With a mass exodus starting after Elon Musk acquired Twitter, both studios and publicists will have to rethink how they use the platform.
I first heard of Twitter in what was probably 2008-09. I distinctly remember sitting at a Shabbos dinner saying that I will never ever sign up for Twitter. In classic comedic fashion, I signed up that month because it was helpful in landing tickets to the promotional film screenings. The rest is history.
When applying for press lists, I’ve had to include not just my unique monthly views but my social media following across Facebook, Twitter, and on occasion, Instagram. In fact, one thing I’ve learned through the years is how social media numbers play a role in interview approvals with filmmakers and talent. It sucks but that’s the way it is. When my reviews run, I share them across Facebook, Twitter, IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Letterboxd, and when I feel like it, Instagram. I don’t even have 1,000 follows on Instagram so I don’t use the platform to its potential. It was only recently that they allowed non-verified users to post links in Instagram stories. What is the most helpful is inclusion on Google News.
Twitter used to be a valuable resource. I stress used to because it’s gone downhill recently. Almost all of my freelance opportunities are because of Twitter. Because of this, I’ve been able to get my name out there over the past few years. One opportunity leads to another and so forth and so forth. What happens when many writers and editors start leaving Twitter? The opportunities are no longer going to be the same. Believe me when I say how grateful I am for the writing opportunities. As I sit here typing, I’m wondering how much longer Twitter will last. When you look at what’s happening right now, the freelance aspect of entertainment journalism will never be the same. Instead of meeting people and networking on Twitter, freelancers will depend on film festivals and such for networking. Twitter as we know it is done. Blame Elon.
Much like how people watch movies and TV, the way that they consume their news is changing. Social media is playing a large role in this, too. Some entertainment magazines are no longer printing a magazine. One in particular is solely publishing everything on digital and it isn’t the same. The pandemic certainly has not been kind to the industry. With layoffs and sites shutting down, more of us are fighting for the same freelance positions than ever before. It’s a scary position that we find ourselves in and I don’t know what is going to happen next month let alone next year. What I do know is that Twitter generally brings in a number of page views and with the people leaving, those views are as good as gone. It’s unfortunate because the lower traffic hurts in general.
Since Elon started talking about acquiring the platform, a number of people have been open about leaving the platform. We’ve already seen it over the past week. Believe me, it sucks. I certainly do not blame them. Many of us are going to go down with the ship, burning house and all. But back to what I was saying, studios and publicists are going to have to rethink how they use the platform. If you’re looking at social media following for interview approval, maybe start considering other ways. A journalist’s work should speak for itself, right? Plus, when an actor or filmmaker has a solid fan base, they’re going to find those interviews, one way or the other. Since 2018, you can find my work through Google News searches. The way we’re going right now, neither Facebook nor Twitter will be the reliable platforms they’ve been.
This is something that I think about every time that someone deactivates their account. From where I sit, it’s one less follower and I have to immediately make up for the loss of that follower. This is just how the industry works even though our work should speak for itself. People who are writing for the larger outlets are in a better position because those sites consistently generate traffic. Over here, I feel like I’m constantly screaming through the void in hopes of driving traffic. Every tweet has a short lifespan of maybe a half hour. If you don’t tweet at the right time, there’s a good chance that nobody is paying attention. It means constantly tweeting out the same links every few hours and hoping you build some traction. Some days you do; other days, you end up feeling like chopped liver.
On the studio and network side of things, look at the role social media plays in marketing a film or TV series. They activate talent to help spread awareness for a film’s release. What happens when that person decides to quit Twitter or Instagram? It means that they’ll end up depending on TV or other press interviews to help drum up interest in watching. And again, how the interviews get chose comes back to data. Freelancers such as myself almost always end up not landing the interview. I’ve put in a few longshot interview requests and more often than not, those are denied. This is where a bigger social media following would help but I’ve accepted that I’ll probably never cross 10K followers on Twitter.
As for the access to press screenings, that’s another story. I still know people that, despite being hard-working journalists, are not getting the invites. Look at recent discussions about the world premiere of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. There was a New York press screening the next day and one could tell who wasn’t invited from the conversations on Twitter. This is something that studios really need to look at in the months to come. Remember Brie Larson’s speech and the whole push for diversity in 2018? While the film festivals are doing their work, the studios still have some work to do. I would love to get more non-craft interview opportunities but most of my luck comes during film festivals. Unless my name is attached to a larger outlet, I rarely get the opportunity to interview A-list talent.
We’ll have to see what happens but Elon Musk is changing things too quickly and for the worst. If you read Bloomberg, he wants Twitter to revamp its hate speech policy on deadnaming and misgendering transgender individuals. This is how Musk is going to drive away users. He’s now looking to charge people $8/month for verification. Instead of listening to people like bestselling novelist Stephen King, Musk wants to make his money back on the Twitter purchase. Any fool could have told you that the hell app is not worth $44 billion. He overspent and now it’s a sinking ship. I’ve been putting in the work for years in the industry but it’s still not enough for Twitter to verify my identity as a journalist. I will not pay to have a blue checkmark that proves I am who I say I am.
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