Featured Article : What The XXXX Does It All Mean?

Elon Musk has stated that his “𝕏” social media platform will cover the legal expenses and initiate lawsuits on behalf of individuals who have been treated “unfairly “by their employers due to posts or likes on the site, previously known as Twitter.

Presumably, he is trying to reinvent champion the platform as a bastion of free speech and everything seems to be getting turned upside down, so with Elon Musk re-branding Twitter, we look at why the rebrand has happened, and what rebrands can do for companies.

As an aside, the symbol “𝕏” is part of the Mathematical Alphanumeric Symbols block in Unicode. It represents a double-struck capital letter X. In mathematics, double-struck letters are often used to represent special sets or spaces. For example, the double-struck capital letter R (ℝ) is commonly used to denote the set of real numbers, and the double-struck capital letter C (ℂ) is used for the set of complex numbers.

The symbol “𝕏” itself might not have a universally recognised meaning, but it could be used in a specific context within mathematics or physics to represent a particular set or space.

For ease, we’ll stick to “X” for the remainder of this context.

From Twitter To X – What Happened?

At the end of July, Twitter replaced its familiar blue bird logo with a white X on a black background. The change is now visible in all Twitter/X accounts. What were termed ‘tweets’ will now be called “x’s.

A Slight Hiccup 

In one unfortunate incident during the rapid re-brand, the replacing of the new sign at Twitter’s/X’s San Francisco headquarters was interrupted as the police were called over a ‘mistake’ about a possible unpermitted street closure.

Why Rebrand?  

Elon Musk explained the reason for the rebrand as: “Twitter was acquired by X Corp both to ensure freedom of speech and as an accelerant for X, the everything app.” This indicates Musk’s intention to turn what was Twitter into a ‘super app’ such as China’s ‘WeChat’.

Super apps, like WeChat, are essentially like several apps rolled into one, thereby allowing the user to open just one app to do almost everything, e.g. from messaging, payments and manging subscriptions to paying bills, ordering groceries, buying travel tickets, and more.

Creating a super app called ‘X’ was something Elon Musk had in mind when he bought Twitter, saying that buying the social media platform was an “accelerant to creating X, the everything app.”

As Musk went on to explain in a tweet / an x: “This is not simply a company renaming itself, but doing the same thing. The Twitter name made sense when it was just 140 character messages going back and forth – like birds tweeting – but now you can post almost anything, including several hours of video. In the months to come, we will add comprehensive communications and the ability to conduct your entire financial world. The Twitter name does not make sense in that context, so we must bid adieu to the bird.” 

Other Reasons? 

It’s true that Musk was eyeing the super app / everything app idea when he took over Twitter, but he may also feel the time is right for a change following the many troubles and bad headlines since he took over. For example, job cuts (moderators, bosses, and workers), warnings from America’s Federal Trade Commission, key advertising partners leaving Twitter followed by a massive 68 per cent drop in media traffic, Microsoft dropping Twitter from its advertising platform, and a user vote wanting replace Musk have been just some of the high-profile bumps in the road. The decisive factor that may have helped accelerate the rebrand may well be Meta’s success in launching a competitor to Twitter in ‘Threads’ which gained 100 million sign-ups in just five days.

To Re-Brand Or Not To Re-Brand? 

Rebranding for Twitter, given its high profile and what’s at stake, could be seen as a high-risk move, or an opportunity to move forward in a new and better direction.

Rebranding can have both positive and negative outcomes for companies. Here are some of the main strengths and weaknesses of rebranding. For example, some of the key strengths of rebranding are:

– A Fresh Start. Rebranding can allow companies to reinvent themselves and start anew. It can breathe new life into a stagnant or declining brand or (hopefully) help a company to get away from negative associations with the previous brand or something negative it may have been involved in and made the news for.

– Differentiation. A successful rebranding can help a company stand out from competitors and help to emphasise their USP(s) and positioning.

– Market Expansion. A re-brand can facilitate entry into new markets by adapting the brand to suit the preferences and cultural nuances of different regions.

– Relevance. Rebranding can make a brand more relevant to current trends and consumer preferences, thereby appealing to a broader audience.

– Publicity and Attention. A well-executed rebranding generates media coverage and attention, which can increase brand awareness and engagement.

There are, however, some well-known weaknesses of re-branding. These can include:

– Brand Confusion. A poorly executed rebranding can confuse existing customers, leading to a decline in customer loyalty and sales.

