Co-authored by Kim Foster, Padilla director, social media, channels.
You’re probably aware by now that Elon Musk, the richest person in the world, has succeeded in his quest to purchase Twitter for $44 billion with plans to take it private. That’s quite a premium given that Twitter generates roughly $3.7 billion in annual revenue and only recently started turning a modest profit. Musk clearly has a vision, and like the rest of the industry, we’re riveted as we read into every statement he makes and hint he drops.
He has made no secret of his feelings that the social network is spinning toward obsoletion, asking in a recent tweet to his 83M+ followers if Twitter is “dying.” An unapologetic free-speech absolutist, Musk has said he sees Twitter as a “digital town square.” His stated goal is to bolster free speech on the platform and “unlock its extraordinary potential” (though he hasn’t really provided any details). This is where we begin to raise our eyebrows as we contemplate the implications. A few of the things we’re watching:
- Individual and Brand Safety – Bullying and misinformation are concerning even on the most tightly monitored social networks, and 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.
- The Algorithm – Staying true to his vision for Twitter, Musk has stated he wants to make “the algorithms 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. Twitter needs to make money and doing that requires ad revenue (at least in the current business model). In a thread of since-deleted tweets in early April, 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. Let’s assume Twitter’s ad platform remains (remember the business model); we will need to keep a close watch for 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. There may be more questions than answers at this point, but we’ll be reading the news, talking to our contacts within the company and keeping an eye on the competitive landscape.
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