It’s the question all digital brands, agencies and marketers have been asking themselves since that fateful day on 27th October when the $43bn sale of Twitter was finalised, and the rulebook was seemingly thrown out the window. Elon Musk and his well-earned reputation for living up to that old Silicon Valley motto – moving fast and breaking things – looms over the platform’s future as we wait to see what the new year holds.
We’re sorry to spoil the ending so soon, but since the answer is a bit complicated, it seems only fair to be frank. It’s still too soon to tell exactly what the future will hold for brands on Twitter. Under its new leadership, changes to the platform’s algorithms, user experience (UX), verification system, content moderation and ad policies are still in constant flux. As a result, industry insiders are predicting wildly different futures for Twitter, from moves to a subscription-based model to a slow fade to irrelevancy.
Here at Houston, we’re keeping a close eye on the situation as it develops, but in the meantime, we’re considering how brands and marketers can best weather this storm and sail as smoothly as possible into 2023.
If you are wondering whether to continue dedicating valuable marketing resources to Twitter this year, we suggest you begin by answering this question: why is your brand on Twitter? For many companies, the answer will be simple. They want to reach as many people as possible, and posting to Twitter has a relatively low barrier to entry, so why not throw it in the mix? If your organisation falls into this category, consider this: even before its semi-hostile takeover, Twitter did not even break the top five most popular social media platforms worldwide.
You will find more active users on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, TikTok – the list goes on – than you will on Twitter. That said, Twitter has always been unique in its format and difficult to beat when it comes to real-time news and community engagement. That’s one of the reasons public figures like politicians and journalists can’t seem to stay away. But for brands, a successful Twitter strategy hinges on more than just having something to say.
Twitter demands you keep your finger on the pulse, which means brand marketers need two things.
- The resource to manage your profile, update regularly, interact, and engage daily.
- The right audience, at the right place, at the right time.
Whether you are a B2B company or a consumer-facing brand, you need to investigate your target audience on Twitter. Find out if they are active on the platform and, if so, what their behaviour on Twitter is like. If your audience’s behaviour aligns with your marketing objectives, you’re in the right place. Although we encourage you to proceed with caution (more on that in a moment), it’s probably worth fitting Twitter into your digital strategy for 2023. If, however, your audience is not on Twitter, or if they’re not there for what you have to offer, now may be the time to look elsewhere.
For those brands who will choose to stay on or join Twitter in the next several months, it will be critical not to become passive. Musk has made no secret that he seeks to change how content is moderated on Twitter and has already made moves to do so. Brands must not ignore the fact that these changes have the potential to invite increasingly hostile discourse to the platform, making the role of community management more important than ever. Whilst Twitter has always been a fast-moving space requiring a high level of care to manage, careful attention to how your community engages with your brand will be critical.
Additionally, the tidal wave of terminations and resignations from Twitter HQ since October will have consequences for everyone using the platform. Among those who have left the company are many essential Twitter engineering and policy team members. As a result, Twitter now faces the risk of struggling to maintain the infrastructure needed to protect user privacy and security.
But what about advertising? Social media was predicted to account for 33% of all digital advertising spending in 2022 (Hootsuite, 2022) and is an essential part of most digital brands’ marketing and advertising strategy. Advertising has always been Twitter’s largest source of revenue, although it has struggled from the start to scale these profits (unlike Meta, Twitter’s advertising model is more inviting to big players than small and independent businesses, with limited targeting capabilities and demand for big budgets, excluding new advertisers from joining the fold). But with questions around the reliability of the platform, its safety, and public opinion, Twitter has lost many of its biggest advertisers (including General Motors and Pfizer) this year. Without a significant shift, the company will struggle to reel in the profits needed to ward off bankruptcy. So, we can’t help but wonder, if Twitter is struggling more than ever to monetise its own user base, is it the right place for brands to seek a tangible return on investment?
With all this in mind, we reiterate that it’s still too soon to tell exactly what the future will hold for brands on Twitter. It may not look too inviting at present, but the internet is notoriously difficult to predict, and we can still expect more changes to come. In addition, of course, challenger platforms like Mastodon are already cropping up, ready to welcome disgruntled Tweeters with open arms. As a brand, being an early adopter of a new platform can be priceless (look no further than brands like Duolingo and Ryanair, who took a bet on TikTok in 2020 and set a precedent for thousands of businesses scrambling to superimpose animated singing faces on every product under the sun). Watch this space for more updates from our Digital team on the latest digital trends in 2023.
Blog written by Susanna Guri, Senior Digital Account Executive at Houston PR.