Elon Musk Does a Curious Experiment On Twitter

The billionaire is stepping up initiatives to transform Twitter and turn it profitable.

Elon Musk is in a race to transform Twitter. 

The serial entrepreneur aims to debunk his detractors’ hasty announcement that the social network died when he became its owner on Oct 27. 

The billionaire must also turn the microblogging platform profitable fairly quickly because he has transferred to the firm’s balance sheet the $12.5 billion of debt taken on from seven major banks to finance the deal. Twitter cost him $44 billion.

The road to financial success for Twitter, which Musk considers the town square of our times, is through a rebalancing of revenue from ad revenue and subscriptions.

Until second-quarter 2022, the date of the most recent officially available data, ad revenue accounted for 91% of Twitter’s total revenue. 

The massive exodus of advertisers after Musk arrived has somewhat weakened the platform financially, the serial entrepreneur said last November. To become less advertiser-dependent, Musk has been working to make the platform attractive to creators and users. 

He hopes he will no longer have to court advertisers. The opposite: He ultimately wants them to reach out to the platform in search of its users. To do this, Musk is pursuing multiple initiatives: eliminating as many bots — fake accounts — as possible; adding new features and functionalities to encourage users to be more active on the platform; and encouraging creators to create more content.

Musk Locks His Twitter Account

Twitter has thus launched a new version of Blue, the Twitter subscription service. The price of Blue has also increased to $7.99 a month for owners of cellphones other than the Apple  (AAPL) – Get Free Report iPhone. The subscription is $11 for iPhone owners. This service entitles its subscribers to a blue check mark indicating that their identity has been verified. They can also edit their tweets and boost the visibility of their messages.

The billionaire remains attentive to users’ suggestions for features to add to Blue and to the platform in general. 

And it is in this context that he has just announced that he is carrying out a surprising test. 

Musk has decided to make his account private and test the theory, advanced by some users, that a private account greatly improves the owner’s reach. 

It all started with a comment from the popular right-wing Twitter account Libs of TikTok, claiming that the number of comments it saw surged after it made its account private. 

“Put my account on private because apparently that’s the only way people will see your tweets,” Libs wrote on Jan.31. 

And in a following tweet, Libs of TikTok directly challenged Musk to ask him to explain the why and how.

“Wow… these comments… @elonmusk what’s happening?”

“Something is wrong,” Musk responded on Feb. 1.

“Something fundamental is wrong,” Musk said in another tweet as #make your account private started trending on the platform.

The day before it was Ian Miles Cheong, a right-wing political commentator, who indicated that he had tested the trick. He wanted to see whether making his account private would boost the number of views on his tweets.

He wrote two tweets, one public and one private.

“The results are in,” Cheong announced later. “Setting your account to private vastly improves your reach by a factor of 5x. Zero algorithmic disruption.”

“I’ve gained roughly 20 new followers within that 5-minute timeframe, as well. I do not know if they are bots,” he added.

Faced with an avalanche of similar comments, Musk said that he would test the theory himself for 24 hours, and he made his account private.

“Made my account private until tomorrow morning to test whether you see my private tweets more than my public ones,” the billionaire, who has 127.7 million followers, said on Feb. 1.

What Will Musk Do Next?

This decision means that only Musk’s followers can see messages posted by the billionaire, but they cannot react to his tweets — by commenting or retweeting — as they would with an unprotected account. 

As for Twitter users who are not following Musk, they must ask his permission to follow him until he unlocks his account on Feb. 2.  The tech mogul then must accept them before they are able to retweet and comment on his posts.

Musk’s post making his account private received almost 521.000 likes at last check. It has been viewed nearly 20.5 million times but has received no retweets or direct comments. 

The question is what the billionaire will do if his experience confirms the theory put forward by the platform’s users. 

The reactions of many users of the platform expressed surprise that Musk would take on the exercise.

“It’s genuinely hysterical that Elon Musk has locked his account to test the working theory that private accounts see improved engagement,” one Twitter user commented. “Twitter’s algorithm is in such a poor state to the point the CEO has to do field experiments instead of, you know, an engineering department.”

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