The home of the 280-character tweet wants to pivot into something greater. We take a look at the developments that could shake up how we communicate on Twitter.
This first new development essentially encapsulates where Twitter sees the future of its platform. Communities, both in a figurative and literal sense, will play a big part in their future plans.
Firstly, Twitter announced their new Communities feature during an Investors briefing. Not much has been revealed so far. Clearly the platform wants to present itself as an alternative to Facebook Groups. Earlier images suggest it operates in a similar fashion:
‘Twitter Communities’ isn’t exactly an innovative idea that will completely transform the social media landscape, but it’s a clear indicator as to where Twitter is heading. It no longer wants to be the platform of throwaway comments and controversy. They’re steadily encouraging users to form deeper, more personal relationships with their followers. No doubt in anticipation for Twitter’s new monetisation plan, which we’ll look at now.
Users will soon be able to charge their followers for access to exclusive content in a feature dubbed ‘Super Follows’. Details are sparse, but it’s expected that this ‘exclusive content’ will mainly consist of premium tweets. But Twitter has been busy making key acquisitions and developments behind the scenes to ensure users won’t be just paying for 280-character messages.
In February, Twitter acquired start-up company Revue a platform that allows email newsletters to be published in different formats. Expect to see similar long-form content being offered as an incentive to ‘Super Follow’ a creator.
Twitter’s stakeholders have been pressing the platform to expand its monetisation capabilities for a number of years. Competing firms such as Facebook and YouTube have multiple, diverse incomes streams. Twitter is solely reliant on its ads service and usage pales in comparison to Facebook.
Similar subscription-based platforms are performing exceptionally well. The likes of Patreon and OnlyFans have become household names, for the right and wrong reasons. Twitter are clearly hoping to capitalise on their popularity with the introduction of Super Follows and their renewed focus on community.
The big question is: will users be willing to pay for premium content on Twitter? If this snap survey by Social Chain is anything to go by, then it doesn’t bode well:
Although this suggests users wouldn’t pay for Twitter as a whole, they may be more willing to support their favourite creators – especially those who have had their incomes decimated by the pandemic. Twitter is additionally introducing a ‘tipping’ feature with this type of sentimentality in mind. ‘Super Follows’ could work if the price was kept at an affordable level. The content offered would have to be full of genuine value. Users are not going to pay £5 a month to read tweets like the infamous ‘Covfefe’.
If 2020 was the year of TikTok, 2021 is starting to look like the year of Clubhouse. The exclusive, invite-only platform has been garnering plenty of interest recently, especially since the likes of Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have been spotted in its virtual discussion rooms. Whilst still invite-only, Clubhouse developers are planning to expand the app to Android very soon.
Not to be out-done, social media giants have begun to implement their own TikTok clones. We expect this kind of behaviour from Facebook, well-known for ‘borrowing’ features from rival platforms – Stories, Reels, IGTV, the list goes on. Whilst Twitter was playing catch-up with its stories clone ‘Fleets’ (which has had a mixed reception), the tech industry is keeping a closer eye on Spaces.
Spaces are, in Twitter’s own words: “A place to come together, built around the voices of the people using Twitter, your Twitter community. Spaces are live for as long as they’re open; once ended, they will no longer be available publicly on Twitter.”
In short, it’s Clubhouse – but on Twitter. Users can join audio groups and listen in on live conversations between speakers. The feature sits in the ‘Fleets’ area:
So far, all Spaces are public, meaning anyone can join. We really do mean anyone – there’s no limit on the amount of listeners. When it comes to speakers, there’s a limit of 10 and the host decides who can and cannot contribute.
That’s all there is to say for now. Spaces is expanding testing to Android. The consensus among social media industry commentators is that Twitter has a real opportunity on their hands. Facebook are working on their own Clubhouse clone, to add to their already saturated services. This only further complicates their offering. You only have to look at the unsteady start of Instagram Reels – many users felt it was one addition too many.
Adding Spaces to Twitter feels a lot more organic, especially as they’re concurrently working on audio tweets. Twitter has clearly been working on a Clubhouse-style feature even before its namesake became popular. Spaces was announced back in December. It’s clearly been in the works for a while.
There isn’t obvious marketing appeal with this feature, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be adopted by your business. Spaces could be used for podcast-style interviews with special guests. If you’re a festival, you could host a space with some of your performing artists. Use the feature to gather live feedback and hold Q&A sessions.
Exciting times lay ahead for Twitter. It’s a platform that has been previously written off as a ‘one-trick pony’. To many, it’s nothing more than a news aggregator. But activist investors are forcing CEO Jack Dorsey and his team to develop his platform’s offering. With Spaces, Fleets and Communities, Twitter is certainly up to the challenge. Will it be enough to compete with the Facebook behemoth? Or to fend off plucky challengers Clubhouse and TikTok? We will have to wait and see.