Is Elon Musk’s Twitter Still a Viable Business Tool?

Under Musk, Twitter’s discourse becomes more of a free-for-all and not free speech. That makes inclusion of it as part of a serious, mature business plan not just a risky bet, but an irresponsible one.

(Image source: iStockphoto/author.)

Elon Musk bought Twitter last week for the bargain basement price of $44 billion. (Why not have two?) According to Bloomberg, it was “one of the largest leveraged buyout deals in history.”

I do, I assure you, fully understand the principles of a free market economy. I know the importance of individuals being able to spend (or invest) money according to personal choice and priorities. But, I’m on the other side of this particular fence. I’m a Twitter user. I not only use the platform (sparingly, I admit) for personal missives, I also use it for business clients who want to communicate with the extensive audience Twitter attracts. That said, if asked I would have to say I do not believe Twitter remains a viable business tool under Elon Musk’s leadership.

But, let’s stop here for a minute to consider why one might even ask the question…

Elon Musk. Photo credit: Duncan Hull.

Yes, Elon Musk is the CEO and product architect of Tesla. Yes, Elon Musk is the founder, CEO, and chief engineer at SpaceX. Yes, Elon Musk is the world’s wealthiest human (sorry, Bezos).

He is also a notably volatile personality. Remember the time he sent the value of Dogecoin into a nosedive after he made jokes about it during his opening monologue on “Saturday Night Live?” He compared Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Hitler over his handling of COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Is that OK? More relevant, how about the time he offered 19-year old Jack Sweeney $5,000 to take down his Twitter account, @ElonJet, which follows and publishes the comings and goings of Musk’s private plane? And, shouldn’t we find it significant that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) actually sued Musk in 2018 for implying in tweets that he had the funding for a private takeover of Tesla (he settled without admitting guilt and agreed to limitations of his Twitter usage…ironically)?

I mean, yes, one of his first startups became the basis of PayPal, and he’s clearly a genius, but how much control should any one individual really have over a global communication platform? He has his fingers in cryptocurrency and decentralized finance (defi), commercial space travel, autonomous vehicles, alternative energy, artificial intelligence (AI), and he’s a wannabe rapper.

These days he’s even dabbling in embedded insurance as Tesla begins selling policies in certain states. Can’t he leave Twitter alone?

For businesses including Twitter as part of a low cost, high value brand identity campaign, communication plan, or marketing strategy, it’s time to rethink how you get the word out. Musk’s buyout of Twitter makes some volatility (warning…potential severe understatement here) in the platform inevitable. Not to make this political, but I’m betting @DonaldJTrump is waiting for his invitation to rejoin the Twitterati, since Musk is on record stating he believes in suspensions and not all-out banishments from the platform. Musk has gone on and on and on in recent weeks about free speech and how he’s interested in owning Twitter to maintain it, but remember, he’s the same person who initially wanted to payoff Jack Sweeney to go away (he later withdrew his offer and the account is still operating). Will he just payoff everyone he doesn’t like to take down select tweets or entire accounts in the future? How does one square these two scenarios, these two faces of Elon Musk?

I’m not even going to get into the moral, ethical, and societal questions around what else Elon Musk could have spent $44 billion on…but USA Today did. (As of March 2022, the U.S. had “only” spent $13.6 billion on aid to Ukraine. Maybe Musk could have spent a little money stopping the war all together? Sorry, stepping off my soapbox now…)

Twitter under Musk’s ownership gets more contentious in the future, not less. The discourse becomes more of a free-for-all and not free speech. That makes inclusion of it as part of a serious, mature business plan not just a risky bet, but an irresponsible one. As the Twitter deal is finalized and changes to personnel, platform publishing rules, and more are debated, it’s a wait-and-see game and businesses everywhere will continue to tweet long into the night. So, use Twitter while you can, but do the smart thing and develop a backup plan.

In the meantime, I will wait for Elon to ask me to take this article down. (I’m a cheap date. I will take my payment in ETH. And, I have a 2 ETH minimum, if you please.)

Digital Life Insurance for a Digital World

Jennifer Overhulse //

Jennifer Overhulse is the owner of St. Nick Media Services. She can be reached for further comment or information via email at (And she’s occasionally recognized on Twitter as @stnickmedia.)

