Digiday+ Research deep dive: Marketers cut way back on X spending as brand safety concerns persist

This research is based on unique data collected from our proprietary audience of publisher, agency, brand and tech insiders. It’s available to Digiday+ members. More from the series →

Interested in sharing your perspectives on the media and marketing industries? Join the Digiday research panel.

X, the social platform formerly known as Twitter, is making moves to convince marketers that it’s a safe space for their brands (again). But according to results from a first-quarter Digiday+ Research survey conducted among brand, retailer and agency professionals, it might be too late.

Not only did the survey find that marketers’ X usage trails far behind its social media competitors, but it also found that marketing spend on the platform has dropped dramatically, with brand safety being the biggest concern for marketers.

To start, not that many marketers are even using X anymore, Digiday’s survey found. Just under a third of agency pros (32%) said their clients currently use X, and an even smaller 27% of brand and retailer pros said their companies use the platform.

For context, 94% of agency pros and 96% of brand and retailer pros told Digiday they use Instagram, 79% of agencies and 93% of brands and retailers said they use Facebook, and 55% of agencies and 73% of brands and retailers said they use TikTok. Overall, Digiday’s survey found that X lands in fifth place among social platforms for agencies and sixth place for brands and retailers.

With a low percentage of marketers using X, it’s not surprising that Digiday’s survey found that marketing spend on the platform has taken a huge hit in the last two years (basically, since Elon Musk’s takeover). Brand spending on X fell off slightly earlier than agency spending, with the percentage of brands spending at least a little on X marketing sinking below a quarter as of Q3 2023.

To compare brands’ spending on X with the Musk takeover timeline of the platform, brands’ marketing spend stayed strong through 2022 — it actually increased from Q1 (when 63% of brand pros told Digiday they spent at least a very small portion of their marketing budgets on then-Twitter) to Q3 of that year (when 77% said they spent at least a little there). Musk’s acquisition of Twitter was finalized at the beginning of Q4 2022. Then came Q1 2023, when 61% of brand pros said they spent at least a little on the platform. In July of that year, Musk rebranded Twitter to X, and in Q3 the percentage of brands who said they spent at least a very small portion of their marketing budgets on X plummeted to 24%. That percentage remained fairly steady into Q1 2024, with 26% of brands saying they spend at least a little on X.

Ok, agencies’ turn: The drop-off for this group has been a bit more gradual, but just as undeniable. Agency spending on then-Twitter saw a similar lift to brand spending in 2022. Three-quarters of agency pros (75%) told Digiday in Q1 2022 that their clients spent at least a very small portion of their marketing budgets on Twitter, and 81% said the same in Q3 2022. Following Musk’s acquisition, less than two-thirds of agency pros (65%) said in Q1 2023 that their clients spent at least a little on Twitter, and following the platform’s rebrand to X, 56% of agencies said in Q3 2023 that their clients spent marketing dollars on the platform. By Q1 2024, just 24% of agencies said their clients spend any money on X marketing.

Another way to look at this is to note the steep upward trend of the percentage of marketers who said their companies and clients spend none of their marketing budgets on X. Two years ago, 37% of brand pros told Digiday their companies spent none of their budgets on then-Twitter, compared with 39% one year ago and 73% this year. Similarly, 25% of agency pros said that their clients spent none of their marketing budgets on Twitter, compared with 35% in Q1 2023 and 76% in Q1 2024.

Digiday’s survey found that the biggest reason for marketers’ low usage of X and their tanking marketing spend on the platform comes back to brand safety — again, no surprise here. Thirty-nine percent of brand, retailer and agency pros said in Q1 2024 that brand safety concerns are their biggest challenge with X, making it the top-ranked challenge among marketers on the platform. Only time will tell if X’s recent moves related to brand safety will make a difference here.

Lack of scale followed brand safety, according to Digiday’s survey results, with 19% of marketers saying that’s the biggest challenge they face on X, followed by lack of resources and content demands, and cost of media, which both came in at 10%.

For those marketers who haven’t given up hope on X just yet, Digiday’s survey found that the largest percentage looks to impressions as their main measurement of success on the platforms. More than a third of brand, retailer and agency pros (36%) said they measure marketing success with impressions, followed by engagement at 30% and clickthroughs at 18%.

Sales and conversions don’t appear to hold much weight on X, with just 9% of marketers saying commerce or sales is their main measurement of success and 6% saying the same of conversions such as download and registrations.

https://digiday.com/?p=540793

More in Marketing

How Snapchat, Meta, Pinterest and Google are eyeing up TikTok ad dollars

Timing is everything when it comes to these moves, and the underlying messages are certainly not lost on advertisers.

The header image features an illustration with a dollar bill that has the Snapchat logo in the center.

Snap eyes growth as TikTok faces uncertain future in the U.S. 

TikTok’s uncertain future in the U.S. could be a win for Snap, especially as the TikTok ban calls into question the billions of dollars currently driving the short-form video app’s ad business.