How many times have you been on Elon Musk’s Twitter and thought “oh no, he said something dumb again”? More importantly, how many times have you then shared that with your own followers? If all you see of Elon Musk on Twitter is his more outrageous tweets, you might be inclined to think that this Twitter game is pretty weak. The truth is that he has a lot of tricks that he employs constantly to ensure that Twitter works for his brand.
Elon Musk engages with his Twitter followers more than most CEOs
The Wall Street Journal data on Elon Musk’s Twitter habits, which you can see here, is impressive. While some business leaders and managers may set aside a certain time to put out tweets and interact with people about their brand, Musk seems to tweet whenever he feels the inspiration. This could be at 3 pm or 3 am. The volume of tweets was, in fact, the second-highest for tech CEOs in 2018.
One of the aspects of his tweeting that is so interesting is that he will spend a lot more time interacting with people and replying to tweets than sending out anything purely from a marketing or brand perspective. There are positive points here. It makes him seem approachable and human, as though he is an ordinary guy. This is enhanced by the fact that he will respond to anyone regardless of their status or followers. He isn’t looking for the big names with verified accounts to retweet his words for him. Instead, he seems to be genuinely interested in what people have to say and in conversing with them.
Elon Musk’s Twitter account is part of the marketing and customer service division
Sometimes he will ask questions about what people want from their products. It comes off as a simple, friendly Q and A session when it is actually much deeper than that from a marketing point of view. Often, he can be found responding directly to queries about problems with the products with a promise to look into the issue.
This is a greater level of personal attention than you would ever expect from a CEO of his level. He should have AI bots responding to that sort of thing with the usual copy-paste remarks. Although, given his views on AI, this human touch is understandable. You might be inclined to label him as a vanity searcher for the amount of time he spends responding to people’s tweets about him. But, if these people are going to tag him into the tweet then what else is he to do?
Still, Elon Musk is not shy about controversial tweets
What you look at all of those interactions and marketing tools, it would seem pretty safe to say that Elon Musk actually has this Twitter game figured out. The trouble is that Musk is so involved with Twitter and has so small a filter that he ends up doing as much harm as good.
We might as well get the most famous example out of the way first because it is one of his most famous controversies. In the summer of 2018, a group of children and their football were trapped in a cave. Musk boasted that he would be able to send one of his mini-subs into the cave “no problemo” to rescue the children. This was in criticism of the efforts of the British ex-pat divers working on the mission. He finished by staying “Sorry pedo guy, you really did ask for it”. Unsurprisingly, this got Musk in a lot of trouble.
This is the problem when famous people with a ton of influence say whatever is on their minds with no filter. There are so many Twitter users that would benefit from a little pop-up on the screen saying “Are you really sure you wanna send that?”. His misguided opinions on the incident in the Thai cave aren’t the only time he got in trouble on the platform. In an attempt to show off his sense of humor, he decided to tweet that Tesla has gone bankrupt after a last-ditch effort to sell Easter Eggs failed. He ended by saying “So bankrupt, you can’t believe it”. The trouble was that people either did believe it or didn’t appreciate the joke in the company’s financial situation. As a result, Tesla’s stocks fell 7%.
When he isn’t giving misguided opinions or information, he can sometimes be found trashing his social media rivals. Musk isn’t a fan of Zuckerburg, and he questioned his intelligence during their disputes about the risks of artificial intelligence.
There is a method to Elon Musk’s Twitter madness
Elon Musk appears to be playing a dangerous game with Twitter. He is completely focused on using the platform to build his connections with consumers, yet also willing to have tweets completely blow up in his face. And that is where things get really interesting with Musk’s reliance on Twitter. As reported by Forbes, back in 2018, Musk felt that a $20m fine for a tweet was worth it. It is all about weighing up the pros and cons of the fines vs the exposure.
If you get enough people talking about your products and your brand to buy them, isn’t a fine here or there worth the risk? After all, this focus on customer services and marketing with Twitter users isn’t a personal quirk. It is one of Musk’s leading marketing practices. Instead of paying out millions on ad campaigns he saves money and talks constantly about his work, products, and ideas on Twitter. A few tweets may be problematic and misguided but most hit their mark.
Elon Musk’s Twitter account is a valuable tool for Tesla
The next time you laugh at a weird Elon Musk tweet and share the absurdity with others, think about the social reach of that tweet and the impact of those words. It is easy to think that Elon Musk is out of his depth on Twitter and needs to be reigned in. The truth is that Musk knows exactly what he is doing and is playing a long game of social media marketing that other companies can’t keep up with. Without the constant tweets and attempts to spark debate, Tesla probably wouldn’t be in the position it is right now.
by D. E. Bradley