The dust is never allowed to settle, when Elon Musk enters any territory. So it is with Twitter. He’s allowed bits to dribble out, some other bits and bobs have tumbled out of banks. Employee angst has had its turn, his tweets have had their moments of fun.
But nothing has settled into any pattern. It’s still, everything like a drone in a holding position. Perhaps that too is advantage Musk.
The fact that this microblogging addiction does fuel growth of the ever-morphing Twitter community is thanks to the fact that, despite it’s rather obvious dopamine trickery, you stay on. At least if you’re important or just savvy.
Because to log off is to miss too much that may just matter. And this is critical for certain consumer mavens. They then go on to lead cohorts of valuable customers, that matter to all marketeers. Presto. Stickiness right there.
This is more acute in industries where knowing what matters, what’s trending and emerging is essential. This applies to more and more industries today, from consumers products, to lifestyle and health, from foods to travel, from metaverse products to cyber services from mobility products to office supplies. There’s hardly anyone who wants to be left out. And the list of those afflicted, just keeps growing.
Musk's Not Betting to Lose
Arguably, Twitter now shapes real life and consumer behaviour by tweaking the perceptions of those exposed to it. It shapes real life, even more ingeniously and stealthily by shaping what the media covers.
But before I get carried away by what may read like a marketing mashup of why Twitter matters, remember that for the moment I’ve left out what’s perhaps the juiciest and most hotly contested of spaces where it matters — politics.
But for a moment forget the right, left, Trump, and troll arguments. Forget the fact that a maverick with a genius for winning audacious bets, hasn’t bought the whole bullpen just because he’s the unstoppable bully, he’s proud to be. Forget the dust he’s generated by whipping up the absolute free-speech arguments. There’s a certainty of a deep business plan somewhere. He’s not betting to lose.
I’m convinced that part of the Musk genius must have already solved that puzzle inside his mega-mind. He’s bought a product this time. He hasn’t either invented or tweaked an existing product. It’s his biggest bet yet. He’s bet the farm on this one. What’s he seen that we haven’t?
That’s the businessman conundrum he’s probably solved already. Given he’s never going to get either the humongous subsidies federal or state, giant Governmental contracts or tax credits for this one, he’s now out on his own. He’s going to morph the Twitter machine, and perhaps stay somewhat true to the slivers of a change template he’s hinted at.
We may not quite believe the mocking reference to the "future of civilisation" allegedly at the heart of the purchase decision. An open source algo, bots crackdown, and edit buttons may all, or piecemeal be part of a grand Musk plan but I doubt it. What’s not to guess, that none of it will have anything to do with free speech absolutionism, crazies moderation or anything in that bucket.
A New Business Model?
One possibility is that Elon may explore the possibility of turning Twitter into a flywheel platform on both the consumer and enterprise side. Could he use the engineering muscle of Parag Agrawal, the current Engineer CEO?
But, I am thinking bigger. Would adding Muskian out-of-the-box thinking to Twitter to create a new business model, let's say subscriptions for enterprises and for the now-mature business of influencer creation be saleable and scalable for Gen Zs?
Clearly he’s realised that Twitter has been left behind in the social media game, whether professional or social. How does Twitter become the dominant giant? That’s bound to play big time on his desirables list.
Elon, whether you love him or hate him, is one of the most out-of-the-box thinkers globally, he has innovated beyond what one could imagine. So my sense is that Musk isn’t going to bother about monetising ad revs, which are measly to begin with.
Maybe he could dream of creating a new model for enterprises by helping them leverage consumer sentiment analysis for innovation, business planning, and risk mitigation. For example, helping them plan for their pricing, product, and inventory etc.
This could be easily done through Enterprise Service Buses/APIs to other SaaS platforms eg. SAP that businesses already use. This on the business side. This could protect or enhance their business and be a reasonable business driver for “Mwitter”? This is quintessential Elon territory.
So maybe as I said, if he forgets politics for a bit, Musk could create Twitter as a platform to generate those sentiment analytics by building influencers out of Tweeters, and get more GEN Zs on the platform, as Insta does, and give them first dibs on new products, discounts, referral fees etc. The possibilities are big, hairy, and audacious, just the way Musk would like it.
Only, oh only, if he doesn’t succumb to that horrifying prospect of being a Saviour of Free Speech, Changer of the Globe or Baiter for the Bated Breath Brigade.
(Dilip Cherian is an Image Guru, former bureaucrat, editor, and entrepreneur. He tweets @dilipthecherian. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)