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The Musk Effect: from Twitter Blue to X

On July 23rd, Musk rebranded Twitter to ‘X’ - and the data speaks for itself. We noted an immediate drop in "Consideration", reflecting the widespread unpopularity of the move. It continued to trend downwards, when Musk announced that the Block feature would be removed.

Alexander Capon Senior Executive, Media Research 25 October 2023

It has been exactly one year since Elon Musk took the reins as Twitter’s new owner and CEO. The question that arose then, and still lingers now, is whether Musk’s leadership would make or break Twitter. A year later, site traffic is trending downwards, advertising revenue has fallen by half – oh, and ‘Twitter’ no longer officially exists, having been rebranded as ‘X’

Using BrandVue, Savanta’s daily brand tracking tool, we’ve produced a detailed chronology of how some of Musk’s key decisions have impacted Twitter. (A note: henceforth we will be referring to Twitter or X interchangeably.)

Twitter’s past year has provided a unique insight into how leadership directly impacts business beyond the bottom line. Twitter’s losses in revenue and users are broadly reported – but beyond that, Buzz and Brand Consideration – metrics that can reflect the less quantifiable reputation of the brand – are at an all-time low. Crucially, we can see links between controversial decision-making on behalf of Musk and drops in these key metrics over the course of the past year.

The Musk era begins

On October 27, 2022, the Twitter landscape changed forever when Elon Musk acquired the platform and assumed the role of CEO. Almost immediately, we observed a backlash in response to reports of Musk’s initial decisions as Twitter head. Stories emerged of employees being locked out of their work laptops without warning or explanation, leading to a slow rise in Negative Buzz, as illustrated by the chart below.

One of his most controversial moves occurred at the beginning of November, when Twitter Blue was launched, which allowed users to pay $8 per month for the once-coveted Blue Check Mark. This change led to an influx of fake celebrity and brand accounts, with one impersonating Eli Lilly, an American pharmaceutical company, making a misleading post claiming insulin would be made free, causing their share price to drop by 4%. Twitter Blue’s launch was halted on November 10th, but the tide of Negative Buzz continued, surpassing the social media average.

The interim period and Linda Yaccarino’s arrival

From November 2022 to July 2023, Twitter experienced a period of relative calm, with few large-scale changes to the essential infrastructure of the platform. The announcement of Linda Yaccarino as Musk’s successor as CEO of Twitter on May 12th, a role she took up on June 5th, created a spike in NET Buzz for Twitter, signifying a positive reception among the audience.

This period of peace would come to an end on July 1st, when Musk announced new limits on the number of tweets various account types could see each day, leading to a drop in consideration and reports of an exodus of advertisers from the site. The most controversial change, however, was yet to come.

The 𝕏 Era

On July 23rd, Musk rebranded Twitter to ‘X’.

The data speaks for itself – an immediate drop in consideration reflects the widespread unpopularity of the move. Consideration continued to trend downwards, with Musk’s announcement on August 18th that the Block feature would be removed and the suggestion that the platform may start charging fees for all users.

So, what makes the X rebrand so damning?

From an advertiser’s perspective, it appears that one of the most valuable aspects of Musk’s $44 billion investment was Twitter’s branding. Without the iconic Twitter imagery, brands may be less eager to advertise on the platform.

With over 390 million monthly users, the platform still commands a significant audience, but Musk’s leadership has undoubtedly had a reputational impact that needs to be addressed.

While it’s unlikely that all advertisers and users alike will abandon X entirely, the plummeting consideration since August may diminish the platform’s priority in advertising campaigns. Tools like BrandVue are here to help track how the decisions of your senior team can affect your business’s reputation among customers, users, and other businesses.

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