Turmoil on Twitter poses risks to the company’s brand

The reputation of Twitter Inc. between consumers and advertisers is at risk from the turmoil unfolding under new owner Elon Musk, some branding executives and other observers say, even as some Twitter users believe a change in leadership could improve the platform.

Mr. Musk, who closed his acquisition of the social media company on Oct. 27, fired Twitter’s top executives, laid off about half its staff and floated several ideas for changes to how the platform operates. Some advertisers have suspended advertising on Twitter, largely either out of concern that Mr. Musk might weaken content moderation, potentially leading to more hate speech on the platform, or because of uncertainty surrounding the company’s direction.

“This uncertainty and volatility, entirely Musk’s, will quickly damage Twitter’s brand and upset users,” said Darren Savage, chief strategist at Omnicom Group. Inc.

– digital marketing property of Tribal Worldwide London.

But the new era at Twitter could also be an opportunity for the company to redefine its brand for the better.

Sixty-four percent of Twitter users said Mr. Musk would have a positive impact on the product, according to a survey of 1,212 adults using the platform by polling firm Harris Insights & Analytics between Oct. 28 and 30.

The platform has also received incredible publicity since Mr. Musk took over, said Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. “And in many ways, this is great news for Twitter, because now people are thinking about Twitter for the first time in a long time,” he said.

But it remains unclear what Twitter will actually be under Mr. Musk, Mr. Calkins said.

Twitter did not respond to requests for comment.

Mr Musk has said he wants Twitter to be less restrictive about what users can share, and in his first weekend as owner posted a link to a conspiracy theory about the attack on the husband of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. He later deleted the tweet and, more broadly, said he would form a special board to address content moderation issues.

Twitter will likely have to prove it can keep advertisers “safe” from appearing near content they might find disturbing, while assuring those advertisers they’re not helping to fund a platform that allows racist or hateful content to flourish. advertising executives said.

“Advertisers are thinking about how the dollars they spend on the platform could be seen as their direct endorsement of Elon’s personal views,” said Toni Box, senior vice president of social media at media agency Assembly, a member of ad holding company Stagwell. Inc.

“And Musk’s personal tweets are being questioned in relation to brand safety and proximity, so this could be very damaging if not addressed quickly.”

Howard Belk, co-CEO of Omnicom Group brand consultancy Siegel + Gale, said events on Twitter are likely changing the way people see it. “Recent turmoil at the company has resulted in the objectification of Twitter, raising the question among users and advertisers as to whether Twitter is a safe media channel for desirable consumers or merely a plaything for Musk and a disinformation tool for bad actors within and around the world,” he said.

Twitter will now have to work to reach out to users in an effort to moderate them or risk losing them, Mr. Belk added.

Twitter before Mr. Musk weathered a series of controversies that rattled some advertisers and users.

Twitter’s number of monetizable average daily active users rose to 237.8 million in the second quarter of this year from 229 million in the first quarter and 206 million a year earlier.

The company’s marketing team over the years developed advertising campaigns that positioned Twitter as a place for people who wanted to quickly find out what was happening in the world and bring their most authentic selves online. The ads aimed to boost the platform’s active user base by mimicking or replicating the often irreverent text displayed by users on the platform. It ran an ad during the 2018 Oscars.

But news coverage and Mr. Musk’s tweets could continue to play a big role in perceptions of Twitter because the company’s ad spending is relatively modest and has recently been declining.

The company spent $1.4 million to advertise in the U.S. from January to August this year, up from $2.2 million in the same period a year earlier, according to estimates from research firm Kantar Media. These elements include media such as television, radio, outdoor advertising, magazines and the internet, but exclude social media.

By comparison, advertising to promote the hot social media platform TikTok in the US from January to August totaled $51.6 million, up from $32.7 million in the same months of 2021.

“The brand drives strong engagement and relevance with its core users and has achieved a significant cultural presence,” said Andrew Miller, executive director of strategy at Interbrand, an Omnicom-owned brand consultancy that annually ranks the brand values ​​of companies.

But this is a potential turning point for Twitter, Mr. Miller said. “When brands go through business change, whether acquired, merged or taken private in this case, one of the most important short-term goals is to assuage user and customer base concerns to minimize attrition through the transition.

Twitter’s brand would benefit if its new owner stepped back from micromanaging day-to-day operations and avoided unhelpful tweets, including a new one on Friday about a “massive drop in revenue” from advertiser cuts, founder Aaron Kwittken said. and chairman of Stagwell PR firm KWT Global.

“I think the brand is irrevocably damaged, actually, unless and until Musk finds someone else to run Twitter,” Mr. Kwittken said. “People used to say Twitter was like a town square. It’s really becoming more of a gladiator arena.”

Write to Patrick Coffee at [email protected], Megan Graham at [email protected] and Katie Deighton at [email protected]

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