There are books and TV series to be written about how Elon Musk has reduced a moderately successful social media network, overpaid massively, and then destroyed it in months. And I’m not going to write that here.
But I have long been a Twitter user, and mostly enjoyed using the platform.
Key to that usage was Tweetdeck, the web-app for desktop that allowed you to curate your Tweets into columns. You might have one column for your overall feed – in reverse chronological order. Another column might have your replies or mentions. Then you might have Direct Messages in a column, and perhaps a search for a particular subject or hashtag. If you were like me, you might also use Twitter Lists – curating accounts into subjects or genres which you could then include in a List. For example, I had a List of cycling people I follow – journalists, riders and teams – to give me a stream of just that.
Beyond that, Tweetdeck also offered scheduled posts as well as easy access to some very powerful search functionality. If a user had added geo-location data to their Tweets you could search for Tweets on a subject posted from within a set distance of a particular location.
As a consequence, it’s fair to say that Tweetdeck was widely used in newsrooms, where journalists could closely follow accounts that fell within the purview of their beats, or search out breaking news stories. I suspect too that many companies’ social media managers made good use of Tweetdeck (although other third-party apps do – or did – work across social networks).
All of that ends today – at least for free users. Twitter – or X as it is now officially called – has decided to make Tweetdeck a paid benefit.
To some extent, this was always an obvious thing that Twitter could, and probably should have done. Get super-users to pay a bit more. Aside from anything else, Tweetdeck never showed any ads, the one real monetisation route that Twitter had.
Anyway, under Elon Musk’s ownership, with reported catastrophic falls in advertising, the “Blue” subscription tier is a key driver to any kind of profitability. Some months back on The Media Podcast, I did suggest that making Tweetdeck a subscription offering might be the only way I’d become a Blue subscriber. But now I’m not so sure.
Actually, I am sure.
The answer is that I will not be subscribing.
Typically, the introduction of a subscription has been handled in a really ham-fisted way.
Failure to tell users
If you didn’t read tech news websites, you probably wouldn’t know that this was happening. It’s never going to be easy to persuade users that something they’ve been using for free for years is now a paid-for service. But at the very least you should let users know it’s happening.
I had read that a subscription was to be introduced, but it was never clear exactly when, because Twitter/X’s timelines are all over the place. But most users just wouldn’t know that this was happening.
Tweetdeck – which I understand is being rebranded as XPro – did not add something like a pop-up when you launched the page over the last few weeks telling you that if you wanted to keep using it, you’d need to subscribe.
They could have emailed users too. They must know that I use the page daily, so they could have dropped me an email. Indeed, I can’t remember the last time Twitter emailed me about anything.
In the UK, BT Sports has just been rebranded to TNT Sports. I wouldn’t present this as a perfect rebranding, but at least they kept users abreast of what they were doing by, you know, emailing people and telling them about it. It’s not even as though emailing your subscriber list costs anything!
Twitter’s rebranding to X seems to have only been announced in Tweets from Musk and his CEO, and then of course, subsequent news reports. (Sidenote: Pretty much every story in the press referencing anyone who Tweets something has to currently include an explanation that X is formerly Twitter.)
Failure To Explain To Users That Blue Subscriptions Include XPro
This one is blindingly simple and stupid.
A big pop-up tries to extol the virtues of Blue. Let’s go through line by line
Blue subscribers will a verified phone number will get a blue checkmark once approved.
When you say “once approved” do you mean, “once my credit card has cleared”?
Prioritized rankings in conversations and search.
Basically, I’m invisible to other users unless I pay. This has basically already happened, and has led me to use the service less.
See approximately twice as many posts between ads in your For You and Following timelines.
I wasn’t seeing any in Tweetdeck. Also, the ads I did see in the mobile app have seriously dropped off in quality. I’m seeing more spammy accounts Liking old Tweets of mine too.
Add bold and italic text in your posts.
This is a premium feature?
Post longer videos and 1080p video uploads
Twitter’s not really a video platform. If I want to share video, I’m more likely to go to YouTube or Instagram anyway.
All the existing Blue features, including Edit Tweet, Bookmark Folders and early access to new features.
All the existing features? You’re trying to sell me something I don’t already have.
“Edit Tweet”? Shouldn’t that be “Edit X” now? Except nobody would understand the words in that sentence. “Bookmark Folders” – I don’t know what this means. You can Bookmark Tweets, so I assume this means curate them into folders? I’m just guessing.
If I click on “Learn more” I get additional benefits of Blue explained:
Longer posts – Create posts, replies and Quotes up to 25,000 characters long.
If I want to write a long essay, I’ll do that here, not on Twitter/X.
Edit post – Edit a post up to 5 times within 30 minutes.
Again, this feels like it should be a basic feature.
NFT Profile Pictures – Show your personal flair and set your profile picture to an NFT you own.
Ha ha ha! You mean I can’t already set my user profile photo to any JPG I like?
All of this for just £100.80 a year or £9.60 a month.
And missing from that entire list of benefits? Any mention whatsoever of Tweetdeck/XPro!
You’re trying to upsell me, a Tweetdeck user, to something that makes no mention of the service that you’ve just denied me access to. Surely, I should have seen something that said: “Tweetdeck is now XPro, and access is included in our Blue subscription…” or something similar.
But Twitter/X is such a mess, that this doesn’t happen.
Twitter’s rebranding has been handled ineptly and they’ve provided basically no good reasons to subscribe to Blue. At the same time, Musk has managed to destroy most of the value of the service so that I’d paying for the premium version of nothing.
I have no idea whether Threads or anything else will step up to replace Twitter – I suspect not properly. But the incompetence of Musk is extraordinary.