If you’ve logged onto Twitter the past few days, you may have seen Mario flipping the bird. Or perhaps you saw an account claiming to be Eli Lilly posting that insulin was now free (it’s not, but that’s for another blog post). You might also have seen a lot more “blue checks” than you did a few weeks ago.
Over the past week, Elon Musk has made public pronouncements about weakening content moderation policies, restoring accounts that had been banned for hate speech or misinformation, and changing or demolishing the community fact-checking “Bird Watch” — much of which he’s since walked back or delayed.
This is all to say that Twitter has been subjected to significant turmoil since the Musk acquisition. More and more brands are questioning their presence on Twitter and especially, whether to continue running ads on the platform. Advertiser reaction has been decidedly mixed. Some major brand advertisers like GM, General Mills, P&G, and American Express announced that they would be pausing all Twitter ad spend but from looking at our own timelines, plenty of other major brands — including State Farm, Wells Fargo, Disney, and (at least as of this morning) even Nintendo — have not.
The same appears to be true in the nonprofit space, with many organizations taking the “wait-and-see” approach. As of now, there does not appear to be an organized effort to pressure advertisers to boycott Twitter, as there was with Facebook in 2020. That may yet change.
So what’s a brand to do? In short: we’re recommending clients continue advertising for now, as we closely monitor for any changes to the platform. And we’re preparing recommendations for budget shifts if we do need to make a change.
Our primary criteria for making any decision to move off of Twitter entirely are:
- Are the audiences you want to get in front of reachable on Twitter at scale and at cost?
- Are you comfortable with the content to which your name and brand are running adjacent?
As of now, we believe the answers to both are still “yes.” But the current situation on Twitter is volatile. Many brands have already decided their risk tolerance for number 2 is too low to continue advertising.
Most recently, the proliferation of fake “Blue Checks” — accounts attaining verification by paying $8 for Twitter Blue — is threatening major brands by failing to prevent imposter accounts, which can inflict serious damage to a brand’s image. (While we were typing this, the buy-a-blue-check functionality was temporarily put on hold, for obvious reasons. But according to Elon, that’s coming back on November 29th — Giving Tuesday.) While a little sleuthing will reveal those accounts as imposters, the potential for virality is high when moderation is basically non-existent. Just ask Mario. That is the third question that we’re asking advertisers:
- Is the reputational risk from a verified imposter significant?
If so, it may not be time to leave the platform entirely, but you should expect to look twice at supporting it with ad dollars.
Since so much of what is happening right now appears to be at the whims of Elon Musk alone, brands should plan to keep monitoring changes to the site on an ongoing basis. If there’s an indication that audiences are leaving Twitter en masse or that they’re no longer engaging with ads, or if a change is announced that will create a brand safety concern, then the smart call is to pause ads immediately and recommend a shift to another platform.
Of course, as things will continue to change, our recommendations may as well. We’re certain there’s more news and surprises to come, and we’ll be back with more updates ourselves then too.
UPDATE: Since we wrote this yesterday, there was another round of significant staff departures from Twitter, which reportedly included entire teams managing critical infrastructure — and it looks to us like that might include Twitter’s ads manager. So as of now, we don’t recommend continuing to run Twitter ad campaigns while the platform is this unstable. When (or if) that changes, the criteria in this post are what we’ll be using to determine whether it’s the right time for advertisers to get back on the bird.