Twitter has always been social media marketing’s middle child.
It’s never been as successful as Facebook, nor as exciting as Instagram, instead relying on its rawness and the promise of real-time content publishing to maintain its relevance.
And for a while that was enough—though as the landscape has evolved and audiences’ social behaviors and patterns crystalize in new ways, Twitter has become a harder investment for marketers to justify.
Not So Special Anymore
For years, Twitter’s biggest differentiator was clear: It provided an unprecedented opportunity for brands to reach consumers with live and in-the-moment content.
At some point, however, in-the-moment content shifted from something distinctly ownable to an opportunity every social platform could boast. Collectively, the emergence of Snapchat, the popularity of Instagram stories, and the rise of live video have eroded Twitter’s stronghold on real-time social media marketing.
And because these other channels offer newer and shinier opportunities to reach consumers in the moment, Twitter has begun to feel, ironically, like old news.
Where people may head to Instagram to engage in a visual-driven escapism or head to Facebook to see updates from friends and family, Twitter dominates for users looking to keep up with the latest news and headlines. But today’s news cycle is hardly the safest backdrop for branded messaging—and context matters now more than ever.
Given the current socio-political climate, Twitter’s greatest source of possibility becomes its greatest weakness: the impact of your messaging will hinge on what else is happening in the world. Now ask yourself this—when was the last time you opened Twitter and the latest news felt like a good place for a brand to be?
Putting it in Context
Take a brand like Denny’s. The millennial-focused diner chain has earned a loyal internet following for its offbeat breakfast puns and goofy musings. But what happens when this:
Is published amid breaking news of the latest mass shooting or an update on an executive order that will strip transgendered Americans of the right to serve in the military?
Or maybe it’s the third or fourth tweet down, sandwiched between two “#MeToo” posts.
Still feel like making that omelette joke (?), Denny’s?
While a sharp social media manager would assuredly be at the ready to pull any pre-scheduled content if the broader conversation called for it, it seems like a needless gamble for social media marketers to take, with so many other options available. It also forces marketers to start asking questions like, “How bad does the news have to be before we decide to pull content?” Which is both an unfortunate conversation to have and a grey area to pin down.
Given the Times, It's Just Not the Place
Listen, I get it—we can’t just not post to social media because bad things happen in the world.
But where Facebook gives you the safety net of knowing your content will be softened by baby photos and engagement announcements, and Instagram’s escapist nature makes the platform safe from most news-related context issues, Twitter’s rawness and journalistic proclivities make it hard for brands to justify right now.
Or maybe ever again. In addition to a lingering bot problem and dealing with an investigation regarding the 2016 election and a Kremlin-backed troll farm, Twitter has struggled to sustain interest (let alone spark excitement) among marketers or consumers in the way rival social media platforms have. Their updates have been incremental and underwhelming in a time where they need to prove their case more than ever.
If you think I’m crazy, at least you’ll have 280 characters to make your case.