Twitter, IRL: A Look at How Twitter Has Changed Since Elon Musk Took Over
The digital world has been watching the slow-motion saga of Musk’s high-profile $44 billion takeover of Twitter. After months of very public antagonism between Musk and Twitter’s leadership, the deal is done. Away from the headlines and the dollar signs, we took a look at the platform, its users and what Musk’s Twitter looks like today.
The Twitter Timeline
You’ve probably seen the headlines for months. After years of prolific Twitter use, Elon Musk made an unsolicited bid to buy Twitter in April. Through a mix of his own cash, selling billions in Tesla stock and heavy borrowing, Musk scrounged together $44 billion to buy the publicly traded company and take it private.
After months of legal threatening, bot-talk and headlines, the deal did get done. On October 26, Elon Musk walked into Twitter HQ carrying a sink. In the following days, more than 3,700 Twitter employees walked out during a rash of layoffs designed to drastically lower operating costs.
Since then, nothing has gone smoothly. From welcoming back banned users, a wave of racist and antisemitic tweets and content to banning legitimate, accredited reporters, Twitter has gone from being a repository of news to a constant headline itself.
As marketers, we’ve taken a long look at the platform to evaluate the changes at Twitter, how they impact our clients and industry, and what we see by the numbers.
- Is Twitter Losing Users?
- How Has Twitter Engagement Changed?
- Has Twitter’s Algorithm Changed?
- Should Brands Be on Twitter?
Is Twitter Losing Users?
Twitter is expected to lose a substantial number of monthly active users in the next year. One industry report forecast that the platform will finish 2023 with around 50.5 million users. As of October 2022, just weeks before going private, the platform announced that it had 238 million daily active users. That’s a lot of users, but it’s only the 14th largest social media platform by user count.
Twitter’s US audience is expected to shrink the most over the next 2 years due to a mix of technical frustrations, the rise of hateful content, other platforms and, frankly, just not liking Elon Musk.
How Has Twitter Engagement Changed?
Twitter’s algorithm is its secret sauce. Even its most basic functions are deeply-held secrets and Twitter’s own developers are purposely siloed to prevent anyone from knowing all of its inputs. While specific changes are hidden away in the “black box” of the algorithm, we have seen changes in how Twitter wants users to engage with posts.
Latest Tweets vs. Home
The platform serves content in two versions of the Twitter timeline.
Latest tweets – This option on the home screen displays real-time, reverse chronological tweets. This shows primarily accounts that you follow, though we’ve noticed an increase in the number of “recommended” tweets from accounts the algorithm thinks we’ll like.
Home – This displays non-chronological tweets from a mix of accounts you follow and accounts Twitter thinks you’ll like. The more you interact with tweets from other accounts, the more accurately Twitter will serve content that matches your interests. It’s the same basic functionality of platforms like TikTok, Facebook or Instagram, though Twitter has been behind its competitors in capitalizing on this feature.
These two options are the core of the Twitter user experience. Understanding and monitoring how these evolve will be crucial to understanding algorithm changes in the months ahead.
Related: The Top Social Media Trends in 2023
How Have Our Twitter Metrics Changed?
In short, our Twitter metrics haven’t changed at all. Our numbers are relatively identical from October to November by impressions and engagement. Still, some of the most significant changes being considered at Twitter HQ are certainly on the horizon, with the Twitter Blue subscription option and new features likely to change both user behavior and the algorithm.
Should Brands Be on Twitter?
Twitter relies on advertisers for 90% of its revenue, but it’s never been a priority for most brands. In 2022, Twitter ranked 10th in total ad revenue with $6.3 billion. That’s less than 1/10th of Instagram’s revenue and puts Twitter behind search engine Baidu, China’s WeChat and Kuaishou.
Since Musk’s takeover, Twitter’s ad revenue has declined by as much as 40%. Major advertisers have paused campaigns in light of well-documented increases of racism, antisemitism and incidents of real-world violence. Major brands, including the fashion house Balenciaga, have deleted their accounts altogether.
The Future of Twitter in One Screenshot
The changes at Twitter are reflected in Google Trends and the results should be a little alarming. There’s been sustained interest in deleting Twitter accounts since Musk took over, including a massive spike within the first 24 hours of Musk declaring himself “Chief Twit.”
The day after Elon officially closed his Twitter deal, searches for “how to delete twitter account” increased from a score of 13 to 78 out of 100 in the US. (Here’s how to do it, if you’re ready.)
Like many digital marketing agencies, we’ve paused existing paid campaigns and recommended that future campaigns be put on hold. Twitter has never offered the best ROI for our clients, but we have had success using the platform to amplify the reach of content designed primarily for other platforms.
Looking ahead, Twitter’s brash and highly-visible CEO may be its best asset and its biggest problem. For marketers, that kind of unpredictability (read: volatility) isn’t a great investment. We’re prioritizing other paid search opportunities and counting on our dedicated social media team to make the call on Twitter on a client-by-client basis.
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