Quick check-in on the Elon Musk Twitter takeover, to see how things are going. So is Musk set to become the King of the Tweets any time soon?
Well, no, but it does potentially appear that the deal may be progressing once again, after Twitter recently provided Musk’s team with its ‘full firehose’ of tweets, in order to let them conduct their own analysis of fake profiles in the app.
According to a new report from Bloomberg, Musk has scheduled a meeting with Twitter employees for this Thursday, which will give Twitter staff a chance to ask Musk directly about his plans for the app.
As per Bloomberg:
“Elon Musk will address Twitter Inc. employees at a company-wide meeting this week, the first time the Tesla Inc. chief executive officer will meet with employees since agreeing to buy the company for $44 billion in late April. The virtual meeting is set for Thursday morning, and Musk will take questions from Twitter employees, the people said.”
Which should go well – no doubt Twitter employees will be completely open to hearing from the man who’s been publicly criticizing their colleagues and policies since launching his takeover push for the platform some 9 weeks ago.
As some readers may recall, Musk was actually scheduled to meet with Twitter staff back in April, following the news that he had purchased more than 9% of the company’s shares. At that time, Musk had just become Twitter’s biggest shareholder, and hadn’t launched a takeover push as yet – but after meeting with Twitter execs, and listening to their plans for the platform, Musk decided that he had no faith in the company’s management, and opted not to meet with staff as a result.
Since then, Musk has continually criticized Twitter’s processes, taking aim at everything from its growth strategies, to its flawed profile verification process, to its perceived left-wing bias, to the infestation of bots in the app.
The latter has become a key point of contention, with Musk posting a comment on May 13th which claimed that his Twitter takeover deal was effectively ‘on hold’ till Twitter could provide more evidence that its active user count was not dominated by bots accounts.
As noted, Twitter finally responded to this last week, when it gave Musk’s team access to its full tweet database, essentially putting the onus on them to conduct their own, independent analysis of its content, in order to disprove its claim that fake profiles only make up 5% of its users.
The fact that Musk is now willing to meet with Twitter staff seems like an indicator that this could have been enough to get the deal moving again. Though that’s only speculation, as we have no idea what Musk’s team will eventually find, or whether Musk himself will choose to believe, in any way, that its fake profile count is that low.
Because as Musk has repeatedly stated, he’s pretty confident it’s more than that.
20% fake/spam accounts, while 4 times what Twitter claims, could be *much* higher.
My offer was based on Twitter’s SEC filings being accurate.
Yesterday, Twitter’s CEO publicly refused to show proof of <5%.
This deal cannot move forward until he does.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 17, 2022
Yet, even if Musk does find that fake profiles make up more than 5%, that doesn’t mean that he can get out of the Twitter deal, as some have speculated, with Twitter falling back on its estimates that have been accepted by the SEC in its past performance reporting.
If Musk’s team actually found the number to be 20%, as Musk says, Twitter could incorporate its detection methodology into its future reports. But that still wouldn’t mean that Twitter has acted in bad faith in the deal, and sought to mislead Musk and Co. in the process.
Without clear ill intent, the deal seems likely to push ahead – and now Twitter staff will be able to press Musk on his vague plans for the app, which include targeting 200% growth over the next three years, as well as a 5x increase in Twitter revenue by 2028.
Musk has also said that he plans to cut 1,000 roles from the company over the next year, which will likely make this a particularly testy meeting.
But if Musk has any concerns, he’s not showing it, as he continues to tweet juvenile jokes in the app.
Because 69, it’s rude… get it?
It’s honestly hard to tell whether Musk is a genius visionary or a sheltered frat boy – and I guess, really, he could be both.
But his Twitter plans certainly seem ambitious, to say the least.
Maybe we’ll find out more this week.
TikTok Scales Back Live-Stream Commerce Ambitions, Which Could Be a Big Blow for the App
TikTok’s facing a significant reassessment in its business expansion plans, with the company forced to scale back its live eCommerce initiative in Europe and the US due to operational challenges and lack of consumer interest.
TikTok has been working to integrate live-stream shopping after seeing major success with the option in the Chinese version of the app. But its initial efforts in the UK have been hampered by various problems.
