Elon Musk’s Twitter Takeover: A Deep Dive Into His Social Media Strategy

If you are not a user of Twitter or just a casual user like me, the change of ownership of Twitter and all the changes to the user experience has no impact on you. But if you are a power user, well, the experience in recent months can feel a little apocalyptic.

For people who have been living under a rock, Twitter has had a new owner since last October. Who would have thought that what started as a series of rants on Twitter about free speech would end with Elon Musk buying Twitter, albeit not as willingly.

The former world’s richest billionaire initiated an acquisition of Twitter on April 14, 2022, but only managed to conclude it in October. The purchase also resulted in the prolific Tesla chief slipping to number two on Forbes Billionaires List 2023.

But all those are history now. Given what has happened over the 6 months since Musk took the rein of the micro-blogging platform, most people would have forgotten about the offer, the retraction, and the conclusion of the deal.

I am particularly triggered when it comes to this whole buying Twitter fiasco. Why? Because it reminds us of how the rich couldn’t care less about the lives of those who have lesser. In this case, the rich would be the Twitter shareholders and those with less are all the folks working for the company.

The fact the company took Elon to court for backing out of the acquisition deal showed that they wanted the money (duh…), and they did not care what would happen after (duh… again). Soon after Elon took the helm, he took it upon himself to stop the bleeding, and that meant letting numerous staff go.

According to ExpressVPN, Twitter’s headcount was 7,500 before the takeover and is currently at 1,800 employees, which is less than the platform had in 2012. The shareholders took the money and went home laughing while the future was in limbo for ordinary employees. Nice one, rich people. Nice one.

I apologize for the side track, but I have to bring that up because no one has talked about it.

So why did Musk buy Twitter anyways, and did he achieve his goal 6 months on? First, why buy Twitter? Well, the billionaire has a vision, and that’s to turn Twitter “into an all-inclusive app”, much like China’s WeChat. It will be an app that everyone “can use for payments, news, and even food orders.”

For the uninitiated, WeChat is a does-it-all app. It is a one-stop app for news, social media (that is kind of like Facebook and TikTok rolled into one), instant messaging, and payments, and it is kind of like a web search engine too.

So you get the idea of Musk’s vision, but this vision remains distant. Because he has a lot on the Twitter plate since taking over. For starters, he has to stop the bleeding (apparently in shocking millions a day) and try to turn it around.

While doing so, the number of staff has to be trimmed, along with several changes that affect Twitter’s business associates and users, which, more often than not, involve money.

The changes are also due in part to how the man does not like how the way it works with the microblogging platform (which he rants quite often before having the idea of buying it altogether).

With all these on his to-do list, the last six months have been quite a hell of a ride for both users and staff. Here are some of the key changes Elon Musk has orchestrated since October 2023:

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•    Weeks after taking over, Elon Musk announced a mass laying off of workers as a first step to cutting losses. He also demanded remaining staff be committed to working “long hours at high intensity” or see themselves out.

•    He Implemented paying Blue Check Mark (US$7.99), which was pulled and then reinstated. Subsequently also offers the option of an annual Blue sub. Introduced Twitter Blue for Business, including a gold checkmark for company accounts and a gray check mark for notable accounts such as companies, government organizations, and politicians.

•    Rolled out Community Notes, previously known as Birdwatch, globally. Community Notes is a crowdsourced fact-checking system.

•    Took it private in November last year

•    Account suspension spree, then account unbanning spree

•    Twitter now shows you how many have viewed your tweets (and tells you if it is popular)

•    Twitter now displays stock and cryptocurrency prices directly in search results just by entering the dollar symbol followed by the respective ticker symbol (e.g., $GOOG)

•    Twitter Blue users can upload 60-minute videos at up to 1080p resolution and no more than 2 GB file size

•    Kills chronological timeline and introduced a la TikTok “For You” timeline as default alongside a “Following” tab. From April 15, only verified accounts will appear on its “For You” timeline, but I am still seeing non-verified accounts as of today

•    Bans third-party clients

•    Rolls out bookmark feature (now available on both Android and iOS)

•    Discontinued CoTweets that allows co-authored tweets

•    Ends free access to its API. Starts charging paid API. Basic tier API costs US$100 per month. Subsequently revealed Enterprise tier, which costs upwards of US$42,000 a month

•    Twitter allows cannabis ads in states where it is legal – the first social media app in the U.S. to do so

•    Twitter started tagging accounts that are related to the state as “x state-affiliated media, with “x” being the country.

•    Two-factor authentication (2FA) is now available only to Twitter Blue subscribers. Non-paying users will have to use third-party 2FA solutions.

•    Twitter Blue introduced 4,000-character tweets (the default for everybody else is still 280 characters) and then later upped it to 10,000 characters. Expands the Blue program to include more than 20 countries. The latest Blue subscribers feature is the perk of having 50% fewer ads on their timeline.

•    It’s Twitter, Inc, no more. It is now known as X Corp.

•    Legacy Blue officially checkmarks removed.

The list is not comprehensive. These are mere key changes and happenings that both users and business users may want to know. So, now back to the question of if Elon has realized the vision of the X app. Well, not so much, but let me explain.

If you observe the key events, Elon Musk is leafing a page out of the Tesla playbook. This man’s has a clear vision of his ultimate goal. But before he could reach that goal, he had to prep the base just like he did when he took over Tesla. It is only with a strong and stable foundation that he could go on to the next phase.

For the last 6 months, the new Twitter has been juggling between cutting losses (and hopefully, becoming profitable) and “housekeeping”. By “housekeeping” I mean cleaning up the user experience and control based on the new Tweet chief’s vision.

I would say the road to X is still in its infancy. But regardless of all that has happened thus far, Twitter is far from driven into the ground by the maverick businessman, nor has it lost its popularity even though recent findings revealed that the social media platform is predicted to lose 33 million users worldwide by 2024, with over 6% of U.S. users expected to leave the platform this year.

Featured image by Harryarts on Freepik/Shakti Shekhawat from Pixabay. Composite by Mike.