I have a confession. The contrarian in me occasionally entertains a glimmer of hope that Twitter is going to make it in the long run.
Granted, this scenario is increasingly becoming a long shot. I’m not all-in when it comes to being in Elon Musk’s camp, and it is nearly impossible to keep up with the daily twists and turns of Twitter. Logging in and watching the feed is head-spinning.
The controversial back-and-forth over user verification demonstrates that Musk needs to get out of his own way:
- He rolled it out.
- Took it back.
- Rolled it out again.
But I think now is a good time for marketing pros to take a longer-term view, and for now this means simply observing as Musk reduces headcount and looks for new revenue streams.
We don’t know what’s next. So far, it seems like a lot of chaos. And tech pundits have been rightly hammering Elon. So, a first-round win goes to the Cassandras among us, who predicted that things would get ugly.
Any Grownups in the Twitter Room?
From the moment Elon swashbuckled into Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters carrying a kitchen sink, those Cassandras had good reason to gloat. His tone-deaf approach to management really only resonates with his feedback loop of online fanboys and fangirls, and Musk has handled himself terribly. The entire Twitter ecosystem is at stake, and Elon’s capricious approach leaves people wondering if there truly is an adult in the room.
This approach puts marketers (and their work) at some risk. During this period, General Motors (and other advertisers) have understandably announced a wait-and-see approach to engaging with Twitter. And when celebrities like Shonda Rimes announced they would leave the platform, I predicted that Musk would dig in his heels to reward his legions of fans who love a circus and, as a result, goad him on to a Jar-Jar Binks level of self-inflicted social snafus.
I was also not surprised by the way that Musk responded when Nancy Pelosi’s husband Paul was attacked. He failed to react with restraint and empathy, even to a top American political leader and dedicated public servant. Once again, he succumbed to pleasing his gang of trolls — who, mind you, have no advertising budgets but plenty of energy around “owning the libs” — as part of an online spectacle that is and was degrading for everyone involved.
With his response to the Paul Pelosi attack, Musk gave credence to the dumbest possible conspiracy theories published by the trashiest purveyors of nonsense. This was totally on-brand for Musk and totally unfit for the owner and CEO of the world’s online town square. Critics rightfully thought it was a harbinger of what Twitter is set to become: a diminishing echo chamber for the worst instincts of the right wing. He had to anticipate pushback: he even tweeted his “thoughts” to Hillary Clinton.
But I suspect the pushback was stronger than Musk anticipated. And he did something that surprised me: he deleted his tweet. I was prepared for Musk to double-down and die on his hill of stupidity and boorishness. And I was expecting brands like Facebook, Snapchat and BeReal to silently cheer Musk’s certain implosion as a reward for giving in to his most craven of instincts.
But to delete a tweet was actually Musk’s most mature action in recent memory.
Related Article: Will the Musk Takeover Rescue or Wreck Twitter Marketing?
A Shred of Hope: How Marketers Should React
Along with the hope provided by Elon’s moment of good judgment, other announcements from Twitter have given me optimism. For brands, I find it exciting that he’s going to revive the video service Vine and potentially take on TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram with an offering that can be effectively monetized. In fact, this velocity of tangible new product improvements makes me start wondering: what will Twitter do next? Maybe the payments play will work, or maybe it won’t — and I surely hope they get it right at some point, because Twitter would be a terrible platform to lose.
For marketing, PR and comms professionals, there’s still potential. With approximately 206 million daily active users (DAUs), Twitter remains a formidable platform. I’m not suggesting that brands ignore Musk’s rash actions or that they should stand for the bad actors that the platform seems to spawn, but instead I am respectfully suggesting that Twitter be given time to work out the current kinks and to allow the company to absorb the shock of the ownership transition and reorient itself.
Related Article: Twitter vs. Mastodon: The Marketing Reality
Marketers: Reevaluate Your Position
In terms of impact on marketing professionals, this might mean pausing ad budgets and slowing down your company’s pace of Twitter postings. For certain brands, it may also be sensible to articulate a “wait and see” position to the public and to make contingency plans when it comes to ad and promotional spend.
Now is also a good time to make sure that your key audiences know that they can reach you and interact on other social platforms, should they so choose. At present, the worst thing that a brand could do is to shut down its presence and “go dark,” because doing so would only contribute to the chaos, and you would be throwing away hard-won followers.
It is entirely possible that in the near future, Twitter will re-emerge as a leading social platform, enhanced with whatever new services that Elon and his team can conjure up. But for now, “lessons learned” from the current situation include not relying too heavily on one platform and to always be on the lookout for new opportunities, which includes having a “safe space” for your content.
Twitter is — and will remain — in people’s muscle memory. A few high-profile defections don’t mean the platform is dead as a social meeting space or as a place for commercial interests to flourish. Only time will tell, and, for that reason, I preach patience, despite the arrogance of the company’s new ownership.