Nov 9, 2022 - Technology

Rivals see opening in Twitter's chaos

Illustration of the Twitter bird surrounded by shark fins.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Tech, advertising and media companies are smelling blood in the water as user enthusiasm and marketing dollars drain out of Twitter following Elon Musk’s tempestuous takeover.

The big picture: The chaos Musk has uncorked is creating potential for a real shift where some other businesses wax as Twitter wanes.

  • Tech companies are rolling out Twitter-adjacent features for frustrated users.
  • Marketers are seeking more "brand-safe" spaces for their budgets, and media companies are courting them.

State of play: Many users have been vocal about fleeing the social platform because of concerns over reduced content moderation, a jump in hate speech and Musk’s professed free-speech absolutism.

  • While Musk initially attempted to mollify marketers with a promise that Twitter would not become a “free-for-all hellscape,” his policy pronouncements and postings have led some prominent advertisers to slow or pause their ad buys.

By the numbers: Even before the sale to Musk was final, Reuters reported internal documents that showed Twitter had been losing its most active users since the pandemic began.

  • But internally, Twitter is reportedly claiming "all-time high" growth in user numbers since the advent of the Musk era, per the Verge.
  • Only Twitter insiders really know the full picture, and now that the company is privately held, we're likely to have even less visibility into its metrics.

Services that offer alternatives to Twitter are seeing the moment as a unique opportunity to entice new users.

  • Many Twitter refugees are finding their way to Mastodon, the open-source, decentralized microblogging platform that launched in 2016.
  • According to data from Apptopia shared with Axios, daily downloads of the app increased from 3,400 to 113,400 between Oct. 27 and Nov. 6.
  • And Mastodon founder Eugen Rochko said Monday that the service now has more than 1 million monthly active users, with 489,003 new users added since Musk bought Twitter.
  • “I have been working very, very hard to push the idea that there is a better way to do social media than what the commercial companies like Twitter and Facebook allow,” Rochko told Time.

Other alternatives:

Other platforms are rolling out new features designed to tantalize disaffected Twitter customers.

The intrigue: Twitter needs marketers way more than they need the social network: The great bulk of its revenue comes from advertisers, but they have many other options.

  • Brands from General Mills, Pfizer, The North Face and multiple automobile companies have paused or slowed their Twitter ad buys. The Wall Street Journal reports that buyers were considering shifting those dollars to other tech platforms.
  • When veteran marketing trade official Lou Paskalis attempted to engage Musk in further discussion about advertisers’ concerns on Twitter, Musk blocked him.
  • A source told Axios that professional network LinkedIn sent a note to marketers touting the platform's advantages after Musk’s Twitter takeover.

Yes, but: Twitter’s shadow continues to looms large. The communities that users have built there over the years might be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to recreate elsewhere.

  • Many users, including authors and journalists, have built whole professional networks on the platform that they can't easily rebuild from scratch.
  • Twitter has also been particularly important for other communities, particularly many underrepresented groups (including the trans, LGB, and disability communities as well as the well-documented Black Twitter).
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