Elon Musk set to become number-one influencer on Twitter – BBC

Tuesday, 17 January 2023 is the day analysts predict Elon Musk will become the number-one influencer on Twitter.
With 120 million followers, his account, @ElonMusk, is already the second most followed, after @BarackObama, the former US president's, which has 130 million.
And following a meteoric rise in the month since he bought Twitter, Mr Musk's will inevitably overtake, statisticians at Social Blade say.
This will be an unprecedented moment.
The social-media industry has never before seen a platform with a chief executive who is also its biggest personality.
So if Mr Musk is to become both Twitter's chief executive and its "chief influencer", what are the implications – for the billionaire and for the website?
BBC News has asked experts for their thoughts on three key statistics.
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In spite of recent controversies, Mr Musk's popularity on Twitter is undeniable and growing.
Over the past 12 months, he has gained 268,303 followers a day, on average, according to Social Blade, and lost followers on only five days, which can all be linked to news events.
He lost nearly 200,000 on 12 November, when major job cuts were announced at Twitter – and as he is likely to have gained new followers that day too, the actual number who unfollowed him must have been much higher.
"Elon Musk is now the main character on Twitter," social-media commentator Matt Navarra says.
"In some ways, having a CEO who is a major influencer on the platform has some advantages because it makes him very accessible to people."
Very few social-media chief executives are major influencers on their own websites.
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Meta chief executive Mark Zuckerberg is also a celebrity – but not an active poster on Facebook, Mr Navarra says, and his posts are more corporate in tone.
Twitter being inextricably linked to Mr Musk – a divisive character – could be a problem for Twitter.
"He is very antagonistic and inflammatory and, some might even say, quite toxic," Mr Navarra says. "And for brands, he might be seen as potentially very dangerous."
Emerging-technology consultant Kate Baucherel says: "Wrapping the personality of the CEO into the personality of the platform compromises any neutrality or diversity. A white male US-resident does not represent the world."
Already a prolific tweeter, Mr Musk has been posting 84% more often since buying the platform, according to Social Blade.
On Tuesday, 22 November, he fired off 75 separate tweets, either as posts, replies or retweets. This is a record for him.
"It's great to have a CEO who uses the product," a former senior product manager at Twitter, who wishes to remain anonymous, says.
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And it should not impede Mr Musk's direction of the company.
But he says: "I think people who tweet a lot are addicted – and possibly narcissistic. No single person has enough interesting things to say to the entire world to tweet more than five times a day."
On average Mr Musk is now tweeting once every 15 minutes during normal waking hours.
The experts we spoke to all agreed that having a CEO immersed in his or her platform can be a good thing but all agreed that the type of content Mr Musk is posting could be problematic.
Recent tweets have included sexual imagery and swearing. And, responding to critics saying he was killing Twitter, he posted an adaptation of a meme of a man smiling and swearing at a graveside during a funeral.
Mr Navarra says Mr Musk is a huge engagement driver for Twitter and his recent tweets have brought in a significant number of new users or reactivated old ones.
"We only have to look back to another character that shares an alarming amount of similarities… with Elon Musk, which is Donald Trump," he says.
"Trump was also a huge driver of activity and engagement from his tweets and I'm sure that was a benefit to Twitter.
"But I would also say he's probably a net negative in terms of the problems it brought with it for content moderation and toxic content.
"Elon Musk is having a similar effect on the platform."
Twitter permanently suspended President Trump after the storming of the US Capitol building, in Washington, in January 2021, citing "the risk of further incitement of violence".
Mr Musk reinstated his account on 19 November, following a poll of Twitter users, though Mr Trump has not subsequently tweeted.
While gaining 8.6 million followers since buying Twitter, Mr Musk himself has followed only six new people in that time – bringing the total he follows to 129.
Twitter founder Jack Dorsey followed about 3,500 people when he was chief executive. Former president Barack Obama follows 570,000.
And commentators say following so few limits Mr Musk's view of what people are talking about on the social network
"He has no idea what the experience of normal users is," the former Twitter manager says.
"For example, he never sees ads – because we limit advertising served to the top 1,000 or so users. So he wouldn't have understood that part of the product before he bought it."
Mr Musk reportedly told Twitter's marketing team adverts should "look like tweets", when the company's ads already were tweets.
The former Twitter manager also says Mr Musk's skewed experience on the site as a top influencer may prevent him understanding how to improve it and grow it.
Twitter is smaller than other social networks and "average time spent was a severe constraint to our growth and ads business".
"People who are committed users spend a lot of time on the site – but they need to find a way to increase the time that the masses spend," the former Twitter insider says.
Every time Mr Musk logs into his account, he is greeted with notifications making him feel good and want to stay on the site.
But for most users, this is not the case.
Growing the number of Twitter users to a billion is one of Mr Musk's key goals.
Now, there are about 300 million – which, at the current rate, is the number of followers Mr Musk himself will have in two years' time, according to Social Blade projections.

