For many years, Twitter has been the little brother that has a big impact in the world of social media. For many businesses and individuals, it’s been a great place to connect with and build community, and it’s had an outsized impact on the news, political discussion, and public conversation.
Nothing highlights this quite as much as the uproar over the last few weeks. All of the information in this blog post is accurate as of midnight PST 11/11/22, but it will likely change, and change quickly. However, our recommendations for what to do about it are not likely to change quite as quickly.
- If you haven’t yet, set up brand monitoring so you can respond to any imposters or brand concerns on Twitter very quickly.
- Take a very close look at your target and actual markets, and determine if Twitter is going to be where they are best reached.
- Very carefully consider your ad spend, if any, on Twitter and be ready to change on a dime.
- Keep your handle and name on Twitter, even if you aren’t actively posting on it. Tell users where to find you instead.
The basics of the situation
Elon's made quite a few changes at Twitter, many of which are leading to significant brand safety and advertising concerns. Specifically, the ability to buy a blue checkmark for $8 has led to a very high number of fake accounts that appear official, causing serious concerns.
For example, a fake pharma account claiming they'd make insulin-free, a fake Lockheed Martin account claiming they'd stop all sales until human rights abuses in customer countries were addressed, a fake Chiquita account claiming to have taken over governments, etc. There are also less "serious" but just as concerning situations where verified-appearing accounts have impersonated sports figures, celebrities, and more.
Obviously, this is causing a number of brand safety concerns. There's also the less immediate but just as real concern that the technology backbone of the company is already at risk, with a high number of engineers and tech employees having been laid off.
A big part of the legal team, InfoSec team, and SecOps team have been laid off, or more notably, have resigned in the last few days. There is significant speculation this is because the FTC has asked for leadership to personally vouch that security procedures and infosec procedures are being followed.
In a call (Twitter Spaces voice chat, specifically) with advertisers in the last day or so, Elon's made it clear that he has no idea how to handle the content moderation concerns, laying out zero actual plans, and contradicting himself several times in wanting "free speech" but also wanting to keep Twitter "brand safe." The headline quote is “freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach.”
Stepping entirely out of the political questions, it appears that there will be a return to shadow banning, and also very unequal application of any rules, as we've seen in the last few days.
It is possible that this will all settle out and an equilibrium will settle out. However, given the financial burn rate of the company and the financial realities of this deal, it is more likely bankruptcy, restructuring, and/or shutdown is just as likely.
There is historical precedent
Unlike the slow death of MySpace or the natural reduction in use of Facebook as younger users choose different networks, this downfall of Twitter is more analogous to what happened with AM radio. As radio stations shifted to FM, AM stations became the purview of talk radio and religious broadcasters. There are a number of complicated social and financial reasons for this, but the end result is that unless the infrastructure is completely destroyed, it will still get used.
At the moment, it appears that those with more extreme viewpoints are the ones sticking with the changes on Twitter and looking forward to the changes being made by its current CEO. 4Chan/8Chan and the like followed a similar trajectory.
What to do about your brand accounts
If you’ve spent a lot of time and energy building up a following on Twitter, it can be tough to step back and make a logical call on what to do about your accounts. However, as quickly as things are moving, just waiting and not doing anything is not likely to be a good solution for you. You should take at least some basic action today.
First and foremost, set up brand monitoring if you haven’t yet. This could be a saved search on Twitter, a Zapier tool that sends search results for your brand on Twitter to your company Slack or email, or a search on your social media management tool. However you do it, you and your team need to know if there’s an imposter account so you can reply as soon as possible – even if it’s proving nigh on impossible to get those accounts removed at the moment.
Second, take a very close look at your target market – and your actual market. Many user groups are already fleeing Twitter, and many others are just ghosting - keeping their accounts but not logging in or checking on things. If your user base is still active on Twitter, then it could be worth putting energy into creating content there, but beware of any scheduled content, and triple-check the current news before you post to make sure there’s not a Chiquita situation impacting your market. If your target market isn’t on Twitter, or likely won’t be, then start researching where they are going instead and follow them if you can.
If you’re still advertising on Twitter, very carefully consider your ad spend, and even more carefully consider your creative. Be ready to change your spend on a dime, and consider if spending on Twitter is in alignment with your brand’s mission, vision, and values.
Finally, no matter what you do, if you have a brand account on Twitter, you should keep your handle and name. Customers are still likely to tag you and reach out to you, and the possibility of an imposter makes it important that you have an official account. For most brands, that means turning Twitter from an actively managed network into a response-only network. If you aren’t actively posting there, pin a post that tells users where they can find you instead.
No network is your friend
At the end of the day, this is a great example of the fact that no platform is your friend. You, as a brand or organization, should own your content and have it stored somewhere that you have control of. Social networks are there to help you share and spread your message - not to host your content.
Save off anything you have on your networks to ensure that you maintain control of that content - and continue to do so regularly for all social networks, regardless of what happens with Twitter.
Where to go instead?
So, if not Twitter, where? Twitter has been a stalwartly unique social network and has functionality that many platforms just can’t duplicate. The reality is that you need to follow your market, and that market may be different for each business. There are a few platforms that may be worth exploring, depending on your unique niche. A few options to start with could be:
- Reddit - If you haven’t actively been monitoring and engaging on this platform, we can almost promise you that there’s a conversation about your brand here. Reddit is also one of the most delicate networks to engage on, and it’s essential that you engage in a community-aware and respectful way, but it can also be one of the most powerful when done right.
- Mastodon - This relative newcomer is where many Twitter users are jumping to to explore, but as a decentralized social network, it’s important to recognize that it’s new for everyone, and come in slowly, watching and listening as much as posting first.
- Vero - Though this network has had its day in the sun, there are a number of artists and visual enthusiasts who have continued to use Vero as an Instagram alternative. It’s not a one-for-one replacement of Twitter, but as staunchly ad-free, it’s a network where your effort is directly proportional to your results (for the most part).
- Niche networks - If you’re a brewery, Untappd could be a great option for you. Fiber crafter? Ravelry is absolutely worth the effort. Author? Goodreads should be where you go. There are niche networks for a wide variety of communities, and though they’re tiny, they also can be incredibly effective because they essentially pre-vet your audience for you.
At the end of the day, the reality of social media is that the reality is always changing. There are times of relative stability, and times of very fast and furious change. The next few weeks, if not next few months, are a great opportunity to re-evaluate your social platform choices while experimenting, exploring, and downright playing with new options.