With well over 82 million followers on Twitter, Elon Musk is arguably the biggest influencer on the social media platform.
Sure, celebrities like Justin Bieber have higher numbers, although he hasn’t tweeted for several weeks. Yet, when Musk tweets, people take action. In terms of what social media influence even means to begin with (hint: it is not about which scarf to purchase or where to shop), Musk is the obvious choice because there are millions and millions of people he influences in a real and authentic way.
Just one recent example is a poll he conducted a few days ago. He asked whether it should be up to shareholders whether Twitter goes private. Almost three million people responded, which is remarkable because the question wasn’t about Coke versus Pepsi or your favorite pop song. It means three million people are paying attention to what he says and what he is asking, even when it comes to the inner-workings of the social media platform itself. Here’s the poll and the results:
In recent days, Musk has made it obvious he wants more than just a seat at the Twitter table. If you have been following the drama lately, you know he invested as a shareholder and currently owns 9.2% of the iconic brand. Most of us figured he would then join the board, but that might have been wishful thinking. Everyone has their own theory, but my guess is that there was a disconnect between the current Twitter leadership and what Musk wants to do to change the platform (namely, make it less restrictive on free speech and then to decentralize it).
An even bigger surprise? Musk then announced he wants to offer $54.20 per share to take the company private. Some Twitter users are learning new investment terms along the way, such as a poison pill strategy (e.g., where some investors can buy more shares to fend off a hostile takeover) and a white knight shareholder (e.g., another entity purchases the company instead).
If this were an Amazon Prime movie starring action star Chris Pine, there would also be some sort of drug smuggling angle, cuts to boardroom scenes showing people in anguish and turmoil, and possibly a few yachts.
One question that hasn’t been asked yet, though, is this:
What if Elon Musk abandons the whole idea and gave up on Twitter?
There are other platforms out there, even if none of them have the same cachet as Twitter. I can’t see Musk switching over to Instagram, but there is a precedent for a major influencer starting his own social media platform. Musk is well-known as someone who will make a quick decision, and maybe all of this drama is wearing thin. If he stops using Twitter, it could create a massive domino effect where his 82 million followers look for greener pastures. Twitter, meet #crickets.
I doubt any of that will happen. Social media is a distraction for all of us, a way to punch out a quick comment and see the reaction. It’s addictive, and it works. I’ve been an avid user since launch. It’s still my main platform of choice.
It should be said, however, that letting Musk buy Twitter makes way more sense than the alternative. Namely, what if he does cut himself off from the fold, creates his own platform, and ends up doing the one thing that will frustrate the board to no end? Meaning, what if he turns Twitter into a once-popular graveyard?
That’s when we should really start to worry about the future of social media.