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Musk asks court to halt upcoming Twitter trial



A US judge allowed Elon Musk to amend his complaint against Twitter, but rejected an effort to delay the trial

Twitter: © AFP/File JULIEN DE ROSA

Elon Musk asked a US judge Thursday to halt an upcoming trial over his troubled bid to take over Twitter, after the embattled social media company balked at the Tesla’s chief’s demand to freeze the litigation.

Musk’s request comes two days after he revived his $44-billion takeover plan — the latest of a whiplash-inducing series of reversals in the high-stakes saga.

Having pulled out of the transaction in July, prompting Twitter to sue him for breach of contract, the unpredictable billionaire on Tuesday offered to reinstate the $54.20-per-share offer — on condition the Delaware court halt the lawsuit against him.

A trial is scheduled to start on October 17.

“There is no need for an expedited trial to order Defendants to do what they are already doing and this action is now moot,” said a filing prepared by Musk’s attorneys that alluded to his latest offer.

“Yet, Twitter will not take yes for an answer. Astonishingly they have insisted on proceeding with this litigation, recklessly putting the deal at risk and gambling with their stockholders interests.”

The filing said Twitter had opposed a suspension on the “theoretical possibility” of lack of financing for the transaction, adding that Musk has access to financing to close the deal “on or around October 28.”

In a statement, Twitter said its stance was based on Musk’s repeated efforts to derail the legislation, saying his latest appeal to the court “is an invitation to further mischief and delay.”

The company said Tuesday it expects to close the buyout deal at the $54.20 price agreed in April.

Analysts say the litigation provides leverage to Twitter against the risk of another shift by Musk.

Twitter “thought they had a deal before,” said Adam Badawi, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley. “So to actually accept something from (Musk), it’s going to have to be as ironclad as it possibly can.

“But if details (can be) worked out, litigation will be off.”

“I imagine Twitter will want to put the $44 billion in escrow, or a very large amount of money, to show his good faith and commitment to actually getting this done,” Badawi said.

On Wednesday, Delaware Judge Kathaleen McCormick said she still planned to go ahead with the trial, which was put on a fast track in July.

As of now, Musk is scheduled to be deposed in the case on Monday, CNBC reported.

A serial entrepreneur made rich through his success with Tesla electric cars, Musk began to step back from the Twitter deal soon after it was agreed.

Musk said in July he was canceling the purchase because he was misled by Twitter concerning the number of fake “bot” accounts, allegations rejected by the company.

Twitter meanwhile has sought to prove Musk was contriving excuses to walk away — simply because he changed his mind.

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The Best Marketing Strategy Is Choosing One Tactic at a Time



The Best Marketing Strategy Is Choosing One Tactic at a Time

Contrary to the pressure you might be feeling, you really don’t need to be everywhere simultaneously. It’s easy to become overwhelmed thinking about the seemingly endless options to choose from. Most business owners feel pressure to juggle multiple social media accounts, email sequences, public relations efforts, etc. It’s enough to leave anyone with a headache — and a loss in which direction to move.

Though some would argue that showing up in different places will help you reach as many people as possible, that shouldn’t be your end goal. To grow and increase brand awareness, it’s about reaching the right people — not all people.

If you don’t know where to start? Choose one tactic at a time. Doing one thing incredibly well is much more strategic than doing a handful of things mediocrely. 

Start with your business goals

The key word here is your. Too often, we get wrapped up in what others do. This brand is on TikTok, that brand has a podcast, and this brand has countless influencers. The problem is that none of those brands have your mission, audience, or goals. So if you develop your marketing strategy around their approach, it’s bound to fall flat.

Establish your end goal first. Then, move into what tactic is going to help you get there. All businesses are in different places — even if they’re selling the exact same things. “They do it, so we should too” isn’t the way to go. Instead, be selfish, put your brand first, and get clear on your goals before moving forward.

Different stages of business, different goals. If you’re unsure which tactic to focus on, establishing your goals will point you in the right direction. 

Startups and early stage companies

Once you have a place to send people, like a website, consider moving into public relations strategies. PR allows new businesses to move in two ways: wide and deep. You can go wide by sharing insight into your audience or industry, reaching as many people as possible. And you can go deep by offering a tactical approach to said audience or industry. 

