Meta unveils Twitter Blue-like subscription. Are paid subscriptions the next step for social media?

Meta unveils Twitter Blue-like subscription. Are paid subscriptions the next step for social media?Source: Shutterstock

Meta unveils Twitter Blue-like subscription. Are paid subscriptions the next step for social media?

  • Meta Platforms recently announced that it is testing a monthly subscription service after Twitter introduced Twitter Blue last year.
  • Even other social media apps, like Snap Inc’s Snapchat and messaging app Telegram, launched paid subscription services last year as a new source of revenue.

Amidst all the ChatGPT craze, another trend has been picking up in the tech world – especially among social media giants – and it is “paid verification.” This week, Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta Platforms announced that the company had jumped on the bandwagon and said it would be testing paid verification services for Facebook and Instagram, just months after the Twitter Pay Per Blue Tick announcement.

Known as the Meta Verified feature, the company said it would be an Instagram and Facebook subscription bundle with a verified badge to authenticate a user’s account with a government ID, proactive account protection, account support, and increased visibility and reach. The Meta Verified subscription would also include extra protection against impersonation. It will be priced at US$11.99 per month on the web or US$14.99 monthly on Apple’s iOS and Android.

Following the footsteps of the rival platform Twitter, Mark Zuckerberg, the Chief Executive Officer of Meta, announced in a Facebook post recently that the service would first roll out in Australia and New Zealand later this week. In addition to a blue badge for the service, Zuckerberg said Meta would offer “extra impersonation protection,” improved reach for verified users, and direct access to customer support.

The increased visibility of posts from verified users would “depend on a subscriber’s existing audience size and the topic of their posts,” the company said. Those with smaller audiences might see more of an impact. The company said it would also offer “exclusive stickers” on Facebook and Instagram stories and Facebook reels. At this stage, the service would be available to businesses later, Meta said.

In response to the news, Twitter’s CEO, Elon Musk, tweeted that it was “inevitable” Meta would follow Twitter. Interestingly, Twitter also announced last week that it would provide SMS-based two-factor authentication, but only to users who are subscribed to the US$8-a-month Twitter Blue service available from March 20, 2023, onwards.

Currently, Twitter provides free two-factor authentication through third-party apps and a security key, which is considered more secure than SMS-based systems. Should non-subscriber accounts that use SMS authentication not switch before the deadline, Twitter said it would disable two-factor authentication for that account.

The company believes phone-number-based 2FA is being abused by “bad actors,” according to a blog post that the company’s tweet linked to last Wednesday. To recall, the third iteration of Twitter Blue was unveiled last December, and it allows users to buy Twitter’s blue tick for US$8 (on a browser) or US$11 (on an iOS device) per month.

Twitter Blue subscribers will get access to subscriber-only features such as ‘Edit Tweet,’ 1080p-resolution video uploads, and reader mode. Similar to Meta Verified, subscribers of Twitter’s paid verification services will also receive a blue checkmark after their accounts are reviewed to ensure they meet all of the requirements, including rules against impersonation.

So far, Twitter Blue is only available in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK. “We plan to roll out Blue to more countries soon,” Twitter’s staff product manager Patrick Traughber said in a blog post.

Did Meta and Twitter start a ‘paid verification’ trend?

For the longest time, the internet was based on the ethos that everything was free. As the internet has evolved and companies realize the value they create should no longer be accessible for free, subscription-based models have grown exponentially.

As stated in a Bloomberg report, “subscriptions have always offered a tantalizing alternative to advertising, but social networks have traditionally stayed free as a way to encourage user growth and engagement, which is then subsidized with paid marketing posts.”

Even before Meta and Twitter made their recent move, other social media apps such as Snap Inc’s Snapchat and the messaging app Telegram had already launched paid subscription services. Before that, even YouTube started offering a paid version that removes ads, allows offline viewing, and enables background app playing. Additionally, platforms like Patreon, OnlyFans, and Twitch have used paid subscription models to retain users and content creators.

While some platforms’ subscription services focus on exclusive access to creators, some focus on removing ads, while others are trying a mix of both. Most social media platforms, especially Twitter and Meta, are still in the early stages of their paid services. So far, subscription-based platforms like Patreon and Substack have demonstrated success in this field by creating a more personal experience between the audience and the content creators.