By Rachel Marquardt, Senior Digital Strategist, Randle Communications
It’s been a tumultuous several months for Twitter as extreme changes have continuously been implemented to the channel under its new ownership. Among all the buzz and announcements, one of the most impactful changes for advertisers lies in a thin drop-down banner notification in Twitter’s paid ads platform. This update informed Twitter Ads users that as of April 21, the app would begin withholding paid digital ad options for any organization not verified with a checkmark on Twitter. It also informs advertisers that if they have booked or book a future campaign of more than $1,000 with Twitter, the account will automatically be eligible for a complimentary gold checkmark – for now. The announcement followed a large purge of blue checkmarks from previously verified accounts on the platform just the day before.
At Randle Communications, Twitter serves as a key advertising tool that is often incorporated into our paid digital strategies and acts as an essential communication channel to support brands in a variety of industries to pinpoint key audiences and markets. Now, we are supporting our clients in a reassessment of their strategies to help them make a key decision: Whether or not to subscribe to Twitter and obtain a verification checkmark in order to advertise on the platform.
This requirement is part of Elon Musk’s long-term plan to monetize the platform and decrease bots. It has since created a significant barrier to entry across the platform for advertisers big and small. According to a notice from Twitter, the “change aligns with Twitter’s broader verification strategy: to elevate the quality of content on Twitter and enhance your experience as a user and advertiser. This approach also supports our ongoing efforts to reduce fraudulent accounts and bots.”
Now, organizations must decide to either adjust their digital paid ads strategy to not include Twitter advertising, or pay for one of the new Twitter verification subscriptions to receive a checkmark.
The Removal and Addition of Verification Checkmarks
Twitter has introduced three new checkmarks after its removal of the classic blue checks that the Twitterverse had become accustomed to:
- The first of Twitter’s new verification subscription levels is the familiar Twitter Blue, where users can pay for a blue checkmark and a few benefits for $8 a month. Benefits Twitter provides to Twitter Blue users include the ability to run ads as well as edit Tweets, bookmark folders, be prioritized in conversation rankings, ironically see fewer ads on their own feed, and a few additional content-based benefits.
- A gold checkmark comes with Twitter’s Verified Organizations program, which sits at $1,000 a month as a baseline. After being approved for the program, Verified Organizations will have all benefits of Twitter Blue, as well as the ability to add affiliate accounts to their Verified Organizations hub.
- Twitter’s third verification level is a gray checkmark. A variant of the Verified Organizations mark, the checkmark is a free symbol of verification for government-affiliated organizations and multilateral institutions.
To explore further benefits of each of the platforms, visit here.
This expanded version of Twitter’s paid verification system creates a pay-to-play model that may serve as a force for decision-making for many brands and organizations. The hesitancy to hop onto Twitter Blue still remains, but it is still to be seen whether brands will take their pick of the options above or take their leave.
In the aftermath of the announcement, we have seen both sides of the argument, with some elected officials refusing to pay for Twitter Blue after losing their checkmarks, while other organizations are “reluctantly” purchasing it. A Twitter verified checkmark already comes with a predisposed amount of uncertainty, due to the backlash from Twitter advertisers and users during their first iteration of Twitter Blue. This announcement transformed the blue checkmark into a threat, allowing anyone to purchase the symbol for a mere $8, no matter what their account represented. This created a storm of controversy, confusion, and consequences due to fake accounts and misrepresentation, resulting in many advertisers backing away from Twitter.
The Other Changes – And Rumors
These changes to verification statuses are accompanied by a plethora of other changes that align with Musk’s monetization plan, several of which experts believed would cause the downfall of the app itself. While many of these changes have been solely focused on placing costs on once-free content such as its Application Programming Interface (API) and verification checkmarks, Musk has also significantly adjusted Twitter’s original format to prioritize content creators, making room for long-form tweets, videos, and more visual content. These changes, we can assume, are aimed at appealing to younger generations (while creating more options and room for advertising, of course). This may be the reason that Twitter’s download and usage rates remain strong, even amongst the chaos that followed shortly after Elon Musk’s purchase of the platform when many experts predicted that it was heading for demise., making room for long-form tweets, videos, and more visual content. These changes, we can assume, are in hopes of appealing to younger generations (while creating more options and room for advertising, of course). This may be the reason that Twitter’s download and usage rates remain strong, even amongst the chaos that followed shortly after Elon Musk’s purchase of the platform when many experts predicted that it was heading for demise.
However, many believe that the largest reason Twitter remained above water was the absence of an alternate app the Twitterverse felt comfortable moving to. Now that may change with the new app “Bluesky,” created by former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. While the app has topped headlines as the possible resolution in the “Hunt for the Next Twitter,” currently it is invite-only where potential users must sign up for a waitlist. By the end of April, Bluesky had reached 50,000 users, including public figures such as Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and organizations such as NPR – who recently and very publicly exited Twitter – finding a home on the platform.
As we all know from experience, we can expect more changes from Twitter coming our way. Since the announcement, Twitter has already reinstated free blue checkmarks to accounts with over a million followers. This included LeBron James, who was “gifted” his blue checkmark back “on behalf of Elon Musk” after James refused to pay for Twitter Blue. Celebrities such as Stephen King and William Shatner received free checkmarks as well.
Twitter serves as an ongoing case study of the ever-evolving world of digital, and the importance of social media marketing. With this new significant barrier to entry for Twitter advertising and its attempt to force the Twitterverse to adopt these new paid verification options, many are flagging this as one of Twitter’s riskiest moves. As advertisers hold Twitter in their hands, we are sitting at the edge of our seats waiting to see if they will bend to the new requirements and purchase a checkmark or break away from Twitter as a paid marketing channel, which may spell concern for Twitter itself.
The only thing we can say for certain is that we are in anticipation of what changes are next with Twitter, and to see if it can withstand its biggest test yet.