Letter #15 : Twitter blue and the Credibility crisis
As some of you already know Twitter was perhaps my most favorite social media website. I loved using Twitter, and was, and still am very active (Though reducing)
I was excited when musk said that he wanted to buy the platform, but looking at all his shenanigans from trying to walk out of the deal to whatever he’s doing right now, makes me pretty pessimistic about the future of this platform..
Every time I think about writing about Twitter and my point of view on its latest and greatest features, they take a complete U-turn which makes the previous thing completely irrelevant.
Perhaps this is the reason I have not written about Twitter for a while, but I want to talk about Twitter blue and the credibility crisis it is facing
As some of you already know, Twitter introduce something called Twitter blue . When you subscribe to Twitter blue, apart from various features such as edit tweets, the main two things that really differentiate it from a normal users experience is the blue checkmark and an artificial boost to all your tweets.
Now at the surface, both of these things do not seem too wrong but there are some downside to this let’s deep dive
Not only tweets from blue are given an artificial boost in the timeline of the users, recently it was announced that only blue users might show up in users for you tab.
there are a few major implications of this.
Tweets as Ads :
Technically tweets from all blue users now are kind of ads. No I’m not against ads, ads are pretty cool, but they do have a very different connotation than tweets.
Some users like them, but many users may consider them low trust and start ignoring them. People already have something called ad blindness, I suspect that might happen with tweets from twitter blue
Food for thought : There are only 200-300K blue subscribers , and if the For you tab of 200M users is populated only with Blue subscriber content, you could potentially buy a few blue accounts and swamp their timelines. I argue that for an advertiser today it might be cheaper to simply buy a few blue accounts than actually running ads. This is a short term arbitrage which will close soon
Low trust for Twitter Blue tweets:
if you see a tweet come to your timeline organically, I bet you might still think it’s relevant or popular, and may be slightly more attention to it. On the contrary, if you see a tweet from a Twitter blue subscriber now show up on your timeline your first gut reaction might be that this person paid for this, while you still see that tweet, it’s likely that you would give it much less attention. I believe the hope is that this reduction in trust is overcome by the increased impressions of the tweet
The blue checkmark Status
The death of status:
let’s be very clear, the most likely reason Twitter created a verified program or a Twitter blue program was to prevent impersonation.
Twitter were sued by many celebrities for impersonation. Trying to mix the blue with the verified in my opinion was already a bad idea, and a lot of bad things have already happened. I am not going to go into those, but let’s just look at what Twitter blue stands for now.
Earlier Twitter blue stood for some kind of notability. A lot of people in my opinion bought blue thinking that they can also pretend to have that notability.
The problem that happened now is, Twitter and it’s in finite wisdom, and also because possibly musk had promised to, removed the blue check marks of all legacy verified people as well.
This leaves us with only people who want to buy blue for the specific feature set of blue, main one being boost and “status”.
This attracts a specific kind of audience, which may or may not contain the older legacy verified.
To make things worse, because of all the shenanigans that were done on Twitter in the past, buying Twitter blue in many circles started being looked at a negative status symbol.
Some people disliked it because of how musk treated other people , and some labeled everyone who bought as people who have something to sell.
To give you an sense of latter : think about your favorite or most hated influencer who buys ads to make sure that you see that contact.
I don’t fall in either camp but I too do not give any special credence to tweets by blue anymore. If anything, when i see a tweet by blue subs who I do not follow, my gut reaction is, paid ad.
After removing legacy, the only people that were left were people who bought and the only status left is : “This person paid “
The funny thing about status symbols is that you need people with actual status to use them.
And let’s be honest with ourselves, LeBron has far bigger status than pooja12345.
Twitter is slowly realising that the value to blue came FROM the people who had it, and not as much the other way round.
Blue was the perk that came with Status, not the other way around
Lebron did not need blue, but him having blue gave it credibility and made it aspirational
The status associated with blue was dead the moment legacy blue were removed
As I type this article now I have come to realize that Twitter is now randomly giving celebrities and largest accounts Twitter blue even though they explicitly said they don’t want it. This is perhaps to somehow restore some “status” to the blue checkmark temporarily so that more people buy.
This is not only ridiculous, but unethical. This is misleading advertisement , and potentially illegal
Think about it, how would you rate a startup that decides to put your picture on their profile as their paid user even though you never paid for it what about a start up that claims tesla Twitter and SpaceX, by their software, even when they never did. This is absolutely false advertising, and potentially lead to some interesting lawsuits.
Did you know?
Elon musk is a paid subscriber to my newsletter and so is every employee of twitter, spacex, and Tesla. You on the other hand can get it for free by using this link
The above statement is 100% false. Its a lie, it’s just a fabrication to drive home a point, dont sue me.I don’t even have paid subscription, but you should still subscribe
Should I be allowed to say the first statement without the second?
Worst is that they are giving these ticks even to dead celebrity accounts. I don’t understand who greenflagged that
Things are so bad in some circles that celebrities are sharing tricks to to GET RID of the blue check mark.
But status loss has a catch
Status loss is slow and takes time to reach the masses. For Eg: Top quora voice was a status once, forbes 30under30 is slowly going away, Tedx speaker is basically meh . In the interim a scammer could easily fool people with a “bought” status. I do expect twitter to become more scammy and spammy because of this feature.
The only hope for blue possibly is if enough notable people subscribe, before it gets road rolled by spam and scam .
Will I buy twitter blue?
Well this question to me currently is similar to “will I buy ads”.
Sure if i have a need for it.
Eg If I finally write my book on product management, maybe.
But, one thing I will be well aware of is that my tweets now are kind of ads and that I have no real “status” because of blue.
A lot of my engagement would no longer be because of my banger tweets, but rather my 8$ subscription.
Do I judge you for taking blue
Well no, but
Assume my For You tab has two tweets from account I do not follow
1) From someone without blue
2) Your tweet with blue
My gut would automatically tag yours as possibly lower quality because your tweets did not fight millions of other tweets to be shown here, but rather are there because you paid for me to see it. But I will likely see much more of you. I think that is a fair tradeoff .
A good analogy is , assume you are a harvard student and harvard students are pretty smart. One of your friend tells you they paid to get in while another one cracked an exam. Just based on this information would you in your mind have higher bar to give credence to the smartness of the one who paid? They could be the smartest of all…but you likely want to see first, while you may accept the other person’s smartness at face value
But if I do follow you, I already find value in what you say. Your blue status will likely just surface more of you ...i just hope not too much to annoy me from unfollowing.
This is possibly the bargain I will have to make if I went blue