Twitter advertising dollars have plunged 89% since billionaire Elon Musk bought the social media platform in October, Bloomberg reported, and as a result, revenue has dropped by half.
Twitter has seen a slight uptick in daily users since early 2022, the report said, but advertisers have not returned to the site amid the ongoing upheaval at the company. Since Musk took over Twitter in October, he’s slashed jobs by about 75%, leaving the company with less than 2,000 employees, and most of the content management team gone.
Last week, Musk valued the company at just $20 billion, less than half of what he paid for it.
Citing data from Pathmatics, Bloomberg said that from September to October of last year, the top 10 advertisers on Twitter spent $71 million on ads. In the past two months, the total was just $7.6 million, a decline of 89%, the research firm said.
Twitter’s top ad customers used to include marquee names like Ford, American Express, HBO, Amazon, IBM and Coca-Cola. But amid the early turmoil surrounding Musk’s takeover, major brands fled the site in droves, with 50 out of the top 100 advertisers pulling their ads.
But while reports in January said that the number of brands spending on the service rose in the months after Musk’s takeover, Bloomberg said major media agencies like IPG and Horizon Media that advised clients to pause their Twitter campaigns last fall have not yet reversed course.
“One media buyer said their firm’s initial recommendation to clients after Musk took over was a ‘red light,’ as in, stop spending,” the report said. “They’re still advising clients proceed with caution — the light has changed to ‘amber’ — as the company still appears to be in a chaotic state.”
The latest saga at the platform surrounds the “blue checks” that are used to verify account holders. Musk instituted the monthly subscription service, Twitter Blue, in November, which granted the marks to anyone who paid $8 — now $7 — a month, only to see the site flooded with fake accounts.
Then last week he announced that “legacy” blue checks — those granted to celebrities, journalists and news organizations, politicians and companies before Musk’s takeover — will be stripped from their accounts on April 1 if they don’t begin paying the fee.
On Tuesday, Musk went a step further and said that the algorithmic “For You” feed his team created in recent months will soon feature only paid, verified accounts rather than showing users a wider array of posts.
Musk has made attempts to stem the outflow of advertisers, including creating a product that enables companies to block their ads from appearing alongside tweets that contain certain keywords or images, Bloomberg said. The company also offered deep discounts to major advertisers that came back — “in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars in free ads,” the report said. “Twitter is no longer broadcasting those deals, but several advertisers said they know they could get them if they did want to return.”
But advertisers are wary in part because of Musk’s own behavior on the site, the report said. Musk has in recent weeks engaged in a public spat with a disabled employee, defended “Dilbert” cartoonist Scott Adams after a racist rant caught on video; posted a sexist joke on his feed and on Monday amplified an anti-trans post related to the Nashville school shooting.
Bloomberg said advertisers are concerned about Musk’s “erratic decision making and how his personal brand blurs with Twitter’s corporate image.”
It pointed to Musk’s efforts to adjust the platform’s algorithm to boost his own tweets as one eyebrow-raising move.
“It’s this intangible wild card,” the media buyer told Bloomberg. “We need to work with clients to understand from a values perspective: ‘Is this a partner you want to be in business with?’”