Many entrepreneurs think social media should be their main (and first) priority, but if you want to grow quickly, there are better moves. These channels can take longer to build up, whereas showcasing your expertise through different PR efforts will help you build credibility while giving you social proof to feature on your website. 

Established companies looking for new customers

Let’s say you’re an established company with a handful of basic customers, but hoping to expand and reach new people. If you want to attract new customers, it’s time to meet them where they’re at. If you’re more B2B focused and want to reach different professionals, LinkedIn is your best bet. However, if your audience is more Gen Z-focused, TikTok is a better use of your time. 

You don’t need to be on every single platform. You only need to spend time on one, maybe two (should you have the resources) channels that your ideal customers use regularly. Then, once you have a handle on your channel(s), consider expanding to others.

Established companies looking for referrals & repeat business

There’s power in not forgetting about your current customer base. If you’re looking for more referrals and repeat business, one marketing tactic to focus on are loyalty programs. Should an image of a well-worn punchcard come to mind, know there are plenty of other forms a loyalty program can take. First-timer discounts, referral rewards, and spending points, to name a few. To convince your current customers to stick around and share the wealth with others, think about a reward or discount that would boost their loyalty.

Brick-and-mortar businesses can go with that classic punch card, while digital businesses can offer a specific percentage off for those who refer their business to someone who becomes an actual customer. PR and social media tend to get all the hype, but these internally-focused tactics can make a massive difference in the long run. The customer experience shouldn’t end with a sale. Remember to nurture those who’ve made your business successful in the first place. 

One tactic at a time

Marketing is a unique beast — one that leads to plenty of analysis paralysis (aka, when we end up doing nothing because the number of options is incredibly overwhelming). Fortunately, focusing on one tactic at a time allows us to hone in on our goals and allocate our resources accordingly. So think about your needs, bring in your audience, and choose the strategy that will help you move the needle forward.

Cover image source: allvision

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LinkedIn Publishes New Report on Recruitment Trends



LinkedIn Publishes New Report on Recruitment Trends

LinkedIn has published a new report on the latest trends in recruiting, based on a series of interviews with a range of HR professionals, along with LinkedIn user data, which highlights key shifts and changes, as per LinkedIn profiles and job listings.

The full, 29-page global report covers overall recruitment trends, while there are also regional reports which hone in on specific markets for closer analysis.

You can download all the different variations of the report here, but in this post, we’ll take a look at some of the highlights.

The report looks at five key elements of the recruiting process:

  • The role of recruiting
  • The impacts of economic uncertainty
  • Employer branding
  • Skills-first hiring
  • Internal mobility and upskilling

These are the key areas where LinkedIn’s data shows the biggest shifts, with the pandemic, in particular, changing the way many people look at their work, and what they want out of their careers.

Each section provides a series of predictions for that element, and how the recruiting landscape is changing.

Which is particularly relevant in regards to flexible work – though that’s still not the key focus for candidates.

LinkedIn Future of Recruiting Report

There are also notes on LinkedIn usage trends, and how recruiters are searching for candidates in the app.

LinkedIn Future of Recruiting Report

There are also overviews of how new technology, like generative AI, will impact recruiting, along with trend notes on learning, upskilling, and how employers and candidates vary in their perspective of each.

Most of this, of course, is very industry-specific, so not overly indicative of LinkedIn usage trends or shifts, but there are some valuable data points as to how people are changing their LinkedIn behaviors in line with the latest tools, features and trends, within their respective industries.

If you’re a HR pro, it’s definitely worth a look, while if you’re looking to get a better understanding of how people are using LinkedIn, there are also some valuable notes to consider.

You can download LinkedIn’s full Future of Recruiting report here.

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Elon Musk needs Twitter advertisers, but they’re not coming back



Elon Musk needs Twitter advertisers, but they’re not coming back

There’s no getting around it. Twitter’s survival in the coming months depends on how its new owner, Elon Musk, manages his relationship with a key group of people: advertisers.

It’s been a rocky pairing since October, when Musk officially took over and many big-name advertisers paused spending on the platform. Almost five months later, the company’s standing with the advertisers that historically make up 90 percent of its revenue still hasn’t measurably improved.

