A chill is in the air in ad land. One of the bastions of the digital marketing mix has gone rogue. Twitter, one of the oldest and still most active of social networks, has taken a sudden turn and the advertising industry is not taking it well.
Through a mist of Elon Musk tweets, a picture of a new-style social network has been painted. It looks like a pay-per-argument, town square debate hellscape – and that’s not a place where advertisers want to be.
Brands, ever careful to frame their marketing messages in good light, are taking a fresh look at Twitter and the direction in which the new owner is planning to take the social network.
“I hate advertising”, Musk once tweeted. Twitter is a place to take pleasure in pain, he muses. Attacks are good, he feels. These are the types of words that make your average advertiser run a mile. And some already have.
But maybe Musk doesn’t mind the potential ad dollar exodus. He would like Twitter to become a subscription business, after all, with fresh revenues generated by an $8 per month fee for those who’d like the “Twitter Blue” experience.
But all major social networks court advertisers, so what do advertisers really want from their social network investments? It’s not rocket science.
Advertisers want their brand to be enhanced, and they want their ads to drive sales. Social media platforms provide this to advertisers by ensuring that the content their ads appear beside is safe and relevant. When they get the balance right, their user base soars and the ad dollars flow.
Instagram, for example, reportedly has over two billion monthly users and is a mainstream ad buy. Corporate and consumer brands see value in advertising there, and Instagram is a network that invests in safety. Images that promote self-harm are banned, and Instagram publishes the amount of harmful content that it removes, including hate speech, child endangerment or bullying, to name just a few. Broadly speaking, Instagram works to make its platform safe for users and advertisers alike.
How does Twitter fare in comparison? Advertisers are presented with an audience size of 238 million “monetizable daily active users” and Twitter’s content and community can already be very divisive. Will Musk’s moves make Twitter’s advertising offering any more compelling? I very much doubt it. But he wants to make money selling blue ticks, so that should come as no surprise.
So if it’s not a compelling ad offering, what does Twitter have going for it? From politics to journalism, education to technology, Twitter is still an influential platform for brands to be active on. But it is at risk of falling down a very slippery slope and community management will be under the microscope for brands. If the community gets any more toxic, the social network risks losing brands altogether, not just as advertisers.
Looking to the future, changes will happen fast to Twitter’s core features. With the $8 per month charge for Twitter Blue expected to arrive as soon as next week, I think we’ll see brands do more than just pause their advertising. If they also begin directing their customers elsewhere, then what’s left on Twitter could be very dark indeed.