Another week, another Elon x Twitter headline (pun intended). The man currently driving Twitter decided to unexpectedly rebrand to X – on a Sunday night, with seemingly little to no external planning. Social media managers came into a palooza of memes on their Monday morning, in addition to that all too familiar feeling of needing to refresh their social strategies, again.
The move to X – with seemingly very few platform updates or thought-out processes for a rebrand – is to draw eyes to the platform following the launch of Meta’s Threads in the previous week.
Threads launched to a reported huge success. The platform peaked at 49 million daily active users on Android on 7th July (two days after launch), but a week later this was down to 23.6 million. Reports listed fast follower growth for several brands, but Threads has a much easier growth strategy with the option for new users to carry over all their ‘currently following’ from Instagram at the tap of a button.
Threads launch day felt like the old days of Twitter, which was a comfort to fans of the bird app who were watching it crumble. People (and brands) posted a stream of consciousness, often without much substance but rapturous likes and reposts from early adopters. Brands like Monzo and Channel 4 went all in on that first week, adopting a similar approach and tone of voice to their Twitter presence.
But Threads isn’t Twitter. While it’s got a very similar user experience, and a softer tone of voice definitely feels right there, audiences are being started out from an Instagram following which is a very different place to Twitter as a platform.
Is now the time for brands to change their social strategy with the move to X?
In a nutshell, no, at least not in my opinion, or at least not yet. Beware of ‘social media experts’ touting all-knowing X recommendations or Threads strategies. Truthfully, the future is uncertain on both platforms and while you can have some general direction to explore, there is not enough data to inform a fully-fledged strategy yet.
X currently feels like an ego-driven move without much substance. Remember it’s not the first time Musk has pushed this branding onto a company he’s leading, it was the same story with Paypal in 2000 where he was the largest shareholder at the time. His aim with X is to create ‘the everything app’ which is where Twitter comes in, looking to create a presence similar to WeChat where everything is in one place.
The goal of ‘bidding adieu to the Twitter brand and, gradually all the birds’ is Elon effectively decimating some mass brand equity. Think of the Twitter terms like tweet and retweet – the type of verbiage that brands dream to make stick in day-to-day language. Elon will be removing all of that. Will we now X something? Re-X something? And let’s not even go down the road of aligning itself with X-rated sites and content, or having it feel like placeholder text whenever you type it out.
So, what does the future hold for brands on social?
The future of brands on social isn’t going anywhere, whether it’s an uncertain new platform like Threads or a half-baked rebrand like X. The bigger picture of social media marketing however is changing in line with how people are using platforms and the proliferation of channels. Brands will do well to step away from strong sales messaging and product pushes, instead adopting a defined personality and focusing on community building.
While brands may be sitting back in the comfort of easy follower growth on Threads, that follower number means very little unless it’s doing something for your brand, or you’re doing something with the followers. Similarly with X, while there have been mass exoduses from brands and users alike over the past year under Elon Musk, there are still thriving communities on the platform and valuable conversations to be had if you’re tuned in to what’s going on (not to mention still some outstanding meme moments day to day).
There is likely a future for both X and Threads, but as with any other social platform, with their own defined audiences and usage. While brands can often get away with repurposing a lot of content across platforms for the moment, success lies in a channel-first approach to help carve out different personas across the landscape. Brands hinged on selling are largely going to fall into the shadows while those with a personality and a clear, personable presence will continue to grow.
Younger audiences in particular, but by and larger audiences in general, are not won over by gratuitous sales messaging. Product pushes need to be organic, via influencers or real people using something, and they need to stand up to what they promise. There’s currently a huge social trend of ‘de-influencing’, i.e. debunking why you don’t need everything you’ve been told you have to have. With the continued proliferation of social media, traditional brand marketing is becoming less and less effective. Brands need to earn their space in the mix and build an authentic relationship with their audience.
This is where a presence on Threads or X will thrive, as both lend themselves to a two-way conversation instead of one-sided brand messaging. While there is usually a spot for any brand on any platform, as always it needs to serve a purpose for both the brand and the audience. It’s not essential to be on every platform, but there can be value in carving out a presence if you can afford to invest the time in the long term.
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