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Minneapolis-based Target last posted on social media platform X on Jan. 31, 2023.

The retailer's year-plus absence on the app formally known as Twitter isn't unique among Minnesota companies, big and small. The likes of Medtronic, 3M, UnitedHealth Group, Magers & Quinn Booksellers and more have all taken their posts — and oftentimes, significant advertising dollars as well — away from the once-dominant network.

As for the reason behind the mass exodus, the large companies, at least, have been hesitant to share their thinking. Target declined to comment, while electronics retailer Best Buy — last posted Nov. 18, 2022 — and food-processing company General Mills — last posted Sept. 20, 2023 — did not respond to requests for comment. Medtronic made its decision to leave X in January 2023 after "careful consideration."

"We, like many other companies, want to create a safe environment for dialogue and have chosen to do that on other platforms," the company said in a statement.

Rosalie Morton, senior vice president of channels for Minneapolis-based based public relations and communications firm Padilla, said the "uncertain nature of the platform" and the "unpredictable nature of Musk" are factors for companies reconsidering.

Since Elon Musk bought X for $44 billion in 2022, he turned it private, and of course, did away with the Twitter name. The company has since faced layoffs, resignations, policy shifts and public skirmishes, often involving Musk himself. The Washington Post outlined the different direction by analyzing the company a year after Musk's takeover and found right-wing voices on the app had amplified, traffic and user numbers had fallen while various advertisers had also abandoned their campaigns.

Musk has been vocal on the latter, as that also most greatly affects X's profitability. He endorsed an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory on X this past November only to later attack advertisers that pulled out because of it — including giants like Disney — with expletives at a speaking engagement.

Antics like that can turn off many companies, said De Liu, a professor of information and decision sciences at the University of Minnesota. Companies are constantly working to build brand trust with their customers. Target, for example, learned this summer how Twitter rhetoric can alienate potential customers even without the company itself posting after some of its Pride products — and subsequent removal of them — caused a stir on the platform.

"Marketers just want to do business," Liu said.

But Liu said X's controversies aren't the only reason a company might decide to focus its attention on other social media, including Instagram and TikTok.

"Twitter is a much older social media platform. Marketers chase the audience," Liu said, adding platforms that feature visual elements like photos and video are much more popular now than X, which still focuses mostly on words.

The number of Twitter users is dropping. New York-based Sensor Tower, a market intelligence firm tracking social media, found X endured a "material decline in users throughout 2023," reporting the fourth quarter was the toughest with a 15% decline in monthly active users. A recent survey from the Pew Research Center found Twitter tied with Reddit in ninth place for total users among social media platforms and fewer than one out of four U.S. adults used it.

That alone could be another reason companies are re-allocating their resources.

"Do they get a response? Are people coming to them from that platform or not? What matters when you're spending advertising dollars is: 'What's generating traffic for us?" said Eric Yaverbaum, CEO of New York-based Ericho Communications. "... Follow the money. That's what advertising does."

For smaller companies without millions of dollars in advertising budgets, the decision to leave X is sometimes more practical and technical.

Magers & Quinn, an independent bookstore in Uptown Minneapolis, posted on X in early September about its exit. Annie Metcalf, marketing and events coordinator for the store, said the issue was X making changes to its application programming interface (API) that rendered the third-party app the store used to schedule posts defunct. A popular post scheduler was TweetDeck, which X has now restricted to paying subscribers only.

"For us, Instagram is where it is now," Metcalf said.

Joel Carlson, owner of Minneapolis-based Sociability Marketing, said the increased options for social media marketing — from SnapChat to YouTube — has allowed companies to be more deliberate and selective about where they spend their money.

Some Minnesota companies, though, aren't giving up on X just yet. U.S. Bank, for example, finds it valuable still for its ability serve as a communication channel between the bank and its account holders.

"Our goal is to help our customers bank where, how and when they want," said Jeff Shelman, a spokesman for U.S. Bank. "As social media has grown, we were one of many companies that saw customers turn to Twitter when they were looking for assistance, and that continues today."