VERIFIED BIRD: Should the public sector pay for social media verification? Yes, and no

Public sector comms people in the next few days will have to make a decision over Twitter… to pay or not to pay?

The question is being forced on people by a move to scrap verified blue ticks and replace them with a paid for version. 

The blue ticks have long been a Twitter-verified hard won badge of trust that singles public sector organisations out as being trusted. 

Twitter’s model 

Under the new model, organisations can apply for Twitter Verified Organisations at $1,000 dollars (£810) a pop. It also charges $50 dollars (£40.50) a month for further affiliate accounts. So, an organisation with 10 Twitter accounts will be paying $500 (£405) a month.

The advantage, Twitter says, is longer tweets, longer video and your content in the Twitter For You page which Twitter has quietly introduced as a landing page which you’re served when you you navigate to the page. This serves what Twitter’s algorithm wants you to see rather than your friends and followers as happened in the earlier days of Twitter.

Individuals can take out Twitter Blue at £84 a year. You get longer tweets and tweets shown to more people. 

Meta’s model

Over at Meta in the UK a verified programme has also been launched. It gives a verified badge for Instagram and Facebook and access to support at $15 a month for an account.  You also get proactive account protection. 

To pay or not to pay? Yes and no

And here’s the rub. Yes and no. 

Twitter feels increasingly like a broken platform whose every decision is framed around irritating existing users. Elon Musk has clearly overpaid in a moment of hubris and is frantically trying to wring cash out of the platform. Blue ticks gave an element of trust to the platform. It’s tempting to think you’re paying for what you had with these moves but the reality is that you won’t be. When anyone can pay for it, including potential bad actors, the trust is devalued.

The wider issue is Twitter as a platform. As the recent BBC Panorama investigation showed, it is no longer a platform that can guarantee people’s safety. The question should be not should you pay for it but should you even be on it?

As a strategy, a gradual easing away from Twitter is the sensible way forward. Twitter was always useful for reaching journalists and for a crisis. WhatsApp may be a better way of messaging a hack. So too is a newsroom on the website. For an emergency? It will be interesting to see what channels are used in the next terror incident. In the Manchester Arena attack, Greater Manchester Police established a trusted voice within minutes and then filled in the blanks. Would people be looking at something like Facebook if something like that happened? I’m tempted to think so. The pandemic certainly showed us that other ways of reaching people exist. 

Which leads to paying for Meta. Frankly, Facebook’s own customer service offering is so bad and so opaque that paying something a month for the ability to reach them represents value for money.   

We’ve sometimes thought of social media as a free channel for some time. The truth is it’s never been free. It takes time and resources to produce organic content that works. It costs to boost a post to make sure it reaches people. These moves to pay for verification just brings the cash-hungry nature of social platforms into the open.

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