As Twitter rebrands to X, its future remains uncertain. Meta’s launch of Threads, an app that features real-time, public conversations, has quickly gained attention for its striking similarities to Twitter. It has sparked discussions inside the Beltway on how it will disrupt the political media landscape.
With Elon Musk now at the helm of Washington’s most popular social media platform, the overall integrity of Twitter is being questioned. Concern that changes to content moderation policies will lead to a rise in hate speech and misinformation are a growing issue for corporations and government officials who are unsure if hate speech or misinformation will run alongside their content. News of mass layoffs and the resignations of many C-level executives has also caused users and policymakers to question the safety and security of the platform.
According to a new report released by the nonprofit watchdog group Media Matters for America, Twitter has lost half of its top advertisers since Musk took the helm. The report states that 50 of Twitter’s top 100 advertisers, which have collectively spent approximately $2 billion in spending since 2020, have pulled their advertising spend over the past month. These are companies that span across various sectors, including Abbott Laboratories, AMC Networks, American Express Company, Big Heart Petcare, BlackRock, Inc., CA Lottery (California State Lottery), Chanel, Chevrolet, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., Citigroup, Inc., CNN, DirecTV, Ford, Heineken N.V., Hewlett-Packard (HP), Kellogg Company, Kohl’s Department Stores, Inc., LinkedIn Corporation, Marriott International, Inc., Mars Petcare, Merck & Co. (Merck Sharp & Dohme MSD), Meta Platforms, Inc. (formerly Facebook, Inc.), The Coca-Cola Company, The Kraft Heinz Company, and others.
Since taking over the platform, Musk has stated his intent to make Twitter less reliant on advertising – which previously made up approximately 90% of the company’s revenue. However, Musk’s new subscription service for “verified” accounts, which was launched last month, had lax protocols for approvals and led to a flurry of fake accounts popping up across the platform, including accounts impersonating current and former government officials, such as Senator Ed Markey, President Biden, and former Presidents Donald Trump and George W. Bush.
There were also fake accounts impersonating companies. After a fake account for Eli Lilly went live stating that insulin would now be free, the company’s stock price dropped 4.5% in just a few hours. These fake impersonation accounts were ultimately taken down, but Musk announced that verified impersonation accounts that state they are “parody” accounts within their name will be allowed to remain. For example, a fake parody account taking aim at former New York gubernatorial candidate, “Lee Zeldin (parody),” was allowed to remain on Twitter under Musk’s new rule.
Federal lawmakers and regulators are paying close attention to the impact Musk’s policies are having on the safety and security of the platform. The botched rollout of the verification subscription trigged a warning statement from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on November 10 with an FTC spokesperson confirming that the agency was “tracking recent developments at Twitter with deep concern.” A week later, a group of democratic senators, including Senator Markey, sent a letter to the FTC urging the agency to investigate Twitter for “any breach of Twitter’s consent decree or other violations of our consumer protection laws.”
Several other policymakers have publicly voiced their concerns, especially over foreign investment in Twitter. President Bidens expressed concern over the Saudi government’s investment in the Twitter deal, and Senator Ron Wyden, chair of the Finance Committee, raised concern over the agreement, stating that Twitter needs a “careful review” by Congress.
It seems entirely possible that Musk will be called to testify before Congress and that the FTC may consider some form of disciplinary action against the company given its public warning earlier this month.
As businesses and policymakers consider whether to continue to post or advertise on Twitter, they will not only evaluate the security risks, but they must assess the threat to their brand from customers, employees, investors, and other concerned parties.
The media landscape is constantly evolving, especially today, as social media continues to grow in popularity. New social channels have been introduced and many popular platforms have expanded their offerings; newspaper companies are building their digital platforms; and new media partnerships are forming and changing the media industry.
While television and news websites are still the preferred way for Americans to get their news, social media as a news source is on the rise. According to Pew Research Center, the number of Americans getting their news directly through social media is growing. A December 2018 report from the Pew Research Center found that more Americans got their news from social media than from print newspapers in 2018. Just one year prior, in 2017, the number of Americans who got their news through social media and from print newspapers was equal.
As more Americans get their news through online sources and consumers crave instant access to news, newspapers companies have been adapting by building or expanding their digital offerings. New media partnerships have also formed and are changing the way that news is reported. For example, Axios and HBO partnered on the docuseries ‘Axios,’ which is now in its second season. Throughout the series, Axios journalists interview the leaders shaping politics, business and technology today.
As the media industry continues to evolve, understanding the latest trends and shifts in the media and digital landscape is key to crafting a strong communications and issue advocacy strategy.
-Gloria Story Dittus, Chairman, Story Partners
Gloria Dittus, Chairman of Story Partners, conducted an interview with Steve Clemons, who joined The Hill six months ago as Editor-at-Large. During the interview, Steve gave tips for executives to create opportunities to participate in media forums and to secure media coverage. Steve also shared about new platforms at The Hill and what offerings and events to expect next.
What is the most effective way for executives to land opportunities to participate in forums hosted by media outlets, i.e. The Hill’s Newsmaker Series?
