Why Twitter has never played a significant role in our media plans
Clients want tried and tested. Twitter is too testing and tumultuous.
Twitter has been at the forefront of the social media revolution for almost two decades; a position it has earned by influencing business, politics, journalism, and celebrity culture in ways its rivals could only dream of replicating (many of which have tried). It’s always been a platform that has punched above its weight, both in user count (only about 13% of Meta’s total base), and in its simple concept (your thoughts in 140 characters or less). The epitome of effectiveness with efficiency.
Although Twitter now supports 10,000-character tweets, new owner Elon Musk best summed up Twitter’s future in just 39 characters; “freedom of speech, not freedom of reach”, all but signalling to advertisers that the company’s focus on free expression is worth more than the spend they’re offering.
Just a lot of (bird) noise?
You’d be forgiven for thinking that because of the significant airtime Twitter has had in the six months since Musk took ownership that advertisers everywhere have been in full-blown crisis mode, scrambling to fix the Twitter-shaped hole in their media plans. But the reality for many advertisers and agencies like ours, where Twitter has little footing in the media mix, is that it’s all been just noise.
For an agency whose roots are in performance media, Twitter has never played a significant role in our media plans for clients because Twitter lacks the media effectiveness and results to rival other major social platforms.
Nor a particularly effective one for brand, I might add. Whenever we have added it to a client’s media plan, it’s because we’ve exhausted all our other platforms and perhaps there’s testing budget available. But as we all know, budgets are tightening and clients want the best value and return from their investment and Twitter is not an attractive proposition right now, for a myriad of reasons.
Addressing brand safety concerns
For many brands (and not just our portfolio of clients) there are still several key areas of concern regarding Twitter, all of which need to be properly addressed before we’d think about bringing Twitter into the media plan.
The first major concern is brand safety. Twitter had not accounted for the scale of the brand safety concerns that advertisers had post-Musk takeover. We saw this when adspend was pulled, particularly in the US, but also globally. Half of its top 100 advertisers have abandoned the platform. And despite what Musk might have told the BBC in a “hastily arranged” (its words) interview earlier this month, advertisers are not coming back. Many are claiming, including Mondelez, that there are still concerns over their ads being placed next to “wrong messages,” including hate speech.
Twitter is attempting to address this with a host of new brand safety features, including adjacency controls, where advertisers can add up to 1,000 different keywords they don’t want their ads to be seen against or want to be associated with, so brand safety can be more tailored. They’re also working with GARM, the Global Alliance for Responsible Media, to minimise impressions against “bad” tweets, and working on measurement solutions with third parties like DoubleVerify, as an additional layer of protection.
Because brand safety is such a pertinent concern for the platform at the moment, Twitter is also going above and beyond what’s currently offered by its competitors. This includes “deny lists” which are put in place to automatically pause activity in local markets when there is a sensitive event.
All of these tools are positive steps in reassuring advertisers, but it will take some time for Twitter to build back the trust that has been lost.
Costs still count for a lot
The second major concern is cost. Compared to other platforms, CPMs on Twitter are quite high, which could be more to do with Twitter trying to claw back revenue and make up for its shortfall. In normal circumstances, if you saw advertisers pulling out of a platform, the CPMs would be lower due to less competition, but this isn’t the case with Twitter.
ROI efficiency is a bigger focus than ever for brands, especially retailers. At Croud, we’re more excited to put new platforms with higher relevance in front of clients right now than Twitter, especially emerging video and photo platforms like Lemon8. As an early mover, there’s an additional benefit to repurposing creative from other platforms like TikTok or Instagram, which is increasingly becoming the norm.
So, it’s not just about the cost of CPMs — it’s also about the additional cost of adapting to Twitter as it hasn’t found its footing with what it wants to be.
An uncertain future
The third concern is about the future of the platform. Twitter Inc. no longer exists as a company — it’s now part of X Corp — and the change is part of Musk’s vision to make Twitter an “everything app” à la WeChat. These big plans will be challenging, not just in securing user uptake but also overcoming regulatory hurdles.
Everyone has their own idea of whether a “super app” might take off in the West. Call me a cynic, but I don’t see this happening anywhere in the near future. The concept of these super apps was quite cool and innovative a couple of years ago, but their shine has definitely rubbed off.
All this change and potential grand plans for Twitter doesn’t signal to advertisers that they should have confidence in the platform, especially in its current state. We all crave stability and reassurance in uncertain times, and the swift upheaval of Twitter in the past year has clearly proven too much for many.
While Twitter has since made efforts to improve its platform to try and regain the trust of advertisers, it still faces several challenges that have prevented it from playing a significant role in media plans for performance marketing agencies like ours.
That’s not to say that Twitter can’t provide a compelling case for brands. But in this particular climate we find ourselves in, clients want tried and tested, and Twitter is perhaps a little too testing and tumultuous.
Yazmin King is paid social director at digital marketing agency Croud.