X’s baffling platform changes have dominated news headlines ever since Musk took over the social networking site back in October 2022. Aside from the name and logo, the various platform overhauls now include the removal of headlines, disabling the blocking function, slowing access to rival sites and charging for the all-important blue ticks. The industry is transfixed with anticipation of just what could come next. And what was once the ‘social news’ network or as Musk called it, “the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated”, is quickly becoming the farce of social networks.
It goes without saying that advertisers who once counted Twitter as a staple channel have had to rethink their strategies. In fact, Musk appears almost intent on driving advertisers away with his changes. And with Threads, Meta’s rival to X, now on the scene, the future of X and if it even has a future at all, is very much up for debate.
So, what effect has the X debacle really had on advertising performance and how is it likely to play out within the ad industry moving forwards?
INCRMNTAL measures the incremental value of advertising (and more) without user level data, and without customers needing to perform any experiments. The platform uses the day to day operational marketing changes marketers do as the fuel to the causality modeling built.
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To conduct this analysis, we measured the incremental impact Twitter (or “X”) had for each and every one of our customers, comparing the measurement results to the average benchmark each customer has.
Since we can measure in retrospective, we looked at the incremental performance of Twitter pre Elon acquisition (September – October 2022), as well as after the rebranding to “X”.
The results were quite interesting.
As an advertising platform, Twitter / X’s capabilities have always been limited. Unlike Meta and its platforms Facebook and Instagram, which have incredible depth of user level data and allow algorithmic optimization and targeting by demographics, preferences, likes and affinity to various products and services, X can only offer targeting by trends in conversation, followers or events. So the launch of Threads, while yet to offer traditional advertising, is a real threat to X.
Given Meta lost a substantial amount of revenue as a result of Apple’s App Tracking Transparency framework (ATT) during 2021, it now has an incredible opportunity to recuperate past revenues by “inheriting” the billions in ad revenue that Twitter has lost. Threads has already embarked onto the web and providing it makes its move into advertising while cookies are still available, it has a one-time opportunity to move fast and grab market share.
Since Musk announced that X would become a “free speech” platform and eliminated many of the brand safety mechanisms, as well as letting go of certain teams who were directly responsible for curation and compliancy checks, concerns flashed up in advertisers’ eyes.
The response has been to shift budgets away from the platform and where Twitter once boasted $5.1 billion in ad revenues, X’s ad sales have recently plunged 59% in the US, while Musk himself announced in a post back in July that globally X has seen a 50% drop in advertising revenue. In a bid to boost this and retain brands on the platform, it set up its Ads Revenue Sharing payments for verified accounts. But while this has received some positive feedback from those in receipt of payouts, it’s not going to bring back the ad revenue X has lost.
(image: Ad spend change across Twitter – July 2022 – Aug 2023)
What’s more, those companies still advertising on X are not seeing good returns, despite Twitter previously generating reasonable value for advertisers. Our own analysis for a known fortune 500 brand, which decreased its budget on X by $200,000, showed that despite the drop in spend, its overall sales and engagements remained largely the same, proving that brands really aren’t seeing the same ROI on X any more.
When measuring the results lost across all of those who paused/stopped Advertising Twitter post the acquisition point, we could clearly see that the value lost had been significant.
(Image: INCRMNTAL, Twitter channel spend reduction measurement from October 2022)
Brands sacrificed performance as the brand safety concerns were greater than the value of the incremental sales yielded from Twitter.
Over the next months, Twitter will continue being in the headlines, blocking accounts who mock Elon, and the infamous Twitter Blue verification controversy.
During April of 2023 , Elon announced that Twitter will be rebranding as X, going through with a full rebrand, getting rid of the Bird icon, and a brand which became a verb.
In response, those advertisers which continued some level of ad spend took action again, reducing ad spend, or pausing campaigns all together.
Measuring these spend decreases now shows no value lost by pausing the remaining advertising campaigns.
What the following two measurements examples below shows, is that pausing ads on Twitter, lead to no lost in performance, and restarting “X” did not yield any incremental performance. These Advertisers will now be reallocating ad spends elsewhere as a result. At least until there is some more certainty with the future of the new X
Example of a measurement showing performance lost by stopping Twitter campaigns on July 19th:
Example of a measurement showing no performance gained by reactivating campaigns on X:
No one knows what the future holds, and where will the $4 billion in ad budgets spent on Twitter in 2022 will shift to.
Now that Meta launched a Twitter like product (Threads), they may be in a position to win much of the ad spend.
Certainly, Elon will continue making headlines with the next tweets X’s(?) he makes.
What are you seeing with your own Twitter/X marketing campaigns?
Have you also reduced your ad spend due to brand safety or performance reasons?
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