The rise of the Twitter clones: What do brands need to know?

The rise of the Twitter clones: What do brands need to know?

Over a year on from Elon Musks’ take over at Twitter, and the app itself, now rebranded X, feels like a very different proposition for marketers and brands. Some things remain the same – there’s still a community there, it’s still fast and reactive, and it’s still possible to create viral moments. On the other hand, depleted moderation resources, inconsistencies in verification, reputational damage and, apparently, a tanking of effective advertising has made the platform less and less appealing for brands.

The biggest problem here is “what else can we do?”. Twitter, as it was, held a unique place in the suite of social media platforms brands have used to reach customers for the last decade – Twitter is real time conversation and timely content dissemination. Facebook, Instagram and TikTok all have their place, but none of them do text-based and immediate engagement anywhere near as well.

New platforms like BlueSky and Mastodon (the most “Twitter-like” in their function) and Meta’s Threads (the largest user-base) are attempting to fill the hole, with similar functionality and purpose, but each come with their own drawbacks and advantages. BlueSky, a decentralised platform, emphasises user data control and privacy, potentially attracting a more tech-conscious audience, and seems to have found some success with Twitter’s more irreverent, media-savvy and largely left-leaning audience, having recently dropped its invite-only Beta stage entry system and passed five million users. Its audience is largely what detractors might call the “metropolitan elite”, which makes sense as that’s the demographic most likely to be abandoning X. This makes Bluesky a natural home for memes, takes and quick reactions, and feels less corporate, but also less “official” for brands. Threads, meanwhile, leverages its integration with Instagram to offer brands an opportunity to tap into their existing follower base, however marketers are finding that Instagram audiences have different needs and different reactions to Twitter’s, meaning new approaches are needed.

Of course, you can use all of these platforms as they emerge, tailoring an approach to each, but that requires time and resources not available to everyone, particularly as it’s important to measure impact as well as sentiment. It’s far from ideal.

As the social media nerds we are, we’re trying to help our clients navigate this increasingly turbulent and varied space, advising them on where they can focus their time and resources. There’s no iron-clad certainties as yet, but here’s what we’ve been able to find so far.

The Case for Staying with X

Established Audience: Twitter, now X, still has a vast user base, which can't be ignored. Despite the fluctuations, the platform boasts millions of daily active users, ensuring a significant reach. There are plenty of customers still using the platform in the way they always have.

Real-time Engagement: The platform remains a hub for real-time conversations, especially during global events, trending topics, or crises.

Influencer Collaborations: A significant number of influencers and celebrities actively use X, providing brands with collaboration opportunities. Musk’s opening up of verification certainly helped with this.

However, Challenges Persist:

Uncertain Future: A recently-mooted subscription model for all users might reduce the active user base significantly. Brands will need to reallocate budget if their audience decides to migrate.

Paying twice for boosted posts: At present only verified or premium X accounts can run advertising on the platform, meaning if you’re planning to do paid advertising you’ll also have to fork out for a subscription.

Competing for Attention: With the rise of new platforms, users' attention is divided, and standing out on X might become increasingly challenging.

Wildly inconsistent results: We spoke to one social media manager at a major news brand, who have always used promoted posts to boost their messaging. “In the last six months we’ve started to see astronomical increases in impressions,” they told us. “Whereas before we might get 300,000 we’re now getting a million and a half, for largely the same sorts of content presented in the same way. But we’re seeing absolutely no increase in click-through rates or engagement, and a huge spike in toxic, negative replies and trolling. It’s made it incredibly difficult to measure the effectiveness of our ad spend, or assess the sentiment among our audience.”

Embracing New Platforms: The BlueSky & Threads Perspective

BlueSky: The Decentralised one


  • Transparency and Control: BlueSky offers users greater control over their data, an attractive proposition for privacy-conscious audiences. Brands championing data privacy can resonate better here.
  • Fresh Start: It's still in its nascent stage, providing brands an opportunity to be early adopters and set the trend.
  • Targeting the Tech-savvy: As a decentralised platform, BlueSky might initially attract a more tech-savvy audience. If that's your target demographic, this platform is golden.


  • Market Uncertainty: Being a new platform, it's unclear how widely it will be adopted and what its ultimate impact on the market will be.
  • Potential Technical Complexity: As a decentralised platform, less tech-savvy users may find it difficult to navigate, possibly limiting the audience base for brands.
  • No access to the API, meaning that brands and developers may face challenges in integrating BlueSky with their existing systems and workflows. This limitation could hinder the creation of automated tools or data analytics features, essential for understanding and engaging with audiences effectively.

