Social Media is Dead. Possibly.

Startup founder Daniel Johnson says Twitter is a key platform for paid ads. And if Twitter is a good place for us, it will be a good place for business.

Social Media is Dead. Possibly.

Social media is what happens when people who want to be seen find themselves stuck at home. That's not to suggest that there are no benefits to the tool. I'm sure social media has a place in society. After all, so do garbage cans.

Personally, I’ve grown more dystopian on social media these days, despite my longstanding membership. Twitter, in particular, which I've long enjoyed as a place to store jokes, has been an excellent way to catch a glimpse of what's going on in the world. But when your scenery is created by the power users you follow, I fear we don't have a clear view.

I'm fully agnostic on the potential of Twitter with Elon Musk at the helm. I had a hard time keeping up with the bombshell "Twitter Files" because I was too busy yawning, and I'm not even slightly tempted to launch a Mastadon account in protest. I was critical of Musk in The War on Oreos, an article about Elon's lack of insight when it comes to advertising and free speech. But even with that, the site may remain a central part of many people's lives on the internet. It might do very well and make tons of money. It might become the next Xanga and become irrelevant.

But – I do think there is a place for social media in the world. I just can't see it clearly through the smoke of a real-life bonfire after two glasses of bourbon. So in order to bring balance, I reached out to someone who is more bullish on social media and Twitter in particular.

Daniel Johnson is Founding Partner at London-based We Scale Startups, a fellow marketing guy, and a fellow 'Daniel', as it were. He works with tech companies to help them create repeatable and scalable processes. Heck, he probably would have obliged if Elon had asked for help envisioning the future of Twitter. In fact, that's what I asked him to tell me about, and here it is. Daniel explains that if Twitter is a good place for us, it will be a good place for business.

The Trickle Down Effect

Who uses Twitter anymore? This is something I’ve heard said by startup founders and growth marketers in recent months. And Elon Musk is listening.

The platform has reportedly seen a decline in use, particularly in ‘heavy tweeters’ (Twitter users who post more than three to four times a week). ‘Is Twitter dying?’ Elon Musk asked - on Twitter - before swooping in and buying the platform.

With talk of charging for video content, and advertisers, such as Cheerios, Pfizer, and Audi, putting their ad accounts on hold (not to mention a staff shake-up and a delisting of shares), I, along with many other startup founders, am watching closely to find out what he’ll do next.

As a startup founder who’s worked with many young companies on their growth strategy, Twitter has been a frequently used platform for paid ads. While its use may be in decline, Twitter still has 230 million active users and is a well-used marketing channel.

Startups grow fast using lean, iterative, data-driven methods, and paid social ads are our bread and butter. Social platforms allow startups to promote their products affordably and quickly. They also offer invaluable data, allowing companies to hone their campaigns to target the right audience at the right time.  

But Musk’s latest activities have made advertisers wonder if Twitter will remain a viable platform. Here’s what I’m seeing lately: founders of startup companies are becoming unsettled. Most startups build their businesses with minimal resources and are highly risk-averse. They’re very careful about how they spend money and where they place paid ads. The loss of confidence from major advertisers and instability at the top is having a trickle-down effect. Twitter gives us pause for thought. There’s a momentary ‘Is it worth it?’ thought when we consider promoting our companies and products on Twitter. Of course, it is worth it, but that loss of confidence is infectious.

As I say, Twitter has some enormous strengths for small, growing businesses. It’s the perfect platform for ‘micro-blogging’: firing off short, sharp opinion pieces and product promotions that can reach a company’s target audience two or three times a week. Growth marketing is all about building relationships with your customer, and Twitter allows you to start conversations and drive engagement, which leads to conversions, sales, and, most importantly, loyal, repeat customers.

Another important Twitter tool for a startup's marketing campaigns is video. And Musk’s reported plans to charge for viewing video content on the platform is potentially bad news. According to research by Wyzol, 86% of businesses use video in their marketing efforts. In my experience, video is the most direct, easily accessible form of marketing on social media. Musk’s plans to charge people to view videos would severely impact the costs of marketing for startups and big businesses alike.

If I had Elon’s ear, I would suggest a few things that would improve the Twitter experience for advertisers, startups, marketers, and, well - everyone.

First off, Elon bought Twitter amid warnings from politicians and protesters to keep hate speech in check, with fears that the takeover may lead to a rise in harmful and dangerous posts. Aside from the moral implications of hate speech, it can also be damaging to brands. At the moment, it’s really difficult to know if your ads are going to be next to posts containing hate speech. This was one of the major concerns for advertisers, whose ads, Elon knows, make up a whopping 90% of Twitter’s revenue. Musk has tried to placate advertisers by promising to not let this issue get out of control. In my humble opinion, I think that the new CEO should attempt to remove all hate speech and at least provide clarity and understanding on his plans for this.

I also think that, for startups, in particular, it would be really useful if Twitter Implemented more comprehensive analytics that is unique to the platform. Growth marketers use data. We need to understand how people interact with our content and our community. So the more comprehensive the analytics, the better - particularly accounting for Apple’s IDFA tracking tech.

I’d also tell him to create user acquisition and referral Loops. Referral is a huge tool for startups and big businesses, providing an effective way to refer new users, build a customer base quickly and foster micro-communities. There are tons of opportunities for Twitter to optimise that process.

Importantly, I think there should be better trust signals on users' profiles, something that will hopefully be improved by the new verification steps. I want to know who’s speaking to me and why they’re qualified to say what they’re saying, particularly when it comes to experts and thought leaders.

Another useful update would be to improve the indexing of Tweets on Google. If more Tweets could be indexed in real-time, it could be used to show breaking news. It would also massively increase growth revenue for Twitter.

And, yes, Elon, please bring back Vine! Reason: it was fun. If you don’t remember, Vine was owned by Twitter and axed in 2016. The app allowed users to record and share unlimited short, looping videos and made it super easy and fun to create marketing content. The new Twitter CEO recently polled about this on Twitter, and 69.6% of voters agree with me!

If all these changes were to be made, Twitter would become a safer place to be – and that will bring the best users and advertisers.

Twitter remains an important tool for many companies and individuals to get their message out to a massive audience quickly. I hope Musk regains advertiser confidence and turns things around at the platform so startups can continue launching their products into the Twittersphere and beyond.