Subscription-based social media platforms are likely to become the new normal
Suddenly, it seems like everyone on the internet wants you to sign up for their paid monthly subscription. Streaming platforms YouTube and Spotify charge per month for ad-free viewing and listening. Snapchat+ racked up 2 million subscribers paying $4/month after launching last summer. Tumblr even released parody blue checkmarks that do…well, nothing — except signal you’re a monthly subscriber.
Now it’s Twitter’s turn. Behind all of the headlines and drama, the company is desperate for a source of revenue that isn’t advertising. The temptation of a steady stream of income from a pool of monthly subscribers has Twitter howlin’ like Slick Joe McWolf.
Will it work? That depends on whether users think Twitter can offer them anything worth paying for. To make subscriptions more appealing, Twitter announced a major change to the “For You” tab, its popular news feed-style page that pulls content from across the Twitterverse, including from accounts you don’t follow.
Twitter’s For You page has been a critical way for accounts to build reach and discoverability among new audiences. Starting April 15, the only accounts that have access to visibility on the For You page are those who pay for the premium Twitter Blue service, which costs $8/month or $84/year. No blue checkmark means no more clicks from the For You timeline.
This is a seismic change for brands, who’ve always had to game the algorithm to increase their reach. The algorithm is obtuse and unpredictable, and without buying an ad, brands can’t guarantee that new audiences will discover their posts. Now, Twitter has changed the game into a “pay-for-play” exchange that is much easier to understand and impact. Investing in Twitter Blue is going to become an essential part of reaching new audiences on the platform.
Contrast this to Meta’s recent beta testing of Meta Verified. For $14.99/month, Instagram and Facebook users get “exclusive features,” but there’s no sign that boosted content is one of them. That may change as Meta looks to monetize Meta Verified. Expanding discoverability could entice users to pay up.
Subscription-based social media platforms are likely to become the new normal, but so far, Twitter’s new service is most significant for brands who want to reach wide new audiences. For now, most people will continue on with the free versions of Twitter and Meta, but for brands, social media subscriptions will likely become an essential investment in the future.