It isn’t uncommon for users to sign off of a particular social media service, only to return again. As Mark Twain is reputed to have remarked about his tobacco habit, “giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.”
Most of the time social media users returned, just like Twain was known to light up again. However, in the case of Twitter, it could be different. According to data from Bot Sentienel, which tracks inauthentic behavior on the platform, around 877,000 accounts were deactivated, while an additional 497,000 were suspended between October 27 and November 1, just after tech entrepreneur Elon Musk took ownership of the company.
That was reportedly more than double the usual number.
“While every social media site’s user base fluctuates, losing or suspending over million accounts in a four-day span is concerning. In terms of Twitter’s reported 275M =/- users, it could be argued that since the numbers reflect a fraction of a percentage point of the whole that it is really no big deal but (there are) issues that undermine that rosy view,” said technology industry analyst Charles King of Pund-IT.
Moreover, the great exodus and culling of accounts came before Musk essentially fired half the staff. More users could leave in response. Yet, this isn’t the first time that Twitter has seen a mass exit of its users – and many supporters of former President Donald Trump signed off after he was suspended from the service following the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot. Now, there are many other users who have left, or who have threatened to leave.
“We could see a significant number jump ship as there is an increase in ‘hate speech’’ on the platform,” explained social media analyst and brand marketing expert Scott Steinberg. “With the massive layoffs on Friday, Twitter has been gutted of its teams that were devoted to combating the spread of misinformation and disinformation. So we could see the exodus of users continue well into the New Year.”
It isn’t clear if Trump’s supporters – many of whom have gone to services such as Parler or Trump’s own Truth Social – will return to Twitter. Equally unclear is where those now leaving could go.
“We could see many of them filter down to other social media platforms including TikTok and Instagram, and it could result in resurgence for Facebook,” Steinberg continued. “As the social media platforms are owned by activists and outspoken individuals, they’ll become more polarized, and individuals will flock to the services that align with their opinions and beliefs, but there are only so many platforms that do what Twitter does.”
Without alternatives, many users – especially those with large followings – might even return post-midterms. Even if they don’t agree with the platform’s new direction, Twitter’s reach could still allow them to make their case heard by a wide audience.
What Does Loss Of Users Mean For Twitter
Just as there is the question of what Twitter users might do without Twitter, there is the issue of how Twitter will react to the loss of high-profile individuals.
“You could see an exodus of advertisers, not only due to the loss of users but also due to Musk’s particular views,” said Steinberg. “Of course, he is still one of the world’s richest people, and may see this as a drop in the bucket.”
Musk didn’t buy Twitter to lose money, however – as noted by his desire to increase revenue by charging for the coveted blue checkmarks that come with verified accounts. Losing advertisers isn’t going to be good for the bottom line, or for Musk.
“The advertisers that provide Twitter’s lifeblood are watching the takeover process closely to determine whether or not they want to be associated with Elon Musk’s history of erratic behavior and controversial statements. In fact, high-profile advertisers, including General Mills, General Motors, and Pfizer, have already left,” added King.
It is also good to remember that Twitter users are anything but equal, and their value can’t be understated.
“So-called ‘super users’ – mostly celebrities, sports stars, and other well-known figures with massive numbers of followers – account for a large portion of tweets, retweets, and favorites that advertisers love,” King noted. “Musk’s initial missteps, like suggesting that verified account holders pay $20 monthly, was not greeted cheerfully by those vital users. If super users leave or substantially scale back their activities, Twitter and Musk will be in a world of hurt.”
Then there is the fact that Musk essentially “cleaned house,” by letting go of half the company’s workforce. A leaner Twitter has always been his goal for the company.
“We have seen explosive growth for many tech companies, and some ramped up way too fast,” Steinberg suggested. “There could be some benefit from cutting the headcount, and it may even increase the company’s profitability – but misinformation and disinformation will remain a problem if it lacks the staff to confront it. We have to ask what Twitter is sacrificing and whether it is good for the world.”