Since tech billionaire man baby Elon Musk purchased Twitter, things have been tumultuous, to say the least.
Within a few days, Twitter advertisers were pulling ads from the platform over concerns about brand safety and positioning. Here are a few reasons why.
Concerns raised about safety
Chaos ensued almost immediately after the takeover, with thousands of employees being laid off by Musk, reducing the total workforce by two-thirds. This initially included a reported 15% of its trust and safety staff, which was then dissolved completely in December. After leaving the business, Twitter’s Head of Trust and Safety, Yoel Roth, was smeared publically by Musk, resulting in him and his family having to flee their home due to threats to their lives.
As well as ex-employees being subject to abuse, under the guise of ‘free speech’ (more on that later), Musk reinstated numerous accounts that had previously been suspended for breaking Twitter’s terms of service.
One of the accounts reinstated (before quickly being banned again) was Ye (AKA Kanye West) who wasted no time at all in publishing anti-Semitic Tweets. After Musk ran a poll, former president Donald Trump’s account was also reinstated.
Clearly, brands took note and did not want to risk their ads showing up alongside harmful content.
But that’s not all.
The Twitter Blue debacle
The launch of Twitter Blue, a subscription service initially costing $8 which allowed users to add a verified blue tick to their account massively backfired after thousands of profiles popped up impersonating individuals and brands. This was days after Musk Tweeted that parody accounts were not permitted unless it clearly stated ‘parody’ in the username and bio.
This further rattled brands, and Twitter Blue was quickly pulled.
It’s since been relaunched with a more robust verification process in place. Other ‘perks’ of Twitter Blue are ‘subscribers being able to edit their tweets, upload 1080p videos and have access to reader mode, alongside their blue checkmarks. They’ll also have their tweets “rocketed” to the top of replies, mentions and search and will be spammed with 50% fewer ads.’
Additionally, on 19 December, Twitter Blue for Business was rolled out.
Today we’re pleased to announce Twitter Blue for Business, a new way for businesses and their affiliates to verify and distinguish themselves on Twitter.
We are taking Twitter Blue’s rollout as an opportunity to further enhance and distinguish businesses on Twitter. As a Twitter Blue for Business subscriber, a company can link any number of their affiliated individuals, businesses and brands to their account. When they do, affiliated accounts will get a small badge of their parent company’s profile picture next to their blue or gold checkmark.
So basically, we now have (non-paid for) legacy verified accounts and Twitter Blue verified (but paid for) accounts with a blue checkmark, verified legacy accounts for organisations (with a gold checkmark), Twitter Blue for Business accounts (which I assume will be gold too), unless its a government or multilateral account, in which case its grey, and now a little square Twitter logo for an account that is affiliated with a verified account. Much simpler than when it was a blue tick for a notable, verified account, I think you’ll agree.
But I guess with all those advertisers leaving, Twitter has to claw back some cash somehow, eh?
Making up the rules as he goes along
Another cause for concern has been Musk making up the rules as he goes along.
As highlighted earlier, the ‘free speech’ narrative he pushed in the early days of the takeover was quickly replaced by banning people who make fun of him, banning accounts on the basis of recommendations made by right-wingers, and banning accounts of prolific journalists for simply doing their job (i.e. reporting on a story about him) which were later reinstated. In the case of the latter, the alleged reason for the ban was due to journalists ‘doxxing’ while reporting that the account @ElonJet had been permanently banned for sharing his (publicly available) private jet flight information. He then announced that any account deemed to be ‘doxxing’ would then be suspended permanently.
Musk then also suspended Twitter competitor, Mastodon, and then banned users from linking out to a number of other social media platforms in their bio, though it was not really explained why. Once again, after changing the terms of service on a whim, he had to backpedal.
Musk has also run several Twitter polls that have not gone his way.
The first poll asked if the accounts of journalists he suspended for alleged doxxing should be reinstated had four options – apparently, after the votes swung in favour of reinstating them, he then ran another poll with two options. Again, the results favoured allowing them back onto the platform.
He also ran a poll asking if he should step down as CEO. With 57.5% saying yes, he then responded to a Twitter user (who shocker, has a Twitter Blue subscription) stating that they should be the only ones allowed to vote in polls.
Also, Twitter Blue accounts will be given special privileges to determine which accounts get suppressed. Which I’m sure couldn’t be used in a coordinated way to silence people.
Twitter will start incorporating mute & block signals from Blue Verified (not Legacy Blue) as downvotes
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 17, 2022
Not only that, Musk has Tweeted things that are offensive to entire groups of people (most notably trans people, who are already being harassed at an alarming rate on the platform with no repercussions, and despite having a trans daughter himself), has spread misinformation, and posted memes associated with white supremacists. What a guy!
And finally, a minor thing, but the UI was changed to show how many views Tweets have had. It’s akin to impressions, which are sorta meaningless as a metric if people are seeing your Tweet, but are literally just scrolling on by. Also, now if you’re not getting comments and likes, you can see how unpopular you truly are. And so can everyone else. But like everything else, there’s a good chance that will be changed after users complained it looks a mess.
Oh well. At least he admitted it early on.
Please note that Twitter will do lots of dumb things in coming months.
We will keep what works & change what doesn’t.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 9, 2022
Is there any good news for businesses that rely on Twitter?
So far, it’s not looking like there are many reasons for businesses to invest significant marketing budgets in Twitter next year, mostly due to the uncertainty of how the platform will operate on a day-to-day basis.
Musk may have stated that there will be a ‘vote for major policy changes’ but then went on to indicate this would only be available for Twitter Blue subscribers (i.e. Elon Musk fanboys). This basically means he can implement whatever policies he likes – as long as enough of his sycophants agree with him.
There are also reports of the algorithm prioritising Tweets that have higher engagement – even from people you don’t follow *cough Elon Musk*, providing the people you do follow, follow them.
With that in mind, if a user is following your business, they are likely missing your Tweets. I’ve switched to ‘Latest Tweets’, which still sucks, as I follow users from all over the world and so I’m no doubt now missing content from those in different time zones.
And finally, a study into U.S. consumers showed that over half are ‘unlikely to support brands that advertise on Twitter in its current state’.
What do you think? Will your business be pulling back from Twitter, or carrying on as usual? I’d love to know your thoughts.