Decide to share something behind the curtain. The truly interesting stories come from inside the CEO’s den. Tim Ryan of PwC thought he knew about race and zip code and gender identity challenges inside his company. But a killing in Dallas ignited tensions in his firm that he and his management team have been working to sort out and resolve. The ‘learning’ that he shared with me in an interview showed deep and authentic introspection. That’s so different from the CEOs who simply want to report all is great, rah-rah stories. Those are boring. Virgin’s Richard Branson and Cisco’s Chuck Robbins both go out of their way to try and hire convicts who deserve a second chance. That’s interesting. Beth Brooke, Vice-Chair of EY, has been pounding on the World Economic Forum to be better not only on gender but on LGBTQIA inclusion. That’s interesting and seems brave, in a way. Microsoft’s Brad Smith is warning us that tomorrow’s technology can be tools that help us or weapons against us. Interesting. Tom Fanning of Southern Company, a pretty staunch conservative, believes that there are real carbon capture tech solutions out there that are pro-energy and pro-environment and that these need to be deployed in China or we are all going to cook. Heather Bresch of Mylan can make the case that America is losing ground in the HIV battle compared to Africa because it’s failing to employ lessons learned from PEPFAR. That’s a bank shot. Qualcomm CEO Steven Mollenkopf can tell folks how 5G technology, which everyone knows will be the next skeletal structure of cities, can also revolutionize rural connectivity and farming with fixed millimeter waves. Interesting! What is not interesting is to hear a business executive talk about a predictable subject in a predictable way.
With so much happening in D.C. each day, what do you look for when determining coverage of a story or event?
We all live in a gusher of constant information today. Much of it is the same stuff laundered over and over again, derivative, unoriginal and recycled talking points. In determining what stories or events to cover, I look for surprising edges, hints of consequence, or an irregular pattern that differentiates that moment, or person, or idea in a very crowded marketplace.
What tips can you share for public affairs professionals to most effectively get their message to Beltway reporters?
Make it really clear why the story is interesting; in the first line. Almost no one does that. Most PR pros are trying to make a client happy in their pitches when they really should put their effort into understanding what might bridge with a particular writer’s interests. Do a search of the kinds of stories a correspondent covers and get a sense of the angles and subject matter that appear in that writer’s work — and then use that as a basis for outreach, or a pitch. Don’t treat members of the media as if they are automatons to whom to broadcast and blindly pitch stories. Many journalists are their own version of public intellectuals. They usually have a deep understanding of the issues they cover or are on their way to knowing the nuts and bolts of how a story should be revealed.
Can you share a few tips that communications and PR professionals should keep in mind when trying to draw reporters to their organization’s events?
If all events were consequential and really interesting, getting media to cover them would be easy. But not all events are equal, and the overworked correspondent tends to think it’s more productive to cover hearings, or the Halls of Congress, or to interview subjects directly rather than spend a lot of time at an event. To up the chances of coverage, consider doing side sessions with political and policy notables with a roundtable of a number of media on the sidelines of the event. That intimacy and focus of conversation with the talent that has been lined up with the event will generate a lot more coverage and media engagement. If your event is a policy-related gathering, always have questions. Always — even if just one. Invest in a great moderator or interviewer who knows that the objective is to help a consequential story to be revealed to the audience. The audience matters far more than the speaker. It’s about the people who attend — not the speaker.
You’ve discussed your plans on building The Hill’s 3D journalism and thought leadership platforms. What can we expect to see rolling out?
I’ve been at The Hill for six months now, and our 3D journalism platforms are already growing in scale, geographic reach, and complexity. We are producing big tent policy summits, thought leader gatherings both large and small, taking our ideas and people and conversations and embedding them into other large association forums. Events are platforms for story-telling and story-challenging. Most of our events have been in Washington historically, but in 2020 you will see The Hill produce a wide variety of policy events on the thorniest and most interesting political, economic and social challenges today. What makes what we are going to do differently from the rest of the industry is that we know how to give policy discussions edge. Too many events platforms today are turning into political advocacy rather than a real 360-degree debate — and that debate is what is consequential. I was surprised and pleased to learn that The Hill turns out to be the largest political media platform in the nation and that its brand is known not only throughout the country but also globally. We are up there with the best in the media business in quality and breadth — and we have permission, it seems to me, to take our journalism in all its forms — in our articles and opinion pieces at The Hill, in our daily broadcasts on Hill TV (which has a huge audience), in our newsletters, and of course, in our 3D journalism/events to a nationally interested and engaged audience. And did I say I love a great Ideas Fest? Particularly a turbo-charged, radically bipartisan, scratch your head all day because of the brain-stretching stuff on stage Ideas Fest? Stay tuned.
National Geographic has built one of the most successful digital strategies with a combined 420+ million followers across their social channels, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat and Pinterest. Earlier this year, National Geographic became the first brand to reach 100 million followers on Instagram; their main Instagram account, @NatGeo, now has over 119 million followers.
An example of how National Geographic combines traditional and digital storytelling with their advocacy mission is their “Planet or Plastic” campaign, which was launched last year to raise awareness of and reduce plastic pollution.
While the campaign is promoted through their magazine and social media pages, they also utilized a relatively new feature known as Instagram Stories to advance their advocacy mission.
Launched in 2016, Stories allows users to upload video and pictures to tell a “story.” Stories offer engaging features, such as polls, chat boxes and pledges. National Geographic asked viewers to take a pledge: choose the planet or plastic.
Through Instagram Stories, National Geographic is able to effectively reach Millennials and Generation Z to advance their advocacy mission in a new, digital age.
This storytelling feature has grown in popularity, with Facebook reporting on its Q4 2018 earnings call that Stories now draws more than 500 million users each day.