Theatrics and pressure shots. The Twitter takeover saga has been rich in twists and turns. It ended on Monday, April 25th with a resounding victory for Elon Musk. The billionaire finally got the social network’s board of directors to accept his takeover offer for $54.20 a share. Deciphering the changes that are now approaching Twitter with Nicolas Bordas, vice president of the communication agency TBWA International.
L’Express: Elon Musk managed to buy Twitter. What will change within the company?
Nicholas Bordas: I think it will totally change the economic model of the social network. He has spoken out in favor of the need to guarantee complete freedom of expression on Twitter. It’s a very political stance that is antithetical to Twitter’s current economic model. The social network is in fact almost exclusively financed by advertising. However, advertisers want to work with platforms where content is better regulated.
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Advertising near controversial, legally or ethically questionable content can actually damage your brand image. Several advertisers have disclosed that Elon Musk’s vision for Twitter is not that of the advertisers. Musk obviously doesn’t care. He’s already hinted that he doesn’t think it’s good that Twitter is financed by advertising. He likely plans to shift to a model where Twitter is increasingly funded by its own users, through subscriptions.
Will network users want to pay for yet another service, at a time when many are already paying for subscriptions to Spotify, Netflix and the like? Twitter has experimented with the subscription model before, but has yet to roll it out widely.
Twitter has often been hesitant to modify its service. Leaders are always apprehensive about upsetting their community and therefore often take much longer than their competitors to release new features. But you are right, the fact that Internet users sometimes already have several subscriptions to pay can make them hesitate to make one more. However, I think that subscription is a relevant model for Twitter and that there is a portion of users who use this network a lot and would be willing to pay for additional useful services, for example, personalized feeds, and especially certification, that is, seal that indicates your account has been verified and authenticated. The certification would also make it possible to frame the exchanges a little more. This is the vision that Elon Musk seems to have for Twitter: allow users to have whatever speeches they want, but make sure there are fewer anonymous accounts.
How will this transition take place and what will be the consequences for advertisers?
Elon Musk is not going to shut down the ad stream overnight, he will likely hybridize the model, and as subscriber revenue increases, advertising revenue will decrease. For advertisers, losing Twitter isn’t necessarily very serious. Today, investing in LinkedIn to recruit is almost a necessity, joining Instagram is essential to reach new generations. On the other hand, Twitter is not a “must have“it’s one more”good to have“Communicating about it is icing on the cake, an opportunity, not a necessity.
The total freedom of expression on Twitter that the Tesla and SpaceX boss defends could mean the reopening of Donald Trump’s account. Isn’t it ultimately a very political project that Elon Musk carries?
Yes, the matter is highly political and one might indeed think that Elon Musk will authorize the return of Donald Trump on Twitter. This may even be one of the first marks of this new Twitter positioning. Does that mean he’s riding for Trump? In the United States, some think so, or at least consider it to be rolling out to the Republicans. But I think he sees himself more as someone from the planet than an American. He sees himself as a savior of humanity, with SpaceX to go to Mars, Tesla to fight global warming. And he sees Twitter as a useful tool for global democracy. In my opinion, he seeks more to be a person who influences the world than a person who influences the United States.
However, the total freedom of expression he advocates raises questions (harassment, misinformation, hateful content). Will it not also contravene certain political regulations, particularly in Europe?
He has a very complete vision of freedom of expression which, according to him, should not undergo any form of regulation. It is a very nuanced view that contradicts the directions of policies, mainly European, on these subjects, which require platforms to regulate content more. We will have to see, in fact, to what extent his view will be compatible with the requirements of the European Union (EU) on the matter. This could raise the question of the very existence of the network in Europe, because if the EU asks Elon Musk to strengthen the regulation of content, it is not said that he bows to the demands of what is, for him, not just a region of the world. far from its base. It can turn into a confrontation.
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Elon Musk takes the reins of Twitter being one of the most followed personalities on this network. Doesn’t that put you in an awkward position? Will he be forced to moderate his way of communicating on the network a bit?
The fact of having many subscribers, by itself, does not represent a specific problem. Jeff Weiner, former CEO of LinkedIn, is one of the most followed accounts on the network, for example. What can cause problems is how to use the network. Elon Musk makes fun of some people, works a lot with humor, his way of using Twitter is therefore very close to Donald Trump’s. This will add color to the platform as it validates and encourages these ways of doing things. And that can end up displeasing to some people. But I don’t think for a second that Elon Musk will change the way he communicates on his Twitter account.