Over the course of six months, the ups and downs of billionaire Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter affected the company’s share value and the engagement of both the public and employees. The conclusion of the deal, this Thursday (27), represents the end of this “purgatory” where the fate of the social network seemed uncertain.
The question now is what comes after purgatory: heaven, as Musk promises, or hell, as some experts (and tweeters) predict?
The key may be three problems already identified by the market that have plagued Twitter in recent years, especially aggravated by the pandemic. It all depends on how Musk tries to fix them – and whether he succeeds in that endeavor.
1) The audience is leaving
Reuters had access to an internal company report that attests to a steady and significant drop in its most active users since the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic in 2020.
The company considers a “heavy user” to be someone who logs in at least six times a week and makes at least three posts in that same period.
According to the document, they represent less than 10% of the total accounts, but generate 90% of the content and 50% of the global revenue.
The news generated several comments on Twitter itself, including among journalists who are “heavy users”. Among the hypotheses raised is the fact that the algorithm started to “punish” posts with links, encouraging everyone to create long “threads” (successive tweets on the same topic) that are more difficult to read and do not have the same performance.
“[Twitter] deprecates tweets with links. I used to come here to find things to read, and now there are only 457 threads of Trojan horses, and the link to the article is in the last post,” laments journalist Casey Johnston.
Another perception is that, after the pandemic and political friction in the US (where Twitter has its biggest revenue) in the last two years, large users have become targets of offensive and even criminal comments, without proper monitoring of the platform.
It is worth remembering that one of Elon Musk’s “promises” is exactly to reduce moderation, allowing more “freedom of expression” – according to the definition that Musk gives to this concept.
2) New trends are bad for advertisers
The same document accessed by Reuters points to a drop in interest in several subjects that used to move the platform and attract heavy users. Among them, fashion, celebrities and eSports. A good part of this audience would be migrating to Instagram and TikTok.
“Large communities are in decline,” the report concludes.
But if there are so many tweets about left and right generating fights and offenses, surely Twitter is still a pole for political debates, right? Musk himself has always defended the platform’s value as a “world square” where important discussions take place.
Again, the reality of numbers is different. Data indicates that events such as the US Capitol invasion in early 2021 gave audience spikes, but that audience did not hold up in the following months.
To make matters worse, the vacuum left by these themes is being filled by two other problematic trends for advertisers: cryptocurrencies and #nsfw (hashtag for the abbreviation “not safe for the work environment”, which brings together content usually associated with nudity and sex).
“There appears to be a significant discrepancy between what I believe are our company’s values and our growth patterns,” says one of the analysts in the report.
3) Employees are being ignored and quitting
Musk has already begun a fierce internal restructuring, which foresees a reduction in the global team – currently, around 7,500 employees. At the highest level, CEO Parag Agrawal, CFO Ned Segal and head of legal affairs and internal policies, Vijaya Gadde – considered the “head” of moderating content on the platform, have already been fired.
But even before his arrival, the company was already suffering from constant departures. The employees themselves were quitting, in part because of the company’s instability and lack of direction in recent years.
The Platformer website had access to internal satisfaction surveys. The results are not good and are expected to get even worse after the restructuring planned by the new owner.
In the last one, in April, the employee “engagement” index had dropped to 69 points. In 2021, it was 82. Another 38 metrics evaluated also dropped in the same period – among them, “internal communication”, “company pride” and “likelihood to recommend Twitter [como ambiente de trabalho]” .
Two even more worrying ones: “trust in the company” lost 24 points and “intention to stay [na empresa]” dropped 12 points. An earlier analysis from October 2021, long before Musk announced his purchase intent, already revealed that at least 13% of employees were planning to leave within the next two years.
The arrival of Musk alone could add fuel to this fire. His figure is still considered, at the very least, controversial by employees.
Prior to the completion of the sale, one of the employees told Platformer: “The choice at this point is, either the deal doesn’t go through, our shares drop even further and I start getting 50% of what I earned last year; or the deal gives right and I go to work for a weird kind of sociopath.”
Musk has a long history of raiding employees at his other company, Tesla: from blatant cuts to charges for face-to-face work and accusations of racism.