Twitter has been the go-to platform for users to share their thoughts, engage in back-and-forth conversation with public figures and brands, and search for relevant content using hashtags. Like everything else, Twitter has been evolving through the past years to become what we know it as today. From controversial public figures being banned to tech billionaires buying out the platform and evolving it’s structure, there’s much to consider when it comes to brands utilizing the platform to meet their goals. 

Evolution of Twitter

Twitter quickly claimed its space in the social media landscape as an avenue to share all of your inner thoughts in the 2000’s. The unique ability to interact in a Q&A fashion, retweet, and utilize hashtags for visibility and searchability set the platform apart and aided in its rise in popularity. Through the years it amassed users of all demographics including brands, celebrities, and political candidates and officials. 

Current State

Elon Musk began openly criticizing the platform in early 2022 after Twitter banned Donald Trump in his last days of presidency. Musk believed the move to ban Trump was infringing on the app’s users’ right to free speech. With Musk being the shareholder with the largest stake in the company, he was invited to join the board of directors — an invitation he ultimately declined. It was shortly after this exchange that Must made an official offer to purchase the platform for $43 Billion. Following a six-month debate over spam accounts and data requests and a lawsuit filed by Twitter, the purchase was finalized in October of 2022. 

Since the purchase Musk has been making changes that have made some waves, including: 

    • Introducing Twitter Blue: A subscription service that charges users to use the platform, required in order to receive a blue check mark. However, the initial launch of this posed more problems than solutions with impersonation accounts of brands and public figures spreading false information that led to a temporary pause of the service.  
    • Laying off nearly half of the 7,500 staff members with little to no explanation or warning: The first round of layoffs happened in November 2022 when staff members were faced with disabled accounts, the inability to communicate with each other, and locked offices before receiving the news. Citing financial cuts as the reasoning for the layoffs, it was portrayed to the remaining employees that there would be no further staffing changes. However, another large round of layoffs was executed in early 2023. 
    • Open sourcing the API: In efforts to make Twitter the “least gameable system on the internet” and increase the transparency of the app, Musk shared the Twitter source to Github, a code hosting platform for version control and collaboration, at the end of March 2023. The move towards a more transparent platform is something that Musk has been advocating for since he openly criticized previous management’s mishandling of moderation and recommendations which he believes suppressed the right to free speech. The code allows the public to see how tweets are recommended and shown to Twitter users. As the first social platform to ever open source its API it comes with pros and cons. Pros: Sharing the source code has the potential to increase trust and belief in the platform. Cons: This comes with the potential for security breaches, as well as giving competitors (especially those third-party app developers) an opportunity to implement aspects of the code themselves on competing platforms.
    • Discontinuing third party app access: In January 2023 Twitter updated its developer agreement to ban third-party apps on the platform nearly a week after the apps were unexpectedly shut down across various app stores and began to display error messages to current users. Third-party apps like Twitterific, Tweetie, Tweetbot, and more have long contributed to the overall success of Twitter. They’re credited with not only aiding in Twitter establishing its identity, but providing a safe space for Twitter users when met with unwelcomed changes and encouraging users to keep Tweeting at all. 
  • Allowing controversial members, like Trump, to rejoin the platform.

Oodle’s Take

It’s no secret the Twitter experience today is vastly different from the Twitter experience a year ago. Musk’s unforeseen major layoffs could be to blame for the increasingly frequent bugs and breakages that the platform is experiencing. 

At the moment what proves to be true is Twitter is still standing despite the controversy that came with Elon Musk’s purchase, but controversy isn’t anything new in the social media landscape. As of early 2023, only 43% of marketers were marketing their business on Twitter, leaving a lot of room for possibilities for brands whose audience is already on the platform. Opportunity and possibilities on Twitter should be explored with careful deliberation against brands’ KPIs and goals they’re trying to meet as well as the audience they’re trying to reach. Historically a male millennial-skewed platform, Gen Z is the fastest growing demographic with this audience growing 30% faster on Twitter than on Instagram. With the open sourced API, brands also have a unique opportunity to assess their organic reach potential. 

What’s Next? 

Despite Musks’ controversial changes and only 34% approval rating, Musk has stated the rocky start to his acquisition may be smoothing out with the platform approaching its break-even point. However, contradicting reports say as of March 2023, both web and app traffic is down YoY. In addition to a dip in organic performance, advertising on the platform is becoming increasingly difficult especially with the termination of the free API. Paid advertising accounts for approximately 90% of the platform’s revenue, but it’s hardly the most advanced of the social networks for advertisers themselves. It can be expected these hoops Twitter is requiring advertisers to jump though will surely deter paid usage. With the algorithm being shared publicly, you can expect to see platform alternatives to ramp up their efforts and more to emerge.