Elon Musk’s ‘Twitter 2.0’ experiment is still a work in progress, and as I’ve noted, Musk has found himself in an increasingly difficult position, at a company that’s never really made money, and had been bloated by dotcom-era excess and entitlement.
Twitter isn’t in a particularly good spot, as a business, and Elon has said that he will make mistakes as he goes about trying to right the ship.
But this… yeah, I don’t think this is the way.
This week, more Twitter users have noticed a new ‘Verified Views’ counter appearing on their tweets.
What are ‘Verified Views’ exactly?
Well, right now, it appears to be the regular tweet view counter, which Twitter recently added to the main tweet display, just under a different name.
But in future, Musk has flagged adding a counter for interactions from Verified users only – i.e. people paying $8 per month for Twitter Blue – as a means to further weed out spam and bot activity in the app.
The theory here is that once the majority of Twitter users are paying $8 per month to ‘verify’ their accounts, that will dilute the impact of bots, because users will know that anyone who doesn’t have a blue tick is likely not a real person. Ideally, Twitter would be individually confirming that each user who gets a blue checkmark is, in fact, a real human being, but right now, Twitter’s relying on what it’s calling ‘payment verification’, or the fact that bots can’t pay, and bot providers won’t be able to afford to verify millions of fake accounts.
And if Twitter can get the majority of people to sign-up, that could indeed work – but it won’t, because Twitter can’t - because the vast, vast majority of Twitter users ain’t gonna pay $8 to get a blue tick next to their username in the app.
The paid verification scheme is the worst concept that Musk has pushed at Twitter thus far – though I do also see the logic, in that Twitter needs to make more money, as fast as it can. And if it can get people to pay, that’s a relatively easy lever to pull – but research thus far suggests what most expected: users just aren’t going to pay to use the platform.
Other platforms have tried this route. YouTube, for example, is always pushing for you to sign-up to Premium, which offers an ad-free viewing experience, among other upgrades, while Snapchat has ‘Snapchat+’ which provides users with a range of additional, functional elements to enhance their experience in the app. Neither option has seen significant take-up. Around 2.5% of YouTube users pay for Premium, despite the option being available for years, while 0.4% of Snapchatters pay for S+.
Twitter Blue, too, is not going to get to any significant threshold of user take-up.
Right now, analysis suggests that there are around 325k Twitter Blue subscribers active in the app, which is about 0.14% of Twitter’s total user base. In order to get Twitter Blue to the level where something like ‘Verified Views’ would even be relevant, Twitter would presumably need about 70% of its total users to pay-up, which is a huge ask, for which there’s no precedent.
Twitter might, when Twitter Blue is fully rolled out, get to a million subscribers, which would be massive, and would bring in an extra $24 million per quarter for the app. But that would still be nowhere near the levels that it needs to make it a relevant consideration, from a functional perspective.
But that’s what Elon and Co., are hoping for, which would then mean that it could show you ‘Verified Views’, as opposed to total view counts, and you could trust that this stat would reflect the number of actual humans that have read your tweets. On another front, Twitter’s also developing verified user only polls, as another means to highlight real interaction in the app.
Both of these are bad ideas.
That’s not to say an add-on subscription package is worthless - as the stats above also show, there’s always going to be a percentage of users who will pay for a premium experience. But to truly incentivize take-up, Twitter does need to offer an actual premium service, not just meaningless checkmarks and retractable tweets.
Twitter is also working to add elements like priority ranking for tweets from verified accounts, but the stats show that the vast majority of Twitter users never tweet anyway, so there’s really not much of any significant value there for the majority of users.
If Twitter can crack the code on what people will actually pay for, then it could become a bigger consideration, which could then align with these broader goals for its verification program.
But right now, nah. It’s just a confusing mess of in-app badges and half-baked concepts, masquerading as a new direction for the app.
‘Verified Views’ is just another scrap within the broader debris, which is not well thought out, nor valuable in any way.