Power, Unchecked: How the Fate of Twitter’s Blue Check Might Impact Thought Leadership

The domino effect of Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter continues to rattle the PR industry. Whereas a previous Bliss Blog post provides a timeline of events and guidance on maintaining a positive brand image amid upheaval, this blog post zeroes in on the impact Musk’s takeover has had on thought leadership.  

In recent years, an increased focus on authenticity and the ubiquity of social media has inspired companies to invest in elevating the profile of top executives. Twitter’s shifting rules — particularly the criteria for verified blue check status — might require PR and communications professionals to adjust their approach to client thought leadership strategies. 

It Takes Green to Go Blue 

Since 2009, a blue check icon next to a Twitter handle indicated that the team at Twitter had been in contact with the person behind the account and found it to be legitimate. The blue check quickly became a status symbol, indicating that the person or entity had done the work required to become a trusted voice in the community. 

In the ensuing years, companies regularly hired PR and communications professionals to help their top executives achieve blue check status. Twitter verification fast became a cornerstone of social media strategy and content development initiatives. Twitter’s blue check contributed to the rise of executive thought leadership — a practice with an estimated annual value of $3.6 million. However, Elon Musk’s October 2022 acquisition of Twitter changed the blue check’s meaning. 

Musk instituted a policy where people who paid $7.99 per month for a subscription would receive a blue check. The blue check would grant Twitter 2.0 users priority placement at the top of replies, mentions and search results, they’d be able to upload longer videos and access new features before other users. They’d also see 50% less ads. After a brief pause prompted by security concerns, the feature is once again available. While individuals who subscribe benefit from blue checks, Twitter assigns gold checks to companies, gray checks to government entities and other organizations. 

Rethinking Thought Leadership 

If Twitter continues to charge users for blue check status, instead of granting the check as part of its verification process, thought leadership may lose some of the value, and inherent trustworthiness, it’s accrued over the years. A lack of clear markers means PR and communications professionals might have more difficulty measuring client success. Clients might have a more difficult time justifying allocating space in the budget to support executive thought leadership campaigns. 

Moving forward, PR and communications professionals will have to work harder to convince clients that thought leadership is worth pursuing. Fortunately, they can point to a wealth of evidence that demonstrates its impact in building brand awareness, educating consumers and influencing decision-making in an organic and cost-effective way.  

PR and communications professionals can also encourage clients to explore other platforms for sharing thought leadership content. B2B decision-makers look to thought leadership content on LinkedIn to keep up to date with the latest thinking in their industry and discover new products or offerings that might help their organization.  For B2C companies, platforms such as TikTok and Instagram might be better spaces to increase exposure and build their brand community. 

Change at Twitter Signals Change in PR Strategy 

For over a decade, Twitter’s blue check feature denoted a thought leader’s credibility. In the absence of that distinction, PR and communications professionals must think creatively to ensure clients understand and reap the benefits of thought leadership strategy. PR and communications professionals that effectively convey the value of robust thought leadership and leverage the appropriate alternative channels will be able to serve clients, blue check or not. 

By Alannah Dragonetti and Courtland Long

Photo by Pexels