Is it time for your brand to leave Twitter? The keys behind the Elon Musk takeover
9 February 2023
“Donald Trump gets his Twitter profile back“, “Pay for verified profiles” or “Mass layoffs without notice“. These are just some of the headlines we have seen over the last few months.
Since the addition of Elon Musk, the company has made decisions that keep us on tenterhooks about the future of the platform. If following the news makes you wonder whether your brand should stay on Twitter, don’t worry, you’re not alone. We bring you the keys to analysing the real situation on Twitter and understanding how it may (or may not) affect your brand.
The Keys to Elon Musk’s Strategy
Elon Musk came in with a clear mission: to turn the company’s management around and bring back the platform’s golden days in terms of usage and relevance. But let’s look at what’s behind this mission – what is the vision of the eccentric Silicon Valley entrepreneur with his entry into the company?
- Cost reduction as a means to improve the company’s finances, which explains the dismissal of 35,000 employees. A few weeks before the end of the year, Elon acknowledged that he had managed to rescue the company from bankruptcy, so the economic viability of the company is no longer in question.
- Protecting freedom of expression in a radical way. Despite the media trying to understand what this goal of its current CEO means, Twitter continues to assert (more than ever) a clear commitment to keeping the public conversation healthy and safe “Brand safety is only possible when people’s safety is the top priority”. The role of the platform in the distribution of information and public opinion is the main risk we currently face for brands. This especially affects us when the conversation is not healthy or safe, and we have no control over where our ads are appearing (e.g. in a conversation encouraging group hatred).
- Increasing the usage rate of the platform by building trust in the veracity of profiles and the credibility of messages. Twitter previously aimed to maximise the number of monetisable daily users. This allowed the existence of bots and accounts that, although they registered activity, were not truthful and did not generate real interactions between users. Since the arrival of Elon Musk, several measures have been adopted to address this problem, such as the creation of Twitter Blue (an affordable way of verifying the person behind the profile and offering additional services such as the edit button, Twitter circles or association with institutional profiles) or the inclusion of notes created by the community in trending topics, called Birdwatch, to provide context for trending conversations.
- Strengthening current revenue streams and diversifying the number of monetisable products. This is where Musk is committed to protecting brands in particular, as they are currently Twitter’s main source of revenue. For example, the verified changes function and brands have been given a free badge in a different colour to prevent others from impersonating a brand. In addition, related to the risk of ad placement, Twitter offers new features to avoid certain words and prevent your ad from appearing in unwanted conversations.
Is it Time to Leave Twitter Behind?
Despite the multitude of users declaring their intentions to leave the social network, delete their account and make the leap to new platforms, such as Mastodon, the usage of the platform has so far not declined noticeably. Although the waters are choppy, these decisions do not present a clear risk for brands in the immediate future. However, we do believe there is potential instability in the face of the number of changes that are taking place.
To prepare for this, Good Rebels has invited its clients to reflect on their Twitter strategy. It’s time for us to be honest with our KPIs and recognise that the use of this platform for many brands is in decline: from the drop in engagement and reach of our tweets, to the lack of activity from their key audiences, the situation on Twitter is not ideal.
Before going into detail, here’s a question: is Twitter an essential channel for your strategy? By essential, we mean that (1) it fulfils a mission and (2) this benefit cannot be easily substituted on another platform. Although each brand will have to evaluate its own situation, here are 3 cases in which you should clearly continue to bet on the micro-blogging platform:
- Audience. Twitter usage is strongly segmented by audiences, interests and, specifically, by generations. In terms of demographics, the majority of users are aged 25-34, which might lead one to think that it is not a platform for the youngest audiences. However, 52% of all tweets in 2020 came from Gen-Z users. As for the reasons, Gen Z uses Twitter as a relevant space for commenting on sports, music and entertainment (TV or gaming). So as our brand territories approach these, it is key to our strategy to stay strong and relevant in the conversation on this social network.
- ATC’s point of contact. Twitter remains the primary channel in which to receive consumer complaints, and consumers are expected to have an ATC service available. However, we have observed that this is a declining trend as the general expectation for brands to provide users with personalised attention has reduced. This is compounded by the fact that the concentration of ATC on Twitter is shifting to other social networks (e.g. MD by Instagram) and that Twitter has some emerging threats, such as the theft of 400 million users’ data affecting celebrities, businesses and creators. Therefore, although ATC management is a reason to stay on this social network today, it is likely to cease to be so in the coming years, so if this is your case, we suggest that you start to strengthen the replacement of this service on other platforms.
- Real-time. When disseminating milestones in real time brings us value, Twitter gains special relevance. Therefore, it is no coincidence that sports, TV, politics and music are the main topics on which the conversation is generated on Twitter, as it must respond to the immediacy and dissemination of events that are happening at that very moment. If your brand’s natural territory is to be an active profile in some of these conversations, Twitter will be key in your social galaxy. As of today, there are few platforms that allow for such immediacy, although we see TikTok gaining ground with its recent internal search service with suggestions of related conversations.
When none of these elements are in place in the brand strategy, you are more likely to be able to value leaving the platform. We need to determine if the effort invested in maintaining this platform is justified by the value it provides, and perhaps replace it with others.
So How did Balenciaga See it So Clearly?
Within weeks of Elon Musk’s entrance, Balenciaga was quick to announce that it did not agree with the platform’s new measures and decided to permanently delete its profile and say goodbye to its one million followers. Balenciaga is known for its performative communications that aim to generate conversation. However, this departure as a statement is an indicator that there is a real fear of hate speech gaining prominence.
If freedom of expression and tolerance is in the DNA and narrative of your brand in a tangible way, it is likely that, if these effects increase, it will be necessary to define an exit plan for the platform together with the Communication teams (Digital Communication, Corporate Communication, PR, etc.) because it is incoherent with the brand’s own values.
No, Twitter will not go down tomorrow and Elon Musk’s entrance is likely to be of little consequence. Yet, as we have seen, this move on the platform suggests to us:
- We need to re-evaluate the role of the platform in our strategy. It is undoubtedly still a valuable tool today due to its reach and ability to generate conversation with different audiences. However, it is important to assess whether Twitter is still a suitable platform for your brand and to be prepared if the changes implemented by Musk could have a negative impact on your marketing strategy.
- In the face of uncertainty, we can slow the pace of investment in the platform.
- Let’s closely monitor how consumption of the platform evolves, not only quantitatively, but also qualitatively. Elon Musk has already announced that he will step down as CEO of Twitter so that he can be succeeded by someone specialising in communications. What they have announced is that for Q1 2023 there are many product launches coming up that could offer new opportunities or risks for our brands, so we will have to be prepared.
So, for now, don’t panic: many changes are coming to Twitter but if you are clear about your brand’s mission on the platform, you will be able to make decisions that will have a positive impact on your marketing strategy.