A Bitter Tweet Goodbye

A photo of Twitter headquarters

Creatopy VP Marketing, Bogdan Carlescu asks if we are about to see a fully-fledged flight by advertisers from social media platforms

By Bogdan Carlescu, VP Marketing, Creatopy

Twitter appeared set to enter into freefall after Elon Musk’s announcement that he was cutting half of the platform’s workforce. Staff resignations piled in – and advertisers weren’t afraid to vote with their feet. Musk could ill-afford a brand departure en masse considering Twitter is wholly reliant on ad revenue and is currently losing an estimated $4m daily.

Musk has appointed Chris Riedy, the company’s long-standing VP EMEA, as Twitter’s new Head of Ad Sales in a bid to steady the ship. But has the damage already been done – and are marketers losing faith in social media as a whole?

Commentators knew the ad situation was serious when Omnicom Media Group advised its entire client base to suspend advertising on Twitter, citing worries over brand safety as the company cut back on moderators and readmitted the more strident voices that had been silenced under the previous regime.

But when an entity like Twitter has cornered such a large slice of the market, is it really viable for brands to vote with their feet? Is the platform too big to break?

Wired to the network

Twitter, unlike its peers at Facebook, is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the ‘network effect’. This means that the more people that use a service, the more valuable it becomes – and the harder it is to quit. It also has a second, almost equally important, dimension.

On Facebook, users most likely know everyone they follow and who follows them back. If they chose to leave, they wouldn’t find it too hard to recreate their friends and family network elsewhere.

The situation on Twitter is markedly different. Most people don’t know their followers in real life (IRL). They follow a mixture of friends, celebrities, companies and social media stars. But crucially, it’s a mix they’d find it hard to duplicate elsewhere. Just look at Stephen Fry – the renowned comedian, author and all-round polymath had amassed more than 12m followers before he flew over to Mastodon in November 2022.

This creates high inertia when it comes to switching platforms entirely. There were many during the particularly-turbulent post-Musk acquisition period that proclaimed that Tweeters were departing for Mastodon. Indeed, the company has seen its active user base rocket from 655,000 at the time of Twitter’s takeover in early November, to around 3.5 million a month later.

Yet many of these new users retained their Twitter profiles. Even when leadership is turmoil, compelling arguments to stick with these platforms remain.

Twitter, aside from being users’ de facto news feed, has become the default rapid-response customer service channel. And its effectiveness in allowing activists to ‘hold their feet to the fire’ over certain issues hasn’t been lost on marketers. It has become a democratised way to speak truth to power – and brands can double-down on reputational repair if they’re seen to engage quickly (and successfully) on the platform.

Channel hopping

Breaking up Twitter, then, may prove easier said than done. But there are alternatives – and savvy brands certainly shouldn’t limit their social media exposure to a single platform (the key is to identify which are most relevant).

TikTok’s reputation as a hotbed of Gen Z activity and wholly dedicated to people with nanosecond attention spans hasn’t stopped it from embracing a surprising wide-range of brand activities. Skyscanner’s #TravelTrends and pharma company Sanofi’s Dorflex Uno campaign jostle for space and attention against feline gymnasts and Adele fan encounters.

LinkedIn, too, has proven a rich hunting ground for brands, particularly when they use it for its intended purpose – to find partnerships or prospect for employees. There are plenty of examples of times when brands (or individuals) have mistaken it for a more general social media platform, resulting in interactions that trigger the ‘ick’ – generating a cringe moment and immediately putting a person off for life. But even when used appropriately, its limited scope and reach remain LinkedIn’s most prominent drawback – especially for the majority of mass market B2C brands.

Instagram has certainly come into its own as a social shopping destination. Carefully curated images do the legwork for brands in creating covetable purchases – but the brand to-and-fro that often comes from Twitter is generally missing.

Time to fly the coop?

There are new social platforms emerging all the time, each finding its early adopter tribe. Brands that meet the vibe will be admitted – whilst brands that don’t will stick out like a sore thumb. The more niche the platform, the more limited the reach in terms of pure numbers. But on the flip side, the more targeted the audience overall. If the cookie ever truly crumbles, these contextual, curated environments will be manna for the right brand advertisers.

Only time will tell if Musk’s recent interventions have shaken the foundations of the social media marketplace or proven to be little more than a storm in a Tweet cup. But savvy brands with an eye on the future would be well placed to explore alternatives – just in case.