– Costs. Of course, a rebranding exercise can be very expensive, involving changes to logos, packaging, marketing materials, and more. If not managed well, it could strain financial resources.

– Loss of Brand Equity. Unfortunately, rebranding may also lead to the loss of accumulated brand equity, especially if the new image does not resonate with the target audience.

– Negative Associations. Rebranding may not always succeed in shedding negative associations linked to the previous brand identity.

– Market Resistance. In some cases, consumers may be resistant to change, and a drastic rebranding can alienate loyal customers, leading to a temporary dip in sales.

Examples Of Where Re-Brandings Have Gone Well, And Not So Well… 

Re-branding is not particularly uncommon and, in fact, as part of perhaps playing down his decision to rebrand Twitter, Elon Musk shared a Tweet by Jon Erlichman (from Bloomberg) who listed many examples of now well-known brands that resulted from re-brands. For example: “Amazon: Cadabra Best Buy: Sound of Music eBay: Auction Web Facebook: Meta Google: BackRub Instagram: Burbn Netflix: Kibble Nike: Blue Ribbon Sports Pepsi: Brad’s Drink Playboy: Stag Party 7-Eleven: Tote’m Stores Snapchat: Picaboo Starbucks: Cargo House Target: Goodfellow Tinder: Matchbox”.  

Interestingly, Elon Musk’s original online banking business was called x.com before it was rebranded to PayPal in 2000 and you may recall that (before it was required to be changed by law) Musk’s baby was originally called X (First name) AE A-XII (Middle name) Musk. Clearly the symbol has significant meaning for Mr Musk!

It’s true, of course, that there are many examples of where rebranding has helped and tuned out well but, unfortunately, there are examples of where things haven’t gone to plan at all. With this in mind, here are a few high profile examples from recent history:

Rebrands that went well …. 

– A very famous one – Apple’s rebranding in the late 1990s is often cited as a successful example. They shifted from the colourful Apple logo and a confusing product lineup to a minimalistic, monochromatic logo and a focused product range. This move emphasised simplicity, which resonated with consumers and helped to contribute to their resurgence.

– In 2011, Starbucks dropped the word “Coffee” from its logo, symbolising their expansion beyond coffee products. This rebranding showcased their diversification into other beverages and food items. The change was subtle but effective, signalling the company’s evolving identity.

– Uber rebranded in 2016, shifting from the black “U” logo to a new design featuring a white circle and stylised “Uber” text. This rebranding aimed to represent the company’s global presence and versatility. It was generally well-received and helped signify a more mature and evolved brand.

Rebrands that didn’t go quite so well …

– In one that many people might remember, in 2001, the UK’s postal service, Royal Mail, underwent a rebranding to become “Consignia.” The rebranding was supposed to emphasise the company’s expansion into a broader range of logistics and communication services. However, the name change received widespread criticism and confusion from the public. The decision was expensive, and within a year, due to the negative response and lack of public acceptance, Royal Mail reverted to its original name. The failed rebranding was considered to be a costly and embarrassing misstep for the company.

– Wonga, a (controversial) UK payday loan company in the, attempted a rebranding in 2013 to appear more responsible and customer friendly. Despite introducing a new logo and advertising campaigns, the rebranding was met with scepticism and critics argued that the underlying issues of high-interest rates and predatory lending practices were not addressed. Public perception didn’t improve, leading to regulatory challenges and reputational damage. In 2018, Wonga went into administration, showing that rebranding can fail if it doesn’t address core problems authentically.

– In 2010, Gap attempted a rebranding by introducing a new logo, replacing their iconic blue box. However, the new design received overwhelming negative feedback from consumers and the design community. As a result, Gap quickly reverted to their original logo.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

Twitter’s re-brand is another big deal for the company in what has been a bumpy road since Musk took over.

Rebranding is a strategic move that has the potential can breathe new life into a company – if/when it’s done right but it’s crucial for businesses to keep some essential considerations in mind. Rebranding should serve a clear purpose and be in line with the company’s vision and values. For Twitter(‘X’), the re-branding appears to fit with Musk’s original vision of turning it into an ‘everything app.’ It’s also essential in rebranding, however, to put the customer at the centre of the rebranding process, ensuring it resonates with the target audience.

