Ah, Twitter, the place where you can slam out 280-character rants and raves for thousands of readers. And now get paid for them.
Twitter has released a "tip jar" feature to allow users to add links to their Venmo, Cash App or other digital payment accounts to their bio, so their Twitter fans can send a few bucks when a tweet really hits the nail on the head.
Maybe it's the daily news analysis you provide to followers. Maybe it's the makeup tips you take time to craft and tweet out. Maybe it's a call for help when you've fallen on hard times or want to support a charity.
Followers can now click on the icon and see links to whatever payment services the account holder added and go directly to those sites to finish tipping.
Tipping creators online has gained significant steam in the past few years, as people rely on streams on Twitch, YouTube, TikTok and other sites as a primary form of communication. Some sites, such as Twitch, have tipping features built in, while others rely on creators to "drop their Cash Apps" in their bios. It has become common to see people add their Venmo handles or their Ko-fi accounts to their social media profiles, so fans can thank them with cash.
But officially supporting tipping is one more way for social media sites to attract entertaining and informative creators and to keep them coming back. And Twitter, which is essentially providing an easy-to-find link box for tips, isn't taking a cut of any money dropped into the virtual jar.
People are also getting more comfortable turning to strangers online to ask for help. Online crowdfunding for basic expenses has surged during the pandemic.
And it's a time when creators have a certain degree of choice in what social media platform they decide to use, and when upstarts such as audio-chat app Clubhouse and subscription newsletter site Substack are courting creative users.
There are entire career fields based on the strategy of tweeting and social media communications, says Brooke Erin Duffy, an associate professor at Cornell University who studies the intersection of media, culture and technology. And some jobs that rely in part on Twitter, including jobs in media and creative fields, have long been considered precarious.
"In recent years and especially against the backdrop of the pandemic, the precarity has intensified," she said. "For those individuals that use it tangentially or essentially to work, it's a form of labor. There's time, energy, insight, thoughtfulness put into it."
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Tip jars started popping up on accounts shortly after Twitter announced the feature Thursday. Skin-care influencer Hajar Mohammad turned on her tip jar account and joked: "If you ever thought I looked beautiful u have to tip me. I'm sorry I don't make the rules."
"As a skin care creator, a lot of my followers have expressed interest in tipping me for my skin care advice and tips," Mohammad said in an email. "Though I don't expect them to, I think this allows for an easy donation for the knowledge I share!"
Freelance journalist Yashar Ali, known for sharing news analysis on Twitter, also activated his tip jar Thursday.
"A lot of work goes into my feed so if you want to support my work or just say thank you, you can now click on the icon circled in red to tip me," he tweeted.
The rollout has not been without hiccups. Cybersecurity expert Rachel Tobac pointed out online that if a user chooses to tip through PayPal, the recipient will get the sender's address. Twitter's product lead, Kayvon Beykpour, responded quickly that the address reveal was on PayPal's side, but that Twitter "will add a warning for people giving tips via Paypal so that they are aware of this."
PayPal spokesperson Justin Higgs said that PayPal has two options when people send money: a "goods and services" option, which includes an address for shipping, and a "friends and family" option. Users can choose "friends and family" to avoid sending their addresses, though the goods and services choice has increased buyer and seller protections.
Duffy also cautioned that the social media economy is lopsided and can reflect existing social inequalities, which could play out in who gets tipped and who doesn't.
For now, only select users can turn on the tip-jar icon, which appears next to the "follow" button on mobile apps. Twitter turned on the feature for some creators, journalists, experts and nonprofits, the company said this past week.
Then again, some are suggesting that the tip jar could be used in the opposite way it is intended: to tip people not to share their thoughts. Several people tweeted a sign that reads: "Buy my silence. Permanently. $8,000 per month. For $8,000 a month, I will stop."