With Twitter’s current market capitalization around $12.8 billion, down from as high as $39.9 billion just a few years ago, many marketers are left wondering how this once-mighty platform could be falling so far. The platform’s very public sale has reawakened long-dormant discussions about its place in the social media sphere, and recent events have further complicated those conversations. Its Thursday Night Football deal was one of the few times where breaking even could be seen as a strategic win, but many analysts agree that more content can’t save Twitter—at least not from a business standpoint.
If your brand has invested resources into Twitter as part of your social media strategy, this news is disconcerting. As the year winds to a close and end-of-year budgetary decisions are being finalized, the question has to be asked: is Twitter marketing going to matter in 2017?
The short answer: yes (for now).
The longer answer starts with a deep dive into Twitter’s recent history, and the crowd of potential buyers and audiences who are ready to invest in the platform’s future.
Salesforce emerged as an early and powerful rumored bidder for floundering Twitter. The move was questioned by some, though Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff noted the site is “an unpolished jewel” that could easily be turned into a valuable asset by the right buyer at the right price. Salesforce seemed to be following the business strategy that Microsoft employed by buying LinkedIn (to a lesser degree, it’s also the strategy Facebook employed when it bought former semi-competitor Instagram); that is, being a large company with vast market share but fairly constrained product offerings and purchasing a smaller, more intimate company for its Rolodex, user base, and data. Though investors scoff at its growth rates, Twitter can still claim a monthly active user number that rivals the population of the United States (which, at last count, fell over 325,000,000). While this may pale in comparison to today’s hottest social platforms, it’s a valuable and engaged slice of internet users that could be somehow integrated or leveraged by a wide variety of buyers.
Disney also emerged as a potential buyer. That might sound enticing at first blush, but a deeper dive into the brand explains why, ultimately, it was not the best fit. Part of what gives Twitter its intriguing staying power is the fact that it is home to all manner of free speakers, diatribes, and feuds. And though that works for Twitter, it’s that same lack of censorship that prevented wholesome, family-friendly Disney from buying the brand.
Twitter continues to make headlines as a playground for everyone—from militant recruiters to teenage trolls to presidential candidates (and presidents elect), but in this case all news might be good news. Just because Disney is unwilling to take a risk on an unexpurgated social network with a questionable business strategy doesn’t mean that the platform’s weirdly candid and public-facing dialogue style is worthless.
The platform has become the go-to spot for one-liners and public statements. Many news networks regularly feature Twitter comments or feeds as critical elements of their shows—from ESPN commentators to professional athletes to pop stars to politicians, everyone chimes in on the topic du jour via Twitter. This alone makes it an important place for brands to monitor and potentially leverage as part of their full-scale marketing transformation strategies. No other social network enjoys the same level of name recognition as the go-to place for official statements from verified accounts, and major media outlets seem to agree.
And major brands from all industries still lean on Twitter as one of the primary channels of informal communication with customers—which is part of the reason Benioff was intrigued by the platform to begin with. Even if its stock market performance and boardroom drama have led to negative headlines in recent months, the network serves a specific and useful purpose, and some buyer will be glad to tap into that data and engaged audience.
Many enterprise marketers may have heard the doom and gloom surrounding Twitter’s sale, and deduced that the platform is no longer worth investing resources in. The platform remains a powerful tool for marketing transformation through audience interaction and simple content delivery, both of which are key tenets of successful brand storytelling—especially in the increasingly fragmented multimedia landscape today. Brands looking to buy Twitter are significantly different from brands looking to use it for marketing potential, and the 300-something-million active monthly users still find the social network worth using.
Brands looking to reach that large audience will likely agree—and while the platform may not be the primary place to invest budget, it remains as relevant a social media strategy tool as ever. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes you only need 140 characters to convey your message. If recent news and political events are any indication, those characters still have a lot of power.