Twitter’s reintroduced premium service, which gives a blue-check “verified” label to anyone willing to pay $8 a month, was unavailable on Friday as fake accounts flooded the social media platform .
It is the latest whiplash-inducing change at a service where uncertainty has become the norm since billionaire Elon Musk took power two weeks ago. Previously, Blue Checks were awarded to government entities, corporations, celebrities and journalists verified by the platform.
For advertisers who have staked their businesses on Twitter, fake accounts could be the last straw: Musk’s rocky run prompted the platform to lay off half its staff and high-profile departures called into question its survival .
Insidious can cause big problems, even if they are quickly removed. They have driven highly regarded performance for ad investments on the platform, said Lou Pascalis, longtime marketing and media executive and former head of global media for Bank of America. Adding this to the fake verified brand accounts, a picture emerges that no media professional will risk their career by continuing to invest in advertising, and no one in governance or senior executive will do the same.
Adding to the confusion, Twitter now has two categories of blue checks and they look similar. One includes verified accounts from before Musk took the helm. It notes that this account has been verified because it is notable in government, news, entertainment or any other designated category. Another note is that the account subscribes to Twitter Blue.
But Twitter Blue was not available for subscription till Friday afternoon. On Thursday, Musk tweeted that there are too many tainted Legacy Blue ‘verification’ checkmarks, so there is no choice but to remove the Legacy Blue in the coming months. An email sent to Twitter’s press address went unanswered and the company’s communications department has been hit with layoffs and Twitter has not responded to questions from The Associated Press since October 27, when Musk took the helm.
On Thursday night, Twitter once again began adding gray “Official” labels to some prominent accounts. It rolled out the labels earlier this week, only to terminate them hours later. They returned Thursday night, at least for some accounts — including Twitter’s own accounts, as well as accounts for big companies like Amazon, Nike and Coca-Cola — before disappearing again.
Even celebrities don’t get the “official” label. Twitter is heavily dependent on advertisements and about 90% of its revenue comes from advertisers.
Levick said a bigger issue for Musk could be a risk to his reputation as a model tech executive, as the rollout of various types of verification and other changes has been stalled. It’s another example of something that hasn’t been thought out very well, Levick said, and that’s what happens when you run. Levick said he can’t afford to lose that moniker and he’s at risk now.
For the largest companies, advertising on the Twitter platform is a small portion of total advertising spend. Google, Amazon and Meta account for around 75% of digital ads globally, with all other platforms combined making up the other 25%. According to Insider Intelligence, Twitter accounts for approximately 0.9% of global digital advertising spending.
For most marketers on a budget, Twitter has always been that thing that’s potentially too big to completely ignore, but not that big enough to ignore, said Mark DiMassimo, head of creative at marketing agency Digo. Neither of these is ever going to be an ethical or moral stance for advertisers, he added. If Musk proves to be a force for good, advertisers will be back for a long time if Twitter is still around.