Why Twitter’s decline is great for PR people

Twitter’s decline is now permanent, and here’s why that’s a great thing for PR folks.

I’m not reveling in it. I don’t even hate Elon Musk. I’ve just seen enough to finally conclude what he’s doing and why. After I explain that, we’ll explore why the fragmentation of social media, just like the fragmentation of the news media, makes you even more valuable to your employer or clients.

Why Twitter’s decline is permanent

After Musk’s purchase, I stayed in the “wait and see” camp longer than most. Every time he did something inexplicable, I reminded myself that he founded and led two companies – in categories where nobody had succeeded – that now have a combined market value of 1 TRILLION dollars.

But after the “X” rebrand, we finally have enough data to conclude with certainty that Musk has never viewed Twitter as the next Tesla or SpaceX, but merely a fun toy. Yes, Twitter cost $44 billion, but he probably secured half from lenders and other investors. Let’s say he put up $22 billion of his own money. That’s about 10 percent of his $230 billion net worth. These numbers come courtesy of tech analyst Ben Thompson (paywall).

If I could buy my favorite sports team, or restaurant chain, or other fun thing that I really love, for 10 percent of my net worth, I might just do it. If I could buy it for 10 percent of my net worth and still have $200 billion left over, I definitely would! (I’d like to think I’d just enjoy great seats and hanging out with famous people, rather than ruining the enterprise in the first 10 months, but that’s beside the point).

Elon is not really trying to remake or restore Twitter to greatness as the world’s town square. He’s just dabbling in it for fun. That’s why we can be sure it’s never coming back to the height of its influence.

Why that’s a good thing for PR people

First, a moment of silence for the things that were good about having a dominant text-based platform over-indexed by journalists:

  • Journalists could get verified takes on new developments from major thought leaders without the hassle of calling or emailing them. They could also do quick “regular people” roundups.
  • We could get a quick feel for a journalist’s personality and interests by checking their tweets. Sometimes they would even post what they’re working on.
  • Because Twitter was one of just a few leading platforms for so long, our tools and workflow around it were well-established.

So why am I bullish on a world where we don’t know who is gonna be on Threads and who will stay on Twitter and what a rehabilitated Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook might look like? Not to mention the chaos of a dominant TikTok that could realistically get kicked out of the U.S. over national security concerns? The answer:

The more complex communication platforms become, the more reliant employers become on full-time experts to manage them.

PR people are the champions of managing relationships with multiple platforms, when you think of varying types of media outlets as “platforms.” We inherently know how to talk differently to a staffer at the Journal compared to one at The Verge.

Yes, it’s a pain to have to learn another platform, whether that’s Threads or something else, when you may have felt fluent with Twitter. But that friction equals VALUE to your role at your company or agency. Executives and peers in other functions sure don’t wanna learn another platform, and even if they did, they wouldn’t be as good at it as you are.


If you are responsible for media relations: Shift your thinking from “email and Twitter” to asking yourself, “Where is the least-crowded inbox that this particular journalist seems to frequent?” Relish the fact that it’s harder to answer this question now, because very few other people will be savvy and dogged enough to find out. That means less competition for you.

If you are responsible for social media: Work toward spending 80 percent of your time on the 20 percent of social platforms most trusted by your key audiences. Realistically, that means one or two should be your focus, and you’re okay with just kinda automating your presence on the others. During this current state of flux, you may need to spend a significant chunk of that time researching and experimenting to find out which platform(s) should be your focus.

Change is hard, but complexity is good for service providers like you. When you simplify that complexity for the people who set budgets and salaries, everybody ends up happier.

I would LOVE to hear your counterarguments, objections, and/or rants on my take here. Respond and let it fly.

P.S. If you’ve been reading my newsletters the past few months, you know I use these PSes to explain how I used ChatGPT in drafting each piece. This particular post continues an inadvertent 3-week streak of not using it. What these pieces (here’s the first and second) have in common is that I hadn’t completely formulated my arguments before I started throwing letters up on the computer screen, so I didn’t feel like I knew enough to prompt the bot yet. The logical flow coalesced as I wrote. I also found it easier than usual to write in my distinctive voice. I think that’s because I imagined I was presenting to a roomful of training clients (my happy place) and consequently found myself using casual language and more energetic delivery.

I tried to break the streak, though. I fed this piece into ChatGPT and asked for 10 specific edits. This approach has borne fruit for me previously, but this time I didn’t like a single one of the 10. That’s on me, not the tool – clearly I haven’t figured out the write prompts to yield useful edits that preserve my distinct voice. Each of the suggested edits would have watered the piece down to the generalized college-business-writing-course copy that the bot defaults to after you cure its penchant for hype.

One idea that just occurred to me is that maybe having ChatGPT as my editor is making me write better first drafts! I’m anticipating what it’s going to say, and applying that before I ask it. Will noodle on this.

This article was originally published on July 26, 2023

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