Six months ago, we shared our POV on Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter...which quickly imploded and seemed to be headed to court. Fast forward to last Friday – the purchase was finalized. So, what does this mean? And how is it different this time around?
For one, Elon Musk already shared a tweet to advertisers, attempting to quell initial concerns. He shares that Twitter “must be warm and welcoming to all” and “cannot become a free-for-all hellscape.” He also specifically shares concerns about social media “splinter[ing] into far-right wing and far left-wing echo chambers that generate hate and divide our society.”
In addition, he shared that “Twitter will be forming a content moderation council with widely diverse viewpoints.” Actions speak louder than words (or tweets in this case), so we will be following his next moves closely. However, he has quite a bit of work to do, as an initial report from Fortune shared that use of racial slurs on the platform spiked 500% in the 12 hours after Musk’s takeover. In response, Twitter stated nearly all the accounts were bots.
Despite these assertions from Musk, advertisers and users alike are already concerned. In a widely publicized move, General Motors paused its advertising on the platform, while working to “understand the direction of the platform under their new ownership.”
Our same concerns hold from April, and we will be watching closely and counseling our clients accordingly. We’ll continue to keep our eyes on four key pieces:
- Individual and Brand Safety – Bullying and misinformation are concerning even on the most tightly monitored social networks. Given that the laws governing free speech vary from country to country, there will most certainly be questions about what recourse people and brands have when they are defamed or otherwise attacked on the platform. As Musk takes over, we will be analyzing any shifts to current guardrails in place. Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP, is among one of many who has expressed concern over this move and the potential for Twitter to encourage more hate speech and harassment (Twitter has previously worked to shut down and/or ban certain content and profiles). Time will tell, but depending on the change of voice/sentiment on the platform, community managers will need to keep an extra eye on comments, as well as which posts show up alongside paid content/ads.
- Customer Expectations – Ultimately, how each brand chooses to engage on Twitter going forward should be driven by their values and those of their customers. Specifically, are they comfortable being part of the Twitter community as it evolves under Musk’s leadership. One thing is for certain: it will be a cauldron for “freer” speech, with conversations likely mirroring the divisiveness we’re seeing in the midterms. Some brands may well find the reputational risk of being there not worth the benefits.
- The Algorithm – In April, Musk stated he wants to make “the algorithms an open source to increase trust.” As social media nerds, we certainly love the sound of this – an ideal way to help users understand why they are served the content they see. But we question how much the average Twitter user cares. It reminds us of Meta’s Ad Transparency Tool… does anyone besides advertisers look at it? On the flip side, it’s our job to use Twitter’s new approach to transparency to its fullest potential. If we can better understand the algorithm, then we can create strategies that are more likely to deliver the right content to the right people at the right time – and ideally lead to a better experience for everyone.
- Advertising – Lastly, we’ll be curious to see how the acquisition affects advertising on the platform. His initial tweets from Friday, referenced above, sounded more rational, but Musk is nothing if not unpredictable. Let’s not forget his thread of since-deleted tweets in early April, where Musk made some noteworthy comments about advertising on the platform, suggesting that Twitter Blue (the subscription-based version) should go ad-free, even going as far as to say the platform shouldn’t have ads at all. We will be keeping a close eye on shifts in targeting parameters and ad efficacy, as well as the transparent algorithm, to understand what will perform from an advertising perspective on Musk’s Twitter.
Whether you agree with Musk’s motives or not, it’s an extremely significant moment in the history and evolution of social media, and it’ll be fascinating to watch it unfold. And that’s what we’ll do, while talking to our contacts within the company and keeping an eye on the competitive landscape.
This post includes content repurposed from our original April post on the topic.
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