Elon Musk’s plans for Twitter are still a mystery


Elon Musk held his first meeting with Twitter employees since he announced his takeover offer in April. The staff had many questions. But Musk’s answers did not provide much confirmation of the company’s future direction.

Although Musk is a visionary, he has been able to take advantage of major investment and development opportunities. But his views on social media platforms and how they work seem outdated and wrong in many respects.

Censorship was a key element in Musk’s push to acquire Twitter. Musk has long criticized Twitter’s restrictions on specific speech. He advocated more open communication within the confines of local laws, rather than taking more power at the platform level.

In the meeting, Musk reiterated this position, saying that people should be allowed to say whatever they want. Although Musk also says that such comments should not be amplified by Twitter itself.

It is not clear what that means. Musk has often criticized the platform’s shadow ban that restricts access to some tweets. But he seems to be defending that ban somewhat now with his vision of how to handle oversight.

Musk also discussed his plan to combat bots, which was another mainstay in his push to acquire Twitter. Musk said last month that his Twitter acquisition had been put on hold because he basically didn’t believe Twitter data that only 5% of active users were bots.

The company provided Musk with access to the full set of tweets for an independent evaluation. Musk’s solution  to dealing with bots appears to be that users have to pay a certain amount to verify their account, which makes it very expensive to run huge bot networks.

Although this is somewhat logical. But it may also be more difficult in practice, with the app’s growth opportunities further restricted, if every user has to pay for a subscription.

Musk reiterated that he wanted the company to rely more on subscriptions and payments, suggesting that people should pay for verification. While Musk also noted previously that Twitter should always remain free for regular users. But it is not known how these two positions are applied.

Musk meets with Twitter employees

According to Musk’s leaked strategy, shared with potential investors, Musk plans to increase Twitter’s user base from 229 million daily active users to 600 million by 2025 and then 931 million by 2028.

Musk told the company’s employees that his plans are even bigger, with a target billion users. But Musk provided no information or details on how to implement his ambitious plans, and offered a vague allusion to Chinese messaging apps as a template for the types of Twitter growth.

He told employees that the company needed to become more like WeChat and TikTok if it was to achieve its goal of reaching one billion users.

Musk explained that the app should provide more benefit and make sure that people are very entertained and informed. He compared it to WeChat, the super-app in China that mixes social media, payments, games, and even a passenger delivery service.

There is no WeChat equivalent outside of China, Musk said. You mainly live via WeChat in China. If we can recreate that with Twitter, we’ll be a hit.

He also praised TikTok’s algorithm for not being boring, saying: We can modify Twitter in the same way to be fun. Oddly enough, someone looking to buy a social media platform doesn’t understand the impact of algorithmic screening on engagement, a key measure of success.

Some people get upset about an algorithm that tells them what they think they like. But all platforms that have implemented algorithmic systems have seen an increase in engagement as a result, including Twitter itself.

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Other employee questions related to being allowed to continue working from home (something Musk opposes) and possible layoffs.

Musk previously stated that he plans to cut the company’s employee base by about 1,000 jobs over the next two years. Musk did not offer any additional guarantees on this front, and said, “Costs currently exceed revenues.” This is not a good situation.

Musk’s responses generally show a lack of awareness in many ways. It also shows the lack of a clear plan for how Musk expects the platform to succeed beyond just getting people to tweet more.

Getting more people to tweet has been the entire focus of the app’s employees throughout its 16 years of existence.

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