Elon Musk: The billionaire reveals weaknesses on Twitter

WWhen he followed Elon Musk’s tweets, he had no idea that his interest in the short message service might have waned again. The Tesla and SpaceX boss began asking his roughly 80.3 million users what to do with his latest toy.

As it became known a few days ago, Musk has bought a good 9.1 percent of Twitter shares since the beginning of the year. Now, the world’s richest man went after his crude sense of humor: Shouldn’t the “W” be dropped from the name “Twitter”, after all, the name would sound like the English term for a female body part.

Or the suggestion that Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco could become a homeless shelter, after all, there are no employees in the office at the moment anyway. That, in turn, attracted the second-richest man in the world and Musk’s arch-rival, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who proudly announced that part of his own company’s homeless shelter had taken over long ago.

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All of this could be written off as kindergarten games for a few bored billionaires if the Twitter theater didn’t have a serious undercurrent, which, in addition to a few billion stocks, is also about a few hundred jobs.

In reality, after investing around three billion dollars in the social network, Musk should also move to the company’s board of directors, but nothing will come of it either. The Tesla boss will not accept the position on the control committee, Twitter boss Parag Agrawal surprisingly announced, of course via tweet.

The appointment to the board of directors was actually supposed to take effect on April 9, but Musk canceled it that very morning. “I think that’s for the best,” the Twitter boss writes. Of course, we will remain open to suggestions from the largest shareholder.

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“There will be future distractions, but our goals and priorities remain the same,” Agrawal writes to his staff. “The decisions we make and how we carry them out are in our hands, not in anyone else’s hands.” And then comes another call: “Let’s turn off the noise and concentrate on our work.”

That should be pretty tough, because Elon Musk has actually gotten quieter with the decision against the board of directors. Anyone who accepts a seat on the “Board of Directors” in the US will no longer be able to act against the interests of the company in question. He also gains access to inside information, so he can no longer just send everything to the world via short messages.

Twitter leadership move

American professor and tech expert Scott Galloway suspects on his “Pivot” podcast that offering Musk a seat on the board of directors was likely a move by Twitter management to bring the new majority shareholder under control.

Because the upset that Musk caused in the early days is enormous. It’s less about humor and more about the weak points of Twitter’s business model, which the Tesla boss revealed with a few tweets, even if he’s already deleted some of them.

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For example, Musk showed that of the ten Twitter users with the most followers, the vast majority only send short messages sporadically, though of course this does not apply to him. Musk asked: “Is Twitter dying?” He’s not exactly flattering for his new investment.

Libertarian political commentator Dave Rubin argued with Musk about establishing an entirely new Twitter alternative: Musk embraced the idea of ​​verifying each user and linking them to a paid monthly subscription.

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In this way, the many fake accounts and bots on Twitter could be eliminated because it would not be worth paying a monthly fee of two or three dollars for each of these accounts.

Twitter’s business model

Twitter has been experimenting with a subscription model called “Twitter Blue” for some time. But until now, the conclusion of a premium subscription is not associated with the famous blue tick that marks a verified account.

Above all, faltering user growth and the comparatively low ad revenue associated with it have been a problem for the social network for years. The stock languished around 30 euros for a long time before Musk made his entry public.

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This also attracted the interest of other investors. Galloway makes public on his podcast that she has advised several hedge funds on whether they should invest more in Twitter and change the business model. Musk’s input prevented that from happening.

There has been speculation for years about whether Twitter really should rely on advertising or if its future lies in a subscription model. An acquisition by another large tech group was also regularly discussed.

Twitter and freedom of expression

Because even if Twitter is barely moving economically, it plays a relevant role in the public debate, especially thanks to people like Elon Musk. Politicians and journalists in particular use the Internet as a means of communication.

One of the best-known users was former US President Donald Trump, who has since been “permanently” banned from Twitter. The trigger was that he expressed his sympathy for the riots on Capitol Hill on January 6, 2021 and continued to claim without evidence that his victory in the presidential election had been taken from him through massive fraud. Even before his own investment became known, Musk indicated that he was on Twitter for less strict rules.

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Also through a Twitter poll, they voted if the network, in the opinion of users, was rigorous enough for freedom of expression. A majority judged that this was not guaranteed.

In the US there have been several failed alternative social media foundations such as Parler or Truth (financed by Trump), which are mainly aimed at users from the right-wing political camp and promise that you will not be blocked there even for radical statements. .

Musk was also already thinking out loud about starting his own network on Twitter, mainly because he doesn’t like the algorithm the network uses to show posts to other users.

Twitter is also a marketing tool for Musk

However, the Tesla boss could also have another reason than pure concern for free speech. After all, Musk uses his tweets primarily as a marketing tool to keep himself and his company in the conversation. Tesla, on the other hand, barely does classic advertising for its electric cars.

Therefore, Galloway considers the medium to be extremely valuable to Musk. His idea: Twitter should charge its users individual subscription fees.

His prediction: If you charged Elon Musk $10 million a month to use Twitter, he’d initially make a lot of noise with a tweet, but end up paying. At least this scenario should be able to prevent Twitter’s main shareholder, even without a seat on the board of directors.

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