As reported by The Financial Times:
“TikTok had planned to launch the feature in Germany, France, Italy and Spain in the first half of this year, before expanding into the US later in 2022, according to several people briefed on the matter. But the expansion plans have been dropped after the UK project failed to meet targets and influencers dropped out of the scheme, three people said.”
TikTok has since refuted some of FT’s claims, saying that the reported timeline for its commerce push is incorrect, and that it’s focused on fixing problems with its UK operation before expanding, which is still in its roadmap. But the basis – that its program is not going as smoothly as planned – is correct.
TikTok’s UK shopping push has also faced internal problems due to conflicts over working culture and management.
Last month, reports surfaced that TikTok’s parent company ByteDance had been imposing tough conditions on its UK commerce staff, including regular 12-hour days, improbable sales targets, and questions over entitlements.
Now, it seems like the combination of challenges has led to a new growth dilemma for the app – which once again underlines the variance between Asian and western app usage trends.
Social media and messaging apps have become a central element of day-to-day life in several Asian countries, with apps like China’s WeChat and QQ now used for everything from purchasing train tickets to paying bills, to buying groceries, banking, and everything in between.
That spells opportunity for western social media providers, with Meta, in particular, looking to use the Chinese model as a template to help it translate the popularity of WhatsApp and Messenger into even more ubiquitous, more valuable functionality, which could then make them critical connective tools in various markets, solidifying Meta’s market presence.
But for various reasons, Chinese messaging trends have never translated to other markets.
Meta’s Messenger Bots push in 2016 failed to gain traction, and after its Messenger app became ‘too cluttered’ with an ever-expanding range of functionalities, including games, shopping, Stories, and more, Meta eventually scaled back its messaging expansion plans, in favor of keeping the app aligned with its core use case.
Meta then turned to WhatsApp, and making messaging a more critical process in developing markets like India and Indonesia. That expansion is still ongoing, but the signs, at present, don’t suggest that WhatsApp will ever reach the same level of ubiquity that Chinese messaging apps have.
Which then leads to TikTok, the world-beating short-form video app, which has seen massive growth in China, leading to whole new business opportunities, and even market sectors, based on how Chinese users have adapted to in-app commerce.
The Chinese version of TikTok, called ‘Douyin’, generated $119 billion worth of product sales via live broadcasts in 2021, an 7x increase year-over-year, while the number of users engaging with eCommerce live-streams exceeded 384 million, close to half of the platform’s user base.
Given this, you can see why TikTok would view this as a key opportunity in other markets as well – but as noted, Chinese market trends are not always a great proxy for other regions.
The decision to scale back its eCommerce ambitions is a significant blow to TikTok’s expansion plans, not only from a broader revenue perspective (and worth noting, TikTok’s parent company ByteDance recently cut staff due to ongoing revenue pressures), but also in regards to revenue share, and providing a pathway for creators to make money from their efforts in the app.
Unlike YouTube, TikTok clips are too short to add mid and pre-roll ads, which means that creators can’t simply switch on ads to make money from their content. That means that they need to organize brand partnerships to generate income, and on Douyin, in-stream commerce has become the key pathway to exactly that.
Without in-stream product integrations as an option, that will significantly limit creator earnings capacity in the app, which could eventually see them switch focus to other platforms, where they can more effectively monetize their output.
Which may not seem like a major risk, but that’s exact what killed Vine, when Vine creators called for a bigger share of the app’s revenue, then switched to Instagram and YouTube instead when Vine’s parent company Twitter refused to provide such.
Could TikTok eventually face a similar fate?
TikTok, of course, is much bigger than Vine ever was, and is still growing. But limited monetization opportunities could end up being a big challenge for the app – while it also continues to face scrutiny over its impact on youngsters, and the potential for it to be used as a surveillance tool by the Chinese Government.
In isolation, it may not seem like a major move, scaling back its eCommerce ambitions just slightly as it reassesses the best approach. But it’s a significant shift, which will slow down TikTok’s broader expansion. And it could end up hurting the app more than you, initially, would think.
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