Chaos in 280 characters
The Elon Musk/Twitter saga is generating the kind of water-cooler conversations usually reserved for “must-watch” dramas…
He’s the richest person in the world, and after much back and forth – will he, won’t he – he finally completed the deal to buy Twitter on October 28. In the few weeks that he’s been in charge, he’s made steps to overhaul the social platform completely.
Does Elon Musk know what he’s doing, and how will his changes to Twitter affect brands and social media marketers?
‘Elon Musk is putting truth on sale for $8.’
I had just woken up and was scrolling on my phone, catching up on the latest news stories, when I read his (arguably) worst new Twitter concept.
The $8 blue tick.
Users can now pay $8 monthly to have a blue verification tick attached to their Twitter profile. Immediately, I went to Twitter to gauge other people’s reactions. While some were excited to take back some of the power from celebrities, most people seemed to think it was a stupid idea. Not only will the premium ‘Twitter Blue’ exist to feed people’s egos, but it will also cause a huge impersonation problem – and it already has. Comedian Kathy Griffin changed her Twitter name to Elon Musk, and after tweeting about the US midterm elections under his name, was banned from the platform. Musk (the real one) has since said any account impersonating a high-profile person will be banned unless it’s a parody account.
Elon Musk is a free-speech absolutist, and it’s one of the main reasons he decided to buy the platform. Despite this, one of the things he’s been visibly annoyed by is people impersonating him, resulting in their accounts being suspended. It’s a blatant display of ego taking precedence over his apparent values.
Impersonating celebrities is a common tactic for scammers, and many people have fallen victim to fake accounts on social media. It would be impossible to report every fake account, and with a blue tick attached to their name, it’ll make it even harder for people who aren’t tech-savvy to work out if the person is the real deal.
US Senator Edward Markey told the Washington Post, “Safeguards like blue check marks have provided context for users to be smart, critical consumers of news and information. Now, Elon Musk is putting truth on sale for $8.”
If Twitter isn’t viewed as a credible, trustworthy platform, people won’t want to use it anymore, and brands will choose to take their advertising elsewhere.
Wave goodbye to big brands
Since his acquisition, he’s lost big advertisers on the platform. Big Pharma company Eli Lilly has halted ad spend after a Twitter blue verified account impersonating the company went viral after tweeting, “We are excited to announce insulin is free now”. As a result, Eli Lilly lost $15 billion from its market share prices and had to apologise. For big brands, Twitter Blue poses a financial implication and liability concern.
The likes of Volkswagen, Carlsberg, Audi and Pfizer have also paused spending given the uncertainty of the platform. Musk blames this on “activist groups pressuring advertisers” and claims it’s caused a drop in revenue, and as a result, he’s sacked almost half of Twitter’s 7,500 workforce. He’s been very particular with the five teams he’s chosen to sack. The Curation, META (machine learning ethics, transparency and accountability), Communications, Accessibility Experience and Human Rights teams have either been significantly reduced or eliminated entirely. They found out they’d lost their jobs by email. Nice personal touch, Elon.
Elon Musk vs his employees
Days after Musk laid off half of Twitter’s workforce, several top executives resigned. The Chief Information Officer, Head of Integrity and Safety, and Chief Privacy Officer have left the platform amid claims it was due to the company’s new leadership and recent turmoil.
According to the BBC, he’s also told his remaining staff that they must work “long hours at high intensity” or leave the company. He’s also reportedly put an end to remote working, demanding his employees work a minimum of 40 hours at the office. For a company that told employees in 2020 they had the option to work remotely “forever”, this is a drastic change and one that will undoubtedly affect the work culture.
In control or in crisis?
Both his other companies, SpaceX and Tesla, are hugely successful companies. Twitter’s current chaos could simply be put down to growing pains, and it’s likely Musk could replicate the innovation of his other companies.
It’s an ever-evolving situation, with new Twitter changes being deployed every week. Just like an hour-old tweet, this information is relevant at the time of writing, but in a month, Twitter has the potential to look very different compared to now.
As social media marketers, we’ll need to stay updated with the latest changes, and brands will need to decide whether or not Twitter is a platform they want to be associated with. Twitter is a huge platform and running it is a heavy responsibility. Elon’s takeover could be the making of Twitter, but equally, it could be the end of it.