Twitter has seen a whirlwind of changes since Elon Musk took over the influential platform last October. As someone who has spent over a decade helping brands grow, I’m worried his approach could permanently damage Twitter’s identity, community, and future.
The changes under Musk have been swift and sweeping. Mass layoffs gutted institutional knowledge across the company. Safety policies have been relaxed, concerning users and advertisers alike. Redesigns seem to happen on a whim, leaving people confused about Twitter’s purpose.
The data shows engagement, revenue, and trust in Twitter have plunged since the acquisition based on The Guardian. It’s alarming. Twitter is where millions turn for knowledge, community, and entertainment. There’s too much at stake to leave its fate to haphazard management.
Stock price of Twitter from 2013 to 2023
My hope is that Musk recognizes the risks of his current path and course corrects before it’s too late. With thoughtful reforms, Twitter’s identity crisis and brand erosion can still be averted. But if changes continue unchecked, we could witness the undoing of one of the 21st century’s most culturally impactful platforms.
Look, I don’t want to be all doom and gloom, but let’s be real – if Twitter keeps heading in its current direction without any course correction, it could very well be the death knell for what has become one of the most important cultural platforms of our time.
Musk began his overhaul by reconstituting Twitter’s board and forcing out key executives:
- CEO Parag Agrawal, CFO Ned Segal, and policy chief Vijaya Gadde were fired or resigned only days after the acquisition finalized.
- As sole board director, Musk can make unilateral decisions without oversight. Key advisers include entrepreneur Jason Calacanis.
These leadership changes enabled Musk to quickly pursue his vision for reimagining Twitter without constraints – but also dismantled vital institutional knowledge.
In November 2022, wide-ranging layoffs cut Twitter’s workforce by roughly 50% or around 3,700 employees according to Wion News:
- Cuts spanned departments company-wide, including engineering, product design, research, marketing, content curation, legal, and trust and safety.
- Layoffs aimed to reduce costs and streamline Twitter amid Musk’s planned overhaul. But their indiscriminate nature was criticized for harming daily operations.
- Severance packages offered to departed staff locked access to internal systems. This precaution fueled mistrust amid the turbulent transition.
While Musk aimed to boost efficiency, experts argue losing so many employees – including half of Twitter’s top engineers – cripples its institutional knowledge base. It also decimates morale among remaining staff.
Relaxed Content Policies
One of Musk’s biggest focuses is reshaping Twitter’s content moderation policies, according to Reuters:
- He immediately fired the staff responsible for creating Twitter’s previous content rules and enforcement actions.
- Twitter’s policy page was rewritten in early November to emphasize protecting free expression and allowing “better logic, reasoning, and first principles thinking.”
- Banned accounts like Donald Trump’s were quickly reinstated based on promised principles of “freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach.”
However, data from CounterHate indicates racial slurs spiked and that Twitter fails to act on 99% of hate posts. Heralding issues ahead. Experts criticize the rollout as dangerously hasty.
- “Musk’s speed at reversing years of Trust and Safety work is breathtaking,” commented digital rights group Access Now. “Allowing hate, abuse, and disinformation back will push out at-risk users.”
Without careful planning, relaxing moderation risks increasing harmful content and Twitter’s liability for enabling real-world harms, as critics warn.
Verification System Shakeup
Among Musk’s earliest changes was overhauling Twitter’s iconic verification system:
- The coveted “blue checks” were previously granted by Twitter to confirm an account’s authenticity. Government officials, brands, media figures and other public entities were verified through an internal review process.
- In November 2022, Twitter began allowing any user to pay $8 per month for a blue checkmark through Twitter Blue subscription – without identity verification.
- Impersonation spiked as pranksters bought checks to pose as brands and celebrities. Twitter soon added gray “Official” badges on certain verified accounts to mitigate confusion.
While Musk cited accessible verification as increasing inclusion, the chaotic rollout enabled dishonest behavior. Some see it as prioritizing revenue over trustworthy information.
Rebranding and Product Changes
Part of Musk’s overhaul involves Twitter’s visual identity and features:
- Twitter’s fonts, color scheme and apps shifted from blue hues to basic black and white – abandoning brand consistency.
- Product experiments include extra-long tweets, encouraging use of pseudonyms, integrating payments and crypto wallet features, and acquiring companies like ThredUp.
Our headquarters tonight pic.twitter.com/GO6yY8R7fO— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 24, 2023
While Musk promises “major improvements,” critics argue his scattered product changes lack strategy and destroy brand recognition. They say new features are rolled out on a whim without research.
The results of Musk’s overhaul on Twitter’s business health are concerning:
- In Q4 2022, Twitter’s revenue declined 40% year-over-year to $1.025 billion – missing Musk’s projections, according to Exchange Wire.
- According to The New York Time, advertising revenue specifically dropped by roughly $100 million compared to Q3 2022, impacted by advertiser hesitation.
- According to Daily Mail, back in November 2022, 100 of Twitter’s top advertisers halted spending after Musk’s takeover.
- Twitter’s market value has halved since Musk’s offer, destroying billions in shareholder value. Stock dropped from $53 to around $23, you can see this on the BBC report posted on 17 Jul 2023.
- Job cuts helped slash costs but could hinder revenue expansion. Layoffs will result in over $100 million in severance.
Experts attribute financial instability to reduced ad spending due to brand safety concerns over content changes – jeopardizing Twitter’s core revenue source.
Employee Culture Collapse
Back in Dec 2022, StephenSon, reported that the remaining Twitter employees face low morale and a high-pressure environment:
- Mid-level managers were fired for criticizing Musk on internal Slack channels. Others were pushed out or resigned.
- CNBC tell us that back in November 2022, Musk emailed staff to expect “long hours at high intensity” going forward, telling them “Only exceptional performance” would constitute a passing grade.
- Based on Business Today, over 80% employees Musk confirms he has fired since the acquisition.
- According to Rest of World, recent data shows almost 90% of current employees believes that Twitter will fail under Musk leadership.
While Musk demands loyalty and performance, his risky style might bring damages to the internal culture of the brand. Trust in leadership among remaining staff is dangerously low.
What Twitter’s Future Holds
Elon Musk says he wants to transform Twitter into the most trusted and inclusive online platform. A noble goal, no doubt. But the way he’s going about it – making big, sudden changes on his own – could end up destroying the very things that make Twitter such a valuable brand.
Elon Musk has declared he wants to transform Twitter into an all-inclusive app that people can use for payments, news and food orders. Here's a look at what has changed since he took over the platform nearly six months ago. https://t.co/sLvW0QIva1— The New York Times (@nytimes) April 7, 2023
Firing huge chunks of the staff, undoing safety protections, scaling back content filtering, allowing impersonation, pushing out features before they’re ready – all of this goes against proven branding strategies. It jeopardizes the core of what Twitter is and what it means to people.
Without thoughtful leadership and input from users, Twitter is in danger of losing its connective power – the thing that made it so invaluable in the first place. Musk still has a chance to right the ship before his questionable changes sink Twitter for good. But he needs to engage the community and steer thoughtfully if Twitter is going to survive.
The choice is his: will he rein in the chaos before it’s too late? Or will his unilateral moves permanently damage the Twitter brand, culture and community? The clock is ticking.
While Musk aims to improve Twitter, his approaches leave much uncertainty. Sudden transformation often breeds instability and distrust – gutting Twitter’s workforce, financials, culture and brand recognition.
The coming months will determine whether Twitter becomes an improved “everything app” under Musk, or collapses from the leader’s unchecked whims.