Is it actually possible to make money selling your tweets? As of recently, I learned it’s possible to earn somewhere between $0 and $2.5 million. Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter, is minting his first-ever tweet on the blockchain by selling it to the highest bidder (currently $2.5 million, but bidding is open until March 21st if you want to own a piece of history and have $2,500,001 lying around).
After seeing this latest development unfold on Twitter, I decided to dip my toe into crypto Twitter. As I’d recently answered the question for myself of how much a viral tweet is worth, seeing Dorsey put his tweet on the bidding block made me wonder, again, what makes a tweet valuable and how much money you can make selling tweets. Why should someone want to buy Dorsey’s first-ever tweet for $2.5 million? And how can regular tweeters make money selling tweets?
Furthermore, I wanted to explore what the ability to buy and sell tweets means for the future of Twitter, and the future of content creation. In the past decade, we’ve seen social media transform much of our lives, from what we wear to things as intimate and personal as how we think about and interact with others.
If it’s possible to make money selling tweets, how will this development change Twitter — and ourselves?
What is a tweet worth?
When I DM’d the owners of four viral tweet creators, I learned a viral tweet isn’t worth much. Despite driving a lot of engagement, a viral tweet has no inherent value on Twitter — the only way to monetize it is if you promote content afterward. This can be your own content, like an Etsy shop, or a brand might contact you to promote their content for a price ($10-$20).
That’s why it’s so fascinating to me to scroll on Valuables, the site where Dorsey is minting his tweet, and see in real-time that the value of some tweets is evolving to contain a native value. Dorsey’s $2.5 million tweet is on the high end, but I’ve seen some sold anywhere from $1.19 to $1190.93.
It’s easy for me to get to grips with virality as a valuable factor — a wide audience means a greater opportunity to sell other things. But what makes a tweet valuable in and of itself?
What makes a tweet valuable?
I tried to piece together what makes a tweet valuable — what makes creators want to sell, or fans want to buy? Valuables claims in their FAQ document that there are all sorts of reasons to buy and sell tweets, such as “financial investment, hold sentimental value, and [to] create a relationship between collector and creator.”
Scrolling on the list of sold tweets, I noticed most sold tweets that didn’t have much to do with that list.
Many of the tweets sold and bought were about crypto, bitcoin, or NFTs. That suggests that most of the interested audience today is already heavily invested in the space, and is looking to be part of this recent change. I haven’t seen many tweets bought or sold from someone who simply wanted to own a tweet from their favorite creator.
Screenshot taken by author on Valuables
So is it nostalgia? Owning a piece of something larger than yourself? If you’re not the creator of Twitter selling your inaugural tweet, can your tweet ever be considered valuable?
To satisfy my curiosity, I messaged loomdart, partner at egirl_capital, who has both sold and bought tweets on Valuables. Their rationale was simple. “[It’s] gamification of Twitter. A lot of us are very involved in the crypto Twitter space and stuff like this makes it way more fun. You get to own a piece of history, and recently the concept of value has shifted to something way more malleable. By selling my tweets, I get some ability to help participate in this whole crazy fest.”
“I doubt any of these tweets will hold value apart from Jack’s og one,” Loomdart told me.
My own thought was that originality could be commodified. If you spend any amount of Twitter and Instagram, you’ll become aware that some of the jokes show up time and time again, copied from accounts and reposted with no (or only minor) variations. Then a month later they crop up on Instagram meme farms without accreditation. Would the ability to prove you were the first to come up with that joke be valuable? Could it be used in cease-and-desists or DCMAs? Would that have legal standing?
One current stumbling block in that plan is that Valuables does not currently allow creators to mint their own tweets. The only way is for someone else to purchase them.
It seems like today, the only purpose of buying or selling a tweet is speculative or whimsical. If they’re not doing it to be active spectators of history, it seems buyers buy not because they want to own a tweet, but because they believe that a minted tweet will have greater value later on.
“Unlike crypto, where a token has value if more people want it than want to sell it,” loomdart told me, “an NFT can have value as long as one person wants it to have value.
What’s the future of selling your tweets (or any other original content)?
I was fascinated though unsurprised to learn that almost as soon as we were granted the ability to sell our tweets, a Twitter bot sprung up that allowed other people to steal and mint your tweets, Tokenized Tweets.
It seems pretty telling that despite NFTs being touted as a way to prove authenticity and originality, giving power back to creators, they were almost immediately applied to accomplish the exact opposite purpose — steal and mint someone else’s tweets, presumably for personal gain. Like with many other features of Twitter, it seems Dorsey and his team put more focus on creating the ability rather than considering what ramifications it may have when it was inevitably misused.
Today, the primary purpose of selling and buying tweets seems to be speculative. But I can see a world in which tweets are considered almost like art. Many people may buy prints that are just as lovely to look at as the original artwork, but the original painting will always be more valuable than the copies. Equally, even if a painting is objectively good or bad (as far as these things can be objective), the paintings’ creator and their reputation also matter tremendously when calculating the value of the painting.
What will become of Twitter if minting tweets does actually catch on? Will people who tweet try to create actively valuable tweets, such as stock predictions that seem to be of interest to buyers right now? Will there be careers of professional tweeters who make their money by creating and selling their art (tweets) on Twitter?
Valuables seems geared to help creators go that route — it’s possible to make money selling tweets by retaining a proportion of the resale price of your NFT artwork.
Ithas always seemed incredible to me that creative content posted on Twitter and Instagram is free. Unlike YouTube, where creators at least get a portion of ad revenue, creators on Twitter must be content with secondary abilities to make money by creating content on the platform. This step seems to begin to address what the value of a tweet on Twitter might be, and grant steps for others to make money selling tweets.
Though nobody can truly predict the future of social media, it will be fascinating to see if and how minted tweets become accepted, mainstream ways for creators to earn a living.