Twitter is testing a new Tip Jar feature for a select group of content creators, including non-profits, journalists, industry experts, and creators. The feature is intended to support creators, showing financial appreciation for the content they produce.

Covid-19 has caused a social media boom. According to GlobalData’ Global Consumer survey, 87% of the 21,000 consumers surveyed report spending more time online in general since the pandemic started. Content creators are profiting from the availability of their content on different platforms, and Twitter is the latest to add monetization features.

The Twitter Tip Jar is a nice-to-have token, but it is unlikely to lead to more professional content creators, as has occurred on other platforms. The content is freely available, so the Tip Jar lacks incentive for users to pay. The Tip Jar will not create a ‘tweet-for-business’ model.

Social media monetization is not new

The Twitter Tip Jar was described by Senior Product Manager at Twitter Esther Crawford as “an easy way to support the incredible voices that make up the conversation on Twitter,” and “a first step in our work to create new ways for people to receive and show support on Twitter – with money.”

Twitter is behind the curve with monetizing social media content. YouTube operates a pay-per-view model with Google AdSense, where creators can monetize their videos. They are paid depending on how many views they get and the ad type and length. Similarly, TikTok has the ‘creator fund’ which creators can apply to if they have over 100,000 followers.

However, other social media platforms are also introducing tip jars. Invite-only audio chatroom app Clubhouse added direct cash transactions for creators. Soundcloud are also rumoured to be adding a payment system to pay artists directly.

Covid-19 has driven pay-for-content business

The Twitter Tip Jar shows appreciation for the role of user content, but the content is already freely available. Therefore, creators will always be limited in how much they can earn. Other pay-for-content social media apps have taken off during Covid-19, with consumers spending more time that ever online.

Subscriptions app OnlyFans hit £1.7bn transactions in April. The app’s popularity boomed, going from 20m users to more than 120m.

The app requires users to subscribe for exclusive content: this is anything from celebrity content, fitness instructors, adult content, and musicians. Other pay-for-content models like Cameo, where users pay for personalized messages from celebrities, have also experienced growth.

Twitch Bits are more incentivised than the Twitter Tip Jar

Twitch, the online live streaming platform for gamers, has created an incentivized tipping model using ‘bits’, a virtual good which is bought and used to ‘cheer’ for creators. The ‘cheer’ is a chat message that will appear during the creators’ live stream.

The more ‘bits’ a user uses (which costs more money) the more the cheer will stand out in the chat, so the creator has more chance of seeing it.

Social media monetization is a relatively new business model and method of income. Twitter is one of the more traditional social media apps, so it has been slow to adopt monetization for creators.

The Twitter Tip Jar is a necessary step for quality content, but users are not incentivized to contribute given that content is readily available. Twitter needs to create more payment options for creators, like TikTok’s ‘creator fund’, or create a better way to incentivize payments, if it wants to compete with the professional creator business model of successful social media platforms.