It’s time to admit that most social media companies have not been able to solve their peskiest problem. It’s about how to depend less on advertising revenue.
Bots are a prime example. They have been rampant on X, formerly Twitter. In studies from just a few short years, it was estimated that up to 15% of Twitter accounts are nameless and anonymous bots. In a recent report, the percentage was estimated to be closer at 20%.
No one can be sure. What we do know is that bots don’t have a credit card, and they inflate the perception of any social media network’s vitality. The accounts are not active and do nothing but waste time. Elon Musk nearly walked away from the Twitter agreement a year earlier because of fake and bot accounts. It seems that he was correct.
His company, meanwhile, has been in a shambles over the past year. A recent report found the company has lost millions of users — almost 12% since a year ago. Losing users in the attention economy is equivalent to losing revenue.
Bots don’t sign up for subscriptions, and that seems to be the trend lately as a way to deal with the crisis. Musk announced recently a tier system for premium accounts. One plan does not require you to view ads. It’s possible that we will have to accept the fact social media subscriptions won’t go away.
Does it work? I’m not sure if Elon Musk himself knows the answer to that question.
Meta continues to consider a Facebook subscription in Europe. This change is more about EU regulations rather than bots. However, it shows a disturbing trend of forcing social media users to pay to use them. The company’s revenue has increased, and it has recovered from dire predictions a year earlier.
We will still have to decide if the subscription fees are worthwhile. While Facebook has rebounded considerably, there’s still the question of how long the company can sustain their advertiser model and when it will start to fail again. X provides a great example of the potential outcomes. The number of users has decreased and there is still a bot problem. Meta doesn’t have to look far to see what happens when a social media company starts losing users right and left.
The ungated environment is a big reason why X failed. In my own scrolling lately, I’ve noticed how the feed is a cluttered, confusing, and unfiltered mess. TikTok, for example, can adapt to me based solely on the micro-interactions I make and show videos based off of that. Facebook also does this with sponsored content.
Social media providers need to deliver more value first before they charge us for subscriptions. Subscriptions force us to answer the question of value, and so far — at least for me and most of my friends and family — there’s no way we’re going to pay for X’s mindless barrage.
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