As he prepares for the next stage of his Twitter takeover, which looks set to be finalized this week, Elon Musk has released a new statement on his intentions for the platform, and the impact that it will have on advertisers, who’ve been justifiably concerned about Musk’s vision for the app.
Because as Musk has said directly:
Musk has said, straight up, that he will look to remove ads from the platform entirely, which would re-shape a lot of marketing approaches at many brands.
But now, after visiting Twitter HQ, and with $44 billion about to be debited from his account, Musk has changed his mind on this.
As per Musk:
“There’s been much speculation about why I bought Twitter, and what I think about advertising. Most of it has been wrong.”
Which, from, the first line, feels a bit revisionist. Musk has also said that he hates advertising, in addition to the above tweet about removing ads from Twitter.
But again, with the clarity of debt, Musk has now switched up, and says that he actually wants to make Twitter ‘the most respected advertising platform in the world’.
“I also very much believe that advertising, when done right, can delight, entertain and inform you; it can show you a service or product or medical treatment that you never knew existed, but is right for you. For this to be true, it’s essential to show Twitter users advertising that is as relevant as possible to their needs. Low relevancy are spam, but high relevancy ads are content.”
Ah, so advertising is okay so long as it’s good. Keep that in mind marketers.
How Musk plans to enforce this, and ensure that Twitter only publishes good, relevant ads is not clear. But rest assured ad partners, Musk’s not going to cut you off from the app - despite his previous and repeated statements that that’s exactly what he would do. That was just speculation, according to Musk. Didn’t come from him.
So goes the usual Elon Musk approach - saying one thing, then completely denying it, and blaming outside forces for misinterpreting his statements.
Yet, after he visited Twitter HQ yesterday, he posted that he’d met ‘a lot of cool people’ at the app.
Entering Twitter HQ – let that sink in! pic.twitter.com/D68z4K2wq7— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 26, 2022
Yes, he bought a sink with him, for a random and unfunny sight gag. Wacky.
Of course, saying that he met a lot of cool folk doesn’t mean that he won’t sack them. But it does suggest that Musk’s not going to be as militant in his approach as he’s suggested in his previous statements.
So what are his plans then?
To unite the world, apparently:
“The reason I acquired Twitter is because it’s important to the future of civilization to have a common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner, without resorting to violence. There is currently great danger that social media will splinter into far right wing and far left wing echo chambers that generate more hate and divide our society.”
Musk also notes that he ‘didn’t do it to make money’. Which is pretty obvious, since he spent months trying to renege on the deal, and also recently noted that he’s ‘obviously overpaying’ for the app.
That’s another element that Musk is now trying to play down – Musk has spent months criticizing Twitter, its board, its staff, poking holes in its business model, and generally, highlighting why it’s a disastrous investment.
But now? All smiles.
‘In addition to adhering to the laws of the land, our platform must be warm and welcoming to all, where you can choose your desired experience according to your preferences, just as you can choose, for example, to see movies or play video games ranging from all ages to mature.”
Warm and welcoming. That’s definitely not the Twitter vision that Musk has been painting.
But again, the clarity of debt.
The latter reference here relates to Elon’s vision of creating variable algorithms, which users could then choose to apply to their Twitter feed. The concept is interesting, but whether users will actually want to go to the effort of curating their own experience, as opposed to just checking out what the app has on offer, remains to be seen.
And that’s the real rub here. Musk says that he has a plan, and he’s now making statements like these about the future of the app, and how it can be a transformative, uniting experience.
But making that a reality seems like a truly impossible task. And while Musk prides himself on taking on the impossible, this one feels like it could be beyond even his reach.
It feels like, in many ways, Musk will be relying on his public persona to win over users. But do people really like his wacky rich guy shtick?
I don’t know, it’s a massive, and very public task, which could hurt Musk’s reputation, along with his net worth. The general concepts that Musk’s been touting do make sense – user-defined experience, freedom of speech versus freedom of reach, improved algorithmic targeting (ala TikTok), and payments, shopping and more, like WeChat in China.
Musk has pointed to all of these apps and options as reference points for his Twitter vision. But so has every social media app. Meta’s been trying for years to replicate the utility of Chinese messaging apps, every platform’s trying to work out TikTok’s secret sauce, and users already do have a lot of choice regarding what they see in-stream.
The problem is in the application. Western users haven’t warmed to app functionalities in the same way as Chinese consumers have, TikTok’s winning because its algorithms are better and no one can match it, and while users are able to change their feed experience, in various ways, most can’t be bothered, and even if they do, engagement declines as a result
So while Musk is keen to explore these things, each is, indeed, easier said than done.
But it’s Elon Musk, if anyone can do it, he can. Right?
The Musk era is about to begin, and it’ll be fascinating to see how, exactly, he looks to enact any of this.