Expect the un-X-pected in today’s social media landscape

Category: Data & Insights
Is twitter rebrand to X barking mad or genius?

Aaron Goldman, CMO, Mediaocean takes a look at where the platform formerly known as twitter now fits within the social media landscape:

There’s no question that today’s social media landscape is full of X-citement. The release of Meta’s Instagram-adjacent platform, Threads. The zany TikTok-made-me-buy-it trends. In-game AR experiences on Snap. We’ve even got quiz ads on Pinterest. But no news has dominated headlines quite like Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, which saw the company swiftly ditch the bird and rebrand to X.

Despite our proclivity for clairvoyance, marketers do not have a crystal ball. While we can make well-informed predictions around the future of the industry – the rise in generative AI that took place this year, for example – decisions made by the likes of Musk and Zuckerberg are not always so easy to see coming. Cage match, anyone? As key changes to each platform’s features and functionality continue to roll out, what does the future of social media look like? And how can marketers adapt their strategies?

Zooming out

For the social media platforms themselves, there’s always a delicate balance to strike. Creating and posting content should be as easy as it is to consume others’ content. Algorithms should connect people with content they will like without drowning out content from those they already follow. And, above all, platforms should stay true to what their customers are looking for from them.

We can map where platforms sit within the wider social landscape, and the utility they provide, by asking two key questions. First, is the platform primarily video-based, or text-based? This will dictate not only the kind of content that will be found on the platform, but also how it will be consumed by users. Second, is the platform delivering content based on algorithms or people’s followers? This determines how intimate or public a platform might feel.

By applying these two questions to the biggest players in social media today, we see a shifting landscape. A visual-heavy platform that once took the style of an intimate photoblog, Instagram has now made significant steps toward an algorithmic model, with Snapchat following suit, although still putting heavy emphasis on direct messaging. Facebook has for years been moving away from its text status focus through formats like Stories that embody Snap’s ephemerality and Reels that look and feel like TikToks. Viewed together as a portfolio of apps, Meta continues its quest to cover the entire map and its new platform, Threads, lays claim to an unoccupied quadrant of text-focused, algo-driven content.

Forging a new X-istance

Even before it shed its Twitter feathers, X found itself shifting within the social media landscape. While it used to be established as a text-based app for engaging with people you follow, it’s been reimagined with a focus on video, both short and long form, and a feed that’s populated with content from virtually anywhere. This is hardly surprising given our own mid-year research, which found that 57% of marketers see TikTok and social video as a significant trend.

With Musk at the helm, X is continuing its evolution at breakneck pace. The company has stated that it will be “centered in audio, video, messaging, payments/banking – creating a global marketplace for ideas, goods, services, and opportunities.” While this might sound ambitious, Musk’s vision for an ‘everything app’ is very much grounded in reality, namely inspired by WeChat, a Chinese app that offers various services on top of a social media platform.

But X isn’t the only platform looking at expanding its services – Meta Pay now lets you send money through its apps, and TikTok is setting up shop in Seattle to compete with Amazon. Increasingly, social media and commerce are on a collision course, and we may need to add a 3rd dimension to our competitive map.

It’s also interesting to note those that have not moved over the years. The likes of LinkedIn, Reddit, and Pinterest have remained in the same space they carved for themselves when they first launched. This doesn’t mean that they’ve been slow to roll out new features, rather that they have found ways to grow usage and revenue by sticking with their original value propositions.

Regardless of how the social media landscape continues to change in the wake of continual transformation, it’s highly unlikely that additional services will see the end of advertising on any platform. As such, marketers need to be able to ride out unpredictability by building the capability to play in all four corners of the social landscape.

This means being able to roll out advertising efforts to a wide range of platforms in an even wider range of formats, quickly and effectively. Marketers should avoid pursuing a one-size-fits-all approach by carefully considering the audience and use-cases of each platform, and crafting a bespoke strategy that can be scaled across the full field of social media. Sooner or later, we’ll know the real impact of X’s rebrand and repositioning, but by remaining agile, you can maintain your balance and avoid the X-tremes.

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