Comments (8)

  1. Sorry folks but I have to disagree. Much of this discussion assumes that Twitter is currently a neutral, apolitical platform which it is clearly not. Secondly I think many people like myself exclusively use Twitter as a business tool and ignore/filter out all the nonsense. I’m not here to defend uncivil discourse or Donald Trump.., But rude, mean, uncivil discourse is the general state of social media across all platforms. And whether you like it or not this kind of discourse is a part of free speech. When we start having these dominant platforms or the government arbitrate what they believe is mean or uncivil speech then we are in dangerous grounds. I’m not saying that nothing should be blocked…Of course there are limits as defined by the law.

    • Hi Mark,
      The point wasn’t really to discuss what should or should not be blocked on social media or regulated in some fashion, but rather to point out that the instability, volatility, and lack of civil discourse on Twitter is likely to grow under someone as prone to stunts and grandstanding as Elon Musk. From a business perspective, not a political one, I don’t believe that helps any brand, communicator, or marketer. One can only ignore/filter out so much “nonsense.”
      My two cents.

    • Freedom of speech always involves some degree of people saying things you don’t like. Twitter is already replete with uncivil discourse. The problem is that the platform silences points of view that it disagrees with, many of them perfectly civil, and much more civil than many opinions Twitter’s politically partisan editors wouldn’t censor. All of this is entirely beside the point of whether Twitter can be used for business purposes. Clearly it. can, though we can debate whether that’s ever been for the best. Personally, I’ve never been attracted to using it for business communications, though I wouldn’t be surprised that it works well for some people.

  2. Really enjoyed reading Jen’s unvarnished thoughts on this totally non-insurance related topics snd kudoes to Anthony O’Donnel for publishing it.

    • Hi Stephen,
      It’s actually more insurance-related that one might think at first blush.

      On the P&C side especially, almost all insurance companies have corporate Twitter accounts and use them for branding and marketing messages, additional news channels, and customer engagement. Additionally, as the industry considers how best to move to more of a “predict and prevent” position instead of the reactive one it now occupies, there are undoubtedly policyholder communications which could be handled via this channel.

      And, insurance agencies selling across all lines use Twitter prolifically. That said, if Twitter becomes more unstable, volatile, and angry under Elon Musk’s leadership, businesses in general will not benefit from the further change in tone.

      Again, my two cents.

  3. I completely agree with the author. And I also agree with Anthony. Nothing is to be gained by rudeness and lack of civility. Most of us would ground our children if they replied to a discussion in the childish way “Donald Trump” replied to this article. Agree or disagree with the author as you like, but boorishness only proves that you have no material facts to support the argument. Whether Twitter is good for business is a matter of opinion. The fact is, only 2 of the top 10 Twitter (by user count) accounts are political figures. The rest are sports or entertainment. The presumption that Twitter is a “Town Square” is mistaken. Unless we are discussing Cristiano Ronaldo in the square.

  4. Reading the comment from “Donald Trump,” I can’t help thinking that the author this piece couldn’t have asked for a better illustration of how unmediated content can turn uncivil. In this case, the content is actually mediated, since as editor of IIR I have discretion to approve comments or not. However, I decided to let the comment go because of the relevance of open debate and free speech to the topic of the article.

    Gratuitous personal rudeness does nothing to fortify an argument. Also, it’s my pleasure to publish Jennifer’s thoughts because I find her writing so engaging and about as far from “brain dead” as one could imagine. Furthermore, I see no admission on her part of Twitter not being a suitable platform for business-related communications. On the contrary: she says she uses it for that.

    I personally don’t favor Twitter as a business platform. Nothing against it, but I like LinkedIn for that, just as I’ve used Facebook for staying in touch with friends and relatives around the globe. I see Twitter as more of a political discussion forum, and also as a significant public square. With that in mind, my view is that, first, there’s already abundant incivility on Twitter. Will that increase under Musk? Probably, at least for a while. But so what? That’s part of the rough and tumble of debate, and it’s characteristic of a truly open forum that operates in a spirit of freedom of speech. In that regard, I see Musk as having the potential to fix what’s worst about Twitter now, which is censorship of views and even journalism on the wrong side of the platform’s editors’ political bias.

  5. What a brain dead take. It’s the exact same as before except if you say you’re a trans woman I can say you’re just a man wearing a dress.

    Secondly, twitter has never been a viable tool for businesses. The fact that you admit it in the first sentence makes this article all the more stupid. It’s a place for politics, left leaning for the most part. Small and medium businesses have no reason to be on Twitter.

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