To be verified or not to be verified
Paying for Twitter Blue and other stories
Elon was very clear from the start. One of his priorities was revamping the verification system, and to him, Twitter Blue was a way to make it equitable for all. He also wanted to increase revenue, so he figured that charging more for Twitter Blue would help achieve that. But the thing is, Twitter Blue was never that product you could charge so much for, and while a few people covet the blue tick, I don’t think most Twitter users care for it enough to pay for it. In fact, these two problems are not connected.
Chief Twit, as Elon calls himself, started with the solution - Pay for Twitter Blue and get the blue tick; and tried to walk back to a problem that never existed - Everyone wants the blue tick. It became clear after the launch that not everyone who wants Twitter Blue wants the blue tick. Again, two different user needs.
The Verification Problem
It was clear that Twitter verification was broken. In fact, the previous Twitter team acknowledged the problem and tried to improve the process to no avail. Elon’s concerns were valid. The verification system was not equitable. The process was vague, and sometimes, people who are notable in their rights cannot get through the verification process. There were reports that some people got the verification because they knew a Twitter employee.
However, throwing the whole process away and verifying anyone willing to pay $8 with no questions asked creates other problems. As a proponent of first principles, it was a miss that Elon and his team didn’t spend enough time to understand the why’s before going all out to launch.
Why does verification exist? To reduce the risk of impersonation by authenticating the identity of high-profile accounts.
Why is it limited to high-profile people and organizations? Verification is a high-effort implementation and is hard to implement at the scale of Twitter. However, high-profile accounts are more at risk of impersonation and are the minority, making it a no-brainer to tackle the group.
Why did it become a status symbol? High-profile accounts usually belong to people who have a certain social status that can often translate to social networks.
To address the verification problem, it is important to solve equity and scale without compromising on authenticity, which was the whole point.
How would I address this?
Streamline the verification process - Crypto and fintech companies do this well with their KYC process. For instance, some require you to take a picture using their app with your government-issued ID held beside your face.
Invest in more human verifiers - As a fallback when tech fails or when wrongful rejection is appealed, a human can verify. This pool needs to be increased because opening the doors of verification to everyone will dramatically increase requests.
Charge a fee - This should be separate from the Twitter Blue offering and should probably be more than $8. The right pricing should be determined by factoring in the increased resources required for verification and to disincentivize bad actors.
This approach allows people who don’t mind paying for verification to do so while achieving the actual objective of the blue tick, which is to authenticate a Twitter account. It also creates the right balance between the resources needed for verification and the value for the users. For some people, they get the functional value of preventing impersonation of their accounts. For others, they get the emotional value of the social status it comes with.
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The Twitter Blue Problem
Twitter Blue started as an early adopter product. It was cheap to buy at $3.99 and came with unpolished features: “Undo Tweet” that delayed sending your tweet, “Bookmark Folders” that wasn’t intuitive to use, and a broken “Reader Mode.” I remember tweeting through my experience of the service when I subscribed. Yes, I was one of the earliest Twitter Blue subscribers. I was eager to try out the new features, and the price didn’t really stick out to me. They went on to add more features like custom icons, NFT avatars, and edit tweets before the Elon acquisition.
Twitter Blue was a no-brainer subscription mostly because of the price; to increase the price, it needs to offer more concrete value. Increasing the price based on “coming soon” features is like putting the cart before the horse. What does “seeing half the ads” even mean? And do I really care about being at the top of the replies? I say this as a recently-unsubscribed Twitter Blue user. I unsubscribed after trying out the new pricing for a month.
How would I address this?
Focus on building the product - Functional features that Twitter should have had since, like editing tweets and a slightly longer character limit (not 4000 lol), can be built as Twitter Blue exclusive features.
Build the community - Cultivate a growing community of loyal Twitter Blue users who will help get the word out and grow usage. You can also build emotional value into the product, like the NFT avatar. I wish I could change the shape of my profile picture as a Twitter Blue user without going through the Web 3 UX of getting an NFT.
Relaunch product with new pricing - Then, increase the price reasonably or create another tier pricing that would have even more exclusive features.
With this approach, you are building the value before charging for it, not the other way around. You also get a way to gain momentum with the community before your relaunch.
Combining two different problems into one solution has turned out to be… interesting. Now, there are multiple colors of the verification badge, and the blue tick’s value is further diluted. Some Twitter Blue users don’t want the blue tick, and Twitter is considering offering an option to disable the tick. But they still want to charge $8 for everything.
Taking a step back and evaluating things might be a slower approach, but it certainly helps to see that these are clearly different problems that require different approaches. With the suggestions above, users who want the blue tick will be happy to pay for it, and Twitter Blue will be more focused on delivering premium value to the subscribers, so they stay happy.