The social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, has seen a decline in popularity since billionaire Elon Musk bought the company in 2022. 

As of December 2022, X had 368 million monthly active users worldwide, higher than Twitter’s peak under former CEO Jack Dorsey’s management at 362 million. This was forecast to lower to just under 354 million in 2023, and by 2024, this figure is projected to decrease to approximately 335 million

Over one year on from Musk’s takeover, the social media platform has seen drastic changes. First, huge staff layoffs saw entire teams wiped out, with over 6,000 jobs cut across the board, from engineering to sales. 

Then came a complete rebrand, taking away Twitter’s name, iconic blue bird logo, and dropping the term ‘tweet’ – a word which was inducted into the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013

There are fears that misinformation on X is now rife, so much so that the European Commission sent X a formal request last month under the Digital Services Act, about the alleged spreading of illegal content and disinformation. 

Whilst the takeover and subsequent changes to the platform have caused bemusement amongst X’s users, no other platforms have popped up yet that have truly driven users away from the site. 

We’ve been looking at why alternatives to X are yet to be a success. 

Lack of (or too much) identity

One issue social platforms are facing when competing with X, is being either too much like Twitter, or not enough like it. 

Alternatives to X have to find a way to offer familiarity to users so that switching platforms doesn’t feel like a big jump, whilst also being unique enough that users feel they are getting a different experience. 

Caught between trying to be innovative, and trying to be a viable X alternative, new social platforms are struggling to create an identity that works. 

Not enough users 

Mastodon, and Meta’s Threads have emerged as potential competitors to X, but neither have reached the same wide user base during Twitter’s rise. 

Mastodon an open-source social network founded in 2016, went from 2.5 million registered users in November 2022, to 10 million registered users in March 2023, however it now only has around 1.7 million active monthly users

Even Threads, which reached 100 million sign ups in the first five days after its release in July this year, was down to just 13 million active users less than two weeks later. This is despite the fact that those who had existing Instagram accounts could import their following lists to Threads 

X alternatives are struggling to retain new users beyond an initial few weeks, meaning it’s difficult to see the longevity of the platforms in comparison to X.  

High costs 

The costs of running and growing a social media platform can be huge. Whilst larger social media sites can rely on advertising revenue and paid verification, smaller platforms just don’t have the power to attract money from higher-paying corporations or mass subscriptions from users. 

Whilst X has lost lots of advertising revenue, its scale means it’s still forecast to generate over $3 billion in revenue from adverts this year, as well as having over 800,000 X Premium subscribers

Mastodon is funded via subscribers Patreon, paying for hosting and maintenance of the site as well as its development and expansion, currently taking in just over £230,000 per year. 

Alternatives to X may simply be priced out of competing – with Threads, via virtue of being part of a much larger company (Meta), the only platform which comes close to contending on the monetary angle. 

What is the future? 

With the initial excitement over Threads dying down, and Mastodon facing a similar lack of user base, it’s difficult to see where a new X alternative could succeed. 

The former Twitter CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey-backed platform Bluesky has reached 2 million users, despite still being in a closed beta with invites hard to come by. If Bluesky can expand its number of users once out of beta, the potential is there, however, current rollout is incredibly slow. 

To find out about how our team can help you with your social media, get in touch with us at Faith. 

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Ellie Howorth
At Faith, Ellie is in charge of helping to plan media outreach and build media lists, creating weekly social media posts across various channels, and writing quality and interesting content.