Got a Twitter strategy? Rip it up. Now.

Branding, Communications, Digital, Digital Media, Ruth Callaghan

Ruth Callaghan 11 Nov 2022
5 mins

For advertisers, Twitter has gone from a niche market to a dumpster fire, and the reputational risks are only going to climb.

Where to begin.

Should we start with Elon Musk’s grand vision to get users of a previously free social media platform to pay $8 a month for ‘verification tick’ known as Twitter Blue?

Should we focus on the touted advantages of that payment — equality “between lords & peasants” (his words, not mine) instead of the previous system in which verification was limited to those people prominent enough to need to prove they weren’t an imposter?

Or the boast that those who paid up would see fewer, better ads and have all their utterings favourably weighted in the timeline but those who didn’t pay would have to put up with poor user experience?

Or should we jump ahead to the bit where people wanted to know how the ‘verification’ process would actually work — how do you verify an identity without, you know, identification — and the explanation made no sense?

Or maybe we ignore all that. It happened Tuesday after all and that’s like a decade in Elon-years.

No let’s start this with the Veri-Fyre Festival that was Thursday’s unveiling of the back-of-an-envelope verification system which went about as well as you might expect.

Tony Blair (verified) and George Bush (verified) swapped gags about bombing Iraq.

What Joe Biden (verified) was up to is unprintable.

Basketballer LeBron James (verified) demanded a trade from the LA Lakers with thousands of engagements before the faker bearing his name was taken down.

Did that happen before or after Elon killed plans to add ‘official’ on top of ‘verified’ just hours after it was announced? I can’t tell you. It all begins to blur.

It’s tempting to say we are watching the destruction of one of the world’s biggest companies in real time, but that doesn’t capture the wild ride we are on.

It’s like a movie stuck on fast forward with characters careening in and out of shot.

Things are announced. Other things get announced on top of those things. The first things are repealed — or was that just an Elon Musk parody account (verified)?

The poor Twitter help page gets its fifth refresh in a day and is still hopelessly out of date.

It’s exhausting.

Which brings us to the headline question for the day: do you have a Twitter strategy?

Because right now, it’s going up in smoke.

Much has been made of advertisers who were wary of pouring money into Elon’s Twitanic even before the latest debacle.

For most brands, Twitter is a niche marketing option made attractive only because it provides access to influencers.

Ordinary people are usually smart enough to stay off what is affectionately known as “the hellsite” so the Twitterverse is usually filled with journalists, celebrities, sports stars, politicians, publicists and would-be-all-of-the-aboves.

It has been a good place for advertisers to get traction on a stunt or statement just by targeting the right timelines and letting those messages drive off-platform content and news.

But this clown show now poses a risk to what advertisers call brand safety.

In technical terms, that’s what the International Advertising Board defines as “controls that companies in the digital advertising supply chain use to protect brands against negative impacts on consumer opinion associated with specific types of content and/or related loss of return on investment.”

Put more simply, advertisers have been working for years on a brand safety floor, with a group of categories that outline the kind of content they won’t advertise on or near.

They don’t want to be associated with spam and hoaxes, hate speech, incitement or illegal acts.

They are rightly worried about the risk to a brand of advertising next to explicit adult content or content that dehumanises on race, gender, sexual orientation or other grounds.

On Blue-Tick-Eve Wednesday, Elon took to Twitter Space call with advertisers to promise sceptical advertisers that things weren’t going to be that bad.

He might as well not have bothered.

Not only were some unimpressed by the “meandering” meeting (in which he compared a timeline with posts from unverified users to looking into your email spam folder every now and then to see what turns up) but only hours later their concerns were confirmed.

Nintendo was the most prominent brand to be hijacked with a smutty Super Mario giving the finger, quickly gaining more than 20,000 likes and no small number of complaints.

It probably didn’t help that Elon amplified the post to his many millions of followers by boosting a user who had suggested the whole thing was somehow a “genius” move for Twitter to extract $8 from a scam artist who was only going to get banned anyway.

I’m sure Nintendo was delighted.

Since Nintendo’s hijacking, fake verified brands proliferated across the platform and even Musk’s own Tesla became a target.

So here we are. What now?

If you are an advertiser, you should be thinking seriously about the risks to your reputation right now on Twitter, from finding yourself cosying up to hate content to having any Joe with $8 put your brand to the sword.

If you are not an advertiser, but use the platform to push your company story, you need to weigh up whether it is worth it.

If you are a government department or local council, well good luck with getting that $8/month procurement through, because otherwise your tweets will be consigned to the spam bin along with the rest of the peasantry.

And if you are someone — like me — who has loved and leveraged this platform for professional reasons, it’s time to take a breath. Things are crazy on the bird site right now.

Whether they can ever go back to where they were remains to be seen.

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Ruth Callaghan More from author

Ruth uses two decades of experience as a media strategist, communications adviser and journalist to develop, deliver and distribute messages that cut through.

She specialises in providing strategic digital and content services for clients, using the principles of newsworthy and engaging content to tell compelling stories. She is a skilled media trainer and works with professionals both within and outside the communications industry to develop their digital, writing and media skills.

Ruth’s work in this field has included developing digital and inbound marketing strategies for clients, including use of lead generation software, content marketing and social media. She works with emerging technologies including virtual reality in campaigns and continues to write for publications including the Australian Financial Review.

When not distracted by the next shiny digital tool, Ruth likes to holiday in cooler climates with her family or hang out with her stubborn Scottish Terrier Maisie.

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