When it comes to running ad campaigns on Twitter, many brands are acting like the punk band The Clash and asking, “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”

Song puns aside, Elon Musk’s high-profile acquisition of Twitter has some brands concerned about staying with Twitter and whether they should continue advertising on the popular platform. Marketers are reflecting on their platform partnerships.

So, what is the right brand safety strategy when a valued platform in a marketing strategy is at risk? What makes an exit the right choice?

What the Twitter Fiasco Reveals

The Twitter acquisition has led to a flurry of controversial decisions. The most crucial is the firing of over half of the employees, with more staff quitting after Musk reportedly issued an ultimatum to support a demanding work schedule. The latest resignations occurred with the dissolution of the Trust and Safety Council, a group of independent experts who guided Twitter on speech and harassment matters. These changes have resulted in an altered operational capacity within Twitter to respond to brand safety and sentiment concerns on the platform. Brand safety measures are tactics that protect the reputation of a brand from damaging influences caused by inappropriate content when advertising online.

Eli Lilly and Company halted its ads after its Twitter account sent a fake tweet claiming, “Insulin is now free.” Its request to remove the account was ignored because key employee roles, including the entire moderation team, had been eliminated.

Brands have suspended their advertising budgets on Twitter, concerned over the drop in moderation quality on the platform combined with the massive layoff of 7,500 employees and 4,400 contractors. Some automotive brands — General Motors, Audi, Volkswagen — were among the first to suspend, which was understandable given that Elon Musk owns competitor Tesla. But other brands joined the advertising suspension. NPR reported that half of Twitter’s top 100 advertisers paused their campaigns.

A platform losing attention is not news. Shifts in audience interest have been occurring regarding social media platforms, such as Facebook’s declining number of teenage users. Some platforms, such as Vine, Meerkat and Periscope, have outright shuttered. You can have a moment of silence for Google Plus as well.

But the swiftness and scale of Twitter’s story break uncharted territory.

The struggles of Twitter highlight the speed at which brand participation on social media can shift. People use a variety of platforms according to their needs and interests. Businesses are fast learning when an audience may be tiring of a particular platform and moving to greener pastures of emerging platforms.

Related Article: Message to Marketers: Twitter Might Make It (Emphasis on 'Might')

Twitter's Chaos: An Analytics Perspective

Analytics can seem like a minor consideration in these decisions, but examining engagement should be among the first steps to analyzing the cost of an exit to customer experience. 

Advanced analytics that include tweets as datapoints will certainly be hampered if audiences move away in droves. The context around comments will appear less frequently, reducing the data points needed for sentiment analysis.

In an analysis I shared in 2018, I applied a lexicon to the tweets of an iHOP Twitter account to identify audience sentiment toward its new burger sales campaign. A platform’s audience deterioration hampers a brand’s ability to learn nuanced context and how it can quickly respond in its communications. 

Social media is often an attribution point for conversions. Thus, conversion rates associated with sales, white paper downloads and registrations can be diminished if an audience is not interested in being on a platform. 

Related Article: Will the Musk Takeover Rescue or Wreck Twitter Marketing?

What You Need to Know Considering a Social Media Exit

So what are the considerations for marketers and customer experience professionals whose brand may want to leave Twitter or other social media platforms?  

Recognize That a Clean Exit Is Complicated

Should your brand even make a complete and clean exit from a platform? A clean exit can be an overriding imperative, but executing a complete one can be a complicated answer. It may seem simple to break off a marketing relationship that has soured, such as Adidas ending its association with Ye, who changed his name from Kanye West. But there were several moments in that relationship that led to the “sudden” discontinuation. Sudden departures are never truly sudden in marketing. Brands must think about what impact the removal of its presence has on their strategic partnerships.

Know Your Audience Exposure Through Analytics Dashboards

Is the brand even receiving conversions from a particular social media platform like Twitter? A social media platform that represents a significant percentage of referral traffic to a site or app indicates the value of that brand’s platform exposure. What you are seeking is a general sense of visitor traffic, enough to know what the size of traffic share is, and whether an extended exit campaign is really needed or not. 

What Does the Decision Mean to Your Community?

