3 mins read

What happens when social media gets old?

Charles Benaiah is the publisher of unCharles, a nugget of Substack gold. In this feature, specially syndicated for Mx3’s Collectif, he argues that media’s biggest story over the last ten months has been Twitter/Elon/X/people dunking on him. Musk’s gained followers, lost users, p*ssed away value, annoyed advertisers, and hired a legit CEO to bring everything back. But the bigger story is this: What does social media become when it grows up?

It’s easy to forget that Twitter started on March 21, 2006. That’s the same year Facebook grew beyond its dorm room roots. They were the only two social platforms. No, News Corp buying MySpace for $580m that year doesn’t make it part of the mix. Ouch, tho.

Friends gathered on the pre-feed Facebook. Twitter was where you connected with everyone you didn’t know. Or, you would like to know — celebs, sports stars, politicians, and the journalists who write for the Wall Street Journal or Chief Marketer. Twitter was real-time, hip, and quippy.

Yutes made both platforms popular. The thing about yutes is that they leave for whatever is hotter and cooler. Old platforms aren’t hot or cool. They just become redundant. Tepidly lukewarm. Billions of aunts, uncles, and other assorted fogies stuck with The Facebook. Twitter was left to figure out its future. It’s been doing that since Instagram started in 2010. It’s easier for hip people to caption glamor shots than write things from scratch. Things got tougher for Twitter in 2012 when Facebook bought the picture swapping platform. By 2014, Instagram was an instant hit. Since then, Twitter’s user base has flatlined at a nothing-to-tweet-home-about 3.1% CAGR.

Twitter isn’t a Young Turk. Its like the wee-water trickle of an aging man with prostate issues. Which sums up X’s station in life. It’s all grown up. What’s next?

My friend Matt texted me, “Elon ain’t stupid.” Matt ain’t loquacious. (Matt, August 10th, look it up.)

Twitter’s strategy hasn’t worked for a decade. It isn’t going to magically start working now. Elon has to do something different. If Elon and I hung out, he’d be the one wearing the, “I’m with stupid t-shirt.” If I know this, he does too.

He has more than hinted at what that something might be. He’s trying to make Twitter do things for you. Turn it into E-Trade. Make it the start point for your Uber journeys. I wrote about Musk’s plan for X to mark your spot.

Yesterday, X said it will be a place to place calls — voice and video. It can’t hurt. It’s certainly better than hoping people start to post. To be clear, I wouldn’t use Twitter to make a call. But, 83% of Twitter users are outside the U.S. That’s where most people use WhatsApp. Everyday, they use it to make 100 million calls. WhatsApp has 2.7 billion users. I’m too lazy to do the math on what percent of WA users X would need to grab to grow by 3%. I’ll just say, roughly, 1/3 of a percent.

The evolution of a maturing X is more about offering new things than fiddling with the radius of the post button. Calls, trading, really anything X can do to be your doing app is worth a shot. Doing. Hmmmm. A social platform that does things for you. Cool idea. Renee, I’ll ping you about it. After the long weekend.


Charles Benaiah is the CEO of Watzan, a techy company for medical media. When he’s not running a media company, he reads about media, thinks about it, pull out what’s left of his hair dealing with it, and, then, he writes about it over on unCharles. Charles is a member of Media Makers Meet – Mx3 Collectif.