On Saturday the 1st of June 2023, Elon Musk, Twitter’s controversial new owner announced new limits to how many tweets (units of content) users can consume per day. Most Twitter users figured out something was off when they began experiencing issues loading the platform and began to see “Rate limit exceeded” warnings instead of tweets.
This measure is intended to “address extreme levels of data scraping & system manipulation”.
The new limits are:
- 6000 tweets per day for verified accounts
- 600 tweets per day for legacy unverified accounts
- 300 tweets per day for new unverified accounts
Additionally, unlogged users are no longer able to visualize tweets and Google bots are no longer able to crawl the platform. These measures, though temporary (in the last few hours some users claim that restrictions were lifted), could set precedent for future changes on the platform regarding interaction volumes.
If your brand has been investing heavily in its Twitter presence, you may be wondering: What does this new change mean for Twitter as a marketing channel?
In this post, I’ll try to answer that question as thoroughly as possible. Let’s dive in!
Twitter’s Struggle to Be Advertiser Friendly
Sometime in early 2021, a crypto company we were working with decided to bet a bit of money on a Twitter ad campaign. It was an experiment just to see if this channel could complement successful PPC efforts on Instagram and other platforms.
To say that it bombed would be an understatement. We found our audience, yes, but our audience was mad at us for the mere act of advertising on Twitter. A few days prior to the beginning of our campaign, Twitter had banned President Trump. And everyone on our promoted Tweet’s replies was mad at us for “financially supporting a platform that goes against free speech”. After a couple of blocks and particularly nasty replies, further investment was suspended.
This experience isn’t weird at all. It’s common for Promoted Tweets’ replies to be filled with vitriol and bots. And, in fact, the very event that motivated such a hostile response from our target audience was Twitter’s desperate attempt to reposition itself as advertiser-friendly after Bob Iger lost interest in acquiring the company. In short, Twitter’s policies had changed, but its culture hadn’t.
I reached out to our Head Brand Strategist and Twitter power user, Facundo Vázquez and he told me that: “Somehow, the platform’s ‘democratic’ character tends to equalize users with brands and incentivizes them to feel that their voice ‘must be heard’”.
Twitter Is a Guerrilla Marketing Channel
In later months, we thrived doing organic, influencer-aided community building on Twitter. But the first-hand experiences of some of my colleagues made something evident to me: Heavily investing in Twitter ads was the canary in the coal mine of something terrible going on. It’s just not something that successful, in-control marketing teams did.
Twitter is a guerrilla marketing channel for ballsy brands - but promoted tweets are rarely a good decision.
A couple of years ago, fast-food companies became particularly good at “roasting” users (and each other), which was completely aligned with Twitter’s general tone. As on every channel, there are different communities, with their own interests, memes, and communication styles. But, in general, Twitter’s a hostile, unserious, and cynical platform. So, in the era of bland branding, Twitter offered a great opportunity to brands that could afford to (and actually see a ROI from) being a bit edgy.
But once the trick became too evident, this type of advertising lost its appeal. And brands that lacked the imagination or wiggle room to keep pushing boundaries were left behind.
Twitter as a Thought Leadership Channel
However, Twitter isn’t just for edgy memes or politics. For instance, Twitter is loved by specialized journalists and it’s probably the startup space’s favorite social media platform.
“Startup Twitter” has very prominent voices and content creators. And if there’s a space that may struggle to find a replacement for Twitter, this is it. Startup Twitter shuns LinkedIn’s rigid and unauthentic approach to community-building but has quickly gravitated towards newsletter platform Substack - which grew through Twitter and has been unrolling features that aim to compete with the microblogging site.
In a sense, one could say that the recent extension of Tweet’s character limits is an attempt to Substack-ize Twitter. In short, Elon Musk et al. took notice that many creators were shitposting on Twitter and leaving their best ideas for Substack.
According to Facundo, “While this opens the possibility to create ‘organic’ promotional content, it leaves very few monetization options beyond a subscription model.”
Aside from richer formatting options, Substack offers creators something that Twitter isn’t:
- A better reading experience
- A simple way to monetize their content
- A platform-agnostic audience (that’s the beauty of email!)
Why Are Tweet Visualizations Being Limited?
Aside from the reported abuse of Twitter’s API (which led to Musk threatening to charge up to thousands of dollars for a handful of requests), there are many reasons why tweet visualizations are being limited.
Facundo lists the following potential factors:
- Internet is officially considered by global powers as a battlefield, in the context of hybrid warfare. As such, Social Media Platforms can be subject of restrictions to avoid its use for incentivating riots or social unrest. Coincidentally, Twitter visualization limits were imposed on the same week major riots unraveled in France and other parts of Europe.
- “Fake”, bots and scam accounts flood our Feeds, distorting our perception of reality and making it harder to obtain valuable information from Twitter. If paired with other initiatives, visualization limits could provide a way for the platform to elevate the content consumption experience towards quality over quantity.
Pros of the New Tweet Visualization Limits
While disruptive and counterintuitive, according to our expert, this measure could have a positive impact.
- Limited social media exposure can encourage users to engage in more meaningful content consumption, refine the accounts they follow, and ensure that interactions are truly worthwhile.
- There is a possibility that content creators can better cultivate loyalty from their audience. Additionally, the incentive of paying for Twitter Blue would allow them to increase their outreach in a "purged" network free from spammers.
The Cons of the New Tweet Visualization Limits
However, for something good to come out of the new visualization limits, Twitter will have to overcome a handful of challenges. Facundo notes that:
- Visualization limits may hamper the experience for new users since it will take more time for them to build their own feeds with content they’re interested in.
- The Twitter algorithm still feels poorly optimized, despite futile attempts to solve this issue. Content consumption limitations, paired with low average content quality may dissuade users from staying on the platform.
Additionally, by preventing unlogged users and bots from accessing Twitter, the platform becomes a closed ecosystem (a.k.a. “a walled garden”). This isn’t particularly uncommon. Facebook, Instagram, TikTok & others have similar dynamics. But this can harm content discoverability- in spite of the existence of social media accounts that repost material from other platforms.
Should You Continue Investing on Twitter?
In this new panorama - should you continue investing in Twitter as a marketing channel? According to our Head Brand Strategist:
“Twitter doesn't seem to be the best channel for advertising, especially for small-scale brands. The way advertisements are recommended to users remains unclear, and in general, they compete against ads that are mostly perceived as irrelevant or scams. However, large brands and organizations continue to invest in maintaining an active presence on Twitter, even innovating in formats and tone.
After all, it is still the primary social network where public discourse is generated and circulated, and where key figures share their opinions and news. The ‘high risk - high reward’ dynamic when attempting to establish a presence on Twitter remains unchanged.
However, the lack of clear rules and the administrators' poor communication of changes - such as the recent temporary restriction on views - combined with the inherently toxic culture, make traditional, paid visibility less desirable.”
Connect with Your Target Audience - Beyond Twitter
In this post, we shared an overview of Twitter’s historic problems as a marketing-friendly platform. Additionally, we analyzed the latest developments and how they can impact the website’s future appeal.
Regardless of whether you plan to continue investing in Twitter, or you’ll re-focus to other platforms, something’s for sure: You should have a platform of your own.
At Postdigitalist, we help some of the most innovative startups worldwide to design, develop and run marketing websites that engage users, build their positioning, and bring leads. From branding, to web development, to content marketing.
Let’s continue the conversation: Book a free consulting call today.