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How Elon Musk Wants To Reach 1 Billion Twitter Users

Social Media

Isadora Teich wrote this article


There has been a lot of drama surrounding Elon Musk, his companies, and his bid to buy Twitter.

Recently, employees of SpaceX who released an open letter criticizing Musk’s behavior on social media were fired.

It has also been reported that Musk was ten minutes late to his first all-hands-on Twitter meeting, which he attended via video chat. He also spent the end of the meeting talking about aliens.

However, Elon Musk has plans to take Twitter to a billion users. Here is how he says he is going to do it.

Twitter’s Current Numbers

Currently, the social media platform has about 430 million users around the world. While this may seem like a lot, Twitter is actually not even in the top 10 social media platforms globally.

The top platforms: Facebook, YouTube, Whatsapp, and Instagram, all have over 2 billion users globally. Sitting at 1 billion users or more, we have the Chinese Super App WeChat, as well as the game-changing TikTok.

Statistic: Most popular social networks worldwide as of January 2022, ranked by number of monthly active users (in millions) | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

To take an app from only 430 million users to a billion is a lofty goal. Here is how Elon Musk told Twitter employees that he wants to accomplish that.

Will Twitter Become A Super App?

In the west, Super Apps have not yet caught on. However, in Asia, they are wildly popular.

Super Apps essentially combine multiple services, often from a variety of companies, into one app interface.

Users can do things like hail rides, buy plane tickets, order food, text, and pay for it all through one interface. One of the most widely used in the world is China’s WeChat.

At the meeting, Musk told Twitter employees:

“There’s no WeChat equivalent outside of China. You basically live on WeChat in China. If we can recreate that with Twitter, we’ll be a great success.”

There are numerous Super Apps throughout Asia outside of Wechat. This includes Singapore’s Super App Grab and India’s Paytm. One newer one is Careem, which we have covered on the blog before.

In the west, we do not have anything quite like this yet. For a few years, experts have been wondering why.

Has the right one just not been invented yet? Or do westerners not really have a need or desire for these apps?

The Super App Problem

Via WeChat

Some wonder if Americans will never take to Super Apps. For one, many countries where Super Apps have flourished have very different cultures around tech and money.

While we developed our tech culture around desktop computers, many other countries are mobile-first.

This means that, as they use mobile phones for everything, they are more open to using apps to fulfill any and all daily needs. In fact, it is a necessity that their mobile apps can handle that.

Also, in the US, most people have been using traditional banking, debit cards, and credit cards for generations. Many other countries around the world have cash cultures.

This includes places like China, Mexico, The Philippines, and even Germany up until more recently.

While globally Super Apps have different functions, one that almost all of them share is that they allow you to make digital payments. This is also critical in many places where banking is less accessible.

As in the west, banking is accessible and people do not do all of their daily tasks on mobile, some say that Super Apps may be a harder sell here.

Taking Cues From TikTok

Something we have seen a lot is social platforms trying to capture the magic of TikTok.

For example, YouTube introduced Shorts and Instagram introduced Reels. Both of them have been criticized for being depositories of outdated TikToks.

Musk complimented TikTok for having an algorithm that is “not boring” and told employees “we could hone Twitter in the same way.”

It is undeniable that the TikTok algorithm works far better than most other social media sites. However, this may be due to the very nature of the site.

The main draw of TikTok is its “For You” page, where users go specifically to see what the app’s algorithm delivers to them.

Other social platforms are built around the premise that you curate your own list of followed accounts, and keep up with them. For this reason, users do not like Instagram, for example, butting in with recommendations and boosted posts.

Perhaps, it is not an algorithm problem at all.

Musk Wants To Take On Serious Problems On Twitter

While people often talk about the unscrupulous practices and scandals of Meta, Facebook’s parent company, Twitter has had its own history of global problems.

Kenyan journalist Odanga Madung wrote for Wired:

To the West, Twitter under Dorsey’s reign from 2015 to 2021 often looked like an acidic, hate-fuelled, raging dumpster fire. But what westerners got was Twitter’s platinum version. It’s the version made by people who take their civic problems seriously because those problems are theirs too. Misinformation, hate speech, and manipulation on the platform is much worse in my corner of the world and Dorsey’s legacy in Africa is even more neglectful and hypocritical than his legacy in the Western world.

For this reason, it makes sense that Musk expressed two big goals for Twitter’s future with employees. He said:

“I think Twitter can be much better about informing people of serious issues.”

He also wants Twitter to contribute to creating a “stronger” and “longer lasting” society where people are “better able to understand the nature of reality.”

One big advantage Elon Musk has is that he has seen numerous social media companies fail at this over the years. He can learn from their mistakes.

Spam, Trolls, and Fake Accounts

One thing Musk has already taken steps to address is Twitter’s huge unchecked troll and bot problem. He actually threatened to abandon Twitter entirely if they did not show him how many users are fake.

During the call, he suggested that making users pay to be verified might help. Musk said that “it should be much more expensive to have a troll army.”

He also suggested adding an “irony” label so users could directly tell when someone is not being serious.

The irony label raises some interesting questions. For one, Twitter is famous for generating angry mobs. Numerous public figures have even left the platform permanently because of these mobs.

Sometimes, this occurs because people take something someone tweeted out of context. Could a digital irony trigger warning help with this?

While this is a problem, it also must be recognized that you can’t stop people from acting in bad faith. People would undoubtedly abuse the irony label.

Also, trying to put a paywall on trolling may be limited in its success. Some people would definitely pay to continue acting in bad faith online.

Final Thoughts

All in all, it will be very interesting to see what changes come to Twitter, and how it evolves after the Elon Musk takeover.

As usual, when it comes to Elon Musk, people are incredibly polarized. Some say that this will save Twitter, which was stagnating under Jack Dorsey. Others say that Twitter is now doomed for collapse.

What do you think? Comment below!

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