Musk’s Plan To Get Enterprises, Govt Pay For Twitter May Conflict With His Free Speech Plan

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Elon Musk’s proposal to ask businesses and government bodies to start paying for using Twitter could be in direct conflict with his utopian idea to allow free speech on the platform, according to experts. Paying customers, including companies and governments, may ask for greater control in return for their money.

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Experts, however, believe that to achieve a successful paid model for its services, the microblogging site would need to polish the product first, which might also be in conflict with Musk’s free speech ideas.

 Sanchit Vir Gogia, Chief Analyst and CEO, Greyhound Research, told BusinessLine: “This move was very much expected, but when you plan to charge it needs to be a better product. Also, it’s a tricky road to walk on for Twitter if they want to have free speech.”

“If they plan to make governments pay, they would require Twitter to provide full access to the platform, which means letting them promote their select narrative and agenda that they stand for. Overall, for paid services to work for both enterprises and government bodies, Twitter will need to work on polishing the product, marketing services, add sophisticated tools and improve quality.”

According to Gogia, in its present form, Twitter has a long way to go in terms of refining its products, given that social-media peers such as Facebook and Google have institutionalised advertising within their business models, which is not the case for Twitter yet.

Hindu Business Line

Additional analyst comments:

1/ Billionaires using public platforms to change the narrative or further their ideas is always a risk, and we have heard similar concerns with Jeff Bezos owning The Washington Post. But given how Elon Musk has used Twitter to push the envelope on free speech, it is doubtful he will use Twitter for any ulterior motives. However, one can never rule out any possibility, especially when a company goes private and all decision making happens behind closed doors. 

2/ It might be noteworthy that such strategic changes can only be institutionalised when the company is taken private and away from public scrutiny. And that’s what Elon Musk is suggesting. The fact is until the team has the QoQ pressure, it will never be able to make bold and aggressive changes that need out of the box moves. It might help to know that even companies like Dell had to go private to change their product lines, teams, sales practices, etc. Then, of course, it bounced back into public markets and has been doing rather well since.

3/ Going private does mean a ton of ruthlessness, and that, combined with Elon Musk’s unusual management style, has many concerned, if not worried. But this has proven to be effective in the past. And maybe it is what is needed to up the ante for Twitter.

4/ Twitter needs a bit of a shakeup. The product has not moved by leaps and bounds as it should have, and key markets like India and China haven’t been utilised very much. For instance, there is no INR specific advertising policy. That is so surprising, considering they have so many active users from India. The focus on the country and monetisation is relatively poor. 

5/ What Elon Musk does very well is gather public opinion to shape product strategy. Plus, from a stakeholder perspective, it is a great offer. 

6/ People have concerns about Musk’s erratic behaviour, but his image on Twitter is very different from how he does business. Too much is being said about the fate of existing CEO Parag Agarwal. Sundar Pichai is an excellent example of thriving in Google despite having demanding founders. Founders can be challenging and erratic, but people can survive and thrive under them. 

7/ There is also talk that the focus would primarily be on NFT and crypto now, but crypto still doesn’t define revenues. 

8/ Musk is talking about the blue tick and institutionalising it at a dollar rate per month. That will unlock a lot of value. In terms of other measures that the company can use to open possibilities – it can be a great lead management sales engine, a great marketing engine for branding, and an excellent customer service engine.

9/ But Elon Musk and the new team will have to keep in mind that their idea of free speech is not an equitable concept in today’s day and age. What they think of free speech in the US could be very different in India. There are cultural and regional nuances, and those need to be respected. There has to be a more nuanced approach to how freedom of speech is handled in light of the laws of the land. And I don’t think the company has done justice to that. Twitter’s relationship with the government in India is one of the weakest links. 

10/ Lastly, many brands haven’t warmed up to the platform because they haven’t acclimatised the product to local demands.

<strong>Analyst: Sanchit Vir Gogia</strong>
Analyst: Sanchit Vir Gogia

Sanchit is the Chief Analyst, Founder & CEO of Greyhound Research, a Global, Award-Winning, Digital & Technology Research & Advisory firm.

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