Posted: Thu 5th May 2022
Elon Musk has said he is considering charging businesses a fee to use Twitter if his $44bn (£34.5bn) purchase of the social media platform is completed.
"Ultimately, the downfall of the Freemasons was giving away their stonecutting services for nothing," the technology billionaire tweeted. "Twitter will always be free for casual users, but maybe a slight cost for commercial/government users."
Twitter will always be free for casual users, but maybe a slight cost for commercial/government users— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 3, 2022
The Tesla founder's surprise takeover of the website has been unanimously signed off by Twitter's board but it still needs to be agreed to by shareholders and regulators.
His suggestion of fees for business and government users are among several ideas Musk has shared with his 90m followers.
In now deleted tweets, he said he would make changes to Twitter Blue, the subscription service currently available in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, including cutting the price and removing advertising.
Musk, the world's richest person with an estimated net worth of around $250bn, is a strong proponent of free speech. In another tweet, he said: "For Twitter to deserve public trust, it must be politically neutral, which effectively means upsetting the far right and the far left equally."
He has also pledged to make "the algorithms open source to increase trust" as well as tackling spam bots by "authenticating all humans" to stop bogus accounts.
In addition, Musk has said he supports the much requested edit button for tweets which Twitter has confirmed it is working on.
On Wednesday, UK MPs said they have invited the entrepreneur to appear before the Department of Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee to discuss his proposed acquisition of Twitter.
Committee chair Julian Knight MP said: "At a time when social media companies face the prospect of tighter regulations around the world, we're keen to learn more about how Mr Musk will balance his clear commitment to free speech with new obligations to protect Twitter's users from online harms."
With 16.5m users in the UK, Twtter is an important marketing, communication and customer service tool for thousands of small businesses. We asked some of them to share their thoughts on Elon Musk's potential plans for Twitter.
"Businesses can already pay for paid-for campaigns on Twitter - in line with other social media platforms - which means that those businesses and brands with deeper pockets can really push out their messages.
"A move like this, once again, will hammer smaller and micro businesses harder and, if he does go down this route, what 'added value' is he going to offer to those small businesses who don't pay now - yet spend much time on the platform?
"As with any advertising, those who pay want to know what's going to be said, what it will look like and they will want to police anything negative which comes up and I suspect that's impractical to manage. I believe if he pushes this agenda, he will simply push a large number of very active users into the arms of other platforms which focus on people."
"My thoughts are most small businesses will stop using it if they need to pay. At least as long as other social media platforms don't follow. Why would you pay for Twitter when you could post and interact for free on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or TikTok?
"Larger businesses will be more inclined to pay if they're getting results from Twitter. They will likely be paying people to manage their social media so it is an increase in cost rather than a new cost. But they may pay more attention to their returns - and reduce their time on there if it isn't working.
"Many small businesses regard Twitter as the least useful social media platform (along with Clubhouse!). Many who were active on there (like me) have moved to others. With the growth in other platforms it has become more niche. I think a shake up may be what is needed (although paying and his "free speech" plans won't help small business owners).
"His plans to reduce/remove spam bots and authenticate accounts as run by humans is one I definitely welcome. But it will have the impact of reducing the number of followers on many accounts which might not be so welcome!
"I think his plans for an open source algorithm is the most interesting. It will result in small business owners playing to the algorithm (as they try to do with SEO). If he has the algorithm "right", that might lead to better quality content."
"Although Elon Musk's subscription model has been greeted with mixed reactions, Twitter is already testing the $2.99 per month Twitter Blue experience across a number of countries. While people will continue to have access to free Twitter, those that wish to have a more premium experience can upgrade to the premium subscription model.
"The plus side of the subscription model means a closer focus on long term relationships, value adds and premium exclusive content. This means that for small businesses, it will be easier to show ads and share content without being hemmed in by screaming trolls, porn and vicious spats. The downside? $2.99 per month. Seems like a fair trade off."
"I think Elon Musk taking over Twitter will have some advantages for its users, especially authenticating all users, to reduce spam and bots on the platform.
"But I think the changes he is proposing to start charging businesses for use will put businesses off. We use Twitter for all of our clients' social media content and it will impact lots of small businesses who don't have a huge marketing budget anyway. I wonder if it will cause a mass exodus of the platform by businesses if costs are brought in for its usage."
"For me, it's an easy decision. I'll drop Twitter like a hot potato. It's not a hugely useful business tool anyway. I find LinkedIn works well. I appreciate that for other businesses the reverse may be true."
"The charging of fees for Twitter business users may not be favourable for everyone, but we need to consider the pros and cons of introducing a small fee.
"I'm always up for paying for improved quality or investing in my business and these suggested changes would more than likely improve the user experience and further improve engagement and interaction.
“It would probably not go down so well unless the communication around the fee was backed with a clear and concise marketing campaign. Not sure if we can take Musk seriously but if we can, as long as he conveys the plus side of the fee being introduced, those of us who want to get the most out of the Twitter platform will pay with little argument."
"Musk's comments about making Twitter pay to play is concerning news for small businesses. For so many business users, Twitter is a way to organically reach customers, build an engaged community, take part in global conversations, build a brand, find journalists and, more importantly, handle customer service.
"It's a first for so many start-ups and those with a B2B focus. Making it a chargeable service will simply mean many SMEs will have to stop using the platform as they assign marketing budgets to areas with higher return on ad spend, resulting in fewer users and less content on the platform. And sadly, for SMEs, this means losing a valuable free tool in their marketing arsenal."
Taz Thornton, empowerment coach, author, speaker and social media expert:
"I'm quite excited to see what it brings. Being able to edit tweets is something I know lots of people are looking forward to - the inability to do so has long been a bugbear.
"We know he’s also wanting to clean the channel up - particularly when it comes to crypto. He's also talking about getting rid of spam bots, which is a good move.
"With commercial payments, I'm not sure it will actually impact the way I use Twitter for business that much. I use it for networking, marketing and supporting clients and contacts, rather than selling.
"I have some concerns around the free speech debate so I'm holding an open mind on this until we know what direction this will take. I’m all for free speech, but history shows that allowing extreme views too much free reign actually results in less free speech. I'm watching with interest."
"I'd always rather pay a small subscription (up to £5/month) for a better quality, ad-free, more responsible service that would also support someone who couldn't afford it."
Karen Webber, founder of Goodness Marketing:
"This potential move highlights once again the danger of building your marketing strategy around a platform you don't own. If you're using a free platform as your main means of marketing to people, then you need to be aware that things can change in an instant and you will have no say or control.
"I've seen small businesses lose their accounts due to hacking or other issues (it happened to me too!) with no support from the platform. A whole audience, gone in a second.
"And every time there's an algorithm update, small businesses notice the impact on their bottom line.
"That's why I usually advise clients to prioritise content on their website, rather than putting most of their effort into social media where they are at the mercy of billionaires, algorithms and the whims of users - many of whom are leaving social media, changing how they use it, or limiting the time they spend on platforms."
"As a loyal user of Twitter for my businesses since 2010 I have noted a considerable lack of business engagement in recent years. Twitter has advanced in its political estrangement for some users, certainly more than any of the other main social media platforms. Freedom of speech vanished to leave merely the political narrative of the platform itself so Elon Musk offers a pathway back to a balanced platform welcoming all and no alienation making it better for business.
"Paid for Twitter account options are fine, in fact I would embrace such advancements. LinkedIn already has an option to upgrade your account for added features. Verified (blue ticks) for all confirmed accounts also sounds fair, speaking as a verified account holder myself."