Since last fall, Twitter has seen tremendous, and for some users, not so favorable changes as a result of Elon Musk’s purchase of the platform. Said changes include the overhaul of its verification process, which now permits anyone to get a blue check mark on their profile.
As part of the overhaul, verification is now under a subscription model. Twitter is charging $8 per month for Twitter Blue for regular users, and $1,000 per month for Twitter Gold for businesses and brands.
For content creators of color, the verification has been a hard sell. Many fear that Twitter will no longer be a place where they can share views on topics, like Black Twitter, or that their content will not be seen by the general public.
Joy Ofodu, a podcast host, content creator and voice actress who goes by @JoyOfodu on social media, began using Twitter in 2009. But it was not until the mid 2010’s when she started using the platform to inspire laughter in people with her content focused on comedy and healing work humor. She said she does not subscribe to Twitter Blue and does not intend to sign up for it, because to her, it takes away the myth of a democratized internet and access to free social media, as, in her view, Twitter cares more about money than it does about its creators and influencers.
“Elon’s assault on Black Twitter was very clear, direct, quick and intentional after his takeover of Twitter,” said Ofodu. She added that she’s seen major social media companies say that they care about creators and then “take away the tools, take away the security, take away the verification or programs that were dedicated to those creators.”
Twitter Blue was supposed to level the playing field for the platform’s users, but it seems most people aren’t buying into it. And despite attempts to win back advertisers, as of yet, Twitter Blue isn’t generating enough revenue to cover its losses.
Ofodu is not alone. Nagier Chambers, a content creator who owns independent media outlet Big Gold Belt Media (@BigGoldBelt), and Twitch streamer David Cherry (@DataDaveTV) share the same sentiment. Both Chambers and Cherry used Twitter for close to a decade and subscribed to Twitter Blue when it first launched. They were not previously verified prior to Musk’s takeover.
From the two creators’ perspectives, Twitter made promises to everyone who subscribed to the new verification system that their tweets would have higher visibility than the average user within the platform’s algorithm, as well as a cleaner user experience to suss out legitimate users vs. those who are not. But neither said they saw a difference after becoming verified, leaving Ofodu, Chambers and Cherry questioning if verification is worth the money, especially as they also invest their dollars in expenses such as recording equipment, cameras and other subscription services. (Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.)
Chambers explained that he subscribed to Twitter Blue because his work and contributions in the media and entertainment industry were being overlooked by film and television studios that would share content from other media outlets that were verified.
“Coming from an independent outlet, it’s a little bit of a challenge because prior to Twitter Blue, the application for verification always denied me and they want you to have credits from other places that’s already been verified,” said Chambers. “So this is a way to allow a backdoor way in the verification process.” He compared this to a VIP experience. Besides the verified tab that he got on his timeline, it meant that verified, legitimate users appeared for him rather than bots.
Meanwhile, Cherry said he subscribed to Twitter Blue when it first launched in the fall of 2022, but unsubscribed not too long after when he noticed that his daily tweets did not gain any traction. This happened during the same time when false brand accounts such as Nintendo, Rockstar Games, and Lilly were spreading fake news about the actual brands.
“Twitter wants to prioritize those who are subscribing and I am not surprised by what Elon did because he is out here suppressing Black voices, Black cultural moments and Black creators who put social issues in front of your eyes,” said Cherry.
In the months before Musk took over, Twitter was poised to announce a new creator program, Voices X, which would have allowed brands to connect with diverse and influential Twitter voices. However, a number of high-profile Black Twitter users left the platform after Musk took over — a move that has been associated with a rise in hate speech on the platform. The users who left include screenwriter, producer and showrunner Shonda Rhimes, R&B star Toni Braxton and actor Whoopi Goldberg.
Chambers, Cherry and Ofodu agree that Twitter Gold is unaffordable for smaller companies and creators because it costs $1,000 a month for businesses and an extra $50 per person for verifying employees as affiliates. In particular, Black-owned businesses have to decide how they will spend their marketing dollars on social media since companies are not showing evidence that they are still funding minority-owned companies. However, with the current economic uncertainty, every dollar counts when it comes to budgeting for marketing.
Cedric J. Rogers, founder and CEO of Culture Genesis, a digital video network for underrepresented creators and publishers, said that Elon Musk has destroyed relationships with brands in an effort to make money. He added that creators won’t be able to monetize Twitter in any significant way as a result.
“Black creators will continue to leverage Twitter to promote their personal brands but they won’t be able to monetize the content,” said Rogers, adding that Culture Genesis has firsthand experience with brands asking to remove campaigns from Twitter. Going forward, the agency was asked to exclude Twitter from future campaigns, as agencies and brands are now asking for campaigns to be executed on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube, Rogers said.