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Is Twitter Dead? And the Broader Status of Social Media

Jordan L. Couch
Is Twitter dead? Answering this question offers guidance and insight into how social media will impact the legal industry for the next five years.

Is Twitter dead? Answering this question offers guidance and insight into how social media will impact the legal industry for the next five years.

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As I write this, it’s December 2022. Specifically, December 7, 2022. I have to say that the nature of this subject is such that some of what I am about to say may be either (1) painfully obvious or (2) completely incorrect as soon as next week. The situation at Twitter right now is in an extreme state of flux following Elon Musk’s overvalued offer for, chaotic attempt to back out from, and ultimate purchase of one of the world’s most influential platforms. Well-respected and influential Twitter users have opted to leave the platform at the same time that white nationalists and other previously banned users have been welcomed back with open arms, leading many to wonder, is Twitter dead? The question gets even more complex as we look at the broader social media and tech landscape with declining revenue at Facebook and layoffs all across the tech world. What I write below is my answer to the question “Is Twitter dead?” But answering that question also offers guidance and insight into how social media will impact the legal industry for the next five years.

So, let’s start simple. Is Twitter dead? No. Is Twitter dying? Perhaps surprisingly, also no. Twitter continues to grow its number of daily active users every year, every quarter, and every month. Twitter may not be profitable, but that’s nothing new for the company. The only difference is that Twitter is now saddled with billions in debt from a leveraged buyout. For many companies such a situation marks the beginning of the end in which the company is stripped down and sold for parts. A similar fate is unlikely for Twitter. Twitter has value only as a whole—its parts (to the limited extent there are any) have little value on their own. Even if Twitter under its current structure were to go bankrupt, it’s highly probable that someone new would buy up and rebirth Twitter from the fire sale. Twitter is probably still here for a while in a relatively unchanged fashion.

Why does Twitter have so much value? Twitter is unique among social media platforms for a number of reasons. To start, it is an incredibly democratizing force that enables users to connect and communicate with celebrities and experts. Second, Twitter is the only popular social media platform designed for conversation. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok are all conducive to sharing content but not to conversation, and there is a strong desire for more actively engaging social media. Third, for whatever reason, Twitter is where the influencers are. Not Instagram marketing influencers but political and cultural influencers. Journalists, brands, and thought leaders all use Twitter to engage with followers and get their message across.

So, why does it feel like Twitter is dying? Well, for starters, the company has been thrown into a reckless financial situation, lost a tremendous portion of its staff, and has a new leader who has invited back the most toxic users the platform had worked for years to remove. Add to that the fact that Twitter was already struggling financially, was under a Federal Trade Commission consent decree (that may have been violated) related to privacy and data concerns, and has struggled for years to find any avenue to expand (e.g., expanding tweets, adding fleets, adding spaces, etc.). Just to be completely transparent, when I started this article and went to Google to pull up numbers, I was certain that I would find that Twitter’s daily active users had decreased over the last year or at least that the rate of growth would have slowed; I was wrong on both counts. Given this growth, it would be easy to say all the other stuff doesn’t matter. But if Myspace and Facebook have taught us anything, it’s that people’s opinion about a social media platform matters a lot. What we could be seeing at Twitter is the beginning of the same end Myspace suffered, a slow spiral in which Twitter stops being seen as the place to be, and the quality of content and engagement declines. But that’s unlikely.

Remember how we discussed above that Twitter has value? It also has no competitors. Sure, there’s Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, etc., but Twitter fills a unique role in the social media space. The downfall of Myspace was in large part because Facebook offered the same community and opportunities that Myspace had. The same is not true for Twitter. So, yes, Twitter may lose money, it may even go bankrupt, and Twitter will certainly lose some of its value as the community welcomes back society’s worst elements. But Twitter is unlikely to disappear completely until there is a viable replacement. (If you’re thinking, “but what about Mastodon,” you’re not wrong; but if you’ve explored or read about Mastodon, then you know you’re at least five years too early.)

It also can’t be forgotten that if Twitter seems like it’s on a decline, so does the entire world of social media. Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, just went through massive layoffs, declining revenue, and what appears to be a massive flop investment in virtual reality. Clubhouse was a media and Silicon Valley darling that rocketed onto the world stage and almost as quickly shrank into near irrelevance. TikTok is perhaps the only social media platform that seems to be blossoming, but even TikTok has been pretty consistently mired in scandals, from large-scale data practices to “shadow banning” censorship. Social media is a rocky world right now, but this is coming after an incredibly booming decade. Perhaps what we are seeing is simply the natural plateau of an industry going from exciting and new to old and steady. As evidence of that, despite Facebook’s “massive layoffs,” Facebook still has more employees than it did in 2020.

So, what does all this mean for you in your law firm? If what we are really seeing is the turn of social media into a steady presence in culture, then in ten years, we may look at social media advertising the same way we look at radio and TV ads today. Things are certainly changing, but at a very slow pace. In the meantime, you may want to adjust your marketing strategy to adapt as the social media marketplace changes. Should you cancel your Twitter account? Maybe from a moral standpoint, yes, but from a business perspective, no. I wouldn’t invest more money there, but I wouldn’t give up if you’ve had a successful Twitter campaign. Additionally, the #legaltech community on Twitter is still active and a great place to learn. Where should you invest your time and money in social media? Meta (Facebook and Instagram) is still one of the best, easiest, and cheapest places to spend your marketing budget (again, morals aside). If your target demographic is older, focus on Facebook; if it’s younger, focus on Instagram. Either way, any increase in your marketing budget (time and paid ads) in Meta should be tracked carefully to monitor your marginal return on investment. If you’re a fan of the exciting and want a shot at something that could be big, like the early days of Facebook, then your best bet is to start investing your marketing resources into TikTok. TikTok’s democratization of social media makes it possible for you to engage broadly in a way that is only possible on Facebook by paying to spread your content. It’s growing, its user demographic is expanding, and, among all the social media platforms, TikTok is currently the leading disrupter that all the others are seeking to replicate. Whatever spaces you choose to participate in, just remember to be authentic, offer value, and never solicit.

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Jordan L. Couch is a partner at Palace Law LLP in University Place, Washington, where his practice focuses on workers’ compensation and personal injury litigation. As Palace Law’s Cultural Ambassador and a member of the firm’s creative innovations team, he is always seeking new ways to advance and improve his own practice and the legal profession as a whole. Follow him on Twitter and other social media: @jordanlcouch.