Elon Musk, owner of the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, recently announced the company may introduce a paywall for all users to have the ability to view and upload posts. The reason given? To reduce the number of bots on the platform.
In the year since Musk took control over Twitter, the platform has shown to be a source of constant change for PR pros. From a complete overhaul to how verified checkmarks are distributed to the introduction of a rival with Meta’s Threads, this proposed monthly subscription is another shift in how users will view and use the platform.
While the decision has yet to be finalized, if Musk moves forward with introducing a paywall, PR professionals should be prepared.
What Can We Expect?
Musk cited the purpose behind this decision is to eliminate the “army of bots” that currently plague on the platform. Even though fewer than 5% of user accounts on X are controlled by bots, they still account for around 21%-29% of U.S. content on the platform. The addition of a paywall could very well be (at least in the short term) a positive solution for the millions of automated bot accounts that are found in every corner of X.
Will this impact the algorithm? It’s a possibility. Bot accounts are often used to artificially boost engagement on posts. Without them, the algorithm will likely be much more difficult to rig in people’s favor. Meaning there will likely be a significant increase in the value of a single like.
At the same time, when a consumer business moves from free-to-use to a subscription-based service, there’s inevitably a wave of abandonment from those who were already on the fence with X. Considering this, we can expect to see a significant drop in users on the platform. X has already lost tons of advertisers with the recent changes – more will likely take their ad dollars elsewhere if the user number continues to shrink.
With this potential drop in users, X seems to be fine-tuning its audience from an oversaturated pool of public opinions. What target audience is X is trying to hit with this paywall? It’s hard to say at this moment. We will likely see little change in those who are already paying for X Premium and die-hard X users.
Currently, there’s nothing but speculation regarding the details of this decision. Costs of this paywall are unknown, but it’s suspected there will be a monthly fee similar to the ongoing “X Premium” package that would give users a blue checkmark for $8/month. Musk has said the initial price for the paywall will be a “small monthly payment;” however, this could range from a few cents a month to the full $8 for X Premium.
Is X dead? It’s too soon to say. What we can say is the move to subscription-based social media certainly disrupts the world of social media management and could set an interesting precedent for the future of the industry. More brands may move off the platform entirely and find their target audiences elsewhere (TikTok, anyone?).
Or, maybe, this is the straw that broke the camel’s back on a platform riddled with scrutiny. Only time will tell.