November 2, 2022 — Published by: Drew Benvie
Twitter is the social network of the moment following tech billionaire Elon Musk’s historic takeover deal last Thursday. The news has been across print, web and broadcast media every day since.
Little has changed on Twitter so far, but we expect major transformation in the coming weeks and months. It's important, therefore, that every brand and spokesperson monitors the news closely and reacts quickly.
What has Elon Musk done so far?
The Tesla, SpaceX and Neuralink CEO acquired Twitter for $44bn, which means he now has sole leadership of Twitter.
Elon Musk made a big splash on his first day, firing the incumbent CEO and CFO, proclaiming himself “Chief Twit” and tweeting “the bird is freed”.
Rumours about Musk’s intentions began circulating, including positioning Twitter as “the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated”. This positioning alone suggests Twitter content will become more divisive.
What has been announced?
Musk has announced only two specific changes to Twitter, neither of which have come into force yet.
1. New content rules. Following concerns that Musk is planning to allow more harmful content in the name of free speech, he announced: “Twitter will be forming a content moderation council with widely diverse viewpoints. No major content decisions or account reinstatements will happen before that council convenes.” This suggests content moderation rules will not change quickly, but it is an area to watch closely.
There has, however, already been a surge in hate speech, with trolls testing the limits of content moderators. It's also possible that controversial figures like Donald Trump and Kanye West could appear back on the platform. This raises the prospect of more harmful and divisive opinions.
2. Twitter Blue for $8 per month. Musk has stated that he dislikes the current verified ‘blue tick’, because it separates users into ‘lords’ and ‘peasants’. He quickly tweeted that he plans to launch a new $8 per month charge for Twitter Blue instead. This could either replace the current verified account system or sit alongside it – the detail is not yet clear.
This has led to significant pushback from current verified users who see the tick as protective (rather than commercial). This illustrative conversation between Musk and author Stephen King hints at future changes to the underlying business model for Twitter.
What should brands do now?
Twitter hasn't yet changed any of its policies and there has been no meaningful brand backlash – although there has been noted feedback from some advertisers.
At Battenhall, we'll be watching closely for any specific changes to verified account holders, or through content policy changes to community management as well as spokesperson management on Twitter.
We'll also monitor to see if audiences migrate to other social networks such as LinkedIn, Instagram and TikTok – as well as social networks more closely styled like Twitter, such as Mastodon. We will track this audience shift and report back on any meaningful trends of note.