Can Twitter break out of the chaos?

The numbers are hard to believe. On October 28, Elon Musk’s first day at the helm of Twitter, the bluebird social network had 7,400 employees and 5,500 contractors worldwide (the latter mainly responsible for moderation). On Monday, November 21, there were only 1,000 workers out of 7,400, and 1,100 contractors out of 5,500. This means 6,400 people on the employee side – 86% of the workforce – and 4,400 people (80%) on the contract side. All in just 23 days. A real disaster.

Also read: How Elon Musk is pushing Twitter and the economy into a post-truth era

A wave of three layoffs in three weeks

To reduce wages, Elon Musk implemented it in three stages. First, a massive social plan with the axing of 50% of the company’s workforce, 3,700 people in the first week of November. The following week, the new boss attacked contract workers, announcing that 80% of them were being fired, mostly over content moderation, even though Twitter was considered one of the most popular social networks before the takeover. Less effective in this regard. Finally, during the third week of November, Elon Musk attacked the survivors of the first social plan by issuing an ultimatum to the remaining 3,700 employees: work “ comprehensively, unconditionally or take the door.

According to Fortune magazine, 75% of the remaining people chose to leave at that time. Add to these waves of departures a few hundred layoffs scattered throughout the month — especially employees and managers critical of Elon Musk’s leadership of open-source or internal software — and today Twitter will only have 1,000 employees and 1,100 contract workers. 2,200 in all, against 12,900 twenty-three days ago!

In fact, we’ll recall four “accomplishments” from Elon Musk’s first month, each more troubling than the other: payroll butchery; launched the spectacular flop of its $8-a-month Twitter Blue subscription, which was then suspended indefinitely due to multiple overages; A breach of neutrality when Elon Musk urged his 118 million followers to vote Republican in early November’s midterm elections, confirming fears about his political agenda; and the reinstatement of Donald Trump after a simple query, even though the former president was banned from all major social networks last year because of his active role in inciting the Capitol riots that killed 6 people on January 6, 2021.

Also Read: Could Musk’s Method Doom Twitter?

Brutality and speed, the Musk method in action

These first weeks provide a fairly clear overview of Elon Musk’s management method and style: delete the old Twitter, whose corporate culture he hates, rebuild what’s left. . So, after outright firing half the workforce and firing anyone who dared to criticize him, the ultimatum to the rest sounds like a new purge, this time qualitatively getting rid of all who had survived until then. those who do not share his values.

The problem: the purge is so intense that there isn’t much left. Although Twitter has some “fat” to cut its workforce before Musk, it seems unlikely that the company will hire more than 10,800 people. This does not call into question Twitter’s ability to operate normally, safely for its users, and to fulfill its legal obligations to moderate content.

But never mind the violence and danger Musk’s method poses to the company’s short-term survival. Elon Musk is on a cultural crusade against old Twitter. ” I can tell you what works at Tesla: physically being in the office and giving it your all »; The entrepreneur said during Spaces in a chat room on the social network. Therefore, the purge involves the destruction of Twitter’s corporate culture. The new boss sees him as too liberal, with his generalized telecommuting, typical Silicon Valley progressiveness and human resources policies based on kindness and benefits for employees such as free and all-you-can-eat cafeterias. After his arrival, Elon Musk took to Twitter to address what he already does at his other companies: face-to-face every day of the week with exceptions. The billionaire also ended free meals to optimize costs.

Also read: New purge on Twitter: Does Elon Musk want to kill the social network?

Vague and inconsistent project sketches

This method, which combines speed and brutality, also applies to business, with little regard for the concrete consequences of its decisions. There is Elon Musk clearly states its color : ” Keep in mind that Twitter is going to do a lot of stupid things over the next few months. We will keep what works and change what doesn’t “, he said in his tweet.

The rapid launch of Twitter Blue unleashes a list of follies, even though its overkill was not only predictable but announced. But does that mean Elon Musk has no plans? Not so fast. If it seems that he spends a lot of time every day reading and answering tweets, the entrepreneur has also revealed many ideas that reflect the future developments of the social network, lost in the ocean of provocations and all kinds of trolls in recent weeks.

So, Elon Musk has promised that payment will come soon, encryption of private messages, rewarding content creators (to compete with platforms like Onlyfans?) or even strengthening the fight against child pornography. It is difficult to distinguish the general harmony: the entrepreneur is constantly experimenting, exploring his intuitions that no one questions – he abolished the board of directors – and we will see later. Forced to buy Twitter for an exorbitant $44 billion after months of trying to cancel the sale, Musk even has fun keeping his real intentions vague: Does he really want to save or destroy Twitter?

As such, he suggests that a skull emoji combined with a robot emoji will replace the general job automation of laid-off workers. Another day he a the same he’s celebrating the death of Twitter in his grave. The entrepreneur seems to joke that advertising accounts for 90% of the social network’s revenue, but there is a “massive” leak of advertisers – in his own words. As if the possibility of Twitter filing for bankruptcy — a scaremongering he also waved earlier in the month — was part of the game. From October 28, when he arrived at the building with a sink in hand, Musk also played with the double meaning of the word, which is ” which can be translated as “empty” – a verb that heralds the purification of human resources – but also “to sink”.

Like a good campaigner, Elon Musk exudes confidence in his vision, but doesn’t articulate any growth path for Twitter other than making huge operating expenses. This takes us back a few months, when Musk wanted to reject the takeover, but Twitter seemed to have given him a solid deal. Musk later mocked the previous leadership by tweeting that this was all part of his grand plan, his genius inaccessible to ordinary people. Besides, in the end, Elon Musk couldn’t get out of the deal — the deal really committed him, Twitter was right — or lower the price by $44 billion. On the other hand, he damaged the reputation of Twitter and himself. There is no doubt that the boss of Tesla and SpaceX is an extraordinary entrepreneur with brilliant intuitions – he revived the electric car sector and revolutionized the space industry – but since April he has not presented any concrete and real economic projects for the social network. .

Also read: Payment on Twitter: Elon Musk takes the first step towards his “universal program”.

Crucial weeks ahead for Twitter

The possibility that Elon Musk is using Twitter to promote the interests of other companies, including Tesla, and to advance the company’s political agendaalternative law -The most radical fringe of Republicans- cannot be excluded. The entrepreneur has warmed relations with the leaders of these two strategic markets, especially China – somewhat strained because its Starlink satellites helped Ukraine – as it took a pro-Russia and pro-China stance in the context of its respective conflicts with Ukraine and Taiwan.

Meanwhile, Tesla is suffering from Elon Musk’s Twitter antics. Its investors worry about the collapse of its managing director and fear his volatile attitude. Especially since the macroeconomic context is punishing all tech stocks in the stock market. So Tesla stock went from $308 on September 20th to $168 on November 22nd.

The next few weeks will be crucial to evaluate Elon Musk’s project and Twitter’s ability to cope with the drastic changes implemented by its new owner. With 6,440 fewer employees and 4,400 contractors, will the social network continue to operate normally and safely? How will regulators and advertisers react?