Rarely has a tech acquisition so impacted the daily habits of individual social media users.
Following Elon Musk’s $44 billion purchase of Twitter on October 27, people and companies alike have been scrambling to figure out how they are going to post on the platform moving forward.
Controversy followed, causing international companies – ranging from Audi to Allianz to IPG to Volkswagen – to hit the pause button on platform advertising while they sort out what direction Musk will steer Twitter.
It is certainly a moment of flux for one of the larger social media platforms. TechCrunch even asked this week if Musk’s takeover means the tech giant is something like a startup again.
But what does it mean for startups on the platform?
Two things appear to be top of mind for startups on Twitter these days. First, will founders and employees keep using the platform to connect with others in the tech community? And from a business strategy perspective, will startups keep using Twitter Ads as a part of their marketing efforts?
To understand how people are feeling about this, we talked to those across the Southeast startup ecosystem. Their responses show that the nature of paid advertising and digital networking is transforming…and Twitter might be left behind.
Is Twitter Still The Place For Advertising?
“Twitter’s biggest challenge is it’s not essential for advertising,” a source close to Hypepotamus told Hypepotamus. “Every single media buyer is analyzing Twitter not by itself, but in comparison to choices.”
For media buyers and marketing teams trying to do the right thing with their client’s ad dollars, Twitter (at least at the moment), doesn’t appear to be the answer when it comes to creating an “accountable advertising” plan.
Another major hurdle Twitter faces in the Musk era? Marketing dynamics have changed. Companies and startups alike are seeing more opportunities from the advertising ecosystems created by Amazon, Google, and Microsoft.
Now, connected TVs, digital billboards, podcasts, and digital radio become key ways to connect with audiences.
Some of the startups we talked to also struggle to see a way forward on Twitter when it comes to ad spending.
“I would say that for a long time, all of the data has said that it’s not a good idea to do paid ads [on Twitter] because there’s just very, very little ROI,” Graham Gintz of Knightley and Atlanta Venture Club told Hypepotamus. “I think with the new leadership, we’ll just have to wait and see if [Twitter] is able to actually curate an audience with paid ads. But a big part of what they’re advertising with Twitter Blue is less ads. From a consumer side, it feels great that I may have less ads…but from a marketing strategy, we definitely won’t touch Twitter Ads in the near term.”
Is Twitter Still The Place For Community?
While advertising is a major concern for Musk right now, it isn’t the only reason why startups jump on social media. For more than a decade, Twitter has been the space for VCs, founders, and others in the startup ecosystem to network and grow their digital audiences.
But just having a mass of people digitally in one place – typically talking about politics, news, and entertainment – isn’t enough of a reason to spend ad dollars there.
James Oliver, Jr. agrees.
As founder of Atlanta-based and Techstars-backed startup Kabila, Oliver says he’s seen a dramatic shift in what community looks like on Twitter recently.
“I always thought engagement on Twitter was weird. You congratulate someone on a win and they don’t do the normal human thing and say thank you, they like it instead,” Oliver told Hypepotamus via email.
“In one of my first posts on Mastodon someone inquired about what my startup, Kabila, is; this is something I rarely see on Twitter.” he added.
It’s Not All Doom And Gloom
Other startup founders see opportunity with Twitter’s leadership changes.
This week, Gintz said he sat down with his team to specifically talk about its Twitter strategy moving forward.
“Our belief internally is that this is a growth opportunity,” he told Hypepotamus. He added that “right now, none of us believe that Twitter is going to die overnight. The question really is what will Twitter look like two years from now. And I think early stage startup founders will say, that’s a future me problem.”
Another unique plus side Gintz sees: Elon’s takeover of Twitter is a case study for “building in public” as a tech startup.
“I think it is so fun to see the iteration in public,” he added. “As a leader of an organization in tech I don’t think I would go about it this way, and I feel for a lot of the employees at Twitter…but I love being able to watch the iteration in public and getting to see which direction the company is taking next.”