Twitter comes across Rattled and Uncertain of its Future:

Anxious employees, wary advertisers and paralyzed management: Twitter limps along while waiting to find out how the fight to Elon Musk’s takeover bid will end.

Just days before the first hearing in Twitter’s lawsuit to force the Tesla boss into the $44 billion deal, the company is stuck in limbo.

“The best conclusion for me would be that he leaves us alone, so that we can continue our merry way,” an engineer from the main social network told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The engineer spoke of employee departures and a “climate of uncertainty that does not leave you with peace of mind”. “We still try to do our jobs as normal, because the main reasons we chose to work for Twitter still stand,” he added.

But there is nothing normal about Musk’s unsolicited offer which he has now backed off on, saying Twitter has obscured the number of fake accounts on the platform.

He harangued the network, on his own platform no less, with mocking tweets about its management and direction.

“Musk’s repeated disparagement of Twitter and its staff creates uncertainty…that harms Twitter and its shareholders,” attorneys for the firm argued in their lawsuit filed this week.

The billionaire’s comments “also expose Twitter to adverse effects on its business operations, employees and stock price,” the lawyers added.

A judge has set the first hearing in the case for Tuesday in a court in the eastern state of Delaware.

Slow Twitter ad sales

“Twitter is facing a massive image crisis and confidence in its leadership is wavering,” eMarketer analyst Debra Williamson told AFP. “But it’s unclear whether Musk’s situation has affected his income.”

She said the most loyal advertisers likely stayed, but those less committed to Twitter may have cut spending while waiting for the game to end.

Angelo Carusone, president of watchdog group Media Matters, thinks the damage is already done as Musk has frequently criticized content moderation.

The fight against hate and misinformation is widely defended internally, but also by many advertisers, concerned that their brands are not associated with toxic messages.

Carusone said that in early May, at an annual marketing event where companies were negotiating major advertising deals, Twitter was “not able to give advertisers any clarity or confidence” that that it would continue to be a safe showcase for them.

“They didn’t go far from what they normally sell at this event. And it’s obviously been slow ever since,” he added.

The San Francisco-based social network can’t afford to lose customers.

Unlike big fish like Google and Facebook’s parent company Meta, which dominate online advertising and make billions in profits, Twitter lost hundreds of millions of dollars in 2020 and 2021.

The group will capture less than 1% of global advertising revenue in 2022, according to eMarketer, compared to 12.5% ​​for Facebook, 9% for Instagram and nearly 2% for booming TikTok.

On top of that, Twitter’s user base is expected to barely grow and may even shrink in the US, noted Williamson, the eMarketer analyst.

Twitter cannot meaningfully respond

Musk has already made potential Twitter investors salivate with talk of increasing revenue fivefold and reaching one billion users by 2028.

Instead, a court battle is brewing to “end either with Twitter owned by a disgruntled investor who decided he didn’t want it after all, or with Twitter alone and weaker than it was.” before it all starts,” added Williamson.

The battle is expected to last for months, and at a time when economic headwinds are constant and businesses need to be nimble to monetize new audio and video formats, diversify revenue streams and appeal to younger audiences.

“At least Facebook can respond to current threats, even if they react badly, they can respond,” said Carusone, president of Media Matters.

“What Twitter can’t do right now is respond to anything in a meaningful way.”

Lawyers for the social network have criticized Musk for withholding consent to two employee loyalty programs “designed to retain selected top talent during a time of intense uncertainty generated in large part by Musk’s erratic conduct.”

Internally, some employees have also lost confidence in the management, which they would have liked to be more combative against the richest person in the world.

Parker Lyons, a financial analyst at Twitter, went so far as to tweet several memes targeting the company’s board for its deal with Musk.

In one, the painting fires bullets on Twitter above the sarcastic caption: “Who could have done that?”

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