Twitter is certainly ending this year with a bang, or rather an understanding that Elon Musk won’t be “Chief Twit” for much longer. Or at least not by name.
It’s been less than 24 hours since Musk tweeted that he will stand down as CEO of Twitter as soon as he finds “someone foolish enough to take the job!” — having only been at the helm for a mere, yet disastrous 55 days.
Since then, Twitter HQ has seen more chaos than the average soap opera. Within seven weeks Musk announced he would form a content moderation council in a bid to create Twitter as a free-speech platform, introduced “Twitter Blue” charging $8 per month to verify accounts with a blue tick, removed a policy which aimed to combat Covid-19 disinformation, reinstated banned accounts including former President Donald Trump — and then suspended (then reinstated) journalists’ accounts on the platform.
And let’s not forget, Musk came to this incredibly difficult decision via a Twitter poll in which he asked his 122.4 million followers if he should step down as head of Twitter, and stated he would abide by the results.
Of the 17.5 million votes, 57.5% of respondents said yes, Musk should step down, while 42.5% said he should continue.
Since floating the idea, there has been a barrage of hot takes about who should take on the somewhat sinking ship and bring it back to the Twitter the industry once knew and loved.
So here’s our hot take on who that individual should be, along with some informed opinions on the breadth and depth of challenges they will undoubtedly face, while acknowledging the crossroads the business finds itself at.
Internal or external candidate?
Twitter’s new CEO should be hired externally. Though that’s probably down to a lack of viable options internally. Arguably the top internal candidates for the job swiftly resigned shortly after Musk arrived. (Let that sink in!)
So an external candidate seems to be the obvious choice. But whoever lands the role will likely be someone Musk hand-picks — which will be an interesting elimination process to watch. Or as Kaela Green, VP paid social at Basis Technologies suggested, we might witness a mini election where Musk polls Twitter’s users to aid his decision.
But will he promote someone from within his own portfolio of companies, or look to the tech aristocracy for an industry veteran?
Skills and talent
Twitter’s new top dog needs to be a proven financial commercial professional with international relationships, who can lead the company’s sale, according to Jack Myers, founder of Media Village.
Moreover, they need to be willing to challenge Musk, and not simply be a lackey. It’s important for them to make difficult decisions and stand up for what they believe are the company’s best interests, noted Omri Hurwitz, CEO of Omri Hurwitz Media, even if that means disagreeing with Musk or other Twitter execs.
There have already been a bunch of names bandied about. Think Sheryl Sandberg, Jason Calacanis and Alexis Ohanian to name a few. But ultimately Twitter’s next CEO will be someone Musk trusts to lead the business. And so far, the smart money seems to be on the billionaire staying close to home with whoever he picks as CEO.
Another name that springs to mind is Oracle co-founder, Larry Ellison, who committed $1 billion to help Musk fund his $44 billion Twitter takeover. “Ellison’s involvement with Twitter should be highlighted more, as I think he will impact who Musk hires,” Hurwitz added.
If Musk chooses one of the usual suspects from within the big tech community, he may end up with more of the same old Twitter he vowed to evolve past.
As Molly Lopez, owner-partner of Hyte Digital commented, Musk will still very much remain at the helm of Twitter — regardless if he has the title of CEO — as the company’s owner. After all, the last thing he’ll want to do is “bring in a legacy tech veteran who will re-impose the types of restrictions and governance of the platform that has become the industry norm (some would argue, myself included) a necessary norm,” she added.
And she’s not wrong. Musk did state that once a CEO is in place, he will “just run the software & servers teams.”
In other words, he’ll still be “Chief Twit” in all but name.
Twitter’s new CEO needs to balance the forward thinking challenges Musk promised as part of his takeover, said Lopez, while maintaining the necessary levels of security and decency that make Twitter an acceptable “Town Square” of the internet.
Similarly, Green believes someone with solid media training would be a start, as the job requires someone who is incredibly transparent, methodical and consistent with limited interest in full executive reign over what happens next.
“We don’t need a single visionary leading a brand to what it could be and forgetting about what it needs now,” Green said.
Challenges ahead for Twitter’s new boss
Let’s consider the challenges, or rather where to begin?
For starters, Twitter’s new CEO will have to make decisions about how to prioritize and allocate resources to address the most pressing needs of the business, said Hurwitz.
Which is crucial since Twitter barely has a skeleton staff following the numerous rounds of layoffs and resignations. While no official figure has been reported about how many staff members still remain at Twitter HQ, the first round of layoffs saw 50% of the total 7,500 employees sacked via email or lack of access to internal accounts. Additional employee resignations have trickled in ever since Musk ended Twitter’s remote working policy and expected staff to work at least 40 hours per week in the office (unless arrangements had been agreed by Musk himself). Not to mention, Platformer’s Casey Newton tweeted that 4,400 out of 5,000 Twitter contractors were cut with little to no notice.
Other challenges include improving user experience and engagement on the platform, addressing any ongoing security or privacy concerns as well as developing a clear roadmap for future product and business development, added Hurwitz.
All in all, it’s not a job for the faint hearted.
And that’s before the exec considers one of the most pressing issues with Twitter: the exodus of ad dollars.
Given that marketers tend to steer clear of any form of controversy, they’ll undoubtedly want reassurance of a less turbulent future on the platform, no more massive decisions being made on a whim and brand safety and security to be at the top of the priority list.
“Brands are going to need to feel like they can trust Twitter to keep them abreast of incoming changes with enough time for them to react: slower rollouts, product roadmaps, official public announcements and releases, newsletters, etc,” said Green. “Marketers are used to being the ‘first to know’ and will need that transparency to rebuild trust with the platform.”
Given the amount of chaos that has ensued over the last 55 days, Twitter’s new top dog will have to do significant damage control — for the platform and Musk.
For this to happen, the new CEO needs Musk to stand aside and stop using the platform he purchased as a personal podium, said Doron Gerstel, CEO of Perion, a global advertising technology company.
“Twitter wasn’t a financial investment for Musk — the fact he tried to back out shows he realized it was an economic quicksand — it was a “Three P” investment — personal, political, and philosophical,” Gerstel added. “If someone from the outside — or even an internal candidate — takes over, they will need to rationalize the business strategy with that reality.”