POV: Twitter's Sale to Elon

As you probably all know by now, Twitter’s Board of Directors has approved the company’s sale to Elon Musk. While the deal is not yet done, it appears as if Musk will take the social platform private as soon as shareholders approve the purchase, and, as a private company, it will be run entirely according to his whims and desires. Assuming this comes to pass, what impact might it have on marketers?

Elon wrote in a since-deleted thread that Twitter should be ad-free and support itself with a subscription model. Twitter does currently offer a subscription product called Twitter Blue that allows for some app customization and a few other features, but it doesn’t make Twitter ad-free for Blue subscribers and isn’t thought to be a significant source of revenue for the company. To what extent Musk was serious about removing ads from the platform — and, if he does make it subscription-based, what he may decide to charge brands to use it for other marketing and customer engagement efforts — can’t be known since all we have of his thoughts are in that since-deleted thread, but he’s clearly imagining a radical change to the company’s business model.

Beyond that, Elon has also said he plans on making “free speech” a major part of the platform’s future. He believes moderation on Twitter has been excessive and has said he will loosen restrictions on what can be said there. There’s additional speculation Musk will allow former President Donald J. Trump back on the platform. To what extent brands will want to be associated with a “free speech” free-for-all remains to be seen. Twitter may become toxic like other un- or lightly-moderated platforms which, in turn, will drive brands (not to mention users) away.

As I said above, the transaction is not yet complete. In the hours and days since it was announced, Musk has been violating the terms of the deal by criticizing Twitter’s past actions and even some current high-level employees. It may be the case that the mercurial billionaire will be unable to control his tendency to tweet his thoughts enough to preserve the deal he’s won. Or, we may see Tesla investors’ unhappiness at the prospect of sharing their CEO’s mental bandwidth with a personal project torpedo his scheme.

Longtime Elon watchers know he’s unpredictable and impulsive. Those tendencies are a few of the key elements that make him such a disruptive and successful character, but they have also caused him problems in the past. The only thing we know for certain is that Musk has made Twitter’s future very uncertain which, all by itself, should cause brands to seriously weigh their future investments in the platform if and when he controls it.

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