Twitter: The future of the platform remains uncertain, say specialists

Distracted employees, cold clients, handcuffed management and an uncertain future: Elon Musk’s interest in Twitter, then his attacks and finally his rejection, put social networking Tom Thumb in a pretty bad patch.

“The ideal thing for me is that he leaves us alone, so we can continue our fun path,” sums up a Twitter employee, who spoke to AFP on the condition of anonymity. This engineer provokes the departure of many employees and above all “a climate of uncertainty that does not lead to a truly calm state of mind”. “We’re still trying to continue to do our work normally, because the main reasons we chose to work at Twitter are still sound,” he says.

Since mid-April – when Elon Musk expressed his desire to buy this “public square” – the social network has been bombarded with attacks and mockery from billionaires. “Musk’s repeated disdain for Twitter and its employees creates uncertainty and delays to the detriment of Twitter and its shareholders,” Bluebird’s attorneys summed up in the lawsuit against their boss on Tuesday. To purchase the platform at the agreed price at the end of April. They added that the businessman’s statements “also expose Twitter to negative consequences for its business operations, employees, and share price.”

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Caution advertisers

“Twitter is going through a huge image crisis,” eMarketer analyst Debra Williamson told AFP. “We think the most loyal advertisers have stayed, but those for whom Twitter is not a priority may have cut back on their spending while they wait for that to stabilize.” Elon Musk voluntarily repeated, without evidence, that the network was infested with fake accounts, much higher than that provided by the California company (5%).

“Attracting new advertisers is not easy when they are wondering if a large portion of your users are bots,” says Kelis Landrum, head of marketing agency True North Social. Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters, believes that the Tesla boss has essentially intimidated brands by criticizing moderation in content. The fight against hate and disinformation is widely advocated both internally and by the American left, but also by many advertisers, concerned that it is not linked to “toxic” messages.

In early May, at an annual marketing event where big ad deals were negotiated, “Twitter failed to reassure them”, says the media expert, “They didn’t sell as much as usual. And it’s been a tad weak ever since.” The San Francisco-based social network can’t afford to lose customers. Unlike its neighbors (Google and Meta) who make staggering profits from digital advertising, Twitter lost hundreds of millions of dollars in 2020 and 2021.

The group will receive less than 1% of global advertising revenue in 2022, according to eMarketer, compared to 12.5% ​​for Facebook, 9% for Instagram and about 2% for TikTok juniors. Debra Williamson expects its user base in the United States to shrink. Elon Musk once made investors dream, invoking the goal of reaching a billion users, without specifying how to achieve it.

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Now, “we are witnessing a legal battle that will end either with Twitter in the lap of an owner who ultimately does not want it, or with Twitter alone and weaker than before,” the analyst notes. The case is set to last for months, in a difficult economic context, which requires rapid adjustments in strategy, to monetize new audio and video formats, diversify sources of income, attract younger audiences, etc. “Facebook can react to problems. Twitter is stuck, and they can’t make any major decisions,” explains Angelo Caruson.

The social network’s lawyers also criticize Elon Musk for not believing in “two employee retention programs designed to keep key CEOs through a period of great uncertainty, due in large part to his erratic behavior.” Internally, some employees also lost faith in their management, which they wished to be more combative against the richest man in the world.

Parker Lyons, the company’s financial analyst, tweeted several “memes” (parody pictures) in which the board appeared to be cruel and unscrupulous, sacrificing the Twitter platform for the benefit of shareholders.

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