ThinkOTB Agency

What does Musk buying Twitter mean for digital marketers?

May 25, 2022

Elon Musk is buying Twitter! Well, at the time of writing, the deal is on hold, but there stands a good chance he will actually buy…

It’s no secret Musk loves Twitter. If his previous prolific tweets are anything to go by, he’s got some radical ideas for its future. Here’s the key stats…

  • 300 million people use Twitter
  • Musk has a Twitter audience of 83.8 million
  • He owns 9.2% already. He is Twitter’s largest shareholder
  • If the deal goes ahead, it will be the one of the biggest single purchases of a tech company by an individual ever
  • 70% of Musk’s followers said ‘no’ when asked if Twitter rigorously adhered to the principles of free speech

Twitter is currently a strong choice for brands to place their advertising. But, if Musk implements any of his sweeping suggestions, it could drastically change Twitter. So it’s crucial for marketers and marketing agencies to watch how this story develops. We’ll need to keep checking that the platform still fulfils our marketing needs.

“Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy” Musk said in a statement announcing the deal.

Musk is a huge advocate of free speech on social media. But, he has said he’d like to add an edit button to Twitter. People will be able to erase or edit their tweets at any point if he’s successful. This could result in replies being out of context with the edited tweet.

Currently Twitter only bans illegal or hateful activity, graphic violence, and promotion of self-harm or suicide. The platform’s prevention of free speech is pretty loose at the moment anyway. But it sounds like Musk would like to lift all censorship, although he has later clarified this to “By free speech, I simply mean that which matches the law”. This point is one for marketers to watch. If the platform changes what content is allowed, brands will have a choice to make. There will be the potential to have their ads running alongside  potentially homophobic, racist, or pornographic content. That could very easily damage their brand reputation by association.

Don’t despair! Advertisers can protect against this to a certain extent. You can use online protection software or risk intelligence companies, such as Crisp. These types of companies identify content that could damage your brand. They highlight agenda-driven groups or groups that are spreading inauthentic, harmful, and illegal content. The software alerts you when your advertising is placed next to this content.

Twitter algorithm should be open source, with options for users to vote “yes” or “no”

Related to free speech, we all know algorithms are used to dictate which tweets you see. They filter from people you follow and which tweets from other people you see that Twitter thinks you will be interested in. Algorithms are also used to crop images and remove content that violates Twitter’s rules.

Musk has openly said that he wants to make the Twitter algorithm open source. But, what does this mean? Essentially it means that we’ll be able to see the code and understand why we are receiving the things we are or aren’t! It’ll make it easier to hold Twitter accountable if their algorithms aren’t fair. However, it won’t necessarily be easy to understand the policies or influence the policies behind the code.

As an open source algorithm would mean that permissible content could change at any time. It is important that marketers keep on checking that their marketing is only appearing next to content that is aligned with their brand values.

Social commerce

Musk is an innovator and has a successful track record in the online payments space with PayPal.  Musk buying Twitter could accelerate any social commerce plans that Twitter may have. It could transform Twitter into a good place for those brands wanting a new shop front.

He also has a reputation for crypto-currencies, calling crypto bots the “single most annoying problem” on the platform. Musk could use the platform to incentivise payments in volatile, unprotected currencies such as Bitcoin. As these are unregulated payments it could mean brands may be positioned next to unsubstantiated messages and insecure payments.

The end of ‘advertising’?

Twitter’s main business model is ad-based. Most of its revenue is derived from advertising. Musk has already stated that Twitter would have “no ads’ if he was in charge! Instead, he likes a subscription-based model, which means that Twitter would be free-to-use.

What does this mean for marketeers? If Musk decided to make Twitter a paid-for platform it could change the demographic for marketers. Musk has a huge, devoted following. Simply by owning the platform he could either make the platform popular again. At the very least, he’ll change the demographic of people who use it. And if Musk does decide to make it a paid-for platform, Twitter users may decide they prefer that their data is not monetised and that they’re willing to pay for it. Twitter has said that it is going to test this in its paid service, ‘Twitter Blue’.

As marketers, we always want to make brands become part of culture. Musk buying Twitter could make this increasingly likely. But, as Twitter inevitably adapts, its vital marketeers keep up-to-date with these changes and ensure Twitter still fulfils their marketing needs. If you’d like to speak to our digital experts at ThinkOTB, we’re right here.


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