Authenticity is a key consideration and successful rebranding addresses underlying issues and avoids superficial changes. With all that’s happened at Twitter in recent times, Musk’s tried to make this change appear as non-superficial as possible, saying the platform is going to be completely changed in scope. Planning and executing a rebranding with a strategic approach is also vital, considering all aspects of the business, and many people may have been taken a little by surprise at the sudden announcement and the contrast of twittering birds with the bold black and just a mysterious X. For re-branding, businesses must also be aware of potential risks, like customer confusion or negative perceptions, and take steps to mitigate them but with trouble at Twitter recently and with the arrival of Microsoft’s Threads, it may have been more of a case of not worrying too much about that now.

A rebranding should be seen as a long-term investment in a company’s growth and reputation and, as it has done for many companies, can yield significant benefits when done right. There are, however, many examples of where it hasn’t worked out for many large businesses and Musk is gambling with high stakes that the transformation to an ‘everything app’ pays off.

It’s still early days in the rebrand – watch this space!

Featured Article : Millions Sign Up To Meta’s ‘Threads’ Twitter Competitor

Following the release of Meta’s alternative platform to Twitter called ‘Threads’, Meta’s head, Mark Zuckerberg, reports 100 million signups to the new platform in its first five days.

What Is Threads? 

The Threads app, launched by Meta on 6 June, is a “text-based conversation app” that is a direct competitor to Twitter – it looks remarkably similar to Twitter and functions in a very similar way.

Threads – Available Via Instagram Login 

The fact that the app is from Meta and available via Instagram (and was developed by the Instagram team) which has over a billion users means that it has instantly become a serious competitor to the troubled Twitter.

To use Threads, Instagram users use their normal Instagram account to log in and their Instagram username and verification is carried over, with the option to customise their profile after specifically for Threads. The app is available for iOS and Android and can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

In what appears to be a little swipe at Twitter, Meta says Threads will “enable positive, productive conversations” and posts can be up to 500 characters long and include links, photos, and videos up to 5 minutes in length. Users can share a Threads post to their Instagram story or share their post as a link on any other platform they choose.

Available in 100+ Countries But Not In The EU 

Threads has been launched in 100+ countries but Meta has decided not to make it available in EU countries due to what it describes as the “complexities” of trying to comply with new laws coming in next year. This appears to be a reference to the Digital Markets Act.

30+ Million In The First Day  

Meta’s head, Mark Zuckerberg reported that more than 10 million users had signed up to the Threads “initial version” within the first seven hours of its release, more than 30 million had signed up before the end of the first day, and a staggering 100 million had signed up in the first five days! (a faster sign-up rate that ChatGPT).

Zuckerberg has great ambitions for the app which he sees as a “friendly” alternative to Twitter, stating that it could become a public conversations app with 1 billion+ people on it and that “Twitter has had the opportunity to do this but hasn’t nailed it. Hopefully we will.”

Launched As Twitter Is Struggling 

Seen a as part of the latest rivalry between Meta boss Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter owner Elon Musk (in June, Elon Musk challenged Mark Zuckerberg on social media to “a cage match” fight), the Threads app has been launched at a time when Twitter is seen by many to be in a weakened position.

Why Is Twitter Looking Weak? 

Since Musk took over Twitter and tried to produce more revenue streams from it than just advertising, avoid bankruptcy (something Musk said publicly could happen), and turn Twitter into a ‘super-app’, several events, and comments have led to bad publicity and appeared to be unpopular with Twitter users and advertisers. For example:

– Musk’s $44 billion takeover led to ultimatum’s being given to staff over committing to new working conditions, mass job cuts – Twitter slashed roughly 50 per cent of its workforce (reports showed Musk’s leadership sacking an estimated 80 per cent of contract employees without formal notice).

– Twitter top executives getting sacked, e.g. Chief Executive Parag Agrawal, Chief Financial Officer Ned Segal and legal affairs and policy chief Vijaya Gadd.

– Fears that Twitter could change for the worse under Musk’s ownership, i.e. reinstating unpopular banned users and controversial figures and allowing the wrong kind of ‘free speech’ (former US President Trump, who’d been previously banned was invited back – an offer he declined).

– Thousands of (outsourced) content moderators were dropped, leading to fears of a drop in quality and possible rise of misinformation.

– The Blue service/Blue Tick service, a way to generate new revenue and tackle the problem of fake / bot accounts, and parody accounts led to a wave of blue tick verified (yet fake) accounts impersonating influential brands and celebrities tweeting fake news plus having to be suspended and removed. Also, there was confusion over the introduction of new grey “official” badges instead of blue ticks on some high-profile accounts, which were then suddenly scrapped, also reports that US far-right activists have been able to purchase Twitter blue ticks.

