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Social media thoughts: We love Twitter, but numbers don't lie


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Here at Smoking Gun we pride ourselves on several things. Firstly, the quality of our work- impeccable. Secondly, our passion for all things comms. Thirdly, our friendliness and lack of visible fluff.
You can also add to that list up-to-date, in-depth knowledge of all things relating to our industry, along with generally being the most ingenious of all PR firms in England. Nay, Britain. Needless to say, lack of confidence and low self-belief don’t make the final cut.
Taking all this into account it should come as no surprise to anyone that we’re well aware of the current problems facing one of our favourite social networks. Twitter, the little blue bird, with its short updates, has been our friend since its inception way back in 2006, when it flew into all our lives as the cool kid on the block. No more rambling statuses, but instead to the point statements, thoughts and digital signposting.
For a while it certainly seemed to be just what the proverbial doctor ordered, with new accounts opening at a startling rate, and, in particular sectors at least, this newfound online brevity seemed to offer a new and immediately essential resource. Journalists were suddenly finding new contacts for stories, live updates to verify, fresh leads and more; PRs had instant access to a new audience with which to promote their brands. We could go on.
So where has it all gone wrong then?
Well, in many ways it hasn’t. In July last year, eMarketer wrote on how Twitter’s user base was to grow by more than 10% in 2016, following over 9% growth in 2015. Those figures speak volumes about how popular the format and platform is, although overall community size has yet to break 350million, which is comparatively small fry up against the big boys when you consider how long Twitter has been around.
Before December last year, the latest ad data from the network was looking refreshingly perky considering how many people have been musing on the death of the old bird (for quite some time, too). Year on year, 2016 brought in 14% more advertising revenue compared with the previous. Sadly, though, this newfound good fortune appears to have been short-lived, with the latest results showing a loss of $457million overall, with 9% of staff having been axed and a 10% drop in share value.
For those who hate numbers, what this basically means is there’s a gap that must be plugged. Usage is increasing- at least in terms of those signing up- and yet cash reserves are depleting. It doesn’t take a genius to work out exactly where that business model takes you. So can the network turn things around given the incredibly stiff and unforgiving competition in social media land?
The truth is, it’s anyone’s guess. Five years ago people would likely have laughed at the thought of something like Snapchat coming from nowhere to become one of the networks with the highest engagement figures. The essence of digital is that success stories are almost impossible to predict until they begin because, by nature, they succeed by changing the game.
One real cause for concern is the way other platforms have been far better at leveraging their offering- Google and Facebook both have others in their hand, and in Google’s case those networks are actually more successful than its own. In comparison, Twitter’s other interests have caused much smaller ripples in the public eye- consider Periscope and the now-defunct Vine up against the likes of Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest.
When all is said and done, though, we couldn’t do our job- more so, we couldn’t function day-to-day- without our dose of 140 character messages, and as such we can only say long live Twitter, and hope that fortune favours the bird.

Looking for more advice on PR, social media, and marketing? Why not get in contact or submit a brief to inject a little ingeniousness into your brand.

Submit a brief

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