Musk completes his $44bn (£38.1bn) takeover of Twitter, immediately firing a number of the company’s top executives and tweeting “the bird is freed”.
Before officially taking charge of the company, Musk changed his Twitter profile to read “Chief Twit” and turned up to Twitter HQ in San Francisco carrying a sink, saying: “Let that sink in!”

Musk responds to concerns that he will loosen regulations at the company governing hate speech and misinformation by saying he’s “not yet made any changes”. He adds that a new “content moderation council with widely diverse viewpoints” will meet before any policy changes.

After a surge in tweets containing racist language, Twitter’s head of trust and safety says: “Hateful conduct has no place here.” Yoel Roth says the company is taking action against users “involved in this trolling campaign” to make Twitter safe and welcoming for everyone.

Musk tweets an article containing a number of inaccuracies about an attack on the husband of US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi by a hammer-wielding intruder. The site has a history of publishing inaccurate stories and Musk later deletes the tweet after a backlash.

With just over a week to go before the US midterm elections, Musk responds to questions about whether he will reinstate former President Donald Trump’s account on Twitter by tweeting: “If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me if Trump is coming back on this platform, Twitter would be minting money!”
Later that day, Musk attended a halloween party in New York and posed for photographs wearing a “Devil’s champion” costume.

Following reports that Twitter will begin charging users to have verified accounts, Musk responds to criticism from author Stephen King by saying: “We need to pay the bills somehow!”.

Employees at the company begin receiving emails entitled “Your Role at Twitter” informing them whether they have lost their jobs. Responding to news about the layoffs, Musk says “unfortunately there is no choice when the company is losing over $4M/day”.
Yoel Roth, the head of trust and safety, said 50% of the company’s nearly 8,000 employees had been laid off but sought to reassure users and advertisers that the platform’s moderation capacity remained intact.

Twitter co-founder and ex-CEO Jack Dorsey breaks his silence over the Musk takeover to apologise to staff who have lost their jobs, saying: “I own the responsibility for why everyone is in this situation: I grew the company size too quickly.”

Musk announces that Twitter accounts impersonating people without being clearly labelled a parody will be permanently suspended – a change to the previous process when accounts were given a warning first.
A number of accounts that changed their name to “Elon Musk” and mocked the billionaire had already been suspended or placed behind a warning sign.

In his first email to Twitter staff, Musk warns that the “economic picture ahead is dire” and adds: “Without significant subscription revenue, there is a good chance Twitter will not survive the upcoming economic downturn.”
Meanwhile, after the launch of the $8-a-month Twitter Blue subscription, which gives paying users a blue tick, a slew of parody accounts that appear to be verified emerge, including a fake George W Bush account that tweets: “I miss killing Iraqis”.

More high-profile staff quit, including head of trust and safety Yoel Roth and chief security officer Lea Kissner.

The option to subscribe to Twitter Blue disappears after its initial bumpy roll-out. Musk later confirms that the launch of the service has been put back to the end of November “to make sure that it is rock solid”.

Reports in US media say thousands of contractors who had been working for Twitter have had their contracts terminated. Technology news site Platformer says as many as 80% of its 5,500 contractor workforce were laid off in the move but the company made no official announcement.

In a late-night email to all Twitter staff, Musk says employees must commit to a “hardcore” culture of working “long hours at high intensity” or leave the company.

In a surprise announcement, Twitter says its company offices will be closed temporarily. The move comes amid reports that large numbers of Twitter staff had resigned.
Responding to fears the platform was about to shut down due to losing key staff, Musk tweeted: “The best people are staying, so I’m not super worried.”
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