– Elon Musk announcing that all but “exceptional” Twitter employees need to come back to working in the office for at least 40 hours per week or their resignation would be accepted.

– Twitter users leaving the platform in protest over Musk’s ownership and moving to competing, and decentralised social network ‘Mastodon’, Donald Trumps ‘Truth Social’, Discord, Hive Social, and Post.

– America’s Federal Trade Commission warning that “no chief executive or company is above the law,” fears over Twitter’s approach to security, and questions about this in relation to possible Saudi involvement in the Twitter takeover.

– Reports of Apple and Google threatening to drop Twitter from their app stores (denied by Musk).

– Apple and Amazon (major sources of advertising revenue for Twitter) stopping (which some deny about Amazon) and then resuming advertising on Twitter following a reported meeting between Musk and Apple CEO Tim Cook at Apple HQ over the “misunderstanding.”

– Twitter losing more than 50 per cent of its advertising partners and a number of large companies pausing advertising on Twitter since Musk’s takeover, e.g. General Mills Inc, Audi, Volkswagen, General Motors, and more.

– Reports (Mikmak) of Twitter suffering a massive 68 per cent drop in media traffic (the number of times people click on an ad).

– Many high-profile celebrities publicly leaving/announcing they were leaving Twitter since Musk’s takeover, e.g. Elton John, Jim Carrey, Whoopi Goldberg, and more.

– A storm of criticism following Elon Musk’s threatening to turn off SMS 2FA after 20 March 2023 unless users paid for Blue Tick.

– Microsoft dropping Twitter from its advertising platform following Twitter’s announcement that it would charge a minimum of $42,000 per month to enterprise users of its API.

– Following a vote by Twitter users for him to resign, Elon Musk saying he may step down as head of Twitter the end of this year.

Most Recently…. 

Some other controversial moves very recently include:

– In response to alleged “data scraping” (perhaps a reference to Microsoft allegedly using Twitter’s data), and “system manipulation”, Twitter is limiting how many tweets users can read daily – verified 6,000 posts, unverified 600. In contrast, Meta has said there are no restrictions on how many posts users of Threads can see. The restrictions on how many posts Twitter users could read led to problems as angry TweetDeck users reported issues such as notifications and entire columns failing to load.

– As part of a “temporary emergency measure” against data scraping by companies (e.g. perhaps OpenAI using Twitter data to train), anyone wanting to view any Twitter content will need a login or will need to sign up, which could be inconvenient to web users and could affect search engine results.

Meta Not Without Its Own Bad Publicity 

That said, although Twitter doesn’t appear to be having its finest hour, in the interest of fairness it’s worth remembering that Meta/Facebook has faced its own worries with users such as trust issues over data sharing with Cambridge Analytica, Facebook being used to spread disinformation in the US election and UK Brexit campaigns, plus issues about user safety on its platform (hate speech, damaging content, and more).

Twitter Threatens Legal Action 

Towards the end of the first day of the release of Threads, Twitter threatened to take legal action against Meta with Twitter’s attorney Alex Spiro sending a letter to Mark Zuckerberg accusing Meta of “systematic, wilful, and unlawful misappropriation of Twitter’s trade secrets and other intellectual property” in the creation of Threads. Musk said, “competition is fine, cheating is not”. Meta denied any wrongdoing and denied claims that ex-Twitter staff helped create the rival app.

Big Plans – Striking While The Iron’s Hot 

Meta clearly plans to push forward more and give the Threads app maximum reach and clout, saying that it is working to make Threads compatible with the open, interoperable social networks – making it “compatible with ActivityPub, the open social networking protocol” (from the W3C). This could also make Threads interoperable with other ActivityPub-supporting apps like Mastodon and WordPress, and Tumblr in the future.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

Meta seems to have chosen the right moment and used the huge leverage and reach it has (via Instagram) to launch an app to compete head-on, and perhaps with more success than others, with Twitter. The fact that Twitter is undergoing a crisis of funding and unhappiness among many customers and continuing issues under Musk, who also appears to be involved in personal rivalry with Meta’s head Mark Zuckerberg, while there have been 30+ million plus sign-ups in one day and 100 million sign-ups in just five days could mean that Twitter is now facing a very serious extra challenge from a credible, strong competitor. With Instagram having an estimated 1.3 billion users worldwide and Twitter having 353 million users, if even one-third of Instagram users signed up to Threads it would dwarf Twitter (10 per cent of the number of Twitter users signed up to Threads in the first day!) and some are predicting that Threads could even kill off Twitter.