More than half of Twitter’s top 1,000 advertisers before the acquisition have stopped advertising on the platform as of February, according to data from digital marketing analysis firm Pathmatics and shared with Vox. Out of Twitter’s top 10 advertisers pre-acquisition, only six still advertise on the platform, according to the firm. That affects Twitter’s bottom line: The company’s revenue was down by 40 percent, according to a December report by the Wall Street Journal. Fewer people also appear to be visiting Twitter’s website where advertisers create ad campaigns: The number of users visiting Twitter’s advertising portal page was down 18 percent in February compared to a year before, according to data from digital intelligence firm SimilarWeb.

Vox spoke with several advertising executives, former Twitter employees, and other industry insiders who explained why Twitter’s relationship with advertisers continues to suffer.

Sources described a lack of confidence in Musk’s ability to keep his promises about stopping Twitter from turning into a “free-for-all hellscape,” high turnover in Twitter’s sales department, and confusion about the company’s policies regarding content moderation.

Chief among their concerns is a perception that Musk has turned Twitter into a place where people can post racist, sexist, or otherwise harmful speech without much consequence. Major corporations don’t want to jeopardize what they call “brand safety” by associating with offensive content. Musk has taken a lax approach to content moderation — such as allowing Neo-Nazis, white nationalists, and other controversial figures back on the platform in the name of free speech.

Companies also worry about affiliating with Musk himself as he continues to post offensive tweets, including a recent one mocking a disabled Twitter employee (Musk apologized after facing widespread backlash). Making matters worse, some advertising executives say they no longer know who to talk to about their concerns because Musk has fired or laid off many key members of Twitter’s sales and brand safety teams. All of this, insiders say, has resulted in weaker trust in Twitter among a relatively small group of people who control major ad budgets.

“Elon doesn’t understand how advertising works,” said Lou Paskalis, a longtime ad industry executive and founder of AJL Advisory, a firm that consults with brands on their marketing strategies. “I think he thinks it’s a science first and then an art, when in fact, it’s an art first and then a science.”

Twitter did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Musk, however, discussed the company’s relationship with advertisers who may be hesitant to return to the platform in an interview at a Morgan Stanley conference earlier this month.

“What I’d say to advertisers and brands is: Use Twitter for yourself and believe what you see on Twitter, not what you read in the newspapers,” said Musk. “Because what you see on Twitter is the real thing and what you read in newspapers is not.” Musk said that hate speech on Twitter is actually lower than it was before he took over and that brands worried about their reputation can choose what kind of tweets they want to run their ads next to. Several recent outside studies have found a sustained increase in hate speech such as anti-LGBTQ and antisemitic slurs in the months since Musk took over, but Twitter has said that the “reach” of hate speech, or how much it’s being seen, has decreased (which is hard to verify independently without access to Twitter’s data).

In the end, Twitter needs advertisers more than advertisers need Twitter. Compared to Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, Twitter has a much smaller, niche user base. Brands can easily shift their advertising budgets to the bigger players in social media. Whether or not Musk can win back brands — or figure out a feasible alternate plan to make money — will determine whether the company will ultimately go bankrupt. While Musk says Twitter is close to breaking even now that he’s drastically cut costs, he warned in November of the possibility of bankruptcy, and will see that risk increase if advertisers fail to return.

Although Twitter is smaller than its competitors, it has had an outsized influence in shaping world politics, news, and culture. So the precarious state of Twitter’s finances ultimately reflects the fragility of the future of Twitter itself and the future of discourse online, since there still isn’t a replacement nearly as popular.

“I don’t trust Elon at his word”

The advertising business — especially the kind of big-brand advertising that happens on Twitter — is built on establishing close working relationships between powerful advertising execs who control multimillion-dollar marketing budgets and the people who run Twitter’s sales team.

But many of those relationships have deteriorated in the past few months as the initial uncertainty around Musk’s takeover has turned into more permanent chaos.

One advertising executive who oversees tens of millions of dollars in ad spending for major brands on Twitter told Vox that a majority of their clients temporarily paused spending on Twitter in the 72 hours after Musk took over “just to avoid being caught up in something unpredictable” but thought that the situation would settle down. (This source spoke with Vox on the condition of anonymity due to fear of professional repercussions.)

