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Ugh, Fine, Let’s Talk About Twitter

November 4, 2022

Welp, guess there's no avoiding talking about Twitter. And there's a good chance you either know exactly why we're saying this with the heartiest of sighs, or you have absolutely no idea what the big deal is.

Twitter is funny like that. 

It's one of the oldest social media platforms around — launched in 2006, a few months before Facebook allowed anybody with a valid email address to sign up. It's also one of the smallest in terms of active users (200 million) and yet the most consequential in terms of direct discourse, public influence, virality, news dissemination, and yes — conspiracy theories.

When it comes to being a content creator who uses Twitter to represent your brand and content, you're probably in one of two camps. You either love it and find most of your engagement exclusively on the app, or you barely engage with it because the juice doesn't seem worth the squeeze. Plenty of creators don't even have Twitter accounts. 

But highly engaged Twitter accounts are typically very valuable for creators. Arguably more valuable than an "equally engaged" profile on many other platforms. Engagement with a Tweet is harder to come by, but it's also usually much more "meaningful" in that the content is more likely to reach additional people. And Twitter followers tend to be a bit more "passionate" in their support. 

In other words, Twitter can either mean a whole lot to you as a creator or nothing at all. 

So Why Is Twitter In The News?

Twitter is in the news for one big certainty and a whole bunch of questions. After months of legal back and forth, Elon Musk was forced to make good on his offer to buy Twitter for $44 billion. In his first few days at Twitter, he fired pretty much all of the leadership, dissolved the board, and declared himself sole director and CEO. That's all a certainty. 

But what comes next? That's anybody's guess. Musk has publicly floated lots of buzzwords and possibilities. But that's not uncommon for the billionaire, who has a penchant for saying (and tweeting) things with little follow-through but serious consequences, including securities fraud. There are even websites dedicated to Musk's "broken promises" and other falsehoods. 

So let's look at some of these possibilities from the perspective of content creators. People who likely use Twitter for more than just checking on the news or retweeting their friends.

Will It Cost Money To Get (Or Stay) Verified And Is It Worth It?

One of the biggest potential changes to Twitter comes in the form of "verification" — what it means and what it could cost. Leaked internal correspondence revealed Musk originally wanted to charge verified users $19.99 to keep their verification badge. This would be the new fee for "Twitter Blue," which also features some other perks and originally rolled out for about $3 per month in 2021.

Musk backtracked that $19.99 pricetag after being lambasted by, well, just about everybody — including a particularly viral Tweet from famed author Stephen King in which King says Musk should be paying him to be on the platform. Musk then seemed to change his mind with a single Tweet, instead asking if King would be willing to pay $8 per month. 

As of now, that seems to be the plan — $8 per month for Twitter Blue, which is the only way to keep your little verification checkmark. We've talked about the strange allure of the verified profile in the past. And the fact that people will pay a lot for it.

But now that it costs $8 per month and everybody knows it — is there any value at all? The original point of verification was to sow trust in the platform and remedy fears of imposters. Now, it's just a money making scheme that seemingly anybody can buy into. And it's very possible that the only people who will care to pay money for a verified badge are businesses or people for whom that checkmark is more emotionally validating than it is tangibly beneficial. 

Will Twitter Become More Dangerous For Marginalized Users?

While big tech acquisitions aren't usually so political, Musk's Twitter acquisition is a lightning rod in the world of politics. Part of that is due to Twitter's role in political movements across the globe, and part of that is due to the fact that Musk promised to loosen content restrictions on the platform — a move that has fringe conspiracy theorists and trolls particularly excited and marginalized communities worried about a potential increase in harassment. 

So will Twitter become more dangerous for marginalized users under Musk's leadership?

It's only been a short amount of time, but unfortunately, the answer is almost certainly yes — at least in the interim. And that puts creators at a heightened risk for harassment due to heightened visibility on the platform. 

Musk personally amplified a homophobic article following a violent attack on a politician's husband. The platform then experienced a 500 percent increase in instances of a racial slur, which the platform alleges came from an organized "trolling" effort of inauthentic accounts. Those are the types of things (inauthentic accounts — not racial slurs) that Musk supposedly promises to crack down on. 

But many of those lauding Musk's takeover of Twitter for "free speech" purposes are the same ones who peddle in proven lies and bombastic statements. If the platform truly opens back up to be the type of place where anybody can amplify any message they want — no matter how hateful — it stands to reason that the worst of the Internet will make their presence known with little consequence. 

Will Staying On Twitter Hurt Your Brand?

Big companies are worried about their prospects of advertising on Twitter. Advertising giant IPG issued a recommendation for all its clients to halt advertising spending on the platform. The primary concern? Content moderation.

Brands are worried that a loosened grip on content moderation will lead to an influx of hate speech, misinformation, and other toxic content. And traditionally, toilet paper companies don't want their ad sandwiched between two racist conspiracy theorists shouting about the "new world order" or whatever. 

Like most social media companies, advertising is Twitter's primary revenue driver. In fact, 90 percent of the company's revenue comes from advertising. So if big companies are worried about their brand association with the platform — should you be, too? 

Twitter is admittedly not the first place we direct content creators to digital advertising. But that doesn't mean it doesn't work. In fact, Twitter excels at getting your products in front of your followers by allowing more targeting advertising. So if you've already got a decent following, using Twitter ads can be the perfect remedy to make sure people who already know you are ready to support you financially. 

The likelihood of smaller creators running into the same issues as larger brands when it comes to content moderation is notably lower. And there's even a chance that advertising on Twitter will become more affordable, at least in the short term. But it's a personal decision and no true fan will fault a creator for taking an ideological stand against advertising on the platform. 

And while Twitter was on a growth trend, the fact that several big users are leaving the platform and a lot of companies are pressing pause makes the entire environment pretty volatile. 

So What Does Any Of This Mean Right Now?

The frustrating thing about the Twitter disarray is that we just don't know what we don't know. Truthfully, if you're a new content creator looking to make yourself more visible on the Internet, we'd shy away from putting too many resources into the platform right now. Which is a real shame, because it's one of the few places on social media that "industry" actually talks to one another.

On the other hand, if you've spent all your time building a nice following on Twitter, now is a great time to let everybody know where you stand on the matter. And a great time to make sure you've done more to "own" that audience than simply cultivating a good profile.

If you do decide to pull the plug on your Twitter account, just make sure you let as many of your followers know as often as possible. Go ahead and schedule some persistent tweets about where they can find you in the coming weeks so it doesn't feel like you just completely disappeared off the face of the earth.

And if you're looking for another place to take your "microblogging," consider something like Substack or even Tumblr, a familiar name that is potentially making a comeback in the space. 

We'll have more about some of these alternatives in the near future,  as well as any updates that may actually affect content creators. 

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