SAN FRANCISCO: There has been no shortage of questions about the future of Twitter after Elon Musk bought the social media platform last year.
That volume peaked after the suspension of accounts of about a half-dozen journalists from outlets such as CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post last month. The temporary bans prompted questions about the future of media members on the platform.
Despite dozens of journalists threatening to leave — and some actually going through with it — PR pros say the platform is still the best digital place to make connections. Pre-Musk, nearly 70% of U.S. journalists said Twitter was the social media platform they used the most for work, according to a 2022 Pew Research Center survey.
“I think journalists are still using Twitter and, for the most part, it still will be a place for us to engage with them until one of these other platforms becomes more populated,” said Will Vogel, account manager and media strategist at Clarity.
LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook are increasingly useful tools for forging connections, he added.
Vogel created a Mastodon account in December in case of a great social media migration, but said he hasn’t kept up with the platform given how few journalists are on it and how they’re using it. He said that despite Twitter suspending journalists, the quantity of reporters at his disposal is what’s most important in terms of making connections, and he would need to see more reporters make the move before switching strategy.
Mastodon’s wide range of servers dedicated to individual topics allows reporters to embed into communities specific to their coverage. While Mastodon’s decentralized features don’t outweigh the benefits of having a large swath of journalists available on Twitter, it has allowed PR pros to find specific kinds of journalists.
“The more technical the audience is, the more likely they are to move to Mastodon,” said Ken Deutsch, EVP of research at JPA Health.
That holds true for journalists as well, he said.
JPA Health is tracking the number of journalists joining Mastodon using a tool called Gretel. While limited to tracking journalists who have linked their Mastodon and Twitter accounts, Deutsch has observed that the highest percentage of interest in Mastodon comes from journalists covering more technically advanced fields within healthcare, such as medical research.
Still, for the vast majority of PR pros looking for journalists on social media, Twitter’s hold on reporters’ time makes it the most useful platform.
“It still continues to be this very ripe water cooler for journalists,” said Rachel Cooper, senior director of media relations at ICF Next. “I know there was talk of a big migration, but ultimately, a lot of journalists are still on there.”
Twitter is still the best place online for hearing about what reporters want in pitches and what topics are on their minds, as well as career moves, she said.
Cooper’s team has also claimed Mastodon accounts, and she sometimes sees editors posting useful information on LinkedIn and Facebook about needing a source or product. She said ICF Next doesn’t rely on a single platform to stay in touch with reporters.
“I’m not dependent on one third–party platform to help maintain and keep track of my relationships,” she said. “That’s across the board, making sure that I’m soaking up as much information as I can from all of my various channels and networks.”