“There’s a lot of noise in this industry,” they said. “If a platform is having issues and bad things are happening, you stop and wait for the issues to go away,”

But then, new issues emerged. Mass layoffs and resignations hit key leaders on the sales and brand safety teams. Musk began abruptly rolling out controversial product and policy changes, like the botched initial rollout of his Twitter Blue verification service which people used to impersonate public figures, or his “general amnesty” plan to reinstate thousands of accounts that were previously banned for things like hate speech or bullying. At the same time, Musk himself kept fanning flames by posting polarizing tweets, like a conspiracy theory about the violent attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband. And so a majority of clients extended their Twitter spending pause.

In recent months, Twitter has offered steep discounts and promotions, the advertising executive said, to encourage clients to resume advertising. But advertisers are reluctant to make deals when they don’t know who they’ll be working with.

“I don’t know if the person I’m negotiating with today will be there today, tomorrow, or by the end of the week,” the ads executive said. “Trust is such an important currency in advertising. I don’t trust Elon at his word.”

If advertisers don’t trust Musk, it would help if he had a reliable lieutenant. But many trusted executives — even some who Musk initially praised — have left the company, including chief customer officer Sarah Personette, head of trust and safety Yoel Roth, and VP of client solutions Robin Wheeler. Several sources Vox spoke with were unsure if recently appointed sales head Chris Riedy is still working at the company. News outlet Platformer reported in February that Riedy was cut in a recent round of layoffs, but other sources close to the company said he is still working at Twitter.

Twitter has also halted a practice that’s an industry standard: convening its advertising influence council, a quarterly group meeting with around three dozen top advertisers, according to sources. The council was an important venue for Twitter execs to discuss “real business issues” with some of its biggest advertisers, said Paskalis. It allowed Twitter executives to build key relationships over time with powerful chief marketing officers of major brands and ad agency executives. When prior Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey met with the council, for example, he explained his mission to make Twitter a global town square while still balancing user safety, Paskalis said. Musk met once with the council in November shortly after he took over, but according to Paskalis, the group has not met since.

Making things more complicated is how Musk initially took a publicly combative approach, at times, to the same advertisers Twitter needs to woo. In November, he publicly threatened to “thermonuclear name & shame” advertisers who left Twitter.

“There are other places I can spend my money without having to worry that I’ll be attacked by Elon, or my clients will be, or that he will say something that will force me to turn off my ads,” one advertiser said.

Musk, who has long been a provocateur on social media, has shown no signs of buttoning up his public persona to minimize advertiser fallout. In recent weeks, in addition to his public dispute with a disabled former Twitter employee, he has tweeted comments defending the “QAnon Shaman” who stormed the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, and shared a sexist joke meme comparing women to volatile “creatures.”

“What we hear from Elon every single day gives us new outreach and entree to advertisers,” said Rashad Robinson, president of civil rights group Color of Change, which is pressuring advertisers to drop Twitter because it says the platform is promoting harmful content.

Robinson said his group is planning to increase pressure on advertisers that continue to stick with Musk.

What Twitter could do to save its business

It’s clear that Twitter needs to change its advertising approach if it’s going to keep the lights on. Musk has tried changing the company’s strategy to rely less on big-name brand advertisers. But the easiest solution would be to salvage Twitter’s relationship with brands — which some executives said is still possible if Musk gives up control.

Musk has his own ideas about how to make Twitter more profitable.

At first, Musk’s plan to deal with advertiser fallout was to become less reliant on advertising. Musk said he wanted to move Twitter to a subscription-based model in which the company would make most of its money by charging users for premium services. The problem is that Musk’s first attempt at that, its revamped version of Twitter Blue, had a disastrous initial rollout and, so far, still doesn’t have nearly enough subscribers to make a meaningful impact on the company’s bottom line (as of mid-January, it reportedly had 180,000 subscribers, or about 0.2 percent of the platform).

More recently, Musk has proposed another solution to his advertising problem: targeted advertising. The idea is that Twitter should make ads more specific to users’ interests based on what they’re tweeting about and by using machine learning to predict their preferences.

