Musk Wants to Charge for X. Should Small Businesses Eat the Cost or Look Elsewhere?

Elon Musk has said that all X users would likely be hit with a small fee in the future. Every single one. Musk’s proposal goes beyond X’s existing paid services. He’s talking about charging all X users “a few dollars or some minor amount” for the service. 

The controversial billionaire has already shaken things up considerably at X, formerly known as Twitter, since he took over last year. Most recently, Musk told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that introducing a small charge was the only way he could think of to combat a vast army of bots. 

As a small business owner, my immediate thought was: Does that mean we’ll have to pay? My second was: Is it worth it? After all, Twitter — sorry, X — isn’t exactly winning any popularity prizes right now.

X’s paid services

X currently offers a paid premium service at $8 a month or $84 a year. The benefits of going premium include fewer adverts, more features, and prioritized rankings. X Premium users also get the blue checkmark that was once desirable and is now somewhat contentious. 

X also offers a $1,000-a-month gold check mark aimed at large businesses. Musk said in May that the platform would introduce a more affordable package for small businesses, but this hasn’t yet materialized. 

Should you pay for X?

Aside from the fact that the new name makes it sound like your business is involved with an illicit online sex channel, paying for X will likely make sense for a lot of businesses. It all depends on how much you use social media for marketing, communication, and relationship management. 

Let’s say your doggy daycare center uses X to maintain its relationship with existing customers and attract new ones. Your situation will be very different from someone who runs a small convenience store and gets the majority of its trade from locals or passersby. 

The key thing to remember is that the cost of X or any other social media platform is never a couple of dollars a month. We’re talking about time. If you pay someone to manage your social media, we’re talking about their salary. WebFX puts the monthly cost of social media marketing at anything from $20-$100 for a DIY option to more than $5,000 for a larger company that wants all the bells and whistles. 

I run a small local newspaper and we have a strong presence on X with several posts a day. The business definitely falls into the DIY category social-media wise. I don’t pay $8 a month for the premium service, but we will pay $2 or $3 if we have to. My concern is that X has already botched its rebranding and, according to Mashable, has potentially lost over 10% of its users since Musk took the helm. 

If it attempts to charge all its users, it could trigger an even bigger exodus. It might make the platform more trustworthy. The trouble is, I don’t want a core part of my business to depend on Elon Musk’s latest whims. And I don’t want to be stranded if X falls over completely. So while I’ll pay the fee if I have to, I’m also looking at growing our presence on other platforms. For now, that’s TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook, because it isn’t clear which X alternative might gain dominance. 

Is it time to look beyond X?

If you’re thinking of moving away from X, think about it in the context of your wider marketing and social media strategy. Look at your goals, your target audience, and what platforms are performing well for your company. If you don’t have a plan, check out our guide for how to build your social media strategy. 

Pay particular attention to which platforms are most relevant for the people you want to engage with. If you run a tour company that specializes in activities for retirees, you may get more traction on Facebook than TikTok. Conversely, if your target audience is people in their 20s, TikTok and SnapChat are where it’s at.

It’s OK to take it slowly. There are a few alternatives to X on the market right now, but it isn’t clear which one (if any) will emerge on top. I am hesitant to spend a lot of time developing a presence on one platform, only to find we backed the wrong horse. Plus, so far, most of the new platforms don’t integrate with most of the social media management tools that make it easier to manage and automate your online activity. 

That said, I’m keeping an eye on Bluesky, Threads, SPILL, and Mastodon. Each has different pros and cons. Threads is particularly interesting because it integrates easily with Instagram and has the full force of Meta behind it. Bluesky is an invite-only app that recently hit the 1 million user mark. It has added kudos for having former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on the board, though he’s not involved in the day-to-day. 

Main takeaway

When I first started the newspaper, we were in a hurry to do everything — including creating a social media presence. But rushing it and doing things badly damaged the brand more than not having a presence at all. I’d like to move away from X eventually. But there isn’t enough cash in our business bank account to build and maintain profiles on all the alternatives. So for now, we’ll wait, and focus on other types of social media until things are clearer. 

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