After Elon Musk took over Twitter last October, its stock plummeted 60 per cent. But has this affected how creatives actually use the platform? We share some insights from our own Twitter community.
Since Creative Boom was founded in 2009, the rise of social media has had a dramatic impact on the creative industry and society in general. Not all the effects have been positive, to say the least, and we've shared lots of tips and advice to help you limit your social media use, and win clients when you've quit social media altogether.
But at the same time, I'll be frank: I love using Twitter! For many years, it's been a great way to engage with our readers and the creative community at large on broad issues, as well as keep you up-to-date with new articles, podcast episodes and developments with Creative Boom. And we'd love you to follow us at @creativeboom and get involved.
If you read the tech, media or business news, though, you may have noticed that Twitter's become pretty controversial in the last year or so. We won't go into a deep dive here, but the short version is that unconventional billionaire Elon Musk has taken over the platform and made some huge changes.
The main headlines include sacking lots of developers, often with questionable regard for the legality, and reinstating the banned accounts of controversial figures such as Donald Trump, Jordan Peterson and Kanye West (although Trump has so far resisted the temptation to return and West has since been re-banned).
Many have reacted to these and other changes by threatening to leave Twitter or at least stop using it so much. And a lot of commentators are now saying that Twitter has "gone quiet" and become an empty echo chamber.
In truth, though, it's difficult to tell what's going on overall because everyone's experience of Twitter is different. And certainly, our own follower count remains in excellent health.
But is that because you're still enjoying Twitter and finding it useful? Or are you just biding your time, slowly backing off and thinking about quitting? We decided to ask you directly, and we share some of your responses below.
"Still finding it a positive experience."
We're a positive bunch here at Creative Boom, so we'll start with the positive replies. Many of you clearly feel Twitter still has an important role to play in your lives and careers for a variety of reasons.
For instance, Stanley Vaganov, a designer for social impact, sees it as the best way to create and test content ideas. "Twitter allows me to be precise with my thoughts," he explains. "Once the thought is published and is getting good traction, I can then take that high engagement and turn it into a blog post or LinkedIn article."
For others, it's just a place for a good chinwag. Photographer and LEGO producer Marc Diamond says: "I didn't care who owned Twitter before, and I still don't. The truth is, I haven't found anywhere else that feels as immediate or as 'chatty', and so it remains the best place for me to stay in touch with the creatives I've always followed. Posting on Instagram is time-consuming."
Creative lead Ross Middleham agrees. "Twitter is a fab place to connect with like-minded people from across the industry," he says. "In my opinion, it's a must-use channel for networking, sharing and soaking up the latest trends and inspiration."
"I get lots of referrals from it."
Graphic designer Mike Hindle sees it as especially useful for getting work. "I still find Twitter generally a positive experience and worth spending time on," he says. "Lots of my clients and people I'd like to work with are on here. Twitter referrals to my websites are always in the top five. It offers easy organic reach and probably the easiest platform to keep up to date with folks."
Photographer Paul Treacy gives a concrete example. "I made a connection on Twitter, which led to an assignment for the Irish Times last week. That likely wouldn't have happened on other social media. It surprised and delighted me. I'll be making more of an effort now."
Artist Donna Gilliard also remains a fan. "As someone who makes dolls, I've found Twitter to be a wonderful resource in showcasing my work," she says. "The hashtag hours have been instrumental in me making new friends and chewing over ideas with like-minded souls. Twitter is so much better than it used to be, and I love it."
And while some are ditching Twitter for other platforms, designer Ilenia Notarangelo is going in the other direction. "I think it's replacing the 'old' IG feed posting," she says. "With my design studio, illo.tv, we're posting more and more these days, with more WIP work and less pressure and preparation than on Instagram. Also, my feed is starting to populate with more creative content than it used to be."
"It's ethically problematic."
Others, though, are shifting away. For some, that's to do with the changing nature of Twitter under Elon Musk. Designer Berenice Howard-Smith, for instance, says: "It's ethically problematic for my business. It's still on my links page as a place to find me, but I'm increasingly challenged by it. Fortunately, I've been active on LinkedIn, so I'm emotively and strategically okay with leaving if I wanted to, should Musk break it further."
Illustrator and art director Adrian Bauer also feels torn. "I have mixed feelings about Twitter these days," he explains. "It is still a great platform when it comes to journalistic content. But the recent turbulence has shown us that social media platforms are not solid and forever. As an illustrator, this means keeping my focus on my website."
Copywriter Jonathan Wilcock puts it more bluntly. "I'm feeling sad about Twitter," he says. "All the oomphy goodness, or at least most of it, seems to have been sucked out. I hardly ever see the people I love here any more. I'm this close to jumping ship."
Many, though, feel unease with the platform but aren't sure where to go instead. Take portrait photographer Andy Barnham. "I'm here as there aren't any other social media alternatives, in my humble opinion, but I'm using it less and less as I disagree with the ownership and direction," he explains.
Jo is on the verge of quitting but hasn't got very far yet. "I want to move to Spoutible, but I can't be arsed," she admits. "I signed up and everything, but I'm too tired of it all to start again. I liked the idea of a platform that works like Twitter without all the iffy Twitter issues and an edit button! And that they asked everyone what they wanted. But I don't think anyone's there."
"I use lists and mute heavily."
So if you're unhappy with Twitter but feel 'stuck' there, how can you make the best of things? Designer and developer Steve Perry offers some advice. "For mental health reasons, I use lists and mute heavily," he explains. "I once used to be against muting so that I didn't end up in an echo chamber. But I'm happy having my ideas challenged in other areas of life, so I now mute on here. If I see a negative tweet – somebody moaning – I just flick past it. Overall, I use it because I kinda need to. But long term, I aim to ditch it."
Another angle might be to just stick to using Twitter for a few things: the ones it's most effective for. For instance, as photographer and filmmaker Nick Turpin explains: "Twitter is still the quickest and most time efficient way for me to keep abreast of announcements and developments in my industry. It's also the quickest way to broadcast my news and new work. I don't have time to sit down and read and produce long-form content."
As artist Naava Katz puts it: "I've learned Twitter is not 'one experience fits all'. You can make it work for your needs. In my case, once I intentionally curated my feed, I found inspiring art history accounts, hashtag challenges that boost my illustration portfolio and open calls directly from art directors."
"We separate the platform from the community."
For some, like the team at SVGator, that may involve making a mental separation. "At the moment, we're choosing to mentally separate the platform itself from the community built here," they explain. "Kinda like one does when an actor that has played a character you think fondly of turns out to be not someone you want to support in real life. You're still allowed to love the character!"
What changes Elon Musk will make to the platform in future is anyone's guess. But many caution against overreacting to clickbait headlines and OTT reactions (ironically, often on Twitter itself).
"I don't think Twitter has changed as much as a lot of people seem to think," believes marketer Barney Durrant. "There was a sense of moral panic when Elon Musk took over, but I think it remains an influential social network and is still great for B2B clients especially. However, the fact remains that businesses should be cautious about relying too much on any one social platform, as they don't own their following or content there, and as we have seen, things can change very quickly. Investing in owned communities should be kept in mind."
Designer Vincent Walden adds: "At the start of the year, I thought it was a Musk-y hellscape due for imminent self-implosion. But recently, it's become a staple for creative discussion, recommendations and friendship, which has also produced some work for me. Against my best judgement, I love it!"