What Elon Musk’s Twitter Acquisition Means for Communications

By Sarah Babbitt, VP of Agency Marketing, with excerpts from my Padilla colleagues Rosalie Morton and Kim Foster

All eyes are on Twitter and Elon Musk. The world’s richest person officially purchased the social platform he signaled may be “dying.”

We’ve admittedly seen some of Twitter’s impact for brands diminish. The exception is pockets of clients with highly active audiences there and hypertargeted campaigns). Still, he spent $44 billion on Twitter, with plans to “unlock its extraordinary potential.” So, here are possible communications and marketing impact points we’re watching.

Brand safety & misinformation vigilance

Musk’s pledged dedication to “free speech” sparks concerns that progress from Twitter’s years-long focus on “healthy conversation” (eliminating harassment, trolling, misinformation) may reverse.

From my Padilla colleagues POV piece on the deal: Given that the laws governing free speech vary from country to country, there will most certainly be questions about what recourse people and brands have when they are defamed or otherwise attacked on the platform. Time will tell, but depending on the change of voice/sentiment on the platform, community managers will need to keep an extra eye on comments, as well as which posts show up alongside paid content/ads. 

Advertising landscape changes

If toxic content increases alongside changes to empower free speech, advertisers could boycott Twitter. Alternatively, Musk may go ad-free or amend current (beloved) ad features.

Also from my Padilla colleagues: In a thread of since-deleted tweets in early April, Musk made some noteworthy comments about advertising on the platform, suggesting that Twitter Blue (the subscription-based version) should go ad-free, even going as far as to say the platform shouldn’t have ads at all. Let’s assume Twitters ads remain… we will need to keep a close watch for shifts in targeting parameters and ad efficacy, as well as the open-source algorithm, to understand what will perform from an advertising perspective on Musk’s Twitter. 

CEO as activist, influencer, creator progression

Elon Musk is an extreme example when it comes to social media and PR presence. He is outspoken and controversial. He’s been known to troll and even spread misinformation.

We don’t condone the latter. However his business interest and personal use of Twitter signals the progression of a few trends we’ve talked about before: social capitalism and executive positioning on social media.

Executives today are all but demanded to be more than a traditional business leader. We expect them to have social and political views, passions and initiatives. We expect them to ignite and lead conversations with bold and thought-provoking ideas, messages and content.

As The Information founder and highly regarded journalist Jessica Lessin wrote, “Elon is the ultimate creator and he’s going to embolden others to act as he does… This is a tremendous shift from the typical role of a CEO, which consists of leading a company and being accountable to their shareholders… And the trend of CEOs answering first and foremost to their own personal ambitions and brands isn’t going to stop with Elon.”

We applaud and champion the use of social media for authentic expression and idea sharing by executives. And we wonder (even hope) that Musk’s investments — financial and time spent — will inspire other CXOs to see the weight of all-important executive communications efforts.

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