Following months of speculation about whether Elon Musk would follow through on his $44 billion bid to take over Twitter, the tech billionaire is now officially at the helm of the social media platform.
The self-anointed "Chief Twit" made his ownership felt quickly Thursday afternoon, firing three top executives including CEO Parag Agrawal, CFO Ned Segal and chief legal officer Vijaya Gadde.
While it’s clear that Musk is ushering the company into a new era, what this seismic shift in social media means for healthcare advertisers is still speculative and industry reaction is a mixed bag.
In a tweet titled, Dear Twitter Advertisers, Musk made some wide-sweeping statements — most notably that he wants to make Twitter the “most respected advertising platform in the world.”
“I also very much believe that advertising, when done right, can delight, entertain and inform you,” Musk continued. “It can show you a service or product or medical treatment that you never knew existed, but is right for you.” He continued by stressing the importance of making ads as relevant as possible to the user.
Dear Twitter Advertisers pic.twitter.com/GMwHmInPAS
Musk’s renewed interest in the value of advertising appears to be a bit of a turnaround from some of his past statements. Previously, he said Twitter should move towards operating as a subscription service and that he “hates advertising.” But advertising generated nearly 90% of Twitter’s revenue in 2021, so it appears he’s coming around to embrace it.
I hate advertising— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 28, 2019
To that end, some healthcare marketers believe there won’t be a massive change to how they approach Twitter – at least not yet.
Gil Bashe, chair of global health and purpose at Finn Partners, noted that the industry will still view Twitter as an important platform for healthcare providers and drugmakers to reach patients.
“Twitter is where you often see patient advocates exchanging ideas for unmet needs, medical treatments that may or may not help them and talking with doctors,” Bashe said. “Twitter has been an important awareness building platform for that. I hope that Elon Musk is not going to interfere with this open exchange.”
Diving into the weeds of the deal, however, Bashe said he has some questions.
Namely, he wondered how Musk plans to regulate patient advocacy groups or pharma direct-to-consumer advertising. There’s also the question of how people seeking health information or an exchange of ideas about rare or undiagnosed diseases will be regulated.
“There is something called symptom identification, or disease awareness communications on Twitter, and Twitter will continue to be a vital platform to reach people who have distinct health concerns that they may not have defined,” Bashe said. “I don’t think he’s going to get involved in that.”
Other healthcare marketers feel differently about Twitter’s footing in the pharma marketing world.
Ryan Mason, chief digital officer at Fishawack Health, argued that Twitter isn’t often the first place patients go to share private medical concerns, due to its public forum nature. He added that Facebook groups, and increasingly Reddit, have served those populations well.
Twitter has also not always been the “private, ‘sensitive’ place for patients to discuss and explore their health,” Mason said.
“It’ll be interesting to see what effect the uncertainty and commotion surrounding Musk and Twitter will have on HCPs’ growing adoption of it as a place for their conversations,” Mason continued. “A betting person might count on HCPs already active to remain active and new HCP adoption of Twitter in a professional capacity to take a pause until the proverbial dust settles.”
That said, someone with stature like Musk could combat health misinformation, despite his prior comments about the COVID-19 pandemic. Other marketers have expressed concerns about issues like brand safety and health misinformation leading up to the deal.
Industry stakeholders also hold concerns about plans Musk has brought up in the past — such as vowing to reinstate former President Donald Trump’s Twitter account. Many wonder what that policy reversal would mean for brands’ reputations if they choose to remain on the platform.
Another concern is how Twitter would regulate hate speech or misinformation.
see y'all on tumblr https://t.co/jJUSN1gXNi— Duolingo (@duolingo) October 27, 2022
Perhaps in response to some of those concerns, Twitter chief customer officer Sarah Personette stressed in a tweet that the company’s “continued commitment to brand safety for advertisers remains unchanged.” Even Musk himself noted that the platform “cannot become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences.”
Forget all the nonsense about being a “free speech absolutist”.— Imran Ahmed (@Imi_Ahmed) October 28, 2022
Elon Musk is in the advertising game now.
And he’s gotta keep his customers happy by ensuring Twitter isn’t a “hellscape where anything can be said with no consequences”.
His own words. https://t.co/XQeoSrgdXV
In the midst of significant media buzz and little certainty, Bashe said he believes healthcare and pharma marketers will continue to conduct their business as they always have until they get more insight into Musk’s operational processes. One thing is certain, however, and it’s that companies will have to hold Musk to his word.
“[Marketers aren’t] going to close the bridge on an invaluable platform because of anxiety of what may happen,” Bashe said. “They must first see what will happen and they have to hold Elon Musk accountable for his ownership and leadership of Twitter.”
This story first appeared on mmm-online.com.