A lot of evolution has taken place since Elon Musk acquired Twitter. Whether you’ve been excited about it or cursed the gods of social, it’s been challenging to keep up with all the changes even within the past year.
So we wanted to revisit what’s going on and where we all stand on Twitter, or now X, but we’ll get to that. Since no social platform exists in a vacuum, we’ll check out how the competition has reacted to Musk’s recent decisions. After that, we’ll go into all the technical, legal and societal aspects that might affect whether you should stick around or explore other platforms for your marketing efforts.
What’s Twitter’s Competition Doing?
Even after Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, with the instability that portended, it was still easy to feel like there simply wasn’t an alternative. That’s only natural considering we’re talking about the de facto standard platform for countless journalists, comedians and brands for years. The platform was so influential that it had its content archived by the Library of Congress until 2017.
When new platforms tried to take Twitter’s place, many users remained hesitant. A significant portion of those who decided against Twitter fled to Mastodon first, causing several surges in platform activity, the latest one being in July. Still, for a lot of non-technical users, the fediverse rival seemed difficult to use, which often led to doubt about whether it could really replace Twitter.
In the meantime, we’ve seen countless alternative offerings and copycats, from Hive and Bluesky to Post, Spill and Spoutible. Other more established platforms added features mimicking Twitter’s UI to court fans of the blue bird, Substack Notes being the most prominent example.
However, the market completely changed when Meta made its move and introduced its Twitter alternative Threads. The difference to the other attempts doesn’t lie in the feature set. In fact, you could argue that Meta is actively trying to benefit from Twitter’s downward trend by copying what already worked before. Rather, Meta’s advantage mostly lies in the data it owns. With 3 billion users across Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, it’s no surprise the platform owner could present users with an easy entry without friction. Everyone could automatically import their settings, profile information and follow lists from Instagram.
This enticing offer, combined with the often irritating and unpredictable changes on Twitter, prompted brands like Airbnb, Netflix, Marvel Studios, Spotify, CBS, Vox, HBO, NPR, Billboard and Vogue to create accounts minutes after the platform opened its doors. Threads attracted the same number of users in a day which took Twitter four years to amass, back in 2013. It has to be said that, despite Zuckerberg’s announcement that Threads will be compatible with open networks like Mastodon through ActivityPub, Meta still delayed its EU launch of Threads due to compliance issues with the Digital Markets Act.
While Twitter accused Meta of “systematic, willful and unlawful misappropriation” of its trade secrets and Meta defended itself by confirming that nobody on its team was a former Twitter employee, we all know that advertisers and users are drawn to entertaining content, not lawsuits.
Still, there’s more going on outside of competitors that could affect Twitter’s role for marketers.
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Rebranding, Legal Matters, Technical Errors and an Advertiser Exodus
Unfortunately, it’s tough to keep up with the headlines around Twitter that aren’t related to new features or advertising these days, which already gives you an idea of the status quo. A lot of recent changes have seemed to affect Twitter’s brand and reliability rather than just its users.
Let’s put aside for a moment the possible brand damage of two executives publicly discussing whether they should have a cage fight. We also won’t go into Twitter labeling several media accounts as “government-funded,” only to remove those labels later, causing some of those outlets to leave the platform. And if we went into all the technical issues, from failed presidential campaign announcements and users finding themselves unable to access their accounts to external links not working and Musk driving up Dogecoin’s price with a joke, we’d be here for a while.
Users should probably be most concerned about the leak of Twitter’s source code, because it will largely affect how secure the platform can be in the future.
After coquetting on his own account that he would step down as CEO as soon as he found someone “crazy enough” to do it, Musk handed over the reins to longtime advertising executive Linda Yaccarino. While that could give marketers hope for the platform’s future, the question remains whether Musk is willing to share control over the platform.
So far, we’ve been given the impression that Musk’s go-to strategy for meeting criticism — outside of tweeting — is adding something new. A common thread running through the headlines is the irrepressible desire to open up revenue sources. Twitter introduced an ad revenue sharing model for creators, charged developers for API access, and relaunched a paid version of its client TweetDeck.
Some changes are still vague promises, not all of which have become a reality. To lure bloggers, journalists and writers in, Twitter announced plans to reintroduce support for long-form articles. Musk’s long-term plan to create an “everything app” similar to the Chinese messaging and payment app WeChat including extensive financial features is not yet here. One can argue whether such a platform will attract users or is still in line with the times, but it is part of the reasoning behind Musk’s decision to rebrand Twitter under its new name “X.” Even though many rebranding efforts have seen tremendous success, recent events make analysts doubt whether a successful rebranding is likely in this case.
How Advertisers and Artists Perceive Twitter These Days
Twitter has been a great source of traffic and revenue in the past, not to speak of features allowing you to engage with customers. So based on everything we’ve said, you’d expect that marketers were able to keep reaping those benefits untouched by the hurricane around them. While that was true for a while, we’re seeing the long-term effects now. You can probably tell by Twitter’s desperate attempt to open its doors to cannabis advertisers in February. The top 500 marketers had paused ad spending in January.
Musk recently tried to turn the wheel once again by cutting ad prices and demanding higher ad spend to stay verified. The verification feature had already become unpopular before because Musk had also used it to generate revenue through subscription models, but that ultimately only led to more spam.
Whether it’s due to the platform’s unreliability or Musk’s unpredictable changes, Twitter lost almost half of its advertising revenue from 2021 to 2023, and recent analyses state that Twitter’s brand value is down 32% since last year.
Even if Twitter had relied on influencers and artists to create some sort of indie platform, that development seems unlikely as well. Musk recently announced that Twitter’s public tweets will be used to train the AI model of his latest venture, xAI. Due to the unpredictability of that decision, many artists already chose to leave the platform. Maybe it wasn’t even this technical change alone, but the sheer mass of unpredictable updates. It may also have been because of the symbolic power of the announcement that Twitter’s head of trust and safety resigned, which went hand in hand with the social media giant withdrawing from a voluntary agreement with the EU to address disinformation on its platform.
Are All the Headlines Blowing This Out of Proportion?
For good reason, we included this section in this other post as well, because back then, you could still see a significant discrepancy between the news and user behavior. While publishers at that time had long since doomed Twitter, many users remained active on the platform. However, it seems like we’re looking at a different picture today.
Recent polls confirm that a third of Americans are curious about trying out Threads. The reduced user traffic immediately after the launch of Threads confirms that. At the same time, many existing Twitter users seem to be increasingly tired of the changes. In a spring survey, 60% of adults who had used it before said they’d be taking a break and it wasn’t likely they’d return. Since Musk’s acquisition, users have also shifted from creating original content to mostly replying or sharing existing posts, which shows that overall engagement has gone down.
We hate to deliver bad news, but it does indeed appear that X has weathered the many course changes, layoffs and failures battered at best. The future will show whether its role in the landscape of social media will change once again or whether users will change their minds depending on the range of alternative offerings on the market. Based on everything we’ve seen so far, it seems unlikely they’ll change their minds about X. You may still find your target audience there. However, even then, you should be aware of the unpredictable conditions that can influence the ROI of your campaigns these days.