Zach Jackson

X - formerly known as Twitter - has long been considered an excellent social channel for brands to boost visibility and communicate with a large and varied audience.

No stranger to instability, the fate of Twitter has come into question many times over the years, but the media storm that followed Elon Musk’s takeover inevitably spiked debate on the topic, with some wondering if we’re witnessing yet another social network supernova.

Of course, X remains one of the world’s most well-known social media channels, but should brands consider current goings-on as a sign it’s time to reassess their relationship with the company?

We discuss the ins and outs of Twitter’s eventful transition to X and how the current state of the platform presents both opportunities and challenges to marketers.

X (Twitter) Advertising

Like most social media platforms, advertising services account for the lion’s share of X’s (Twitter’s) revenue stream - 80% to be exact.

Musk’s involvement with the company thus far has given a number of brands a case of cold feet, as evidenced by the recent revelation that X’s ad revenue had dipped an estimated 50% since his takeover in October 2022.

That’s 40% of the social media platform’s entire revenue, which is a jarring statistic.

Over a three-month period, 65% of X’s 1,000 most important advertisers cut ties with the platform, including brands such as Coca-Cola, Jeep, Wells Fargo, Unilever, AT&T, Mars, and Volkswagen.

In an attempt to recoup some of the platform’s prized clients, Musk has recruited a third-party brand safety firm to roll out a curated marketing service that would ensure ads were kept well away from questionable content.

Yet, even with this safety net in place, many brands have been reluctant to resume business with X.

Privatisation Debt

One of Elon Musk’s primary intentions when acquiring Twitter was to privatise the company using a leveraged buyout.

In short, this meant that a significant fraction of the purchase fee was borrowed and would have to be repaid - plus interest - over time.

As is common knowledge, the sum of the acquisition was $44 billion, $13 billion of which was sourced as loans, amounting to Twitter (X) being lumped with a $1.5 billion annual interest bill.

Industry Rivals (Threads, Spill & Mastodon)

On top of the debt on X’s plate, the company also faces its fiercest competition yet with the rise of alternative platforms that are, at least in part, based on the Twitter blueprint.

Unsurprisingly, the most notable industry challenge comes from Zuckerberg’s Meta and its Instagram-adjacent Threads service, but others are making waves too.

Spill, founded by former Twitter employees Alphonzo Terell and DeVaris Brown, is positioned as a visual-leaning reimagining of Twitter. As it stands, the Spill app is invite-only, but there are already some big celebrity names in its corner - Quest Love and Keke Palmer to name just a couple.

Then there’s Mastodon to factor in, a decentralised microblogging social network with an altogether more wholesome vibe than Twitter in its current state.

Combined, these direct competitors are pilfering a considerable number of users from Musk’s X, making it difficult for the company to tip the balance on its negative cash flow - although a slight upward trajectory has been reported by the company.

Granted, Twitter’s engagement stats were looking dicey before the shift in ownership, but the new strategies implemented by Musk don’t seem to have done much to dress the old wounds of the company.

How would X’s downfall impact digital marketing?

The real pain point for brands and digital marketers if Twitter goes under is that we’ll lose a unique and effective channel for advertising campaigns.

For years, Twitter has been one of the go-to platforms for marketers to engage with their target audience, build brand awareness, and drive website traffic. The ability to facilitate real-time updates and conversations in a concise and interactive manner makes it an ideal tool for brands to stay relevant and connect with their customers.

If the platform were to disappear tomorrow, a wealth of valuable metrics would be lost, and digital marketers would have to wave goodbye to an important channel for showcasing their products and services.

The divide Twitter closed between marketers and their audiences would reopen, and brands would relinquish the ability to tap into trending topics as easily.

Sure, competing platforms could be utilised to keep a finger on the pulse of popular culture, but none lend themselves so well as Twitter to distilling emerging ideas and movements in an accessible fashion.

That said, from a purely financial perspective, Twitter isn’t nearly as impressive as the other major social networks.

While it’s an excellent way to start a discourse with audiences and to harvest a plethora of exciting metrics, Twitter's ROI for marketers pales in comparison to that of Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.

According to HubSpot’s 2023 State of Marketing Report, Twitter doesn’t even rank among the top 5 social media platforms for raw money-making muscle!

So, in the event that Twitter does go the way of Bebo, Vine, and the myriad other social media casualties, it will be a shame, but not the end of the world.

Besides, the smart marketer will have already implemented a diverse social outreach strategy that isn’t overly reliant on any single platform, so giving Twitter the boot shouldn’t be too problematic.

There’s no reason an intelligently revamped marketing strategy for social channels couldn’t be just as, if not more, beneficial than those that once included Twitter, especially if competing platforms improved their services to fill the Twitter-shaped void in the market.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves

It’s incredibly unlikely that X is going anywhere anytime soon, and while things are certainly in flux over at X HQ, oftentimes, where there’s change, there is opportunity just waiting to be discovered.

Some marketers may look at the host of large brands taking a step back from the platform and feel the push to act in turn, but not every brand is Coca-Cola-sized and shaped.

Small and challenger brands with significantly tighter marketing budgets could leverage the company’s current attempts to lure the big fish back into the pond to great effect – standard ad services are currently more affordable than ever on X.

As time goes on, it’s possible X’s offerings will become even more favourable, which will make it a difficult prospect to ignore, even for large brands with a noted concern about the potential impacts of associating with the platform in its present state.

Could it be beneficial to take your brand off X?

In most cases, it’ll be in your best interest to keep X in your social media arsenal, at least for now, unless, that is, you feel your brand values clash with the changing ethos on the platform.

Let’s face it, X isn’t in many people’s good books at the moment, and if your brand is built on a strong ethical foundation and wears its morals on its sleeve, the optics of digging your heels in the ground and remaining on Twitter aren’t great.

As discussed earlier, there will be consequences to leaving, but the message it sends to your audience can be just as powerful as Twitter’s advertising services as long as the move is made visible as part of your strategy.

If you’re on the fence or want to see how things turn out with the newly christened X before completely removing the platform from the equation, momentarily reducing your campaign budget in this area might be wise.

If you’re dissatisfied with your current utilisation (or lack thereof) of X in your marketing strategies or just want to talk more about this topic, contact us.