What’s Going on With Twitter’s New Paid Verification Process
With executives and advertisers dropping out left and right, Twitter is looking to its subscription plans for survival. While the state of the company’s new policies and offerings is still in flux, we’ve synthesized the big picture to help social media brands navigate the nebulous landscape.
Prior to Elon Musk's October 27th Twitter takeover, the social media platform—best known for newsworthy broadcasts of short posts (“tweets”)—employed a thorough vetting process for issuing the famous “blue check mark.” Such a symbol was meant to verify a public figure or brand presence on the platform—recognizing that they are, in fact, who they say they are. The purpose of Twitter’s identity authentication and seal of approval process was to reduce impersonators and the spread of misinformation.
But now, the tables have turned. In response to what Musk believed to be an arbitrary and elitist system, as of last week, any Twitter user could acquire the same signature blue check mark after their name for just $7.99 per month. No verification required. Within days, 140,000 accounts had registered for “Twitter Blue.”
Unsurprisingly, impersonators quickly flooded the feed (including Nintendo’s Mario giving the bird, LeBron James announcing he’s leaving the Lakers, political parodies, and…Jesus). And while the Twitter team (reduced to half its size after Musk’s decree of company-wide layoffs) tried to act fast to shut down impersonator accounts, their Frankenstein was already out of their control.
“Letting anyone get verified killed the most valuable part of Twitter,” tweeted billionaire entrepreneur, Mark Cuban, “[Elon Musk thwarted] the ability to quickly find information from sources I trust.” This is dangerous not only for commercial brands and celebrities, but also for politics, journalism, the stock market, national security, and general public safety. While Twitter proclaims the consequence for impersonating accounts can result in suspension from the app, quite often the damage has already been done…
Though the subscriptions rolled out in early November, there seemed to be no formal playbook for how everything would go down. Some sources stated that previously verified brands would need to opt-in to the subscription network or risk losing their authentic check mark. There were also proposed plans for a tier of check marks—official gray ones (for government agencies, major media outlets, business partners, publishers, and some public figures) distinguished from paid-for blue ones.
And now, barely a week since the plan rolled out, Twitter has paused its new subscription model. Communicating with the world via his own Twitter account, Musk suggested that “Twitter Blue” would be back up and running within a week’s time. Internally, he has warned the company must amplify subscriptions in order to offset the advertising exodus.
Still, Musk asserts that nothing is set in stone. He tweeted, “Please note that Twitter will do lots of dumb things in coming months. We will keep what works & change what doesn’t.”
How to Use Twitter Responsibly in the Elon Musk Era
As Twitter’s exact trajectory remains up in the air, it is critical for brands and users to engage with the platform thoughtfully and strategically. Here are four tips to maintain a sense of stability:
1. Stay cautious.
Now more than ever, it’s crucial to vet out potential influencers, customers, brands, and other users who mention you (@___) or slide into your DMs. Handle higher-stakes situations with caution and, if appropriate, move them over to a more secure correspondence like email or phone.
2. Fortify your account.
Linking your official website with all your social media platforms can help users know they can trust you. Make sure that your links across media platforms are clearly present, up-to-date, and functional.
3. Practice social listening.
Keep an eye on the news and on Twitter. Monitor your brand’s name as well as possible offshoots (misspellings, puns, unique punctuation, and other possible impersonations). Report phony accounts but also be prepared to publicly defend your brand in a comments section, if need be.
4. Diversify your media marketing.
Many public figures and brands have relied on Twitter for timely communication and engagement with their following. While no one knows what the future holds for Twitter, now is a critical time to expand marketing to other platforms and outlets. It is never a good idea to keep all of your eggs in one basket. Now more than ever, brands need to build up and branch out. This responsibility could actually help broaden your audience and strengthen your online presence.