World-dominating billionaire Elon Musk can’t seem to keep out of the headlines. His Twitter takeover has ironically caused a Twitter storm in itself – with user reactions ranging from incredulous memes about his whopping $44 billion spend, to rising concern about uncensored hate speech on the platform. Musk is known for his eccentric PR stunts, and when suggesting that we let his takeover of Twitter HQ “sink in” – accompanied by a literal sink – he was met with a decidedly mixed response.
However, are we already subconsciously adjusting to this new normal? And how, exactly, will Musk’s takeover affect the future of social media marketing?
Twitter: A Staple of Social Media Marketing
Twitter is renowned for its large user base, and is also one of the most active platforms for “content consumers”, as opposed to creators. Just 10% of Twitter users are responsible for 92% of all tweets, and this drastic ratio is evidence to the fact that the vast majority of Twitter users are spectators: their own accounts are generally dormant, as they are active predominantly through interaction with other users’ content, including their favourite brands. This explains why Twitter is such an integral part of so many companies’ marketing strategies, as they are within the minority of content creators, with a vast audience at their disposal.
Twitter is also acclaimed as a platform that encourages conversation. What better place to get feedback on a new product or campaign than Twitter: the home of customer opinion! Twitter is the perfect example of instantaneous communication, with 6,000 tweets coming through every second. It is therefore easy to gain insights into your target audience’s online behaviour, while simultaneously building brand awareness – with a specific brand voice. Take Aldi, for example. What may have begun as a tongue-in-cheek Twitter feud – on the back of a caterpillar-shaped court case! – has resulted in a series of subsequent tweets that have won over the vast majority of Twitter users. Aldi’s brand voice has very much been perceived as “for the people”, with their light-hearted, down-to-earth tweets reflecting their affordable prices.
This example of genius PR further demonstrates the power of Twitter, and why it is an integral part of numerous businesses’ digital marketing strategies. As the old saying goes: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It is therefore no surprise that many businesses and Twitter users alike are sceptical about Elon Musk’s takeover.
The Realities of Musk’s Takeover
As previously mentioned, Musk has been met with a mixed bag of opinions (as is the nature with Twitter!). In one US survey, 2 in 3 people did not want Musk to take the reins of the social platform. However, the deal appears to have been signed, sealed and delivered: it has been officially confirmed that the Tesla CEO and billionaire has acquired the company in a deal worth $44 billion, meaning that Twitter will be a privately held company from now on. But what does this mean? And what are Elon Musk’s intentions with the platform?
One particular topic which has got everyone talking, is Musk’s proposal to charge $8 per month for Twitter account verification. Yes, this means that the sought-after blue tick will essentially become a commodity, as opposed to something which is ‘earned’ through social influence. Not only this, but Elon Musk has long criticized Twitter’s strict moderation of content, claiming that this is detrimental to freedom of speech. He recently tweeted to his 113 million followers: “The bird is freed” – which came promptly after he controversially fired several top Twitter executives.
Is the Future Musky or Murky?
Musk’s pledge to promote “freedom of speech” on Twitter has triggered increasing concerns about harassment and hate speech. What’s more, many align with author and editor Sarah Frier’s statement:
“There’s no commercial viability for a network that doesn’t have some level of content moderation. Advertisers and users aren’t going to show up and post during their workday alongside abuse and extremism — and Twitter is already reportedly struggling with losing its most active users. So, in deciding how “free” Musk wants speech to be, he may have to alienate users to get there.”
At present, the future state of Twitter is still very much up in the air, however, if it does, indeed, become a more volatile place, this will greatly affect the ways – and the amount – that businesses use the platform for marketing purposes. After all, there are plenty of social channels to choose from!
Moreover, it is clear that Musk’s Twitter purchase is the first stage of his long-term plan to build an “Everything App”. Inspired by WeChat in China, this “Everything App” would combine social media with e-commerce, covering everything from social networking to shopping and bank transfers. But how would this affect the face of marketing? Would it be easier for businesses to advertise, as everything would be accessible in one place, or would this simply make markets more diluted?
Elon Musk’s professed aim is for the future of civilization to have a “common digital town square”, which would require him to dramatically grow Twitter’s revenue and user count. However, he simultaneously risks alienating large proportions of the demographic – and for a digital town square to be ‘common’, it must be representative of the global online community. At present, the future is unclear, but only time will tell if the world of social media marketing will be muskier, or murkier. Stay tuned for more updates!