Twitter Licenses Are A Vital First Step For Musk’s Payment Plans

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  • Eight months on from Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, the platform has gained its first payments licenses.
  • An FXC Intelligence report explores the direction and potential of Twitter’s payment plans, following months of controversy that has eroded the trust of some users and created demand for alternatives to the platform.  
  • FXC Intelligence data shows that Twitter’s initial projects have had very low uptake but that payments demand still exists on the platform.
  • If Twitter is going to reach the scale it will need for payments to be viable, it will need to significantly increase its current paid user base, both in the US and internationally.

Twitter Licenses Are Crucial

A new report published by FXC Intelligence has found that the appetite for payments on Twitter remains high as the company receives its first US licenses, but that trust related questions and the emergence of new platforms are creating significant headwinds for the project.

Over the last two weeks, Twitter has been awarded licenses for four separate states – Arizona, Michigan, Missouri and New Hampshire – bringing it a key step forward to being able to deliver a payments plan first set out by Elon Musk in 2022. This would allow users to make P2P and other payments on the platform.

However, in order to operate fully across the US, Twitter will need to secure a Money Transmitter License across every state except for Montana, a process that may take years to complete. This will include paying for a financial safety net that will set the platform back between $10m to $37m. 

Once completed, it will still only be able to cater to its US-based customers without applying for further international licenses, as they account for just 17% of its monetizable daily active users. This makes for a very small base from which to draw customers, particularly for a business with overheads in the millions.

FXC Intelligence research also raises questions about the success of current payments-related projects. Twitter Subscriptions, which launched in its current form in April of this year, has so far had very low uptake, with only around 35,000 users worldwide having one or more subscriptions. At current rates, Twitter is unlikely to yield more than $45,000 a month from the project when it starts taking a cut in 2024.

It has been suggested that Twitter Blue customers would be the customer base that Twitter provided its payment services to. However, our analysis of current reported Twitter Blue numbers suggest that Twitter will need to significantly increase the number of users signing up to this platform if it is to reach the scale where a payments business can be viable.

Despite this, evidence suggests that there are still significant use cases for both domestic and cross-border payments on Twitter, and payments activity on the platform remains high. FXC Intelligence analysis of the volume of links on user profiles to common payment platforms at the time of Musk’s purchase and at the end of June 2023 found that they had increased over Musk’s tenure. The number of publicly visible user profiles with links to GoFundMe, Ko-Fi and CashApp increased between 31 October 2022 and 30 June 2023, although the number of PayPal links went down. 

However, there are signs that the introduction of restrictions on how many tweets users can read, as well as the launch of Instagram’s rival Threads, are harming these prospects. The number of links to all major payment platforms on user profiles dropped between 30 June and 10 July 2023, with the most severe decline coming from links for tipping platform Ko-fi. This indicates that although there is still a strong market for payments on Twitter, it is being reduced by the company’s policy decisions.

Lucy Ingham, report lead author and Editor-in-Chief at FXC Intelligence, said:

“The opportunities for Twitter in the payments landscape remain significant. Millions of users are taking payments of one form or another via the platform, and Twitter is currently taking a cut of almost none. 

“However, many of Elon Musk’s policies over the past eight months have significantly harmed user trust, and that will be absolutely deadly to any serious payments initiative unless it can be resolved. Users simply aren’t going to provide their payment information to a brand they don’t trust – and many people just don’t trust Twitter right now.

“Securing payments licenses is a really key step for Twitter in developing a payments project – but it has a long way to go in building a successful business in this space. Twitter needs to build unicorn-level growth if it is going to make payments work, and right now we’re seeing user contraction instead.”

Daniel Webber, CEO and founder of FXC Intelligence said:

“Securing Money Transmitter Licenses is a vital step for any payments business in the US, and is an important early part of Twitter’s payments journey. But the company has a long way to go and faces stiff competition from other social media players.

“We cannot overlook the importance of customer trust in a brand when they are handing over payment details. Unfortunately for Twitter it is undeniable that the platform has lost considerable trust from potential customers.

“Our research shows that there are numerous indicators of users looking to leave the platform due to factors such as unpopular policies taken by management, increased harassment on the site and the rise of other viable alternatives. 

“This is important because if Twitter is going to reach the scale it will need for its payment plans to materialize, they will need to significantly increase its paid user base worldwide. This will mean winning over current users as well as growing the number of people signing up to Twitter.” 

Further information 

  • To read more about the future of Twitter’s payment plans, read FXC Inteligence’s report here
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