“Historically, with [Twitter’s] advertising being mostly irrelevant in the past, we’ve been wasting people’s time. And that’s not good. Going forward, Twitter will have very relevant, useful advertising,” Musk said at the Morgan Stanley conference earlier this month, saying this new approach will bring a “massive increase in revenue.”

Twitter’s new advertising model will be similar to Google’s in that it will target ads to people based on what they’re interested in, Musk said.

Many people with knowledge of the online ads industry — including former Twitter advertising and product employees Vox spoke with — agree with Musk that Twitter’s advertising products have room for improvement. But some questioned whether Musk’s approach made sense, since Twitter, unlike Google and Facebook, has less data it can use to target ads.

Facebook knows people’s backgrounds, friends, and interests because people largely use their real name to sign up and are friends with their real-world connections. Google knows its users’ interests based on what they’re actively typing in their search bar. Twitter, by contrast, doesn’t have all of that information for most of its users, since you don’t need to share your real name to make an account and most people passively scroll Twitter rather than search for specific content.

“Search advertising and advertising on Twitter are just different models altogether. It’s not even an apples-to-oranges comparison, it’s just completely different,” said Jason Goldman, the former VP of product at Twitter from 2007 to 2010. Goldman said Musk’s comments about making Twitter’s ads more like Google’s “reveal a pretty profound ignorance of how the online advertising industry has evolved in the last 20 years.”

Twitter also doesn’t have nearly the number of users that Facebook and Google have. And while Musk claims that Twitter’s daily active users are higher than ever, the latest outside estimates are mixed. Two analytics firms, SimilarWeb and Pathmatics, show a drop in Twitter’s user growth year over year in the past few months. Another firm, however, Apptopia, showed slightly higher numbers in the past three months when compared to the year prior.

Despite all the challenges, there may be some hope for Musk to regain trust with advertisers. The CEO of one of the largest advertising agencies in the world, WPP, recently said that Twitter “seems to be a lot more stable the last few months than perhaps it was toward the end of last year” and that “clients want to start to look at how they can come back onto Twitter.” An executive at another major advertising firm, Publicis, made similar comments in December, leaving room for its clients to return to the platform.

In recent weeks, Twitter announced new tools it’s working on that let advertisers make sure their ads aren’t shown next to controversial tweets — a sign that it’s trying to entice advertisers who are spooked about brand safety. It may take time to win them over: “There’s just very little trust at the moment in Twitter’s ability to actually follow through on those moderation promises,” said Ruben Schreurs, chief product officer at the ad media consultancy firm Ebiquity.

To regain trust, some ad executives see a simple solution to Musk’s problems: Find a new CEO. If Musk resigned, as he said he would by the end of this year, that would go a long way to alleviate advertisers’ concerns, sources said.

“He should resign as CEO, stop tweeting, become chair, appoint a board, and put in a governance structure,” said one advertising executive. But the problem is, they said, that “Twitter is now so fundamentally broken that even if you’ve got a new CEO, I’m not confident that that CEO will be around for a month.”

There may even be a middle ground: Musk could remain CEO if he publicly backs and commits to a sales leader with “gravitas” who commits to “very clear, well-informed standards for advertising on Twitter.” Then advertisers “will gladly start to return,” said Schreurs. “I’m pretty sure about that.”

In his conference call with Morgan Stanley, Musk said that Twitter was close to breaking even in profitability by the end of the year. While that may be true at the moment because of how aggressively Musk is cutting costs, he’ll need to also increase revenue to keep Twitter afloat.

If Musk doesn’t change his advertising strategy, we may continue to see a degraded, or all-out denigrated, Twitter. Already, Twitter is having reliability problems, with an uptick in network outages and product glitches. That will only increase if the company can’t afford to pay its staff to run the site well.

One former employee on Twitter’s sales team who spoke with Vox on the condition of anonymity for fear of professional repercussions said that when Musk took over Twitter, they were initially hopeful that he might be able to energize the company’s advertising operations and make the company more profitable and competitive.

Instead, Elon is “crushing the company and everything that it built,” they said. “For what end, I don’t know.”

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