2022 closed out with a chaotic couple of months for the social media giant Twitter with many in the media sector reassessing their relationships with the platform.
Following a takeover from Tesla billionaire Elon Musk in October, a mass exodus of employees and a wave of redundancies ensued. Alongside this, the reinstatement of Donald Trump and the change of Twitter’s verified blue badge into a feature that can be purchased prompted concern about the spread of disinformation and impersonation of accounts.
For those working in communications, Twitter has become an integral part of journalism and news. Completely changing the spread of information, access to new voices and building movements. Many of the largest media organisations break news directly from Twitter users and on the frontline of a story, whilst journalists live tweet and source opinion and reaction from other users.
For PR, the use of #journorequest has become a part of daily lives for those pitching opinion and comment to media and has delivered some huge stories and success as the easiest way to have a direct line to some of the most prominent journalists in the UK media. All this could be set to change however, as high-profile brands such as Patagonia and Pfizer quit advertising, huge amounts of revenue are being lost on the site.
One of the significant milestones coming into force next year is the UK Online Safety Bill. This means Twitter will have to show how they are protecting users or face large fines. Human rights groups are also raising concerns about the rising hate speech and trolling of women and minority groups with over 40 advocacy groups signing an open letter urging Twitter’s top 20 advertisers to suspend their work on the platform.
Alongside legitimate concerns about hate speech are two practical problems with Twitter post-takeover – the sheer amount of unwanted, irrelevant and inflammatory posts users now have to wade through on their timelines, and the complete explosion in bots and spam responses that make genuine engagement and good faith discussion virtually impossible. Ironically, those developments completely undermine Musk’s stated desire for Twitter to be the classic “marketplace for ideas” as it is simply becoming a broadcast channel for organisations and brands.
Many journalists are now looking at new platforms such as Mastodon and The Post as ways to engage with the news and expert commentators. Reports so far of clunky software and bugs on both are sure to be ironed out. Everything has to start somewhere and 2023 could see the development of these as a viable Twitter alternative as followings start to build.
For Forster and our clients, we are carefully watching the developing landscape. We have suspended any spend with the site and are advising clients to do the same. Working closely with our social agency partners we will be considering the best opportunities to target audiences while supporting our values as an agency.
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