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What’s Happening to Twitter (In a Nutshell) and What It Means For Brands

November 22, 2022

After a monthslong controversy and a high-profile court case, Elon Musk bought Twitter in the last week of October. Almost immediately, several top Twitter executives were fired and layoffs affecting about half of all employees at the company took place. At the same time, Twitter and Musk launched a new version of its subscription service, Twitter Blue, which allowed any user to purchase a verified “blue tick” for a monthly fee of $8 USD. Previously, verified accounts were reserved for high-profile celebrities, politicians, journalists and other prominent figures who provided proof of identity to prevent impersonation.

Due to the sudden widespread availability of verification, several “verified” impersonations of companies published misleading or offensive posts. While Twitter and Musk halted Twitter Blue signups and considered adding a second layer of “official” tags following the proliferation of fake accounts, this activity had a substantial effect on several companies, with many halting advertising spend or reducing activity on the platform.

Potential Impacts

Moderation and harmful content: Despite claims from Musk that Twitter remains strongly committed to content moderation, many are alarmed by recent reports of the company laying off large teams of content moderators, increased use of racist language on the platform, and the recent reinstatement of former President Donald Trump and Kanye West. It is unlikely that Musk will be able to maintain previous standards of content moderation and it seems he is more prone to sudden changes of course, as seen in his decision to base the reinstatement of President Trump on the results of a Twitter poll.

Brand integrity and impersonation: Companies are already feeling the effects of the new blue check system with the proliferation of fake accounts and impersonators. While this seems to have slowed down due to the pause on Twitter Blue and a ban against parody accounts not marked as such, the future of official brands on the platform still looks uncertain and many are pulling out of advertising en masse. Musk has also announced that the relaunch of the Twitter Blue verification system will now be delayed to November 29, so the situation is still evolving.

Security and platform stability: Due to the departure of a large portion of Twitter’s engineering team, many tech journalists and other high-profile users have started to notice new bugs in the platform. This, in addition to the departure of top security executives at Twitter and possible FTC violations, is leading many to question the security of data and the stability of the platform. This is a longer-term question which may contribute increasingly to users leaving Twitter, if it no longer functions or if they are concerned about the privacy of their DMs and other account details. There are also concerns raised by Ireland’s Data Protection Commission, which currently leads oversight of Twitter under EU’s General Data Protection Regulation.

 The Way Ahead

Don’t make any big moves: While some may be tempted to shut down their presence on Twitter completely or migrate to another platform, consider how shutting down your official account may lead to risk from impersonators or others looking to fill the gap. Take into account that newer platforms like Mastodon or Discord may also present certain risks (as the UK Treasury recently found out upon opening a Discord server).

Prioritize caution & agility: For the time being, consider continuing to post organically on the platform, but with some greater caution and an eye out for any community responses (such as comments, retweets or mentions) that could signal potential brand safety risks. As the situation on the platform continues to develop, it is important to stay agile with your content and community management strategy in order to head off a crisis.

Take a moment to reflect: Use this as a time to re-evaluate your current channel mix and presence online. Do you have an appropriate strategy for each platform that aligns with your business objectives and each platform’s strengths? What platforms are working particularly well or poorly for you? How did Twitter contribute to this mix?

Evaluate your paid activities: As Twitter goes through this cycle of crisis and (potentially) evolution, assess whether ads on the platform are serving to reach your audiences effectively. Consider pausing advertising as the platform stabilizes in order to account for potential brand safety risks and whether money is better spent elsewhere.

While these are some general guidelines, there is no one-size-fits all solution as the situation continues to change daily. We will continue to track the situation and provide additional updates in a series on this subject, as needed.

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