How Brand Elon Musk might impact Brand Twitter
The announcement came late Monday evening (April 25) – and broke the internet.
Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, had bought microblogging site Twitter for a neat $44 billion.
The little blue bird, which is known to take on many avatars depending on the mood, leanings and interests of who it is chirping for, went into overdrive.
While some Twitter users flooded the site with memes and humorous takes on the move, the deal also had a fair share of critics.
One user asked Musk to also take over IRCTC — the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation, to speed it up.
Another wrote that Musk should also buy streaming app SonyLiv and package it better.
The billionaire has big plans for the social media site, starting from opening up the algorithm, just like he did with Tesla, and cracking down on bots.
He has also raised the issue of free speech.
“Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated.
“I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans.
“Twitter has tremendous potential – I look forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it,” Musk said in a statement.
While Musk might appear to be a steadfast promoter of free speech, his stance on the subject has raised questions about the quality of the content that will be seen on the platform, which has already been criticised for not censoring violent or vile tweets.
#Leavingtwitter was quick to trend, with Hollywood actor Jameela Jamil quitting the site.
“Ah he got Twitter. I would like this to be my what lies here as my last tweet.
“Just really “any” excuse to show pics of Barold (her dog).
“I fear this free speech bid is going to help this hell platform reach its final form of totally lawless hate, bigotry, and misogyny. Best of luck,” she wrote.
Frenzied activity and passionate reactions aside, where does this takeover leave Brand Twitter?
“All brands are built with a set of objectives, and it is likely that Twitter was founded with the purpose of being the sole guy holding up free speech.
“But over time market realities bite into a brand,” says Harish Bijoor, brand strategist and founder Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.
The recent controversies surrounding the platform have been about not cracking the whip on problematic content and debate around restrictive algorithm, which governs a lot of control.
“Elon Musk is all about dominating some of the top leadership positions in the world.
“When someone has their eyes set on an acquisition like this, it is near impossible to stop them,” says Bijoor.
“Brands at times are meant to be owned. And at times they are meant to be nurtured and passed on; and I think the latter is happening here,” he adds.
As far as the cliché goes, this move leaves the company at a crossroads.
“Twitter is already a prominent brand and this move has brought it to greater prominence. It’s become a world event.
“It has definitely heightened the interest in the brand and has also left a lot of questions hanging around it,” says Santosh Desai, MD and CEO, Future Brands.
According to Statista, India ranked third with 23.6 million Twitter users, after Japan and the US, in January 2022.
The microblogging site does not hold an enviable record with the Indian government and was most recently in the news for not complying with the new IT rules.
“There is a section of people which is fearful about what exactly this freedom of speech will translate into, because the idea of having unbridled access to put forwards views, no matter how rabid they are, is fearsome to people,” says Desai, while adding, “But there is also a side where people whose voices have been suppressed may now be allowed.”
With 85.1 million followers, Musk also holds significant cultural clout.
In May 2021, cryptocurrencies tumbled after Musk tweeted saying that Tesla will no longer accept Bitcoin as payment.
In January this year, when the billionaire said that he would eat fast food on TV if McDonald’s starts accepting dogecoin, the cryptocurrency gained 9 percentage points.
“Companies cannot choose who their owners are going to be. Twitter is a very powerful medium and such powerful mediums need to be managed very well.
“With great power comes great responsibility. And Musk might be a maverick, but he is a very rich maverick,” says Bijoor.
Desai adds, “Twitter is not a commercial phenomenon; it is a societal phenomenon.
“The more fundamental question is: should one person, regardless who he is, have the power to have such a dramatic influence on the world.”
“And if that person is someone like Musk, who has displayed a volatility in the past, there is a larger societal implication that has to be acknowledged,” he adds.
Musk has expressed concern over the relevance of the microblogging site.
Recently, he sent the platform into a tizzy by making a poll about the addition of an edit button — a long-standing demand of a section of Twitter users.
Will the transfer of ownership signal a move to alternative microblogging sites for India’s tweeple?
Both Bijoor and Desai don’t think so.
“The true-blue health of a site like Twitter is how many million people are active on it at the same time,” says Bijoor.
“And I can’t think of any other site that has the same kind of traffic.”
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