The answer will reveal how an exit clashes with your community’s expectations. A social media audience is no longer just a passive-aggressive call to action to gather followers. Communities have been built up around shared dialogue on the platforms. Companies benefit from the exposure of these discussions through understanding where shared values are truly possible. Twitter has been especially deft at allowing niche audiences to flourish. For example, Twitter hosts several developer communities that rely on groups within Twitter for job leads and webinar announcements every day. Companies that have a significant developer following may want to continue that affiliation to refine recruitment and communication updates.

What's the Cultural Impact of an Exit?

The growth of the cultural movement like Black Twitter allowed a richer public dialogue between people and raised the profile of informed, various perspectives. This educated the public on cultural issues, many of which are associated with customer-shared values that interest marketers. The extraordinary perspectives gained by consumer interests alongside social justice dialogue are at risk. Concern about the survival of communities may mean an exit is necessary.

Yet in these instances, brands run the risk of appearing as virtual signaling on an exit if they are not heading in the same direction as the audience they have courted. Leaving a community behind digitally these days is as bad as leaving a community in real life. Currently, it is too early to tell what trends are emerging.

Learning Opportunities

Consider Brand Safety Vulnerability

Some customers may still not know where to best follow a brand after eliminating an account. This gives trolls an opening to impersonate an account and provide misinformation. Keeping a deactivated account can allow a fast re-entry and response to impersonator account posts. A reactivated account can share fast denunciation of false claims, like the Eli Lilly fake tweet.

Related Article: So Far, Marketers Won't Buzz to Hive Social as Twitter Alternative

You're Leaving Twitter. Here's What You Should Know

When you've decided you will exit your brand from Twitter, here are some action steps to consider:

Know Platform Guidelines

First, look over the platform guidelines for deactivations before deciding to have a dormant account or a deleted account. Doing so informs your options for treating content. In Twitter, for example, users can enter their profile settings for deactivations. In doing so, examine what you want to save before deactivating. For Twitter users, this means downloading an archive file of past tweets. A review of guidelines helps to highlight how a deactivated account can be maintained.

Remove Third-Party Apps

To tie up loose ends, make sure third-party apps are removed from an account. Many times, these apps are from dormant companies, but removing them also removes additional avenues of attack. 

Monitor the Dormant Account

Make sure a social media dashboard has a dedicated channel for periodically assessing messaging on a channel. 

Establish a Managed Audience Transition

If the analytics and scale of exposure merit it, work to establish a managed audience transition toward the chosen profiles whenever possible. Celebrities like Whoopi Goldberg or Shonda Rhimes can close their profile in an instant. (They did so with their Twitter profiles). Influencers who partner with brands can do so as well. Immediate discontinued associations are necessary for major sudden events, and individuals can act swiftly in discontinuing profile usage. 

Yet brands may not be able to respond as quickly. An extensive social media presence has more sequencing in communicating to their social media audience. Plus, a massive social media call-to-action does not receive immediate follower response. Marketers must account for communication delays by gradually giving customers repeated messages that they need to move from one profile to another.

A shift also involves planned consistent messaging among your media channels. Applying consistent messaging between email and video, for example, can help keep customers informed on why a brand is removing itself from a social media platform. Customers will also learn where they should go and what's expected from the move that will make their experiences better with the brand.

Conclusion: Think of Community First

Another point is to be very clear on how the new forum will benefit the community. When customers see a brand decision announced on social media, they need to feel that the brand decision is not just for the brand's sake. They must see and feel that the decision is also about providing a better experience for them. Giving the right messaging will help customers understand why the move must happen and how any inconveniences that can come with a move will be best handled by the brand.

Sharing the pain of any moving from one community to another protects brand image since customers are looking for brands that protect their values.  But an understanding of crisis management messaging can be insightful in deciding what to do overall. I cover a few analytics-related tips for crisis management in this post.

One last side point: You must emphasize community throughout all decisions and communication. If you haven't noticed in this post, I've used the word community over the word followers to describe an audience. The words “followers” and “audience” imply that people are receiving a passive one-way message. The reality is that communication on social media is two-way. People respond and interact online, and they want to do that with the people behind the brands they support.

Brands must meet people halfway to make a successful transition. A brand will not entirely avoid losses — some customers will not follow along to a new community, creating a lag for an established brand community to regain its vitality. 

But maintaining community, while incorporating some uncertainties, will be the primary way brands manage customer experiences and brand safety simultaneously. This puts marketers in the driver's seat in their advertising relationships, no matter who owns a social media platform.