Twitter sale could pique brands

Twitter sale could pique brands

Emphasis on free speech could lead to marketing opportunities

Elon Musk's Twitter profile is seen on a smartphone placed on printed Twitter logos in this illustration taken April 28, 2022. (Reuters photo)
Elon Musk's Twitter profile is seen on a smartphone placed on printed Twitter logos in this illustration taken April 28, 2022. (Reuters photo)

The prospective purchase of Twitter by billionaire Elon Musk, who has vowed to protect freedom of speech on the social media platform, could draw more engagement from young people, giving brands greater opportunities to tap the group, say marketing and media pundits.

On April 25, Twitter said it agreed to a takeover offer from the Tesla boss in a deal worth US$44 billion.

Mr Musk, the richest man on the planet with an estimated net worth of $274 billion, mentioned freedom of speech during his buyout comments, noting it was the bedrock of a functioning democracy.

He said he wanted to improve Twitter by enhancing the product with new features while making the platform's algorithms open source to increase trust, eliminating spam bots and authenticating all users.

According to global consultancy Insider Intelligence, the worldwide Twitter user base is expected to grow 2% year-on-year to 345 million in 2022.

Despite continued growth in its customer base, Twitter's share of global social network users is expected to remain steady at 9.7% in 2022, the consultancy said.

FREE SPEECH

Maureen Tan, chief executive of Wunderman Thompson Thailand, a marketing communications agency, told the Bangkok Post Twitter usage in Thailand does not have as high a penetration rate as other platforms, such as Facebook.

Twitter has a user base of 9 million in Thailand with penetration of around 13%, versus 70% on Facebook, she said.

Ms Tan said Twitter is used for different purposes in Thailand, such as finding the hottest trending topics of the day and breaking news, whereas Facebook is more driven by social and personal content.

Mr Musk said he plans to introduce a higher bar for removing offensive tweets, she said.

"If there is absolute free speech on Twitter, then it could be a platform where people have more freedom to share opinions and thoughts," Ms Tan said.

While some people will use it to share good news and happenings, there will be others looking at the "bad" side of events, with abuse sure to occur, she said.

"I believe the concern for law enforcement would be if Twitter becomes a more permissible haven for fake news, disinformation, hate speech and abusive content," said Ms Tan.

"I reckon whatever policies Elon Musk rolls out, local governments will keep a close eye on them, especially to determine if they are in compliance with local laws".

Mr Musk said fake accounts are going to be weeded out to make the platform clean, informed and trusted. But that would demonstrate an extreme level of governance from Twitter, she said.

GEN Z TARGET

According to Ms Tan, brands in Thailand have not invested much on Twitter because of the lack of a clear model for advertising and measuring return on investment.

Yet there are some good campaigns on Twitter that spread faster than on other social networks, becoming a trend and connecting a young audience.

She said the shift in ownership marks a good opportunity for brands to engage with Gen Z and urban audiences on Twitter.

"Brands can build great campaigns on Twitter to capture Gen Z if they are relevant to them and speak about what matters to them," said Ms Tan.

"We often fall flat when we try to use Twitter to promote products via the hard sell. Remember, this is a trends and news outlet, so share news that matters to your target audience or create new trends that they find interesting, not the other way around."

There needs to be other ways to measure success, such as the value of trending campaign hashtags, click-through rates to campaign sites and pages, and sentiment towards brands in mentions and hashtag numbers, she said.

Pawat Ruangdejworachai, chief executive of Media Intelligence, a media planning and creative agency, told the Bangkok Post having more free speech would drive the popularity of Twitter among young Thais, who generally favour Twitter and Telegram for social interaction.

"Despite the rapid growth of the Twitter user base over the past 3-4 years in Thailand, the platform has yet to gain mass usage as the topics mainly concentrate on Korean celebrities and political issues," he said.

As there is some hate speech on Twitter, valuable brands may be concerned about using the platform for their campaigns, said Mr Pawat.


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