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Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter and its impact on Brand Safety

Updated: May 12, 2022

Last year, when advertisers and marketers expressed their concerns regarding the safety of their brand, social media site Twitter claimed to have placed their interests as its top priority. Caitlin Rush, the Head of Global Brand Safety Strategy at Twitter stated, “Brand safety is not only about brands, but it is about people.” She further added, “When we focus on the safety of people, we also protect brands from the reputational damage of supporting things like hate, abuse, and misinformation with their ad dollars.” This has been viewed as Twitter’s response to safeguarding its ad revenue from brands, accounting for 4.5 billion USD. However, Elon Musk's decision to take over Twitter, and his outright plans with the platform, may worry many brands.

Ad income accounts for roughly 90 percent of Twitter's total revenue. It still is nowhere close to its competitors and other social media platforms. Moreover, Twitter's user reach is also substantially smaller than its competitors, with around 200 million users seeing advertising compared to 800 million on LinkedIn and almost 2 billion on Facebook. It is understandable, given that Twitter has a niche audience, and marketers prefer platforms with a large user base and engagements. Nonetheless, Twitter has been hell-bent to make its platform as much accessible for brands as possible. This has been evident in their various policies, including content moderation, manual human review assisted with machine learning, and brand safety policies. In addition, Birdwatch and Conversation settings are two other recent Twitter applications for safe conversations. It allows users to recognize potentially misleading information in Tweets and then report or add notes that provide context. More than 11 million individuals have used the conversation settings that allow everyone to determine who can reply to their Tweets. And there have been further efforts by the company to make it more accessible for brands. Until now.

The discussion around an edit button and its impact on Brand Safety

Earlier this year, Elon Musk conducted a poll, surprisingly on Twitter itself, expressing his desire to have an edit button on Twitter. This feature has been long missing from the platform and would allow users to edit and make changes to their posts. Surprisingly, over three-fourths of over 4 million voters agreed that an edit button is needed. Meanwhile, Twitter also announced that they are working on an edit feature to be implemented on their platform. This is likely to be good news for users and brands, who can always have an option to modify their earlier tweets. Brands are always mindful of their status, and any objectionable posts on a platform with 300 million monthly active users can always result in backlash. On the other hand, Twitter has always been viewed as a platform where real conversations take place. Your viewpoint or stance is constantly in the public domain since you can't alter your tweets or statements. And that is what makes Twitter unique. The addition of an edit feature may detract from the distinctiveness of Twitter posts, as a result, lowering their relevance.

For Marketers, it is important to identify and select the right medium to market their product, while ensuring brand safety. An edit option can have a significant impact on how marketers approach campaign plans, and it will undoubtedly affect Twitter's forthcoming businesses. Brands have always welcomed any initiative that allows them to be associated with posts or tweets, that won't do them any reputational damage. Twitter has always shown efforts to make its platform a safe haven for brands of all sizes. All of that could change if Elon Musk takes over the social media platform later this year.

Elon Musk and his plans with Twitter

Just days after his post about the edit button, news surfaced that Elon Musk will now acquire Twitter. The CEO of Tesla and SpaceX has agreed to buy Twitter for $44 billion, and if it goes through, it'll be one of the largest leveraged buyouts ever.

Now that it is evident that Elon Musk will be the owner of the platform, we are not yet certain how the platform is going to function in the future. And one of the concerns for marketers is the billionaire’s repeated admiration for free speech. This will have a direct impact on the principles that the platform has been building over the years. And now, with limited content moderation and the freedom to express oneself freely, the platform may introduce new complications. Giving a free speech platform, for example, has the potential to spread hate speech and other forms of misinformation. As a result, no brand wants to be associated with such content and may opt for a different medium.

Some advertisers are worried that Elon Musk's potential takeover of Twitter will push the app away from the brand safety path that Twitter has established through standards and relationships with the advertising industry over the years. Furthermore, several advertising executives have stated that if Elon Musk removes the features that allowed Twitter to remove objectionable content, they are willing to allocate their ad spending elsewhere.

In Conclusion

Elon Musk has made it clear that advertising is not a priority. He said that he wants to loosen the service's content moderation policies, which marketers say have helped keep ads from appearing alongside hate speech and misinformation. Additionally, he has mentioned making money from Twitter in other ways, such as charging some users to use the service. It will be interesting to see how the world's richest person manages to strike a balance between his vision for Twitter and the prior business partnerships that the platform has built through its security measures.


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