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Twitter, X and Threads – What does it all mean?

In the space of two decades, social media has gone from being almost non-existent to an almost unavoidable part of everyday life. It’s constantly changing and evolving, with new apps and players trying over the years to grab for your attention. In recent years, it’s become pretty stable with the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and TikTok each bringing their own flavour of social media to their audience.

Well, it was pretty stable, until October 2022… 

When Elon Musk acquired Twitter for $44 billion. Ever since then, it’s been a rocky road of feature rollouts, feature rollbacks, questionable decisions and, the most recent headline, rebranding the entire platform to simply X.

At the same time, Meta (the company behind Facebook and Instagram) has been working on a direct competitor to Twitter for long-form written content which launched a few weeks back named Threads.

So what do all these recent events in the social media space mean for the future? How has the world of digital marketing, content creation and consumption changed in recent weeks? Let’s dive in.

What is X?

X is the rebrand of Twitter – and although right now it largely remains the same to those familiar with Twitter, under the leadership of Elon Musk it promises big things, touting hopes of becoming the “everything” app.

(Credit: Digidop)

Musk purchased the platform in October 2022 for a sum of $44 billion, and since the deal was confirmed has been thoroughly ripping up the floorboards of Twitter to make it his own.

It remains one of the giants in the technology and social media space with an estimated 450 million active users every month, from celebrities to sports teams to politicians to shops – you’ll be hard done by to find someone who doesn’t have a Twitter handle. 

How has X’s usage changed

Casual Users

For the casual user, the answer is not that much. The single biggest change that they’ll be aware of is the introduction of Twitter Blue (now known as Premium), which replaces the old verification system which saw celebrities and notable individuals/companies gain a blue tick next to their username. Twitter/X has also added additional features to persuade users to join Premium, ranging from highly sought-after additions (including the ability to edit tweets and post longer videos) to artificially created features (like fewer ads)

Furthermore, the attempted monetisation of Twitter/X users has failed, experts believe. At least 827,615 users currently subscribe to X Premium according to data sourced by third-party researcher Travis Brown (via Mashable) – and while this may sound like a lot, for Twitter/X it’s a massive disappointment. An estimated 450 million people use Twitter every single day, meaning less than 0.002% of daily active Twitter/X users are paying £11 per month to enjoy the additional features that X Premium offers.

Businesses and Advertisers

For businesses and advertisers, however, a lot has changed. Twitter/X’s direction under Musk’s leadership caused more than half of the platform’s top advertisers to halt their ad spend, including Coca-Cola, Jeep, Merck and Unilever, due to the perceived “high-risk” of the platform, something they hadn’t needed to consider in years gone by.

It’s believed a good chunk of these large companies have returned to advertising on Twitter/X in recent months, with data showing that industry giants such as Amazon, Apple and Warner Bros. Discovery are all spending considerably more advertising on the platform than they did last year (via Media Radar).

So generally speaking, advertising on Twitter/X is looking to be in a better place now than it was 6 months ago. But like everything in this industry, change can – and often does – happen overnight.

What is Threads

In short, Threads is Mark Zuckerberg’s answer to Twitter/X. Threads is a text-based social media platform “brought to you by Instagram”, whereby users can share updates and comments about themselves, as well as interact with companies and celebrities and join conversations about topics they’re passionate about.

(Credit: NDTV)

It’s being marketed as an app for users to use alongside Instagram, not instead of the existing platform. When it launched in July 2023 it broke records, becoming the fastest-growing social media app with more than 100 million users signing up in the first 5 days.

Its biggest strength when compared to other Twitter-like platforms is that it utilised the success of Instagram to build its audience – something no other competitor has had access to. Social Media platforms live and die off their user base – if no one is signing up and interacting with your platform, you won’t last very long, and so far it’s the only real Twitter contender we’ve seen.

Threads User base – is it still there?

When Threads launched in July, it recorded a high of 2.3 million active users. That figure has plummeted 79% to just 576,000 in August according to digital intelligence platform SimilarWeb.

Compare this figure to Twitter’s reported 450 million active monthly users, and you can see that Threads has a long way to go. That said, it’s the first real direct contender that Twitter/X has had to deal with in years, and competition is always great for the end user.

Can the two co-exist?

It’s a difficult question to answer just yet. Threads is in its infancy as a social media platform, and Twitter/X is in the midst of a messy rebrand under publicly questionable leadership, so who knows what the future holds for either platform. What we do know is that the two platforms have lived alongside each other for the past 2 months relatively successfully, both refining their own take on text-based social media platforms.

A lot could (and most likely will) change in the coming weeks, months and years for the social media giants we’re looking at today, so we’ll be sure to highlight anything and everything we see fit to share with you in future drumBEAT blogs.

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