on explicit content (cue OnlyFans for Twitter jokes). But as to how the tech giant will tackle the regulatory framework around this, remains a concerning and complicated question.

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Neville Lahiru

Written by

Freelance Tech Journalist & former Digital Marketer. I spend most of my time writing about tech, business, and occasionally personal. Inquiries: lahiru@hey.com

Digital Diplomacy

Tech, digital, and innovation, at the intersection with policy, government, and social good.

Neville Lahiru

Written by

Freelance Tech Journalist & former Digital Marketer. I spend most of my time writing about tech, business, and occasionally personal. Inquiries: lahiru@hey.com

Digital Diplomacy

Tech, digital, and innovation, at the intersection with policy, government, and social good.

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