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Has Musk’s Twitter Become a Different Place for Brands to Be?

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We’ve been looking at Twitter since Elon Musk took over as its CEO and owner. The chaos has got a lot of people talking, concerned for the platform’s future. Is it still a safe place for brands to market to users?

Users can’t trust what they are looking at

It was already hard to trust anything on the internet. As your mummy might have said, “You can’t believe everything you read on the internet”. But at least you could believe that the person saying it was the person saying it. If Elon Musk tweeted that he was going to buy Twitter, you didn’t have to believe he was going to buy Twitter, but you at least had no reason to deny Elon Musk said it.

That’s no longer the climate of Twitter. The land of high profile, low profile, celebrities, politicians, brands and journalists, is now gone. Instead, the loudest and most valid point is being made by trolls, of all people. Without the original free-for-all verification system that has been replaced by a verification system that doesn’t verify anything, trolls are spending $8 an account to get a blue checkmark, change their name, and pose as everyone from major brands and politicians to Elon Musk himself.

Marketers should worry about this because it’s affecting stocks. Pharma major, Eli Lilly and Company, lost billions when a verified troll told the world that insulin was now free. It is not. Aerospace company Lockheed Martin suffered a similar fate when another troll said that they were halting weapon sales to Saudi Arabia, Israel and the US: a comment with a touch of world politics mixed in.

Frankly, it would be a smart move for brands to leave the platform for the time being, and perhaps contact Percepto reputation management for some damage control. A lot are already making moves, including General Motors, Balenciaga, and United Airlines. But what difference would it make when trolls can so easily imitate brands?

Turning Twitter into OnlyFans

In another tweet that went mostly under the radar amongst all the chaos, Elon Musk said that he was looking into monetizing “all forms of content”, further expanding that included adult content. Twitter has never been a “clean” or “safe” place for the kids, but it at least drew the line at “adult content”.

Musk, on the other hand, believes that you should be able to post whatever you want as long as you pay a subscription, and you can in turn make money from the content the same way OnlyFans functions.

Depending on where you stand on adult content, that’s good for users and workers, but bad for brands. Controversies get dialled up to 11 in the adult content world. Marketers famously don’t like controversy, not least because users don’t like seeing controversial concepts bankrolled by marketers. This is an idea that could make Twitter unliveable for marketers. And if Twitter is unliveable for marketers, there goes a major source of income for the site. A site that is already struggling to make money.

There is a high likelihood that it’s about to crash

The latest warnings coming from the conversation around Twitter are that, even Musk has admitted, there is a good change that Twitter will crash or go bankrupt.

The last two months of 2022 are particularly high traffic times. There is the combined holidays and the World Cup, with a lot of human rights discussion thrown into the latter. A lot of chances to market, a lot of specialised content.

And Twitter is supposed to handle all that extra traffic with a skeleton crew of 36% of the staff it had before Musk bought it. Once he was in the door – sink and all – half the staff were immediately fired. On 16th November the other half were given the ultimatum of pure loyalty and “hardcore” mode, or be fired by the next day.

Since then, Twitter’s copyright system has broken, so people are uploading full movies and TV shows to the site, private tweets are getting exposed, and advertiser issues are popping up, including problems in logging into ads manager or modifying campaigns.

Is there a chance to go back to the way things used to be?

Not exactly! Marketing on social media was already going through a transitional period before Elon Musk through a wrench into the works. And let’s not forget, the work wasn’t working. Musk’s buying of Twitter nearly fell apart when he realised Twitter was not making any money. Third party cookies are on their way out, Apple has caused Facebook to lose money from data tracking, the EU is cracking down with data regulations. The old way of selling and using data to market is going, and Twitter was no pioneer at it already.

Twitter needed a shakeup. Maybe not so much of a shakeup that the whole world appears to be watching a car crash in slow motion, but it did need a shakeup.

But who knows? Musk’s MO has always been to trip up the stairs: buy an established business, make some bad decisions, and abandon it with someone smarter in charge, only to buy another. Considering the latest rumour is that he’s looking for a new CEO, that seems to follow his trend. Maybe someone in the CEO chair with a vision for accepting the new future of online marketing can stabilise Twitter back into submission.

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