The Future of Twitter

15 February 2019

When founded in 2006 Twitter was something of a phenomenon. It provided a platform for microblogging - ultra micro – 140 characters to be precise, (which in 2017 increased to 280). Twitter was considered another breakthrough in the digital world shortly after Facebook’s launch in 2004, and took off as a new social media channel, challenging traditional news outlets and methods of delivery. Furthermore, it has been used as a way to network with high profile celebrities and to spread breaking or fake news. For digital marketers, Twitter has been used to create large followings of brands through influencers, as a way to engage with audiences, and as a channel for paid search marketing.

However, general feeling and some statistics are suggesting that Twitter no longer has the command or relevancy that it used to have. Recently, Twitter has become plagued with bots spreading fake news, and is suffering a stagnation in activity, perhaps because the younger demographic are moving to more ‘trendy’ platforms like Instagram and Snapchat. And, with the big players in paid advertising, Facebook and Google to compete with, does Twitter have a future in the world of digital marketing?

is twitter heading downhill?

Whilst Twitter still hosts an impressive 326 million monthly users, this is four million fewer than late 2017, and is not in the realm of Facebook’s 2.32 billion monthly user numbers. Twitter activity is therefore decreasing and comes up against stiff competition in the arena of social media, ranking behind other major players Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. Additionally, networking platform LinkedIn also seems to be on the rise, especially with all things related to business and corporate marketing. And, with the restraints of a 280 character limit, Twitter can’t compete with LinkedIn when it comes to more in-depth posting. Furthermore, for our social media clients we tend to see more organic activity and interaction through LinkedIn, suggesting that between the two it may be the more responsive site for digital marketing.

Challenging long established actors in news and media, Twitter serviced the post-modern era by becoming a non-traditional news outlet, with non-traditional gatekeepers being in control of spreading news. And although Twitter originally started out as one of the pioneers in this digital fluidity, it has been caught up by many other social media platforms. One feature of contemporary digital fluidity means that people receive their news from a variety of different sources; one source worth noting is the news outlet tiles in Snapchat, a convenient and competitive way to deliver news, making it clear that Twitter has new and tough competition in this field.

Paid advertising often forms a large part of any successful marketing campaign, however, Twitter just doesn’t seem keep up with large players, Google and Facebook when it comes to paid. The success of a paid campaign relies largely on how well it can specifically target users, and with less users on Twitter and a high volume of fake accounts than across the other two platforms, targeting cannot be as effective. Therefore, marketers will probably choose to use other sites like Google and Facebook which can intensively target specific users to place their ads.

Another negative feature of Twitter, which we have been more aware of in recent years, is the high numbers of bots or fake accounts which post automated tweets and spread fake news and spam. Twitter received some bad press concerning the problem with these so called bots, as some studies suggested they were responsible for two of the most consequential elections in previous years (the election of Donald Trump and Brexit). Beyond politics, bots really throw a spanner into the works for businesses and digital marketers that use Twitter as a platform for social media marketing. Fake interactions and followers may give marketers a false sense of engagement and doesn’t give the value of a real like or retweet. Additionally, spammy or false engagement just doesn’t look good for any company trying to spread meaningful branding messages. In 2018 however, Twitter began taking bigger steps to tackle the issue of bots, removing nearly 10m fake accounts.

Not all bad?

Despite there being signs that Twitter just doesn’t have the command, reach or popularity compared to other platforms in the digital marketing arena, there are still other signs to suggest that there is still life in it yet.

326 million people use twitter every month, and there are over 5000 tweets every second, statistics that keep up the hope and look promising for digital marketing campaigns. Studies also suggest that 75% of B2B businesses and 65% of B2C businesses use Twitter for their marketing, too demonstrating that Twitter is a relevant and credible platform in the world of digital marketing.

Moreover, according to research, people are 31% more likely to recall what they saw on Twitter than anywhere else on the internet, which is good news for digital marketers. Despite decreased usage, this strongly suggests Twitter is still a great platform for spreading messages and creating brand or product awareness.

Additionally, Twitter is also good for posting video content, and with its own streaming tool Periscope, it is trying to keep up with the growing trend in video and vlogging content. However, live streaming on other popular social networking sites like Facebook and Instagram present stiff competition, which with Twitter’s declining user numbers may be hard to beat.

Twitter still provides a unique platform for directly contacting politicians, celebrities, and companies, which brands can use to their advantage. By being reachable and responsive on Twitter, they can show that they are willing to speak to their customers publicly and directly and can create a sense of trust, which is good marketing for any brand. Mark Schaefer, widely respected social media marketing expert, believes that Twitter is still crucial to marketing success.

Conclusion

Whilst the statistics and growth don’t necessarily look good for Twitter, it is still a popular and vital part of many marketing strategies, and an effective way to reach large audiences with snippets of branding or messaging quickly.

However, with the other big players storming ahead from both paid and organic perspectives, offering newer and more popular features, and being a hit with a younger demographic, Twitter may have a hard time keeping up. And with LinkedIn slowly creeping through the woodwork, offering no character limits and the opportunities for business networking, Twitter may see itself falling even further behind. Add to the mix the issue of Twitter bots and the spread of fake news, the future doesn't look bright for Twitter.

Nevertheless, I think that whilst Twitter now falls behind other social media platforms in terms of popularity, it is still a key platform for businesses to use for their marketing, and, with promising user numbers I don’t think we will be seeing the end of Twitter anytime soon.

Watch this space!

Written by Alice Pelham

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