We live in a world where you are who you are associated with, and Balenciaga seems to be taking that extremely seriously. Only a week after the major fashion brand distanced itself from Kanye West, it has doubled down on its social statement by deleting its Twitter. While they are the first significant brand to jump ship and abandon the massive social media platform, they are more likely simply the first domino to fall into a mass exodus.
Balenciaga confirmed to Vogue that it had left its 1 million Twitter followers behind but didn’t elaborate on why. Of course, it’s not hard to understand the struggle, since whether or not to leave Twitter has become a topic of conversation for all since Musk’s acquisition, with a plethora of articles explaining what users need to know if they decide to pull the plug.
For brands, the matter was further complicated by the chaos surrounding Twitter verification. The struggle to get a blue checkmark and become a verified user was once reserved for those whose identity, and in some cases, legitimacy was confirmed. That meant that even if what was being said wasn’t true, users could trust who said it was clear. With Musk’s new plan of charging $8 for a blue checkmark, anyone who wants to disseminate misinformation can do so for less than a Netflix membership.
And, as seen when Twitter tried to first roll out Twitter Blue, it resulted in a lot of chaos. The starkest example of this is Eli Lilly, which lost billions in market cap thanks to an impersonator account. Twitter paused paid verifications as a result, but plans to resume November 29, according to Musk’s Twitter account.
While many brands have paused advertising, taking a “wait and see” approach with Musk’s version of Twitter, deleting Twitter altogether takes it a step further.
Not only is Musk plagued with the problem of finding a way to keep people from impersonating others without trampling on the free speech line that he says he covets, but he also has to face the issue of hate speech. The platform saw a significant uptick in the use of racist, misogynistic, and homophobic speech as soon as he took over. Even if this is the work of trolls who now do it because they can or want to prove to him that it’s dangerous, it shined a glaring light on the problem Twitter and Elon Musk face.
Is this the price of freedom of speech?
Here is the question that brands like Balenciaga have had to pour over in recent weeks. The best thing about social media is that everyone has a voice. From the janitor to the CEO, everyone has the ability to have their ideas heard, and sometimes those ideas from the ones we usually don’t listen to are the ones we need.
The worst thing about social media is also that everyone has a voice. While great ideas and virtuous thoughts now have a place to go, so does the opposite. Things we would or could see as dangerous, hurtful, untrue, or even evil also have a place to be heard.
For brands, there’s always the danger that customers will associate your brand with the likes of the latter. Balenciaga set the example with their decision to leave Twitter behind. Will they lose the opportunity to get their product in front of millions of people every day? Maybe. Are there other ways to do so? Most certainly. Companies marketed and grew long before society developed social media.
Is this the beginning of a mass exodus from Twitter? Likely, there will be others to make the decision. Trends take hold, and the masses will begin to demand their favorite companies follow suit and take a stand by removing themselves from the platform. As public opinion of Twitter continues to drop on one side of the political aisle and rise on the other, we’re more than likely to see a similar trend among the corporations present. And it is clear they are simply the first with companies such as General Motors, GM, United Airlines, General Mills, and Mondelez International Inc. pulling ads.
Whether you agree with Elon Musk or worry about the future direction of the platform, Balenciaga has made its decision and removed itself from the conversation entirely by making the loudest statement they can.