I’ve been losing Twitter followers over the past few days, but like everyone else on the platform I know that it’s not my fault. I can safely blame Elon Musk.
The successful move by the world’s richest man to purchase the social media service this week has prompted a number of longtime users to get out while the going is good. There are fears the entrepreneur will twist Twitter to serve his own ends, or subvert freedom of speech (rather than protect it, which is what he has repeatedly said he will do).
Even with hints of upcoming changes that will please die-hard Tweeters, the dominant theme of Musk’s acquisition is that he will ruin Twitter’s customer experience (CX).
When people talk about Musk ruining Twitter, of course, the “customers” they are referring to are simply users. People like me, who don’t pay Twitter anything. In fact, I have seen surprisingly little speculation of how Musk’s vision might enhance the experience for the business customers who actually drive Twitter’s revenue.
Advertising on Twitter has slowly become a more visible part of our timelines over the past few years, with a promoted post appearing roughly every half a dozen tweets or so. What might Musk’s considerable experience in the application development space —he sold a web software company co-founded with his brother soon after college — lead him to do to improve Twitter’s targeting and personalization capabilities?
There is also the many companies who pay Twitter nothing in terms of ad dollars but rely upon it as a channel for people to reach out with customer service issues. Will Musk be the person who finally connects the dots and creates deeper customer service functionality (or even integrations with existing service platforms) to create an answer to Facebook Messenger for Business?
In between marketing and support is another crucial phase of the customer journey: selling and purchasing. As one of the original “PayPal mafia” and founder of the online bank X.com, Musk knows all about reducing friction in financial service processes. This could make him an invaluable leader if Twitter expands further into paid user services such as subscriptions or NFTs.
Throw in Musk’s involvement in non-profit research firm OpenAI and there are many other opportunities to bring CX innovation to Twitter.
All this assumes Musk can translate his skills and background into decisions that meet or even exceed customer expectations. There is evidence to suggest he’s already done that at Telsa, an electric car company which pairs in-depth driver profiles with dynamic personalization that happens inside its vehicles (like a dash that can change its buttons to reflect individual preferences). Updates to its cars’ features, functionality and performance are also wirelessly and proactively transmitted to offer greater seamlessness.
While CNBC recently reported on an irate customer who waited two years for a Tesla refund, meanwhile, the company has gotten lots of attention for an almost white glove VIP approach to repairs.
I don’t want to sound too rah-rah about this acquisition, and I am as suspicious of billionaires and their motives as anyone. However I’d also like to point out that Twitter is hardly held up as an exemplar of great CX today. Beyond its ongoing struggles to stem misinformation and hate speech, there are basic feature requests, such as an edit button, which have long been ignored.
Elon Musk has already proven his vast fortune allows him to do almost whatever he wants. Let’s hope that giving Twitter a solid CX makeover is among his ambitions.
Shane Schick tells stories that help people innovate, and to manage the change innovation brings. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and Yahoo Canada and is the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.