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What could Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover mean for PR professionals?

by | May 9, 2022 | Analysis, Public Relations

By now, we have all heard that multi-billionaire and viral entrepreneur, Elon Musk, Tesla’s owner with over $273.6bn to his name, has hit the headlines once again after securing a $44bn deal to buy Twitter from its current CEO Parag Agrawal.

The third most popular social media platform with over 400 million users is on track for a full-scale transformation in the wake of Musk’s shareholder deal. From new plans to improve freedom of speech to a subscription service that will fund a private Twitter experience, Musk has big plans for the well-known communication platform.

The question is, how will this change the Twitter experience for both the consumers and the companies that use the platform to create and promote branded content?

In a press release following Musk’s platform takeover, the globe’s richest man revealed that safeguarding the opportunity for freedom of speech on the social media platform was his greatest priority, leaving advertising and PR professionals at risk as algorithm shifts and ultra-radical outpourings bury branded voices beneath the noise.

“Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” claimed Musk. “I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spambots, and authenticating all humans.”What could Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover mean for PR professionals?

(Image Source: Twitter)

In his most retweeted tweet yet, Twitter’s new shareholder gathered over 3 million likes on his recent free speech message which hints at what the future could hold for the platform.

After Twitter’s Q4 2021 stats revealed that the social media site was up 22 percent year on year, Musk’s takeover could add to its success, or lead the platform to its downfall.

However, as Musk steps into the shoes of Twitter CEO, could it be time for brands to step away? Let’s have a closer look into what Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover could mean for PR professionals and how brands can tackle the changes ahead.

Could Musk’s call for ‘free speech’ put PR content at risk?

The question is, could Elon Musk’s call for freedom of speech on Twitter put branded content at risk? As speech regulation slips, PR content will be at risk of losing authority amongst an abundance of consumer noise.

“If Twitter becomes increasingly known as a mainly political motivated environment populated by ‘alternative truths’ (aka lies), ultra-radical outpourings and dubious conspiracy theories, then I can see a risk of brands getting caught up in the maelstrom and having difficulty maintaining authority and brand integrity, Or, simply losing their voice in the general noise,” claimed a marketing manager in a recent Search Engine Land article.

Alongside this, Musk’s push for Twitter Blue, a privatized version of the platform, could see a future of paid Twitter subscribers that are able to use the platform free of ad-based brand content and PR campaigning. This could significantly damage Ad revenue from the site and force PR teams to take their content elsewhere.

Musk’s plan to promote freedom of speech could also see commercial users paying to use the service in the future.

“Twitter will always be free for casual users, but maybe a slight cost for commercial/government users,” Musk revealed in a recent tweet. “Some revenue is better than none!”

Are marketers concerned?

While Musk’s Twitter takeover is set to invoke some strategy changes in the PR world, 58% of marketers claim that they are not concerned about the future of Twitter-based advertising.

What could Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover mean for PR professionals?

(Image Source: Search Engine Land)

From account verification to the elimination of spambots, over half of PR professionals believe that branded content will have more authority in the wake of the elimination of spam rivals.

Better still, in the wake of Meta’s call for an immersive future, Musk could lead Twitter into a newly tech-inspired era, where marketers can use new forms of augmented reality to improve their engagement efforts on the platform.

A goldmine for crypto PR

While freedom of speech could leave PR teams fighting harder to be heard, the future looks bright for brands that are in line with Musk’s values and trending investment trends. For example, crypto and tech-based brands could see more advertising opportunities under Musk’s stewardship.

In fact, CEO of MediaRadar, Todd Krizelman, claims that crypto-based PR will see a rise in popularity under Elon Musk’s Twitter rule.

“Crypto advertisers, and any enthusiastic backer of Elon Musk, will lean in and buy more advertising with Twitter,” he states. “Elon brings with him a significant cachet. Premium national consumer brands however may be worried about what the content looks like with fewer regulations.”

The real question: Is Twitter still relevant for PR professionals?

The answer is yes and no. While the platform has one of the lowest advertising budgets, with an average of $6.46 CPM, allowing campaigns to run smoothly on a reduced budget, Twitter is no longer the platform of choice for most marketers, advertisers and PR professionals.

Both TikTok and Instagram’s popularity have quickly replaced Twitter’s grip hold on commercial content after Insider Intelligence announced that TikTok’s ad revenue alone was expected to triple in 2022, surpassing that of Snapchat and Twitter combined.

However, we believe that smart PR professionals will continue to use the platform ahead of Elon Musk’s takeover. From improving connections and partnerships with verified journalists and competitor brands to the potential for virality on the back of Twitter Newsjacks, the social media platform continues to play an important role in PR strategy.

While commercial accounts may need to pay a small fee to continue representing a branded voice, PR professionals will be sure to take on the challenge of creating new forms of content that blend seamlessly within a stream of consumer noise, for a more organic approach to commercial communication.

(Thumbnail image source: The Guardian)

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Rebecca Barnatt-Smith
Rebecca Barnatt-Smith is a UK-based freelance journalist and multimedia marketing executive.

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