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What’s the deal with Twitter?

Elon Musk began his acquisition of the social media platform, Twitter, in April 2022—and we still haven’t heard the last of it.

Caitlin Hall

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We reported on his decision to buy the website back then, but after numerous rumours of back-pedalling and tense discussions, the whole thing began to sound like a broken record. 


The past few months, however, have seen the situation spiral out of control. At the time of writing, Twitter is hanging on by a thread—its carcass being carried by a skeleton crew of workers. It’s predicted that the site could crash any day now. 


Before Musk’s takeover, around 7,500 staff kept the platform afloat. Once he took up the reins, he fired the top executives of the company—on his first day, no less. He then cut loose a few thousand members of staff, apparently as a ‘cost-saving measure’, thus reducing the workforce to half of what it had been just days before. Entire departments were culled, which caused warning bells to ring for the remaining employees, as well as Twitter users. 


Musk then issued an ultimatum: the staff members left standing had to commit to ’extremely hardcore’ working conditions, involving ‘long hours at high intensity’. As you can imagine, many employees chose not to conform to Musk’s demands. Why anyone would want to stay in such a toxic work environment is past me, and clearly most of the staff had the sense to leave the situation. Around 75% of the remaining workforce resigned, leaving a crew of just 900 people. 


Elon Musk, the level-headed, sensible business strategist we know and love (that’s 100% sarcasm) acknowledged the chaos he’d caused through a series of memes. Despite what he paid for the social media platform, he remains the richest person in the world, so he can afford to play around with other people’s livelihoods and squash them like Playdoh. 


Even before his staff’s mass exodus, a backlash mounted against Musk’s decision to charge for Twitter verification. Celebrities like Stephen King spoke out about the blue tick’s fee, and Musk replied that he could adjust the price from $20 a month to $8, which shows that all of his decision-making is hasty and improvised and, worst of all, public. 


Last year, well before Musk’s involvement in the website, we wrote about the proposed ‘Twitter Blue’, a monthly subscription that offered a few features that were slightly better than the free version of the site. The move was met with resistance, and many users asserted that they’d never pay to use social media. In the grand scheme of things, this minor add-on was nothing compared to Musk’s mutilation of the platform. 


So far, Twitter is still managing to operate, with millions of users ritually logging on and tweeting every single day. Will this chaos prove to be nothing more than a flash in the pan, i.e. will the platform continue to exist the same as it always has, with, perhaps, just a few changes from its new billionaire owner? Or will it be the final nail in the coffin for Twitter, and the costliest mistake of Musk’s career? If we do see the platform shut down, will this be because Twitter’s skeleton crew cannot cope with the workload that comes with maintaining the website? Or will the ramifications of Musk’s unique leadership style cause a mass boycott of the platform? 


If that was to happen, what would the impact be on companies that rely on Twitter to communicate with their audience? Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and TikTok still remain, but they don’t work for every business. 


The most recent once-popular app sent to its watery grave was Vine. The short-form video app hit its peak in 2013 but it was closed down in 2017 for a number of reasons, its dwindling popularity being one of the biggest. Ironically, Twitter’s acquisition of the Vine app might also have contributed to its death.


As a social media manager, I tend to avoid Twitter as much as I can. Of course, if my clients wish to use the platform, that’s a different matter—in my opinion, however, 280 characters isn’t enough to get commercial messages across. Platforms like TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, etc., have a heavy focus on visual assets, and they therefore don’t require a wordy essay of a post. In comparison, it’s much harder to drive a campaign on Twitter, a platform that’s much more used to fleeting, momentary thoughts, and one that works best for current affairs and memes. 


All that said, outside of work, Twitter was the social media platform I used the most. The limited character number demands funny, concise Tweets, and I regularly logged on to keep up to date with everything going on in the world, without getting too bogged down in extraneous information. 


I agree with other users that the platform has gone downhill in recent years. I certainly don’t use it as much as I once did, and I doubt Twitter will ever become my most used platform ever again. Could Musk’s involvement result in its downfall?


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