TikTok is testing a new product called ‘Live subscription’, a monthly subscription program that will allow premium (read: paying) fans to stand out and offer them an opportunity to interact with their favorite creators. However, TikTok is not the only social media platform out there to experiment with a subscription tool. In January this year, Instagram started testing a subscription program of its own that offered perks such as subscriber-exclusive live sessions, exclusive stories, and special badges. Notably, Instagram also claimed that it won’t be taking a revenue cut out of subscriber earnings until 2023.
Twitter wasn’t too far behind, kicking the ball with its own subscription service called Twitter Blue. It offered features such as undo tweets, access to ad-free articles from partner publications, a bookmark folder facility for saving tweets, a dedicated reader mode, and customizable app icons. Twitter then came up with the idea of Super Follows, which was also a subscription-based system that bestowed benefits like exclusive tweets, stories, and more such content upon subscribers. Ticket Spaces followed soon after as yet another monetization beta test on Twitter. TikTok is now trying to dip its toes into the world of social media subscriptions.
TikTok live subscriptions offer a bunch of perks to subscribers such as custom follower badges that will help their profiles stand out. The badges will appear next to the username, and the longer an individual maintains his or her status as a subscriber, the badges will also keep upgrading. TikTok’s official press material doesn’t detail the badge upgrades, though. The goal here is quite obvious. Badges will allow influencers and creators to easily identify the more ardent fans that are dropping subscription money for their content, and engage with them.
Promising Innovation, Tricky Execution
Subscriptions also open the door to an exclusive channel between creators and subscribers. The subscriber-only chat is another way of pushing users to pay a subscription fee in hopes of getting an opportunity to interact with creators without the hustle of commenting in a crowded space, such as being prioritized during an AMA session. Live subscriptions also grant custom emotes that have been designed by creators as a token of appreciation for their fans. These subscriber-only emotes can be used during TikTok live sessions. TikTok says creators must be at least 18 years old and have a minimum of 1,000 followers to access the live subscription feature, while subscribers will need to be over 18. The company has randomly picked up some well-known influencers in the early test phase of its new monetization program. For now, the program is strictly in an invite-only phase.
As per the TikTok Live Creator channel, TikTok live subscriptions went live on May 26 as part of a beta testing phase. The channel has been posting a few benefits of a live subscription, which include the ability to let subscribers control the creator’s camera during a live stream session. But launching subscription tools is one thing, and making it lucrative enough for both parties is an altogether different game. From a creator’s perspective, if they keep their best content limited to subscriber-only sessions, irrespective of the platform, they risk alienating a core audience that can’t afford a monthly payment but are otherwise vocal supporters.
From a subscriber’s perspective, well, they can always shift their attention to another creator in the same genre. Another problem with subscription-only content is limited cross-platform reach. Many TikTok creators repost their content on Instagram as Reels, but subscriber-only TikTok content will make that a tricky situation. In such a conflict, the creator will either have to limit Instagram re-sharing and lose engagement there or charge TikTok followers for exclusive content and distribute it freely on Instagram. In either case, TikTok creators will have some hard decisions to make.