Eccentric Billionaire Elon Musk’s purchase of social media platform Twitter’s share from all its previous stakeholders has shaken the tech industry at its core, as it creates a future of uncertainty and destabilisation. But what do people from within the field truly believe that this move will bring with it?
Twitter has long been known as a place where people can share their opinions as long as they play by the rules. Who’s post shows up first in your feed and why have long since been questions that remain unanswered behind the tight-lipped executives of the company, who weren’t willing to play nice with the platform’s algorithms, creating an uneven advantage for some users over others.
Enter Elon Musk. The SpaceX and Tesla founder decided to take matter into his own hands and within a matter of a few short weeks had purchased the company from its soon-to-be previous owners, promising to open source the algorithms for all to see.
But the way this takeover went forward and the implications it creates, not just for Twitter itself, but the entire tech industry, have created an environment of instability, with marketers, advertisers and even platform owners themselves not knowing what tomorrow may bring.
Some have expressed their fears that Musk’s “free speech” philosophy may turn Twitter into an uncontrollable space, with fake news pouring in and going out of control. One of the people who share this view is Forrester Research principal analyst Kelsey Chickering:
“Brand safety and suitability are crucial evaluative measures when brands are determining where to invest their media dollars. Content moderation, especially as it relates to disinformation, is an issue that brands and agencies are pushing social platforms on. If Twitter becomes a Wild West platform, similar to Gab, where the promise of free speech allows disinformation to run even more rampant than it already does, brands might choose to invest their dollars elsewhere.”
Sarah Russo, head of content marketing at Localsearch followed that train of thought, adding that this move could potentially take some of the pressure off Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta: “The main targets (for governments) have been Facebook and Meta because they’re the ‘big dogs’. So, I think especially now that Elon (Musk) has put his name on Twitter, that’s basically put this massive spotlight on the platform for worldwide governments. The heckles come up the second they see his name involved in something.
“So, I think that (Mark) Zuckerberg may have a bit of a reprieve on his hands. If Twitter goes through with opening up its moderation and they’re seeing false information or there’s bullying going on, I think that’s going to get a lot of eyes on them. But then businesses will need to be really careful, because if the government starts looking into Twitter and putting these regulations on them as hard as they have with Meta, they could be held liable for what other people are saying, in relation to their posts,” says Mrs. Russo.
However this field of uncertainty could also open up space for some much-welcomed creativity in the field, potentially making Twitter a much more attractive platform for businesses than it is right now.
Twitter will always be free for casual users, but maybe a slight cost for commercial/government users
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 3, 2022
Many who don’t think highly of it, when placed next to some other much more lucrative fields of advertising such as Instagram, TikTok or even Twitch, might come to reconsider if the changes made by the Musk ownership bring back audiences and show steadily high numbers in user engagement.
This perspective seems to be reflected by Fabienne Wintle, co-founder and CIO of Navii, an independent community of small business owners: “This news has been setting the bar high and was rather inspirational,” Mrs. Wintle stated.
“Working with small business owners, I’ve heard people say they want visibility and clarity and not prior-filtered information. So it’s safe to say that small businesses may appreciate this view, as opposed to larger corporation who may be focused on the politics of it all.”
When questioned about if this climate of uncertainty surrounding the platform, but also the industry as a whole, seems troubling, Mrs. Wintle didn’t show any signs of hesitation in her response.
“No, not for myself or the small business industry, they don’t specifically look at things like that. I would be very surprised if any of my clients decide to follow that story and make decisions right now. They’d leave that up to the professionals and go with what they say.”
Mrs. Wintle added that although right now Twitter is not the favourite place for small businesses, this wind of change could potentially create a shift in that opinion, which is what makes this recent development so enticing.
“For the small businesses that we traditionally work with don’t, Twitter is certainly not their platform of choice. If they have to learn how to post social media content, they will certainly choose to work with Facebook and Instagram first, then potentially move on to TikTok down the track. But the change in the Twitter platform could get them to consider it and go ‘okay, I haven’t used it in the past. How did my value align with the launch value of a small business’ and that may even attract their interest.”
No matter what the future holds for Twitter however, it’s certain that this – rather gutsy, allow us to say – move by Elon Musk will certainly bring about a series of changes for both the tech industry and the field of social media. What they’ll look like remains to be seen. The next few months promise to be highly intriguing! Stay tuned…
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