What is Elon Musk up to? Will he take over Twitter and if so, when? How does the purchase change user behavior, the platform itself, and the communication industry in general? A look into the crystal ball helps to understand the possible “New Twitter”.
No, it wasn’t a joke when Elon Musk signaled his interest in buying Twitter in early April. On the contrary, Twitter itself announced the acquisition by the Tesla and SpaceX entrepreneur in its results for the first quarter of 2022. However, this is not yet 100 percent sealed. Because, as befits Musk, the entrepreneur is causing a stir about the deal.
Now, after some back and forth, Musk is stepping back from the Twitter purchase. Twitter doesn’t want to accept that. Musk’s lawyers justified the withdrawal on Friday with allegedly insufficient information on the number of fake accounts on the short message service. However, Twitter does not want to back down and prepare itself for a possible legal dispute. One goes confidently into the future that they can still push through the deal.
Twitter in short
Hardly any other platform has been in the headlines as often as Twitter in recent months. The microblogging service is not necessarily one of the most used platforms in the social media landscape: With around 229 million daily active users worldwide, Twitter, for example, is far behind Facebook ( 1.96 billion, as of Q1 2022) and Instagram (estimated at around 500 million daily active users). Also in terms of growth, newer platforms such as TikTok have shown much steeper curves of late. Attempts to further develop the “Twitter product” only caused a stir for a short time (Twitter Spaces) or even had to be scrapped again after the test phase (The “Instagram Stories” clone Twitter Fleets )
But even if Twitter is currently experiencing less hype than other platforms, the social network still has a lot of relevance among the opinion leaders in our society. Politicians, scientists, journalists as well as CEOs, and other top voices use the platform every day to express their views and opinions. But in addition to the elite of opinion leaders, “trolls” and “bots” in particular also use the short message service. Ironically, multi-billionaire Musk, whose own tweets often push the boundaries of what can be said, has also been accused of trolling.
What excites Musk about Twitter?
A quick look at Elon Musk’s personal Twitter timeline shows a lot more memes than the company updates about his Enterprises Tesla, SpaceX, and Co. that one would expect. With his often impulsive statements and tweets, Elon Musk creates a stir among his nearly 100 million followers and beyond – he uses Twitter above all as a tool for the whole world to report on him. Musk puts his statements into perspective afterward, but only when the “damage” has already occurred. The discussions and the media hype about his social media giant takeover show us above all how successfully he has mastered the communication keyboard.
So it is also reasonable to assume that Musk could use Twitter as a reach for the many brands under his aegis. A very unorthodox method of gaining media exposure, but not out of the question with Musk.
The fact that Twitter has placed increasing value in the past on no longer giving public space to hate speech, fake news, and conspiracy theories and was one of the first platforms to set up its own guidelines for this is an absolute no-go for the “freedom of expression absolutist” Musk. For this reason, he is also opposed to permanent account bans, such as those of former US President Trump, and is taking a minimalist approach to the restrictions on the platform, which are being brought back more in line with US law.
Elon Musk’s Twitter-Verse
One thing is certain: no one can say for sure what Elon Musk intends to do with the takeover of Twitter and how the platform will now develop. Elon Musk is eccentric, but he doesn’t do things by halves. At the very least, he promises to take action against bots, scammers, and trolls, which is a major weakness of the platform, and also wants to make the algorithm accessible to everyone. If Musk were to change Twitter’s recent course of allowing banned accounts and the spread of fake news again, it would initially have a far greater impact in the US than in the EU.
Nevertheless, there are also discussions about Musk’s initiative in Germany – and angry users who have deleted their Twitter accounts as a result. Still, an exodus away from Twitter would be unlikely. Communities hardly ever move all of a sudden – it’s more like a platform is slowly “dying out” because nothing is going on (greetings from studiVZ or Google+). In the case of Twitter, the opposite is likely to be the case, at least in the short term – the platform is more present in the media than it has been for a long time. And with that, Elon Musk has already achieved one thing in particular: (inactive) users are returning and dusty business accounts are being polished up again.
Business as usual or everything completely new?
Elon Musk is a very successful businessman. Twitter has been making losses for years. The core statement in Elon’s “Letter to the Twitter Chair” indicates where the journey will take him: “I want to exploit the potential” it says there. The world-renowned and – analysts largely agree – the undervalued Twitter brand could use a scaling and monetization strategy.
Undoing the 2013 IPO is one thing, but to bring profitability back to the fore Elon Musk can focus on several areas of action:
- Advertising: The “Twitter Ads” advertising platform could undergo a general overhaul. Companies and advertisers on the one hand and creators on the other hand can breathe new life into the advertising business.
- Shortform video content: As part of their respective rejuvenation programs, Facebook and Instagram have focused heavily on “moving, viral video content” à la TikTok – the Instagram Reels in particular have been extremely successful. It is quite conceivable that Twitter will also jump on this train.
- Live Audio: Clubhouse-style “Spaces” could be pushed.
- Edit button: The introduction of an EDIT function is a quick win for Musk and would be a media success story. For years, the Twitter community has been asking for an edit button to edit older posts. While this has been in the works for some time, Elon Musk’s laurels could be his first act.
What marketing teams can now expect from Twitter?
What does this mean in concrete terms for the marketing and communication teams of companies and agencies? Companies are likely to reconsider their communication strategy and channels and become more actively involved with Twitter again. However, it should also be carefully considered how the platform can be used in the most effective way. The open space for discussion will allow brands and CEOs to engage more deeply with the target audience and position themselves on important issues.
The tool Twitter can be used well in the personal branding strategy of CEOs and add a new touch. Unlike other platforms, Twitter offers a more open and thematic framework for content placement. For example, while on LinkedIn topics outside of the professional context are often viewed critically or viewed as too personal and out of place, they are in better hands-on Twitter.
The only important thing is that Twitter is not the platform for placing pure brand messages. The goal is real interactions with the community. Twitter is also becoming more attractive to the advertising market because the media focus will continue to push reach and engagement, which will also reach new target groups.