Written by Program Intern Zac Jeffery.
How PR and Marketing Agencies are Responding to Changes Across the Social Media Landscape
The controversy surrounding Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter at the end of 2022 left the platform in a concerning position for consumers and advertisers alike. Almost overnight, Twitter had become a far less advertiser-friendly platform due to Musk’s own controversies, but it certainly cannot be disregarded by marketing agencies and businesses looking to build a community for their brand. The changing state of the app, now known as X, means that brands must adjust the content they are producing and be aware of the continued changes that may be made to the platform in the future.
Twitter before X
Twitter was founded in 2006 with the idea of a messaging service in which each message could reach large groups of people. From the very start, Twitter relied on building communities through short text updates less than 140 characters long. Twitter posed a new challenge for marketing agencies moving into the digital age, particularly with its focus on short-form text content. Adjusting to the platform took time, until brands began to better understand how to use social media to their advantage. Building communities was ingrained in the fabric of Twitter, so while it was a challenge, it presented vast opportunities for brands to have fast and direct interaction with customers. Brands needed to adjust their messaging to the character limit in order to grow a following, leading to new and more inventive forms of marketing. For example, large brands such as DuoLingo and Wendy’s took risks on Twitter, utilising the conversational nature of the platform to have viral interactions with customers, often mocking them or taking advantage of Twitter trends. DuoLingo did this particularly well, using their logo as a character that would mock users in often viral moments. This became a common occurrence as brands began using their Twitter accounts more casually to create funny conversations that would be retweeted thousands of times and posted to other platforms for continuous marketing.
How has Elon Musk changed Twitter?
Elon Musk’s entry to Twitter was hugely controversial. Big changes were made to the platform, such as the new Twitter Blue subscription service and reports of an increased number of bots and reduced maintenance. Musk’s personal views presented a risk to many, meaning many brands such as Coca-Cola and Jeep removed their advertising on the platform, resulting in marketing agencies having to once again become creative with their campaigns to build a following for brands. Further changes to the design of the app (such as an algorithmically selected “For You” page) also meant new challenges for marketers as they contended with users changing how they used the app. Algorithmically selected content on the consumer’s homepage means there is less potential for wider influence from brands. In addition, the recently introduced monetisation for influencers with a certain number of impressions (likes, reposts, shares, views, and replies) has led to an over-saturation of the platform, with many posting exclusively to try and earn more money, with little thought for the quality of their posts.
The most significant change Elon Musk has made in his short time in charge of Twitter is changing its name. The app’s new name: X, might seem like simply a cosmetic change, but it represents far larger changes being made to the app. Most significantly, is Musk’s suspected interest in creating a “super app” that is not dissimilar to WeChat, used in China. Reportedly, Musk intends to make X the leading app in social media, messaging, video calling, shopping, and banking. This once again represents huge changes for the future of advertising and marketing on the platform, presumably changing the functionalities available for marketers to utilise.
Changing Social Media Landscape
The changes to X are not singular, but rather represent an overhaul in the quickly changing social media landscape. The primary change that has taken place in the last few years is in the style of content being made. The introduction and success of TikTok as a competitor to X, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube has represented a shift to short-form video content from the previous success of longer video content, images, and written text. TikTok has inspired changes to older social media apps, for example X’s new video scrolling based on an algorithm, while Instagram and Facebook pivot their focus to Reels.
This change has impacted the social media marketing process massively, forcing agencies to produce entirely different kinds of content. Specialist skills are required for shooting and editing video content, as well as differing budgets depending on the client. Some clients will now require entire crews to create content that suits their brand and social media presence, while other clients can easily market their product with just an iPhone. This type of content does not naturally suit X as a platform, so it appears that PR and marketing agencies will look to use X similarly to how it was once used (arguably what it has always been best suited to) as a tool for community conversations, updates, and announcements. Marketing agencies must be creative with how they start conversation on X, but when done correctly it has the potential to go far beyond any form of marketing on other social media platforms.
Ultimately, with so much of X’s future up in the air, it is difficult to predict how marketers will be using the platform over the next few years. On its current trend, we can be sure that short-form video content will be central to social media usage, but X may be better suited to reversing that trend and returning to its beginnings of building communities and giving real-time updates. Whether brands will come back to advertising on X or find a more risk-averse platform such as Threads is also unclear, but right now agencies cannot deny that X remains an important player in the social media landscape. When it comes to having engaged community conversations about a topic or brand, X remains the most powerful tool across the social media landscape.