X: How should news outlets handle the abrupt rebranding of Twitter

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Twitter rebranding as “X” spells chaos for news organizations that have spent over a decade cultivating their brands on the platform.

In a sequence of cryptic late-night tweets, Twitter owner Elon Musk announced that the company would be rebranded as “X” and adopt a new logo to replace its iconic bird icon. Musk even suggested blowtorching the Twitter logo off company buildings.

The move caps off Musk’s frenetic first few months at Twitter’s helm, jettisoning old features, limited user activity and forcing users to pay up for verification. For local news directors who have carefully tailored their station identities around Twitter, the rebranding poses a seismic shift. Handles, hashtags, branding and more will need to be re-engineered for X even as audiences remain attached to the familiar Twitter name and vernacular.

The rebranding will require treading carefully to avoid confusing viewers. There are also thorny decisions around how talent should refer to the platform on-air and whether to continue using the familiar Twitter logo in graphics.

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Saying “Be sure to follow us on X” or showing X’s new logo in a lower-third feels unnatural after a decade-plus of Twitter’s ubiquity, but failing to adopt the change also disconnects stations from the platform’s shift.

Ultimately, news organizations must strike a delicate balance, migrating their branding to align with X’s new identity while weaning audiences off of Twitter references gradually โ€“ assuming this rebranding is not just a ploy for attention and engagement on the platform.

This likely means developing creative transitional language to avoid jarring viewers with the process requiring continued use of the word “Twitter” for some time.

But the rebranding implications go deeper than just naming and logos. Twitter has become an integral part of local news operations, from building audience engagement to sourcing story ideas and breaking news. The loss of the established Twitter brand could hamper these activities as it further alienates users and forces them to look for alternatives such as BlueSky or Threads.

Twitter has also become a go-to platform for anchors, reporters and meteorologists to build their personal brands. On-air talent will need to inform fans of handle changes while adopting new profile names and imagery that align with X’s aesthetics. Similarly, station handles and hashtags that affiliates have spent years cultivating will likely struggle to retain their impact after the switch from Twitter to X.

Of course, the rebranding could represent an opportunity if X manages to capture the public imagination and build steam after having months of protracted loss. But banking on this is risky. It took Twitter years to catch on, even after high-profile events like the 2009 Hudson River plane landing demonstrated its power for mass communication.

X Inc. is also likely to face lawsuits over its new name. The letter “X” is one of the most hotly contested trademarks and companies including Facebook parent Meta and Microsoft have trademarks that could affect X Inc.’s ability to use the mark. 

It could be argued that this is a signal that the new name may not last.

For all of these reasons, news directors and editorial staffers face complex decisions in navigating the transition. Some key areas of thought: 

  • Crafting transitional language for talent to use when referencing X on air, given the name has little meaning today beyond Musk’s former use for it with his online bank and the precursor of PayPal.
  • Clarifying that Twitter also changed its legal corporate name from Twitter Inc. to X Inc.
  • The company has dropped the familiar bird icon in favor of the “X,” though it appears to have been done very haphazardly and Twitter’s own sites and apps still mix both logos. Of course, the bird icon also remains highly familiar. 
  • When to update on-screen graphics that reference X profiles. If you’re still using the “t” icon logo from before the bird was unveiled as the platform’s logo, now is probably a good time to update your look since the company name no longer starts with “T.”
  • Avoiding an abrupt shift from saying “Twitter” to “X.” Let’s face it, this name will take a good deal of explaining and background for certain viewers. This may require a “the company formerly known as Twitter” or “the social media platform formerly known as Twitter” phrasing. 
  • Gradually shifting branded handles, hashtags, profile imagery and tweet-related graphics to align with X’s new visual identity and color scheme (less blue, more black?). But retaining some Twitter branding, especially in the early stages to help the audience understand what X is.
  • Closely tracking engagement data on X to inform strategies and resource allocation (likewise, tracking Instagram’s Threads service is equally important).
  • Developing internal guidelines for X logo usage and ensuring graphics are appropriately updated and consistent, including when to start using it over the bird.
  • Creating and heavily promoting new X-optimized branding related to programming, news stories and community initiatives.
  • When writing scripts, keep in mind that structure such as “X CEO Linda Yaccarino” should be avoided because it sounds like “ex-CEO.”
  • It was also revealed that the X logo the company is using is actually very similar to a unicode character called “mathematical double-struck capital X” or ๐•. It’s also very similar to a character in a Monotype font. It’s worth noting the symbol is not exactly the same, though the differences are subtle. Fonts that support the U+1D54F could, in theory, be used to output a symbol that looks similar to the new logo.
  • The web-based version of the service still “lives” at the domain twitter.com (x.com started redirecting to twitter.com July 23, 2023) but users still see twitter.com in URLs.
  • It is possible to enter a domain such as x.com/newscaststudio to access a particular user profile page. The URL changes to twitter.com/newscaststudio in the browser bar, however. The domain has also been configured so that a URL such as “https://x.com/NewscastStudio/status/1683255672526327808” resolves to “https://twitter.com/NewscastStudio/status/1683255672526327808,” but again, the user will see the address change. It’s not clear if or when URLs might change to x.com as their authoritative locators. 
  • Considering whether the “@” symbol could be a realistic replacement for referring to social media profiles. If talent or organizational accounts are consistent across all major platforms, this can be a good way to avoid the X logo issue. However, it’s also worth noting that the Instagram’s Threads service is using a stylized “@” as its logo so from a visual standpoint things could get confusing. 

Of course, much depends on how X chooses to facilitate the transition.

Given this was announced via a Tweet (or is it now an “X”?), it’s likely there won’t be much guidance โ€“ maybe not even a vector version of the final logo.

As of the publication of this piece, a final logo is unknown for the platform, with Musk sharing a video using a logo shared by Twitter user Sawyer Merritt. Since that tweet, many additional users have sent ideas that may ultimately guide the final logo design. Until the website and app icon are updated, it’s nothing more than a letter. 

X’s rebranding marks the continued bumpy spiral of Twitter under Musk. For those who’ve relied on the platform to build their brands, this change (and countless others) necessitates thoughtful adaptation at every step. Careful branding strategies will be essential to guide viewers smoothly through this transition while maintaining engagement. 

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It’s also worth noting that x.co is a working domain controlled by GoDaddy, which uses the domain for a URL shortener

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