Threads: the oven-ready-Insta one


  • Seamless Integration with Instagram: Threads is built on top of Instagram, allowing users to easily cross-post and leverage their existing Instagram following, offering brands an immediate audience.
  • Large Initial User Base: Attracted a substantial number of signups on launch day, indicating a high level of initial interest and potential reach for brands. As of March 2024 its registered users hovers somewhere around 160 million. That’s 30 times more than Bluesky’s.


  • Decreasing Active Users: Within a month, Threads’ DAU had dropped by 82%. While a drop was inevitable for any new platform, Meta would have been hoping for substantially more retention than this. A significant drop in active users since launch could limit the platform's effectiveness for brand exposure and engagement.
  • Limited Features: Criticisms regarding lack of features has meant a fairly unsatisfying user experience.
  • Instagram’s audience is not Twitter’s audience: Thread’s integration with Instagram made it super easy for Insta users to port their profiles over to the new platform. Insta’s audience, however, behaves in a very different way to Twitter’s, with different expectations. Brands seeking a like-for-like replacement are going to need to significantly adjust their approach.
  • Again, no API access

Mastodon: The Open Source One


  • Diverse Audience Base: Mastodon’s unique structure invites a varied group of users including tech enthusiasts, privacy advocates, creative minds, and those looking for more control and authenticity in their social media interactions. This can provide brands a chance to engage with specific, engaged communities.
  • Ad-Free Environment: Mastodon is the least “corporate” feeling of the Twitter-alikes, which makes engagement feel more valid and real.
  • Much higher engagement rate: Mastodon has a very dedicated user base, and a very tech-savvy and privacy-focussed one, which leads to a higher engagement rate in general, though a small audience. It means brands can specifically target and engage with distinct, enthusiastic communities, creating a more tailored and genuine interaction experience.


  • Limited Marketing Avenues: The absence of traditional promotional opportunities might require more innovative, community-based marketing strategies.
  • Smaller User Base: The user base is much smaller compared to mainstream platforms, massively limiting reach.
  • Confusing: Many users have found Mastodon’s different servers confusing and the communities difficult to navigate. While many people have created Mastodon accounts since Musk’s Twitter-takeover, comparatively few have gone on to become engaged users of the platform.

Common Cons for all of them:

  • New and Unproven: Mastodon, BlueSky and Threads are new platforms with untested long-term viability for brands and marketers, potentially posing a risk for long-term investment.
  • User Hesitancy: Potential resistance from users to adopt or consistently engage with newer platforms, limiting the audience reach for brands.
  • Adaptation Requirements: Brands need to understand and adapt to the unique structures and features of each platform, requiring additional effort and resources.
  • Limited access to API and data: It is extremely difficult to get true engagement data from the new platforms, especially for things like reach and CTR, making it tricky to measure how effective a campaign is.
  • No Twitter: As much as both apps might try to ape the functionality of the original “microblogging” (remember that term?) platform, Twitter users are accustomed to specific functionality and typical engagement that can put them off wanting to jump ship to a lookalike. If they’re unsatisfied with X they may simply log off altogether.

Conclusion: what’s our advice to brands?

As frustrating as it is, for now a multi-platform approach is the best approach. Diversifying across X, BlueSky, Threads, and possibly even Mastadon, and whatever else might come along, allows for the broadest reach and the ability to connect with varied audiences. It also offers the flexibility to adapt strategies based on the evolving landscapes of each platform. However, brands must be mindful of the resources this approach entails and ensure that their efforts on each platform are strategically aligned with their overall goals. Measure reach and effectiveness and try to calculate ROI. That’s all stuff we can help you with.

The only thing we can do is watch. If you have the resources then by all means dip into the alternatives and track your progress as best you can. Keep an ear to the ground on developments. One of these platforms could soar into the lead as the true Twitter-killer … or they all might die on the vine. Another could emerge, or Musk could finally get his ducks in a row and make X the most viable option once more. It’s all very volatile, and while that can be exciting, it’s also frustrating.

It's a challenging time for brands in the social media sphere, but those who stay informed, adaptable, and audience-centric will always fare best. We’re really happy to talk all of this through with you, so please do drop us a line.

Published on 2023-04-3 14:44:02