How brands should navigate their presence on Twitter in 2023
As 2023 brings an upheaval with Elon Musk's takeover, here are a few tips on how to navigate the platform for maximum returns.
There are weeks when days happen and there are days when weeks happen. The latter is certainly true of Twitter since its acquisition by Elon Musk. In just a short space of time, the social media platform has undergone enormous upheaval, lurching from crisis to crisis as it grapples with its uncomfortable transition to new management.
The first, the redundancy of almost half of Twitter’s entire global workforce, including its trust and safety teams. And for those employees remaining, an all-staff email from Musk forced them to commit to an “extremely hardcore” working culture.
The second, overhauling Twitter’s verification system and replacing it with a two-tier subscription approach – only to be revoked days later after a spate of counterfeit accounts followed. In some cases, the fake accounts cost well-known brands at best some reputational damage and at worst millions in share price value.
Explaining his actions, Musk announced that under his tenure Twitter “will do lots of dumb things in the coming months. We will keep what works and change what doesn’t.”
But with Musk himself admitting last year that the platform was hemorrhaging $4m a day, Twitter has little room for error.
What this means for the future of Twitter
In an attempt to charm advertisers and communicate his ‘vision’ for the product, Elon Musk attended a Twitter Spaces chat. However, his delivery and performance since haven’t reassured major advertisers on the platform – many of which have started to either reign back on or pause spend altogether.
This should be concerning for Twitter. Especially given the current economic context, in which the growth in the long tail of medium to small businesses and brand spends is slowing down. Platforms will be eager to secure any extra ad spend they can, no matter how marginal, with plenty of them recently posting underwhelming end-of-year performance figures.
More specifically to Twitter, new and developing competitors such as BeReal, Lemon8, and TikTok are taking social media market share and legacy platforms are also encroaching on Twitter’s USP – in particular, Instagram launching its Notes feature. Twitter’s profitability is under attack from a number of angles and some significant changes are needed to win back the confidence of brands and key stakeholders.
And it’s not just advertisers leaving in their droves. Bot Sentinel, a platform that tracks Twitter usage, recently estimated that more than one million accounts have been deleted or deactivated since Musk acquired the company. As a result, other platforms are reaping the dividends. Most notably Mastodon – Twitter’s most direct competitor platform – has seen a substantial rise in users as people look for alternatives. Its servers reportedly went into meltdown in November after experiencing more than 500,000 sign-ups to the service, although interest has since subsided.
How brands have reacted so far
Just a week after Musk’s appearance at Twitter Spaces, Group M, part of WPP – the world’s biggest ad company and Twitter’s biggest spender, warned its clients that Twitter ads were a “high risk” use of ad budget. Two other leading advertising organizations, IPG and Omnicom, had also previously advised clients about the risks of advertising on the platform. This has spooked other luxury and premium brands such as Balenciaga who have carefully curated brand reputations. They have also deserted the platform, concerned about the potential brand risks staying on would pose.
With advertising spend on Twitter falling by 71% in December, Musk is surely quickly discovering that his focus should be better targeted on creating a brand-safe environment where content is properly moderated.
Practical advice for brands to navigate Twitter in 2023
For those brands looking to re-distribute ad spend, they will be wary that it can’t always be straightforwardly switched from one platform to another – the creative assets being used on Twitter might not suit other platforms and the brand or brand message might not be a good fit for the different demographics active on each platform.
A new bespoke approach will need to be considered for each platform the brand is thinking about re-assigning Twitter budget to. In these circumstances, influencer marketing provides a quick and scalable solution, whereby brands can turn to creators to help them produce the fresh content needed which is adapted to specific platforms.
For those brands that want to continue investing ad spend on Twitter, much of the same advice still applies in 2023 as it did pre-Musk’s takeover:
- Twitter research suggests avoiding using the full 280 character limit in ads and instead only using 50 to 100 characters to achieve the best performance
- Brands should include a call-to-action to drive actionable outcomes
- Keeping hashtags and @mentions is good practice for organic Tweets but should be avoided in paid ads as they can lead users to click away from the ad
- Incorporating a mixture of ad formats drives maximum impact by exposing viewers to key brand messages in multiple ways while also avoiding ad fatigue
- Any video content is best kept to 15 seconds or less, not just because short-form content generally has better engagement rates but also because videos less than 60 seconds will play in a loop
- Twitter takes into account how engaging the ad is. Brands can reduce the cost of their ad campaigns by focusing on quality creative and appropriate ad targeting
- Running mobile and desktop campaigns independently is advised because audiences engage with them differently and you can assess those learnings more easily if managed separately. For example, impulsive purchases are more likely on mobile, so brands may want to consider using more CTAs on their mobile ad campaign.
More specifically for 2023, brands may want to consider prioritizing a follower campaign to recover some of the followers lost in the Twitter exodus last year and to boost follower engagement.
And crucially, brands must be agile and alert to any potential brand safety risks following the relaxing of the platform’s content moderation policies. This will require careful monitoring of ad placements and precise targeting to focus on audiences where the brand risk is likely to be lower. There’s still no cast-iron guarantees of brand safety though – as with all platforms – and so brands will need to be quick to respond if their ads are appearing next to any unethical user-generated content (UGC).
The future for Twitter in 2023 and beyond
Despite Musk’s grand plan to make Twitter the first western ‘super-app’, the exodus of all types of brands from Twitter is a resounding rejection of Musk’s Wild West version of Twitter where anything goes and the increased brand safety risk that it brings.
Musk will be comforted by history though. We have previously seen YouTube come under fire for unintentionally hosting branded ads alongside far right video content. But YouTube was quick to react and has since made changes to filter and sort ad placements. Fast forward to today and Twitter, on the other hand, has fallen into the same trap but as yet has failed to reassure stakeholders.
However, with Musk no longer CEO following a Twitter poll he launched in December, there is hope that the platform may be able to make positive progress in a more stable direction under new leadership. If there’s one thing advertisers need from platforms, it’s reassurance.