‘Black Twitter was the cookout’: Marketers hope to find new communities of color on Twitter alternatives
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As Elon Musk’s tumultuous takeover of Twitter continues, new and emerging platforms like Spill, Spoutible, BlackTwitterApp.com and others are vying for the attention of Twitter’s users and niche cultural communities. Though it’s unclear whether these platforms will gain steam among marketers.
Since last October, Twitter has found itself in constant controversy thanks to Musk’s push to reinstate banned accounts, the verification overhaul and an uptick in hate speech. The changes have pushed some users away from the platform, especially users of color, leaving the fate of multicultural communities like Black Twitter in limbo. That’s not to say all have flown the coop, but Musk’s changes have left many uncertain of the platform’s future.
Just last week, the so-called bird app’s latest fiasco was its overhauled verification system, which stripped certain users (including several Digiday staff members) of their legacy verification check marks. Historically free, under Musk’s regime, users are asked to pay $8 per month for verification. Creators of color are unconvinced of its value.
“With the [Twitter] verification thing going all the way left in the last few days, those platforms are going to begin to see much more traction,” said Laura Mignott, global chief experiential officer at VMLY&R Commerce. “A lot of folks are seeing the death [of Twitter] now, which is sad.”
Twitter’s fall from grace makes space for competition
Twitter’s fall from grace has created space for new social media platforms like beta-tested-Bluesky Social, Mastodon and Post.News to enter, although there hasn’t been mass adoption of a new platform just yet. Per Insider, Twitter’s rivals may be stumbling due to precarious user interfaces, security issues and uneven beta launches.(It’s unclear what user downloads or usage looks like as neither Spoutible nor BlackTwitterApp.com responded to a request for comment in time for publication.)
Oddly enough, Twitter has seen an increase in users under Musk’s reign as per previous Digiday reporting, Twitter’s daily average users has averaged around 246.8 million, with a mean average increase of 1.3 million new users each month, per data from Apptopia.
Notably, amid the controversy at Twitter, new social media platforms have been created by or centered around the voices of people of color including, BlackTwitterApp.com, Spoutible and soon-to-be-launched-app Spill, which was founded by a former Twitter employee. The app has yet to launch, but anyone interested can sign up to reserve their handle on the app’s website.
The latter of which has piqued the interest of Danisha Lomax, head of client inclusivity and impact for North America at Digitas. As a consumer, she’s already filled out the form to reserve her handle when the platform officially launches. Currently, the app is in alpha build mode, conducting tests with small groups. However, Lomax said she’ll be soon meeting with Spill’s execs to talk about potentially capitalizing on the momentum of advertising dollars, partnerships and engagement for Spill.
“If supply diversity is a problem we are working to solve, we have to give up and coming platforms that are run by diverse folks a space and opportunity to thrive,” Lomax said. “We’ll never play in that space of, ‘We have Black Twitter. That’s all we need.’ We know we need more.’”
Per Alphonzo Terrell, CEO of Spill, the app plans to build its own internal ad infrastructure, and has already seen interest from brands and media partners, like Digitas. Down the road, the CEO said there are plans to offer sponsored experiences, quizzes or games and other custom ad solutions.
“Our goal is to build a global platform that is the de facto place to discuss and discover culture worldwide,” Terrell said in an email to Digiday. “It’s been a wonderful validation of our thesis that connecting to culture can be both great consumers and great for business.”
The next Black Twitter won’t be built in a day
While these new platforms perhaps share similarities to Black Twitter’s multicultural communities, agency executives say there’s not much draw yet to these platforms as go-to places to observe cultural moments for a few reasons: They’ve yet to scale and reach mass adoption, TikTok has grown to serve as an alternative cultural social media hub and Twitter, thus Black Twitter, hasn’t seen its final days just yet.
“I will say that it does seem as though there’s more appetite than just a few years ago to explore new apps,” said Brendan Gahan, chief social officer and partner at Mekanism, in an email to Digiday. “TikTok really broke up the duopoly which is why I think so many of these other social apps (BeReal, Lemon8, Clubhouse, etc) were seen as real potential partners.” (More on what marketers need to know about ByteDance-owned Lemon8 — and its link to TikTok here.)
More importantly, the phrase, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” seems fitting here as agency executives say Black Twitter, or any of its cultural communities for that matter, didn’t spur overnight. As emerging platforms build user bases, especially celebrities or other influential figures, followers will come, they said.
“One thing though, that is unique about Black people and our culture is that we typically find homes in places that weren’t meant for us, and we usually carve out a lane,” said Gerald Gordon, senior brand manager at Creative Theory Agency. He added that the community that made Black Twitter lives in other spaces like Twitch, YouTube, TikTok and other social media platforms. It doesn’t live with the same label, but the community is there.
‘Black Twitter was the cookout’ and still is
“Black Twitter was the cookout,” said Candace Carrington, director of social media at Creative Theory Agency. “That is the piece that a lot of apps are trying to pull from Black Twitter.”
That’s not to say the app TikTok will replace Black Twitter. TikTok’s algorithm hinders real-time conversations and isn’t a fast-moving cultural megaphone as Twitter was, and to an extent, still is. TikTok also requires video content, making it a heavier lift than Twitter’s text-based content style, said Noah Mallin, chief strategy officer to IMGN Media.
“Missing the real-time factor hinders the ability to connect events like sports, concerts, and activations aimed at Black audiences in the moment,” he said in an email to Digiday. “So for marketers, the ongoing vandalization of the platform by Elon Musk is frustrating.”
Amongst agency executives, the sentiment is Black Twitter cannot be replaced. For now, at least, Twitter still holds its own when it comes to Black Twitter and other multicultural communities as far as VMLY&R Commerce’s Mignott is concerned.
“You do still see those conversations. There’s still viral memes happening. People are still communing around content and moments,” Mignott said, referring to reactions to cultural moments like Harry Belafonte’s death, Love Is Blind and the Tennessee Three, two Democratic lawmakers that were part of a trio known as the “Tennessee Three” were expelled from the House of Representatives in early April.
Mignott said, “There was never the intention that Black Twitter would come out of Twitter. There’s something to be said about how we are able to go into spaces and revolutionize spaces as opposed to being in spaces that we’re supposed to be because we’re people of color.”
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