Twitter Tries to Quiet Investor Storm with Super Follows


Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has faced a tsunami of questioning, criticism and even replacement attempts recently as activist investors pushed the company to increase profits. Last week, he took a step toward calming those waters by announcing a host of proposed new features intended to diversify Twitter’s revenue streams and grow its user base. As is frequently the case in tech, most were rip-offs of popular features on other platforms. The most touted of them, “Super Follows,” seeks to monetize the ever-expanding world of digital influencers by allowing high-profile users (or “creators,” in influencer parlance) to charge followers for access to premium content. This content could be anything from bonus tweets to fan badges, special offers or exclusive interviews, performances or videos. The Super Follows function closely resembles Patreon, a subscription content service that has become a popular forum for performing artists.

Twitter’s “Communities” feature, on the other hand, looks to be a facsimile of Facebook Groups. The feature would allow users to create or join groups based around certain interests, and they would then see tweets focused on that interest, potentially immersing new users into the wider world of Twitter more easily. Facebook Groups have been a hugely successful feature of the platform, and it wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to say that Twitter is hoping to nab some of that success for their younger demographic.

Two other seeming knock offs are Twitter’s proposed “Spaces” feature and its recently purchased Revue platform. Spaces is a “social audio” feature, an imitation of Clubhouse, that allows users to host live audio chatrooms. They have essentially created a conference call space where the user gets to control who has the privilege to talk. Meanwhile, with Twitter’s purchase of the newsletter service Revue, they find themselves taking on Substack, which is another newsletter subscription service that allows content creators to send newsletters directly to subscribers. As Twitter integrates Revue into their site, they are hoping to capitalize on large population of writers on Twitter, and the increasing popularity of newsletters.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was unabashed about his ambitions for growing Twitter’s platform and revenue streams when speaking at the company’s virtual analyst conference last week. He admitted that “we haven’t been innovative,” and is looking to double development velocity by 2023, pushing out more features that “directly drive” revenue or user activity.

In addition to introducing new features to Twitter, Dorsey is also considering monetizing already existing ones. For example, the popular Tweetdeck function, which allows users to manage multiple Twitter accounts at once, is being considered as a feature that could one day have a charge associated with its usage.

So, will all of Twitter’s proposed new features actually become reality? While it remains to be seen, the smart money says “yes.” In social media, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and, if upstarts such as Patreon and Substack (not to mention Facebook and YouTube) can make an audience-funded content model work, it’s hard to imagine that Twitter won’t follow suit. While it is too early to tell if the new features will calm the investor storm, they’ll at least allow Dorsey to keep his head above water – for now.

B+L’s Andy Larsen talks Twitter Super Follows with 620 WTMJ: