Paying for Privacy: Would You Pay a Premium for Social Media?


The COVID-19 pandemic has given way to an explosion of social media use. Especially with platforms like TikTok, which is perhaps the most popular – though controversial – platform in the world right now, people have been leaning more heavily than ever on social media sites.

Of course, companies have been taking advantage of this social media boom and subsequently relying more on it for marketing purposes.

This all begs the question – how far would users go to protect themselves on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more? Would they pay a premium to protect their information? To find out, Twingate surveyed over 1,000 social media users in a new study that explores security and social media.

Concerned With Privacy

How concerned are people with privacy on social media? The study found that 51.4% of baby boomers were extremely or moderately concerned with the safety of their data and information on social media sites, while 44.2% of millennials felt the same. Over 49% of Gen Xers were slightly or somewhat concerned with privacy, and 3.3% of them weren’t at all concerned.

Overall, 2 in 5 users surveyed were either extremely or moderately concerned with their privacy. Interestingly, the least trusted platform among those surveyed was TikTok, with 38% saying they didn’t trust the site with their information. Thirty-six percent said Facebook was untrustworthy, while Snapchat came in third with 26% of people saying they didn’t trust the platform with their personal details.

Interestingly, 43.5% of people admitted to providing false information to social media sites in order to protect their privacy.

Political Divide

In a country that’s more politically divided than ever, one wonders if there’s any trend among political parties and distrust of social media in terms of privacy. Interestingly, Democrats and Independents were found to be the most concerned with privacy – with 47.2% of Dems admitting they were either extremely or moderately concerned.

Only 40.5% of Republicans said they were extremely or moderately concerned, with 55.6% saying instead that they were slightly or somewhat concerned with safety and privacy.

To Pay or Not to Pay

All of this leads to the ultimate question: Would social media users pay money in order to further protect their information? With algorithms and advertising becoming much more personalized and targeted on social platforms, the idea of a relatively high distrust isn’t surprising. Does that translate to a stronger willingness to pay to use a platform to eliminate ads?

After all, social media has become so ingrained in our everyday lives that it’s even dramatically changed the way people approach website design. Advertising is the sole reason that these sites are free to use (and ultimately why they make so much profit).

Surprisingly, 71.4% of those surveyed said they preferred free social media that included targeted ads based on their personal information. Nearly 29% of people said they’d prefer a paid subscription for their favorite platform, which could effectively do away with the need for advertising.

More than 50% of baby boomers said they were at least somewhat willing to pay for social media, while 60.3% of Gen Xers said the same. Almost 60% of millennials agreed, while 40.3% of them said they weren’t at all willing to pay for the use of social media sites.

With so many people saying they’d be open to paying a subscription fee in exchange for a more private and secure social media experience, how much exactly would they be willing to shell out? As it turns out, $5.29 is the maximum that people would pay monthly to use Facebook, working out to $63.48 per year. Instagram users would pay a max of $5.18 per month, while Reddit users would pay $4.54.

Profiting From Subscriptions

The fact remains that ad revenue for social media sites is the driving force behind the stability and continuation of these sites, so completely replacing ads would create the need for a minimum price point that could bring in the same amount of profit.

Thankfully, Facebook users would pay much more than what the site would need to supplement the $5.79 billion they make per year in ad revenue. With 2.8 billion active users, Facebook would need to charge just $2.07 per month to replace that income – much lower than the $5.29 max that those surveyed said they’d be willing to pay.

Ad-Free Social Media: The Future?

Security is a major concern among social media users, and with advertising reigning supreme across platforms, it’s no wonder that people have grown a bit more worried about their information being used by third parties in this way.

Whatever the future holds for social media, it seems that there’s some hesitation to go all-in on a subscription-based model – making it unlikely that the information we put out there on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Reddit, and more will ever be fully secure and safe from algorithms and advertisers.

Perhaps there’s a chance for a more private and secure social media in the future, but the reality is that it’s going to take an investment from users to truly get there.


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