3 min read

Why Paid Social Media Verification is a Bad Idea

It’s no longer the topic of speculation, memes, or stock manipulation. Elon owns Twitter. And he’s having fun throwing the kitchen sink at Twitter and “firing” two employees with last names Ligma and Johnson. He’s not waiting to make changes:

Over the weekend, reports continued circulating about potential layoffs, which are now widely expected. Throughout, Musk has tweeted some updates, including plans for the formation of a content moderation council.

Both Musk and friend Jason Calacanis — a VC and Twitter’s self-proclaimed “Chief Meme Officer” — have surveyed users about bringing back Vine, the short-form video app (basically, TikTok before TikTok) that Twitter shut down in 2016.

Musk’s team is also revamping Twitter’s verification process, possibly looking to charge $19.99 [now most likely $8] a month for verification. It seems unlikely that decision would have a wide-scale fiscal impact, though: In a poll run by Calacanis, 81.5% of ~1.6m users said they wouldn’t pay for verification. – The Hustle

Some say this is a path to eliminating many bots and bad actors from Twitter. Others contend that it will allow those bad actors to pay for credibility and could make misinformation worse.

Regardless, Elon is setting the vision for decentralized social media and aligning some interesting players. He’s got Jason Calacanis running polls and comms. He’s bringing a16z into the fold (in some regard that we don’t know yet). Elon is even battling Stephen King on Twitter to stamp out the haters.

Clearly, his first order of business is the Twitter Blue Check verification.

Paying for the Blue Check

Twitter verification is an important classification that creates a lot of trust on the platform. But frankly, it’s a broken system. There are a lot of people that deserve it but don’t have it, like most journalists for example, which would create a more trustworthy system for news on the platform.

Elon’s proposition is to have people pay $8/month for the Blue Check. He’s not trying to create an easier on-ramp for people to get that trusted “celeb” status of the Blue Check. Rather, he’s trying to change the dynamic of who is on the platform and who gets engagement by creating this perception shift.

Can you still tweet without the blue check? Sure, but people may pay less attention to your tweets because the perception changes.

But that’s not the reason I think this idea will fail.

I think the $8 plan is bad idea because of how it will influence the other social media platforms. This is an industry where every interface is copied by every competitor. Features are unique until they’re not.

Clubhouse created the audio social media interface. Within a year, we got Twitter Spaces, LinkedIn Audio Events, and Amazon Amp.

TikTok (Vine before it) pioneered the vertical video format. Not long after there was Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts.

The problem with an $8 per month Twitter experience is that we know other social media platforms will follow suit. And it’s just not sustainable for consumers.

Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, TikTok, Clubhouse, Reddit, etc. If you had to pay to use them monthly, what apps are you dropping? And as a result, what friendships or connections or experiences are you losing?

So even if Elon does figure out how to make this new social media model work, I worry about what effects it will have on social media as a whole. Unless of course, we get into a territory like the streaming services where they become a perk that Telecom companies offer to sweeten their deals. If Verizon wants to pay for my Blue Check mark, then I’m all in on this vision with Elon.