‘All these text based apps are screaming for space’: Social media professionals grapple with Twitter competitors
As the race to become the supreme text-based social media app heats up, social media managers say they’re feeling the burn.
On Wednesday, Meta launched its Twitter rival Threads. That came after Twitter alternatives, Spill and Bluesky, both picked up steam over the weekend after Elon Musk’s decision to limit views, based on whether users pay, to tweets. Since then, social media managers have been scrambling to keep up.
“The past six months has felt like a never-ending race to gain access to, explore, and pass judgment on the latest platform,” said Anna Laura McGranahan, social media strategist at Lenz Marketing agency, in an email, referring to Musk’s Twitter takeover.
In what could be considered retaliation to Musk’s decision to limit views over the weekend, users pivoted to Bluesky, project of Twitter’s creator and former CEO Jack Dorsey, and Spill, which was founded by former Twitter employees and people of color Alphonzo “Phonz” Terrell and DeVaris Brown. Both Twitter alternatives are currently in beta mode, available by invitation only.
Bluesky, which launched for iOS in February and Android in April, has racked up nearly 600,000 downloads from February to April of this year, per Statista. Since its beta iOS app launched in June, Spill has welcomed more than 130,000 new users, according to Terrell’s own Spill account. Meanwhile, Threads, which has earned the title “Twitter Killer“ online, has skyrocketed to over 10 million users in just seven hours since launch, most likely thanks to its ties to sister app Instagram, per Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Ashley Lawrence, social media strategy manager for SpringHill Company, a global consumer and entertainment brand, spent the last week “in full research mode” ahead of the Threads and Spill launches, exploring the platforms and their respective capabilities. At creative agency Mekanism, there’s a dedicated Slack channel and several standing meetings to discuss the ever-evolving social media landscape, per Brendan Gahan, partner and chief social officer. Global marketing company MG Empower is also in discovery mode in hopes to discover audience segments and communities, said Lucy Walker, head of media.
“It is a great deal of work to identify, evaluate, and recommend a strategy for each new app,” Gahan said in an email. “Especially when you factor in the ever changing nature of the existing, established apps.”
These latest social media platforms, which are gaining popularity in quick succession, come as the industry has finally started to grapple with the social media pivot-to-video via TikTok, Reels and YouTube Shorts. Now, at least momentarily, there’s a pivot-to-text as these emerging platforms look to dethrone Twitter as home of text-based, real time conversations.
For social media managers, it’s increased workloads to dedicate sufficient time for research and development, and caused constant quick pivots to adapt to the ever-changing social media landscape. For many, Threads seems to be the most promising Twitter alternative, given its ties to Meta and scale. Meanwhile, Spill and Bluesky are still in beta and not yet widely available.
“Working in social media means you have to be agile and ready to change plans or tweak strategies as often as platforms change algorithms,” said Azad Yakatally, head of social media at marketing automation company Klaviyo, in an email, “but since Elon took over in November, it feels like every day has been different.”
As of today, Klaviyo has a branded account on Threads and at least 1,600 followers. But per Yakatally, company leadership has no plans to be active on every platform, allowing the social media manager to maintain some sense of work-life balance. Months ago, it was decided to focus on platforms that weren’t actively changing, namely LinkedIn, Meta and TikTok, and building out those strategies, he said. At present, Yakatally is experimenting with Threads, Spill and Bluesky to understand what works and what doesn’t on the apps as the gain traction.
Out of the seven social media professionals Digiday spoke with, at least three have launched brand presences on Threads, including Klaviyo, Life360 family tracking app and SpringHill, a global consumer and entertainment brand. Meanwhile, the remainder are in wait-and-see mode, testing from personal accounts to report back findings to leadership before creating full client accounts.
Perhaps the most vital resource is data reporting tools, like Sprout and Sprinklr, which allow social media managers and teams to gain insights into performance and engagement, said Yakatally.
“As these platforms grow in popularity, having integrations with these tools become crucial for anyone working in social media,” he said. “The [ones] that integrate best, will be the ones that we use.” It’s unclear if Spill or Bluesky offer integration capabilities.
And until the new slew of apps are publicly available, data may be limited, potentially creating more hands-on work for social media teams looking to leverage data in their social media strategies.
For the last two years, social media managers have reported feeling burnt out, struggling to be on various platforms and even exiting their roles in light of low pay, endless scrolling and an ever-changing social media environment. The latest wave of social media platforms offer potential to be promising, like TikTok, or short-lived, like Clubhouse.
For social professionals, there’s an air of uncertainty in dedicating resources to emerging platforms that may struggle to appeal to enough users to become mainstream. At one point, agencies were hiring Clubhouse managers, BeReal promised to be the first successful social media channel to grow without ad support and creators were supposed to take TikTok sister app Lemon8 to the next level. But by looking at marketing budget allocations, and social media buzz, it’s apparent that these platforms never made it to the mainstream.
“Over the past five years, numerous social apps have emerged with great fanfare, only to fade away in the end,” said Gahan. “While each of these apps brought something unique to the table, they ultimately struggled to sustain interest.”
As for the Twitter alternatives, Meg Coffey, managing director at Coffey and Tea social media marketing agency, has tried just about all of them from Bluesky to Mastodon, but none of them ever stick, she said.
“At the moment all these text-based apps are screaming for space,” Coffey added. “There will definitely be some brands that succeed on some but it all comes down to resources… We have to put what little we have where we know it’ll work.”
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