24 Apr 2023 News Social media Strategy

Is Twitter still useful for business?

Twitter logo flying out of a megaphone.

Every day there seems to be a new tale of woe about the state of Twitter. Since Elon Musk’s forced acquisition of the platform, there have been endless changes, u-turns and staff layoffs. Celebrities and those with legacy verified accounts are unhappy, and there’s a general shouting match about what a blue tick actually means. With what feels like chaos, is it still a platform that businesses should invest in or should you start to place your effort and money elsewhere?

What else is on offer?

With every change comes a raft of users claiming that it is the final straw and now is the time for them to leave Twitter. Plenty of people are leaving Twitter, choosing to put their focus on other platforms. Most of these will simply reduce the number of social media platforms they are using, rather than find a Twitter replacement, of which there are several.

A very unscientific bit of research by me (asking people what they are doing) shows that people are gravitating towards LinkedIn (if they are service based) or Instagram (if they are more consumer focused). No one seems to be putting more effort into Facebook, and very few are choosing this moment to try TikTok, if they weren’t already there.

Other platforms that people are mentioning as potential Twitter replacements are Mastodon, Postand Bluesky. I’ve tried Mastodon and Post but am yet to get an invite to Bluesky. I must tell you, they’re no replacement, even with the similar concepts of posting and chatting. The functionality either isn’t there or it’s a simple replacement. In Mastodon’s case, there’s a decentralised structure, which is great if you object to billionaires owning such platforms, but I find there’s a certain snobbery about users who have come from the ‘bird site’.

Perhaps these replacements will gather momentum and gain users. Until then, there’s nothing compelling about them, so the only reason to use them for business is if you know that your potential customers are definitely there in significant numbers.

Do the changes bring opportunity?

Okay, so we’re possibly not moving to a new platform. Do the changes brought by New Twitter™ mean we should do anything in particular?

Twitter verification is a raging hotbed of anger. It used to be that a blue tick against your name indicated that you were the only version of you on the platform. You were the one to be believed, if you have others imitating you. Brands would be verified, as would celebrities, journalists and politicians.

Before Musk’s acquisition, Twitter had a go at allowing users to apply to be verified, with the process being reasonably stringent and not costing a penny. Musk has been on a mission to make the Twitter business profitable and states that subscription is the way to achieve this.

Twitter Blue is the chosen path to this. Subscribers receive extra prominence and visibility in feeds, can edit tweets and unsend if they were a bit eager on the tweet button. Tweets can be up to 4,000 characters instead of the standard 280, and those characters can be formatted on the web version. Twitter Blue subscribers are verified and given the blue tick.

As a business, gaining greater visibility in the platform has its benefits. Having the chance to express a benefit of working with you in more detail could help your customers further understand you. And, if you’re in an industry that needs to insert disclaimers (like financial services), then the extra characters are helpful.

Sadly, the blue tick part of verification seems to be problematic. Any subscriber to Twitter Blue who provides a telephone number, gets a blue tick. And that changes the meaning of it.

The celebrity part of this story is seeing prominent personalities either bemoaning  that they have lost their tick or, as Twitter has reinstated it but with a different label, that the label misrepresents their status. Calls of ‘I didn’t pay for it’ make it awkward for those users who subscribe for the features and couldn’t care less whether they have a tick or not. It’s a mess.

At this time (and, honestly, it could all change in the time between writing this and publishing it – that’s how fast things are changing), I don’t think it’s truly worth paying for Twitter Blue and the verification that is part of it.

In addition to Twitter Blue verification, there are also grey ticks to indicate government affiliated accounts, and gold ticks to indicate companies and other organisation accounts. For a business, this is certainly something to consider.

Aside from the gold tick, verified organisations can affiliate other accounts to them. Imagine you have your key people using Twitter, they can become affiliated with your official organisation so users can understand the relationship they have with you (not so helpful to your brand if your CEO constantly rants about the football, though).

Verified organisations receive the same additional benefits as Twitter Blue subscribers in terms of elevated tweet visibility and formatting.

The price for such prestige? A mere £1,140 per month plus £60 per month* for each affiliated account.

What about advertising on the platform?

Even with users decreasing (although some have returned to Twitter since Musk bought the platform – namely people who were banned) there are still millions of potential people to whom you can advertise. Could it be worth using Twitter to get in front of your target market?

Potentially, yes. But, again, you’re going to have to pay to play. And I mean reasonably big. Unless you are spending at least £1,000 per month on ad spend with the platform, you’ll need to sign up as a verified organisation before you can advertise on Twitter. For many small businesses, this makes Twitter a platform that is out of reach. When Meta and TikTok ad platforms have larger audiences and lower ad costs, the only reason to focus on Twitter ads is if your audience is particularly present there. For me, the changeability of the whole system makes it unattractive to commit ad spend to.

A safe place?

Finally, even if you can cope with the speed at which the platform is iterating (I’m being polite), I feel it’s worth looking at the conversations that are taking place on Twitter today. I’m a huge fan of curating your own feed so that it becomes a place of peace, love and positivity. Not everyone on Twitter is like me, and it’s easy to find oneself in a place of argument and hatred. There is still plenty of fun, warmth and support on Twitter. That said, there are those who feel empowered by the change of ownership to express viewpoints without fear of reproach, that once would be unacceptable on such a place.

That’s a wider discussion.

The situation at Twitter does not look like it’s going to stabilise any time soon. Thus, today may not be the right time to make a key decision on whether you invest time, and potentially money, into it. If you are already using Twitter to market your business, my advice is to pay much closer attention to the metrics and what it’s doing for your business. If that’s nominal, consider spending that time on more stable platforms that you’re already using. If you were looking at starting to market through Twitter, I’d wait a while to see if it settles.

I hope it does. LikeMind Media started as a business with Twitter, so I have a sentimental attachment to it. But sentiment is not a good reason to take a business decision. Sadly, I fear it will continue to exist, but could end with a very slow and painful death.

*Prices correct as of April 2023

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