The slow, incrementalist march toward turning Twitter into a ‘pay to play’ platform continues. Here’s the latest news, which I mentioned in yesterday’s Monday’s Marketing Minute:
Elon Musk rolls out a $1 signup fee on X (previously Twitter) for users in New Zealand and the Philippines to combat bots. https://t.co/Qq6RcjMC8O
— Cointelegraph (@Cointelegraph) October 18, 2023
Call me a cynic, but it seems pretty obvious to me that this is simply part of a larger plan to eventually have all Twitter users pay a fee to use the platform. I think Elon knows that this will be another in a long line of highly unpopular moves, so he’s easing Twitter users into this. First he does it in select countries, like New Zealand and the Philippines, and it only affects new users. Later, he claims the trial in those two countries was a rousing success, and rolls it out worldwide to all new users. Later, he claims that move has also worked, then he expands it to ALL Twitter users, regardless of how long they have been on the platform.
At that point it’s simply a matter of raising prices as much as he feels he can.
This whole episode reminds me of my days on CompuServe on the mid 90s, with a twist. When I started using CompuServe in the mid 90s, its pricing was $25 a month, for 10 hours. If you went over 10 hours of access, you paid $2.50 for every hour over. Imagine my shock that one month when I received a $100 bill, yikes!
That bill was for about 40 hours on CompuServe for that month. I cannot remember the last month that I spent 40 hours on Twitter. It’s been years, maybe over a decade.
And that’s the point: While CompuServe was expensive, it was also FUN TO USE! I got entertainment, business and social value from being on CompuServe. It was an experience worth paying for. We could argue how much, but it was worth something.
The experience on Twitter, honestly isn’t worth much, and hasn’t been for a long time. In the mid 90s, AOL became a competitor to CompuServe by offering similar functionality and features, at a LOWER PRICE. While CompuServe charged $25 for 10 hours, AOL charged $25 for UNLIMITED access. It allowed AOL to quickly take massive amounts of market share from CS, and within a few years, AOL dominated the online services space and CS was all but done.
Elon seems to be attempting to do the opposite with Twitter in 2023. He’s taking a platform and differentiating it from his competitors by CHARGING users when they can get a similar experience on a competing site…for free.
Let’s go back to the AOL/CompuServe example. Let’s say AOL and CS were both offering unlimited access (I believe CS later switched to this model, but by then it was too late) in 1996. AOL announces it is launching AOL Plus, and it will be $50 a month for 50 hours a month of access.
What would need to happen in order for that move to be a success for AOL? Obviously, AOL Plus would have to offer a MUCH better experience for users than they could get from AOL or CompuServe. Right?
Yet, Elon is trying to move Twitter from being free to paid…and he really isn’t improving the experience that much, if at all. Bots are still a massive problem on the platform. Every new ‘feature’ rollout that Twitter adds that charges users has the same disclaimer that ‘this is necessary to combat the bot problem’. Yet the bot problem continues, apparently unabated. As do the moves to charge users for features that have been free for the last 17 years.
A few months ago, Elon announced that users could participate in revenue sharing. They could actually make money from using Twitter!
Then the fine print: You had to be a Twitter Blue subscriber.
Moving from a free to paid model for a social media site only works if its users can see a clear value in the fees which they will be required to paid. I’m not seeing the clear value in any of Elon’s moves so far. We finally got the ability to edit tweets…and you have to pay for it. Bots are still a problem. Censorship is still a problem. Porn and trolls and toxicity are still problems.
But I did lose my verified status, so there’s that.
This was Elon’s biggest mistake
He never embraced Twitter’s user community. To be fair, neither did Dorsey and his crew. Elon came into Twitter, guns blazing, and made a ton of sweeping changes to the platform. And he did so without really consulting Twitter’s users.
That was a big mistake. One of Elon’s top priorities when joining Twitter and BEFORE making huge moves should have been to establish a board or council of Twitter users and let that board/council have a say in his decisions. This would have ensured that Twitter’s user community always had input into moves, and they could have helped communicate the need for any moves to the larger community.
Instead, Elon came in shooting from the hip, making decisions with little or no input from users, and as a result many of those moves were a disconnect to the Twitter userbase. Then we watched as Elon made move after move that wasn’t aligned with what we wanted for Twitter, or what we thought it needed.
The reality is, Elon had a lot of supporters when he first took over Twitter. Many of those supporters have since left Twitter as a result of the moves he’s made.
I remember in 2009 having a conversation on Twitter with several other users about why Twitter needed a Community Manager. We concluded at the time that Twitter was really starting to grow, and now was a good time for Twitter to invest in its community and incorporate feedback from users into its decisions.
Almost 15 years later, and we are still waiting for Twitter to make that commitment to its users. I hate to say, but if it hasn’t happened by now, I don’t think it ever will. As a result, Twitter has never reached its full potential.