Inspired or foolish?
The move by Elon Musk to rebrand Twitter as X and turn it into a WeChat or Alibaba lookalike has divided opinion.
Is this the move of a genius (one who is already the richest man in the world, let’s be honest, so he probably knows a thing or two about business). Or is it just plain daft to destroy all that the famous blue bird has achieved in its short life, to make this the communications go to go-to form everyone from Trump and the late Queen, to the person sitting next to you.
Anyone in Loyalty knows the danger of messing with something that customers feel belongs to them, and Twitter most certainly has belonged to us until recently. A Twitter account belonged to the person who used it, and no-one else. It could contain the thoughts of a leader or the rantings of an idiot. It didn’t matter, not even if the two happened to be the same person.
Twitter revolutionised communications because there were few boundaries. It meant that everything from a simple comment to a damning video could go online instantly, there to be read, digested and judged by its audience, which could be a handful of people or millions. Only in China has there been significant restrictions, which is why Alibaba and WeChat managed to get a grip on the market.
But Twitter has not been without its problems.
Advertising revenue has always failed to live up to expectations, and in fact under Musk’s unpredictable rule, it has halved. But as with Google, the value of the company rests (or rested in this case) in its brand, and this has now been demolished.
As a PR exercise, the launch is a winner in terms of column inches. The world’s media have responded with outrage, shock, horror, despair and a few understanding nods.
The latter come from those who understand that to create a WeChat type experience for users, that can take care of every aspect of their lives, it needed a fresh start. X gives it that. It is now free to move forward into payments, commerce, tourist information (and its accompanying ad revenue) as well as the communications, videos and lifestyle stuff already on Twitter. Almost certainly, in the future there will be an X loyalty program and X rewards.
So what now for this morphing company?
As part of the rebranding, posts on Twitter will be known as X’s, instead of tweets, according to Musk.
The X logo ties in with X Corp, a shell company formed in April that now houses Twitter.
Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino has confirmed that the design overhaul is just the beginning of Twitter’s transformation into a “global marketplace” for various services spanning messaging to banking.
Musk hinted a rebrand was imminent through a poll to gather users’ votes on Twitter’s default colour, before asking them to suggest an X logo for the rebrand.
“If a good enough X logo is posted tonight, we’ll make it go live worldwide tomorrow”, said Musk on Sunday (23 July).
Pictures showing an X were also projected onto Twitter’s US offices, although Musk stated that logo is temporary.
He tweeted the design “probably changes later, certainly will be refined”, in response to a user providing the image.
Twitter currently has heavy debt and negative cash flow. During his ownership of the company, he has also moved to lay-off thousands of staff and pushed paid-for features.
There is now a really good chance that Musk will alienate Twitter’s original, and once fiercely loyal user base. If it does, there is always Facebook, or Zuckerberg’s Threads.
There are alternatives, even to Twitter. There always are.