Has Twitter peaked?

Suddenly, Twitter has become a less innocent place.

Twitter and brands (Picture Credit: Thinkstock)
Twitter and brands (Picture Credit: Thinkstock)

The shadow cast by prosecutions and legal threats is making tweets more cagey and guarded; and trolls run riot, leading one journalist to argue that the platform has become ‘morally depopulated’.

So has Twitter peaked? Or are we looking at an evolution rather than an implosion?

There is certainly no evidence of an exodus from the platform – numbers hold strong at around 500 million andprevious predictions of Twitter’s decline have proved groundless.

But the tonal changes are unmistakeable to any regular Tweeter.

Open conversations are rarer and tweets less personal, as our anxiety about divulging personal detail keeps things in the abstract; ironically, given all the talk of ‘driving conversation’, there is a sense that Twitter is evolving into a platform for broadcast rather than chat.

So what does all this mean for brands?

Twitter’s potential as a customer service channel is now being realised and this will continue, not least because of the huge cost benefits. No other platform can move public complaints private as quickly, which is why some large PR and social media agencies now operate social teams more akin to customer call centres than press offices.

Whether Twitter thrives as a promotional platform for brands is a thornier question, mainly because its use as a channel for influencer engagement is complicated by legitimate questions over transparency.

Put simply, it’s now OK to pay a celeb to launch your product at a live event, but not to tweet about it. Without getting into the rights and wrongs of this argument, influencers see a reputational threat in ‘promoting’ brands on Twitter and this issue isn’t going away, particularly if they decide to quit it completely.

A more welcome trend is in how brands measure performance in social. Decision-makers increasingly recognise that listening and search are much more important than direct follows, so pointless follower accumulation will hopefully go the same way as AVE.

When it arrived, many of us dismissed Twitter as a receptacle for triviality and gossip; what we are seeing now is the emergence of a more serious platform, but one that could be even more useful for brands.

Mark Lowe is founding partner of Third City.

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