Elon Musk can’t be Twitter’s techno king without loyal subjects

Elon Musk intends to buy Twitter TWTR 0.16%

doubted by almost everyone, including himself, in recent weeks, but Thursday’s question-and-answer session with the company’s thousands of employees showed his interest in the social media platform remains strong. How willing thousands of Silicon Valley employees will be to work for the richest and most indecisive man in the world is another question.

Just showing up was a good start for Mr. Musk. Admittedly that’s a low bar, but for someone who often flouts business propriety and sometimes the rules, participation was hardly a given. He then described Twitter with an unusual warmth for him. While some people choose hairstyles to express themselves, he says he enjoys Twitter as a particularly effective megaphone for his ideas.

He doesn’t lack that. In response to employees’ questions, Mr. Musk described grand plans to transform a rather niche social media network into something of a super app, home to a billion people. Posts should be allowed to be “pretty rude,” but people need to feel comfortable. Revenue comes from ads, but also from payments and subscriptions. And the jobs of remote workers are very safe – provided their work is “extraordinary”.

With specifics apparently lacking, it’s certainly worth asking: In a world where remote work is now the norm for white-collar workers, how many people will choose to stake their careers on Mr. Musk’s subjective appreciation? And who’s going to sign up to run this unscripted show?

Mr Musk also said on Thursday that he doesn’t care about titles, noting that he’s “technoking” legally as a leading Tesla. But he also said he expects Twitter staff to listen to him on the development of the service. He clearly wants to be in charge, but will likely ask someone else to execute them.

Mr. Musk has had great success motivating talented people to build the impossible. However, rocket ships and electric vehicles both turned out to be quite “S3XY”. Today’s market has chewed up and spat out the social media sector, exposing its pitfalls.

We know bots are inevitable. We know that advertisers often avoid controversial content. And we know that adding more engaging TikTok-like video content could put further pressure on ad monetization in the near term. No one is safe: Meta Platforms has lost more than half of its market value this year, and Twitter’s stock would have performed even worse were it not for Mr. Musk’s dodgy bid. With interest rates rising and consumers on edge, some sell-side channel checks suggest online ad spend could be getting worse.

Aside from leadership, a job at a social media company isn’t exactly the most inviting opportunity right now. If Mr. Musk really “loves” Twitter and wants to see it fly, he might try to be a little more loveable.

Elon Musk has maintained close ties with Beijing to build Tesla’s business in China. Now that it’s buying Twitter and focusing on free speech, WSJ examines how China has used the social media platform to spread its views and why this is a cause for concern. Photo illustration: Sharon Shi

write to Laura Forman at laura.forman@wsj.com

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https://www.wsj.com/articles/elon-musk-cant-be-twitters-technoking-without-loyal-subjects-11655477751?mod=rss_markets_main Elon Musk can’t be Twitter’s techno king without loyal subjects

Luke Plunkett

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