Social media sites are now offering subscriptions to their services, which include verified accounts and greater security. This comes after years of being “free” for many. The moves are the latest effort by social media companies – including Facebook and Twitter – to monetize their massive user bases.
Twitter launched a paid subscription for its users in June 2021. But, Elon Musk, who took over the company, expanded the service by offering additional features, such as the blue verification marks and priority in replies. Facebook parent Meta also followed the lead with “Meta Verified,” which was launched to pilot users in Australia, New Zealand and New Zealand last month.
The social media websites are now under more pressure to create new revenue streams. While the paid subscription model is a good investment for those who are power users, there’s no way to know if everyone will pay the same price as they did before.
Courtney Pade is a clinical assistant professor of communications and assistant director of the Masters of Communication Management Program of USC. She stated that “most users won’t be interested in purchasing a subscription to social media,”.
Paded stated that “very heavy users” of one site might be willing to sign up if the subscription significantly improves their user experience. Light users don’t use social media much and are already able to access it for free. They also spend little time creating or browsing content so even new fun features won’t be appealing enough to make them pay for another monthly expense.
Why not now? Why Wait?
In many ways, it is almost surprising that some of the social media platforms didn’t make these plays earlier – especially as there are already only so many options to generate revenue.
Charles King of Pund-IT, an analyst in the technology industry said “Premium features like account verification options that are being touted on Twitter and Facebook are trying to create revenue streams distinct from their traditional advertising business.”
This could make Twitter’s situation even worse, given the smaller company base and number of businesses that have left the site since Musk assumed control. Facebook might be less in danger, however the popularity of anti tracking apps could significantly impact its quality of ad penetration.
Pade stated that there has been an increase in pressure on regulators and consumers to make personal data collection more transparent and easier for them. Apple has recently changed its privacy policies to reflect this trend, as it implemented App Tracking transparency.
Apple’s recent changes also have an impact on advertising targeting via social media and the ability of identifying the top social media users that are most likely to be interested to see a company’s ads campaigns.
Pade observed that “the change in data collection has caused advertisers be less keen to spend money social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter,” Pade said.
Ads might not provide the same value.
King said that it would have serious implications if advertisers found out the services they pay for don’t provide them the benefits they desire. “Those problems aside, it is worth considering whether or not we are nearing the tipping point where consumers will be willing to pay for platform and service that has been freely provided.
For now, it is hard to tell if users will embrace the business model – but already TV viewers are paying for multiple streaming services just for one or two favorite shows, so perhaps a similar trend could play out with social media.
King stated that “more likely” we will see services being split between people who give up access to online behaviors in exchange for free access and those who have the financial means to pay to protect their privacy.