Musk’s language lately has contained many references to suing people who take things from Twitter, e.g. data, and his public rivalry with Zuckerberg has intensified, and one could be forgiven for thinking that Musk may have got wind of what was coming with Threads. In the legal letter from Twitter to Zuckerberg, the accusation that ex-Twitter staff worked on Threads is interesting because there may well have been many disgruntled Twitter staff who were ousted unceremoniously when Musk took over and it’s conceivable that they could have gone across to Meta.

For users, the fact that Threads is from Meta, is easy to sign up to, and free, doesn’t have some of the limitations and restrictions of Twitter, appears to be making it look like a viable alternative. This is also unwelcome news for other Twitter alternative platforms, e.g. Mastodon, Discord, Hive Social, and more who will also see Threads as a serious competitor. For business advertisers, Threads may provide another good opportunity to reach customers, plus advertisers, celebrities, and influencers may also value the chance to use another platform that gives them the reach while escaping any negative connotations of things Musk may have said, done, or introduced, e.g. problems over the Blue Tick scheme or sharing a platform with those whose ‘free speech’ may not be compatible with their thinking and brand image. Signing up to (and switching across to) Threads may also simply give many people an opportunity to feel that they’re ‘sticking it’ to Musk – who many see as a controversial figure.

Twitter Encryption : More Musk Makeovers

Twitter has recently added a new encrypted messaging service to its repertoire, offering end-to-end encryption for all direct messages sent across its network. This privacy enhancement ensures that only the sender and receiver can view the content of their conversation, emphasising a renewed commitment to user confidentiality.

Interestingly, Elon Musk, Twitter’s CEO, has affirmed that these encrypted conversations are so secure that even he, under duress, could not gain access to users’ private exchanges even if he wanted to, by saying “… even if there was a gun to my head”. However, he has also urged a cautious approach, acknowledging that the feature is still in its early stages and may not yet be completely reliable.

Only For Twitter Blue

As of now, the availability of this encryption service is restricted to Twitter Blue subscribers and those with verified Twitter accounts. This limitation, along with the fact that only text and links can be shared – excluding media attachments – indicates the service is still undergoing fine-tuning before a full-scale rollout. Twitter’s own admission of not having perfected the encryption process further supports this notion.

The company has clarified that while the messages are encrypted, the metadata associated with them – such as recipient information, creation time, and linked content – are not. This raises potential issues around the vulnerability of conversations to malicious insiders or mandated legal interventions.

We-Chat Wannabe

Musk’s vision for Twitter since acquiring it in 2022 has been to transform it into a ‘super-app’, akin to China’s multifunctional WeChat platform. His recent tenure has already seen several significant changes, including the introduction of a subscription model and an overhaul of Twitter’s blue tick verification badges, designed to combat misinformation.

The decision to enhance the security of Twitter’s private messaging feature comes at a potentially contentious time in the UK, where the government’s Online Safety Bill is currently under scrutiny. The Bill seeks to impose stricter regulations on social media companies in a bid to protect children from online abuse. Critics, including other messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Signal, have raised concerns that the legislation could potentially undermine the integrity of end-to-end encryption, viewed as a vital tool by privacy advocates.

Could UK Online Safety Bill Scupper It?

The proposed Online Safety Bill in the UK is seen by some as enabling ‘routine, general, and indiscriminate surveillance’ of private conversations, according to an open letter penned by the leaders of several messaging services. In contrast, Meta’s Messenger platform employs encryption, albeit with certain exceptions, such as conversations in the Marketplace.

As the Online Safety Bill is applicable to all platforms, regardless of their specific design and operation, encrypted services such as Twitter’s would be subject to user-care obligations. This puts an onus on businesses to maintain public safety while implementing end-to-end encryption – a balancing act that the IT industry and the government are working together to achieve.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For UK business owners, this development heralds an era of enhanced privacy on Twitter, which could boost confidence in using the platform for secure communications, possibly helping their PR at a time when they have had significant recent controversy.

However, it also brings into sharp focus the ongoing debate around balancing privacy and safety in the digital space, underscored by the scrutiny of the Online Safety Bill. It is clear that businesses, especially those relying on social media for communications, will need to keep abreast of these evolving regulations to ensure compliance and maintain the trust of their customers.