Twitter, a notoriously public platform, is building a walled garden.
Twitter thinks your tweets — or at least some of them — might actually be worth something. At a virtual event for investors Thursday, the company announced that it’s planning to debut a pay-for-posts feature, called Super Follows, in which users will be able to pay the people they follow for their best tweets.
With Super Follows, Twitter will allow users to make money from content that they make exclusive to particular followers. Sample screenshots released by the company show that the payment scheme could take multiple forms. For instance, a follower could pay a creator they follow on Twitter a few dollars a month to access that user’s exclusive newsletter or to see special tweets only available to Super Followers. They might also be able to join a particular group or access a badge that shows they support that creator.
The idea that you would pay someone for their tweets might sound far-fetched, but a Twitter spokesperson told Recode that the goal is “rethinking the incentives of our service.” Basically, the premise seems to be that this pay-for-post feature will help build more specific communities around specific topics.
Another change coming to Twitter: a group-like tool called Communities. We don’t know much about this yet-to-arrive feature — Twitter says more information is coming later this year — but the idea seems to be a more private and more controlled way for communities to get together on Twitter outside the public view.
“[I]t still can be hard to find and connect directly with people who share your interests in focused conversations,” a company spokesperson told Recode. “This year, we’re making it easier for you to discover, participate, and form conversations with communities that share your interests.”
Neither of Twitter’s newly announced features is currently available, but the company says it will reveal more information in the coming months. Still, Thursday’s announcement is a sign that Twitter wants to be more than an incredibly public online discussion space and that the company is leaning into the smaller “micro-communities” that organically form on its platform.
After all, someone might jump on Twitter to see the latest in global news, but someone’s also on the site because they’re following a particular set of users and influencers, whether they’re posting about Tesla or Taylor Swift.
The arrival of Super Follows and Communities comes as Twitter has moved to mimic closed-off features available on other platforms. At the end of last year, Twitter launched “Fleets,” Snapchat-like stories that disappear and are only available to followers. The company’s also in the midst of expanding its new Spaces tool, small audio-based rooms that function much like the new app Clubhouse. And, following in the footsteps of services like Substack, Twitter earlier this year purchased the email newsletter service Revue and is working on integrating subscription-based newsletters directly through their public Twitter accounts.
Twitter’s recent moves also indicate the site hopes to add more layers to its historically public platform. All signs indicate that at the end of 2021, a user with a particularly promising tweet will have much more control over the audience that gets to read it, from being able to charge people for that content to sharing the post in a more private Community to even posting it in an ephemeral Fleet.
The move to more closed-off content means Twitter will also encounter more challenges, like the proliferation of misinformation and noxious (or even dangerous) content that can foment in private online spaces. (After Fleets debuted, some pointed out that the closed and short-lived nature of the content could make it easier to spread misinformation.) It’s also not clear how adding more payment-based components will impact the famously free platform.
In the meantime, if you’ve got a perfect post in mind, Thursday’s announcement indicates it may be worth holding onto it a little bit longer. The reward could be more fruitful than just “Likes” and retweets.
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