On 25 April Twitter’s board of directors agreed to a deal for Elon Musk, the world’s richest person and CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, to buy the social media platform for $USD 44 billion.
With the acquisition yet to go ahead, Musk has wasted no time in ‘tweeting’ his intentions. It seems the billionaire has big changes in mind for the social media platform.
So, what are these proposed changes, and how could they affect your business marketing strategies?
Let’s take a look at what we know so far.
‘Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated.’
Elon Musk, Twitter 25 April 2022
Musk, a self-declared ‘free-speech absolutist’, is against social media platforms policing content that may be offensive or politically sensitive, as long as comments remain legal within the confines of that country’s laws.
Musk intends to make Twitter a platform for free speech – a controversial move that won’t please everyone. Many are concerned that a less-regulated Twitter could give free rein to extremist views and hate speech. However, according to Musk, his interpretation of free speech is simply when ‘someone is allowed to say something you don’t like’. He refers to his de facto ‘town square’ analogy as a ‘politically neutral’ ground where people can have a free and open exchange of opinions, ideas, and information within the bounds of the law.
What would a less-regulated Twitter mean for your business?
To what extent Musk will ease restrictions on Twitter content is yet to be known. However, Twitter is used all over the world – and different countries have different rules regarding free speech. Content will still need to be moderated on some level, if only to comply with local government regulations for countries outside of the US. For example, Europe’s Digital Services Act will require social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to regulate content on their platforms or face huge fines.
Ultimately, businesses themselves are responsible for self-policing their Twitter accounts and creating, promoting, and sharing content that is aligned with their business ethos, values, and company culture.
Musk’s free speech changes, whether they are implemented or not, may be a healthy reminder for business owners and employees to take responsibility and ownership for their online behaviour and actions. For example, views expressed from your personal Twitter account can have a positive or negative impact on your brand. Always be aware of comments and hashtags before hitting that send button. Musk himself has confessed to ‘stream of consciousness’ moments when referring to some of his more bizarre tweets. His comments may not affect his reputation that much, but your own activity could have a lasting impact on your business’s credibility.
In the recent TED2022 talk, Musk expressed his intent to make Twitter algorithms open-source with the aim of increasing trust and confidence.
Musk explained that any manual or algorithm adjustments made to a tweet would be identified. Information attached to the tweet could then reveal whether anything has been done to affect the tweet in any way, such as promoting or demoting it, and why that action has been taken.
Open-source would also mean that teams of collaborators could work together on improving the platform’s design, functionality and security features.
In short, Musk wants to make Twitter more transparent and honest by eliminating the risk of ‘behind the scenes manipulation’.
What would open-source algorithms mean for your business?
Greater transparency could be a good thing for businesses. An open-source algorithm would enable users to know why their content gets promoted or buried within the Twittersphere. This could help you understand what type of content is more likely to be viewed, liked and shared by your target audience – in other words, how relevant your content is and how it will be prioritised.
#Eliminating spam bots
Musk has said that this is a top priority for him as it ‘makes the product so much worse’. He has called the issues with spam ‘the single most annoying problem’ on Twitter. In fact, a major concern for many on Twitter is the idea of fake follower numbers inflated by bots. Which begs the question: “How many of my followers are genuine?”
Although Musk hasn’t specified how, the billionaire has vowed to clean up the Twitter infrastructure. It’s likely that an improvement in the verification process to ‘prove’ you are human will become an important feature on Twitter. Users may also be given the option to view only tweets from verified accounts. Measures to eliminate spam bots could bring people back to Twitter and encourage users to spend more time on the platform – good news for marketers.
What would fewer spam bots mean for your business?
In a nutshell, it would mean a better user experience for all. The content you receive in your feed is more likely to be genuine, and the content you promote is more likely to reach real human beings, not fake accounts. Fewer bots means that you can concentrate on building up a genuine and loyal following, and not be influenced by fake numbers that could negatively impact your marketing decisions.
‘Twitter will always be free for casual users, but maybe a slight cost for commercial/government users’
Elon Musk, Twitter 4 May 2022
While Twitter relies on paid advertisements for its revenue, there have been many complaints about too many ads showing up in users’ feeds. This may tend to put people off using the platform altogether – not great news if you’re investing your marketing budget into the platform.
It’s widely known that Musk is no fan of advertising. He’s expressed a desire to cut back on ads and make way for a subscription-based service for commercial and government users. But as the platform’s largest bulk of revenue comes from advertising fees, it’s unlikely that shareholders will agree to major changes in the current advertising model.
What would fewer ads mean for your business?
The initial reaction of marketers may be ‘what’s in it for me if I can’t advertise?’ But even if there are no changes to begin with, companies may need to look for other ways to promote their brand. High quality content, interaction with followers and replies to feedback from customers could be a far more effective way to boost ‘genuine’ follower growth and build your business organically on Twitter.
Can your UAE business benefit from a Musk-owned Twitter?
Social media has a massive user base in the MENA region, and although not as high as Facebook or Instagram, Twitter still boasted over 2 million users in the UAE at the start of 2022. On a global level, Twitter offers marketers a potential reach of over 430 million users.
And while a Musk-owned Twitter may not appeal to some, there’s no doubting the guy’s golden touch when it comes to running a business. At this point, Musk’s plans are very much based on ifs and maybes, but one thing is certain – the 50-year-old businessman didn’t become the world’s richest person by chance. Businesses of all sizes have the opportunity to watch and learn from Musk as his Twitter journey progresses.
If Musk’s plans come to fruition, and prove to be successful, they could have a ripple-effect on other major social media platforms. His visions for Twitter could very well disrupt and transform social media as we know it. Preparing for the potential changes so you can adapt your marketing strategies if necessary could give your business a crucial advantage on Twitter and other platforms.