Elon Musk's decision to hire broadcast ad/sales veteran Linda Yaccarino as its new CEO may be the first good decision Musk has made since he literally carried a kitchen sink into Twitter's San Francisco headquarters on October 26, 2022.
While Musk will still, as CTO, own most of product development, Yaccarino instantly becomes the face of the brand and its potential savior, something Twitter desperately needs right now.
Since Musk took over, Twitter's reputation and utility as a foundational source for information and entertainment have crumbled. Instead of building the virtual Town Square, Musk has chipped away at the platform's safety net for the at-risk while bolstering loud and often far-right voices who busily chase off the people who spent years building followings, reputations, and communities on the platform. In recent weeks, many have given up on Twitter and flocked to the upstart and still invite-only Bluesky.
There's no indication that narcissist-in-chief Musk is pulling back on his Tweeting but Yacarrino may be forced to step forward.
Yacarroni, who has been on Twitter for over a decade isn't a frequent poster. Prior to May, she appeared to be posting a few times a week (though the pace would occasionally surge to a couple of dozen tweets in one week). In the first week of May, however, she tweeted almost 50 times. Clearly, Yaccarino was preparing for the big announcement.
In the days leading up to her official appointment as CEO, Yaccarino's Twitter follower account skyrocketed from roughly 7,000 followers to almost 400,000 (and rising). This obviously pales in comparison to Musk's 139M followers, but there's little doubt that Yacarrino's been handed a bullhorn. Now it's time to use it.
The only way Yaccarino can be an effective Twitter CEO is if she obsessively uses the platform. Gone are the days when former CEO Jack Dorsey could occasionally dip his toe in the Twitter stream but generally stay above the fray. Musk lives on Twitter, and if Yaccarino wants to be on equal footing, she has to live there, too.
If she does, here are some things she can do (and publicly tweet about) to save Twitter.
I see I have some new followers👀...👋 I’m not as prolific as @elonmusk (yet!), but I’m just as committed to the future of this platform.Your feedback is VITAL to that future. I’m here for all of it. Let’s keep the conversation going and build Twitter 2.0 together!May 13, 2023
No more public tests
Musk will have control of product and engineering but if Yaccarino wants to be more than a figurehead, she needs to rein in Musk's penchant for testing tech and policies out in the open. She should build a research-based operation that acts on findings and not guesswork. Because Yaccarino will be, as she has for decades, plugged into the advertiser community, she'll understand the impact of Musk's impulsive actions better than anyone and may be able to get ahead of them.
Filter Musk's tweets
Musk loves to tweet and is just as apt to post an inspiring SpaceX launch tweet as he is a highly political and divisive meme or attack on the current US administration. Someone like Yaccarino, who has been in business for over 30 years, understands that this is not how you attract and hold onto a broad base of users and, especially, advertisers. If Yacarrino can't set policy on corporate Tweets and get ahead of Musk's impulses, she's doomed.
Close the Twitter files
Airing your own company's dirty laundry to make some sort of ego-massaging point is bad business and, I'm certain, Yacarrino knows it. The question is, can she end this and talk to Musk, instead, about launching internal reforms so that such perceived abuses do not happen again?
Give every user access to at least baseline 2FA
I'm not going to argue that SMS-based two-factor authentication is the height of security, but it is the easiest one for average users to implement, which means it should be available to all whether they pay for Twitter Blue or not. Auth-app- and key-fob-based authentication, which is better, could be part of the Twitter Blue program.
Turn off visibility boosting for Twitter Blue Members
Musk undermined his dream of an egalitarian social media paradise when he decided to boost posts from paying members. Twitter users should achieve virality on their own merits, and not based on if you pay for the possibility. Tweets that go viral on their own merit have the chance to become part of a larger conversation, which drives more interest to Twitter and improves its chances of attracting more advertisers.
Make Twitter a safe space for all
Musk insists he's neither far left nor far right but many of the memes and Tweets he posts lean well into far-right territory and that means he and his legion of followers who create a right-wing echo chamber run the risk of turning off half of Twitter's potential users and, for Yaccarino, half of her potential advertising partners. Yaccarino should work to make sure that Twitter users feel free to express themselves while Twitter the corporation and its leadership take no explicit position other than to protect them from harassment.
Make nice with third-party API partners
Yaccarino should model her API strategy on Microsoft's approach to its Office suite. The Windows maker no longer cares where Office runs (Windows, Mac, iPadOS, iPhone), as long as people are running Office. The goal should not be squeezing small companies for API fees they could never afford, but by extending the Twitter platform to all screens, services, and platforms. As long as partners credit Twitter for the data, it's a win-win for the social media platform and Yaccarino.
Excuse me, @elonmusk, can you tell me what's up with the Doge image in place of the Twitter logo? Are you renaming Twitter to Doger? Dogger? Dogecoiner? pic.twitter.com/rnMvx7EiBCApril 3, 2023
Don't cavalierly mess with the logo
I can only imagine what Yaccarino thought of Musk swapping out the iconic Twitter blue bird logo for the Dogecoin shiba inu. That's not the act of a mature brand and it only fosters confusion among key advertising partners.
Rebuild Twitter's comms dept.
I fully expect Musk and Yaccarino to engage on Twitter regarding Twitter updates and policies. However, a smart business manages its message through corporate communications and public relations. Musk famously hates PR and would rather speak directly to (a select few) press. Of course, we can see where that's gotten him and Twitter. Yacarrino comes from an august media brand (NBC/Univeral) that relies heavily on managed messaging. There's no way she'll put up with Musk speaking freely on all subjects.
Kill X and build Twitter 2.0
While I understand that no technology or platform can afford to stand still, Musk's plan to turn Twitter into a US-based Weibo (the do-everything app in China) is a bad idea. A Twitter that tries to be all things to all people will inevitably do nothing well. Polishing and honing Twitter's core micro-blogging features and building around that is the best go-forward plan for Yaccarino, at least in the short term.
Stop steering from the front
Not every decision can or should spring from Musk's head. He may believe that any government subsidy to any entity makes them a puppet to the regime, but that's an opinion, not a fact, and businesses cannot run on opinion, especially one person's, alone. Yaccarino surely knows this.
A revitalized Twitter could serve as the foundation for Musk's dream of a do-it-all platform, but instead of one app, it could be a family of apps and services, all under the X or Twitter banner.
I see a way through to that, but only if Yaccarino fixes what's wrong and Musk lets her do it.