It has been just over 36 hours since Meta’s Threads launched, and, reportedly, 50 million people have already signed up. It’s still early days, but I believe this is the final blow for Elon’s Twitter.
I used to love Twitter. In fact, Twitter is the reason I’m writing this. I landed a job in social media marketing because of Twitter. Someone shared a tweet from a marketing agency, I applied, and six months later, I was tweeting for a famous automotive brand.
Twitter was amazing. It once helped me retrieve a bag I had left on a train. I even started a band called ‘Tw1tterband’ through Twitter, and we made a couple of songs without ever meeting in person. Watching moments like the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony while simultaneously following Twitter was one of the most heart-warming experiences of my life. But after posting 130,000 tweets, about a year ago, Twitter gave me the ick. I stopped tweeting, scrolling, and yesterday, I deactivated my account.
So, what went wrong? It’s not entirely Elon’s fault, but here are a few mistakes he made that could have saved something that has been so special to me for over a decade of my life:
- He didn’t address the troll problem.
The worst thing about Twitter was and still is the trolls—those angry, toxic, anonymous individuals (probably men) who spew venom at anyone popular or with a differing opinion. I dealt with my fair share of trolls and became adept at blocking them, but it’s exhausting. I can only imagine how terrifying it must be for female celebrities on Twitter.
As I write this, Threads appears to be troll-free. Why? Well, to open a Threads account, you need an Instagram account. Since Instagram is primarily image-based, most users have shared at least some details about their lives. Moreover, many users have linked their Instagram accounts to their Facebook accounts, further reducing their anonymity. Trolls will eventually emerge, but for now, I’m enjoying Threads and its current peaceful vibes.
What Musk should have done is introduce a soft verification process, similar to what dating apps use. By confirming personal details, verified users would receive a badge to prove their legitimacy. Trolls wouldn’t want to go through this process, and, in time, they would stand out by lacking verification. It’s not far-fetched to imagine that verified users could potentially block replies from non-verified users, effectively eliminating the trolls.
Another benefit of this approach would be the delicious data it would generate. Twitter has been lacking in this aspect. After a decade of tweeting, Twitter still doesn’t know my age, location, or even my gender. This lack of data makes Twitter a less attractive platform for advertisers compared to the much more powerful Meta.
How can Twitter provide me with relevant ads when it knows so little about me? The answer is, it can’t. This is the reason ads on Twitter jar compared to when scrolling Insta Stories.
As an advertiser, Twitter has been our last resort when recommending advertising strategies to clients. In the past five years, I can only think of one very niche B2B client where Twitter delivered somewhat positive results, but not positive enough to feature as a case study.
- He laid off a significant number of staff.
When you work in social media advertising, things occasionally go wrong—ads aren’t approved, ads don’t perform as expected, or technical challenges arise. It’s frustrating, and during those times, it’s nice to be able to speak with someone. Meta’s customer service is quite good in this regard. Within minutes, you’re in contact with an overly polite human being who promptly resolves your issue.
Twitter, on the other hand, is less helpful. We once had a client ready to invest tens of thousands in Twitter ads, but we couldn’t get anyone to address the problem. It was frustrating for our client and embarrassing for us. And this was before Elon took over and laid off thousands of employees.
It’s not brands that decide where to advertise; it’s the advertising and marketing agencies. What agency would recommend Twitter as a suitable platform when you can’t effectively target your audience (see point 1) and there’s no reliable customer support when issues arise? Not our agency.
There are even rumours that some of the engineers sacked by Musk have contributed to building Threads. And who can blame them?
- He blocked access to the API.
This was perhaps Musk’s most chaotic, if not idiotic, decision. Personally, it was annoying because I was accustomed to using a third-party app called Tweetbot to tweet. I liked it because it was ad-free. But one day, without warning, it stopped working. That was the beginning of the end for me and Twitter.
Professionally, as an agency, we rely on the power of similar third-party clients, such as Sprout Social and Agency Analytics, to schedule and report on our clients’ activity. Suddenly, these tools stopped working as well, again without warning. It’s ludicrous, almost laughable, that Musk didn’t consider this consequence. But hey, I’m over it now.
What should he have done?
Put me in charge of Twitter for a day and I would reverse everything Musk has done and issue an apology. I would hope for advertisers to return and begin the process of implementing soft verification to improve targeting and eliminate trolls.
Musk opted for a subscription model, which, again, was poorly conceived and not thoroughly thought through. A subscription-based, ad-free Twitter could have worked, perhaps with a sliding scale based on the number of followers one has. For example, free for those with fewer than 500 followers, £5 for those with over 500, and so on. But it’s highly unlikely I’ll be put in charge of Twitter, especially since I deactivated my account.
Threads is here, and it’s pretty good. New features will be added, and one day it will probably become as over-engineered as Facebook, but for now, it’s another way to waste time while staring at my phone.
Until next year, when I’ll use Threads as a platform to annoy you with beautifully created and relevant ads, thanks for reading.