It’s been a crazy month for Twitter since Elon Musk took the helm. But that’s to be expected. After all, Musk himself even promised that Twitter would be trying some pretty dumb and unusual things this year. It would seem that the world’s richest man is treating Twitter the same way he does SpaceX: develop a hypothesis, give it a try, learn from failure, and try again. And thus far, the Twitter changes under Musk haven’t provided any great insights to date. As it turns out, this type of approach has created some unexpected recent trends in social media.
Many of today’s major tech companies are often accused as being monopolies and involved in antitrust activities in their arena. In some cases, these accusations have at least some merit. Yet, with the Twitter changes under Musk, a variety of other social apps have thrived. Recent trends in social media thus suggest that this sector alone is more competitive than previously recognized. Consumers have a choice, and many are making moves amidst a changing environment.
Twitter’s Rocky Road Under Musk
Over the course of a few days (not weeks or months), there have been a series of changes at Twitter. One of the first Twitter changes under Musk involved the introduction of Twitter Blue. This feature added a blue checkmark to a user’s account in exchange for a paid monthly subscription. But the day after its introduction, Twitter Blue was paused, followed by its disappearance the following day. As it turns out, few users cared about the blue check as a status symbol. And even more importantly, the launch resulted in widespread impersonations of high-profile accounts.
Twitter Blue failed to perform as expected. Musk might have realized this if he had been following recent trends in social media generally and Twitter specifically. Users appreciate account verification as a way to ensure user authenticity. They also enjoyed it to limit their social media outreach and followings. But Musk would not have necessarily had these insights because of other actions he took. Additional Twitter changes under Musk have also included the dismissal of key executive staff with such knowledge. Head or chief executives in cybersecurity staffing, privacy, compliance, and trust & safety were all terminated. He also nearly lost the existing head of advertising sales as well. As a result of the chaos and broad dismissals, Twitter is now under scrutiny from the FTC and the EU. It’s no surprise that Musk warned that Twitter could lose billions in 2023, and may eventually go bankrupt.
Recent Trends in Social Media Post-Musk
Understanding that many users weren’t thrilled with the immediate Twitter changes under Musk, there was a bit of fallout. And based on recent trends in social media, other companies certainly benefitted from Musk’s missteps. One of the notable social media companies that saw a boost in app downloads was Mastodon, a decentralized alternative to Twitter. The company now has over a million active users of its app. It also saw 500,000 users join within a single month period. In the 12 days after Musk purchased Twitter, around 322,000 installs were enjoyed reflecting a 2200% increase. By all accounts, that’s pretty impressive.
But as you might expect, Mastodon was not the only company positively affected by Twitter changes under Musk. Counter Social, another alternative social media platform, saw its download rate increase by 1200%. Other smaller social media platforms also had tremendous gains including Metatext, Tootle and Tumblr. While the statistics speak for themselves, what is most notable is the speed with which consumer shifts occurred. In many sectors, such changes take place over months, quarters or even years. But as recent trends in social media demonstrate, users are more fickle and quick to move on. This is perhaps another lesson from which Musk can learn for the future.
More Bumps Ahead for Twitter?
Whenever company buyouts and takeovers occur, it’s not unusual to clean house and implement new products. In this regard, the Twitter changes under Musk are not out of the ordinary. But what is concerning has been the erratic choices and failure to take advantage of institutional knowledge at Twitter. Before ridding the company of a majority of its executives, it might have been beneficial to gain some perspective. Twitter has been around for a while, and over time, it has tried a variety of products and services. Insights into prior successes and failures might have enlightened Musk and convinced him some choices were ill-advised. Whether or not something was learned in the process remains to be seen. But if not, it’s likely the recent trends in social media shifts will continue.
Given the recent trends in social media regarding user choices, the short-term looks unfavorable for Twitter. Unless future Twitter changes under Musk are more effective, the company may indeed lose billions this year. But even more concerning is the close eye that the FTC and the EU have on Twitter as a result of the chaos. Since 2011, Twitter entered into a consent order with the FTC regarding user data privacy practices. Because it had been misusing such data, specific requirements were established that had to be maintained. Since Musk let compliance, privacy, and security heads go, however, there is heightened concern compliance is no longer being honored. Therefore, unless Musk quickly reestablishes oversight in these areas at executive levels, things could get even more hairy. While it’s not yet clear if Musk can perform another miracle at Twitter or not, one this is certain. It’s going to be a busy year not only for Twitter but for the entire social media sector as well.