The Elon Effect – Since Elon Musk acquired Twitter in October 2022, the social media platform has seen a notable decline in its daily active users, with an approximate 13 percent decrease, according to data from mobile research firm Apptopia. This article explores the impact of Musk’s ownership and the subsequent rebranding of Twitter as X.
The Elon Effect of A Decline in Daily Active Users
Data from Apptopia, which pulls information from over 100,000 apps on iOS and Android, along with publicly available sources, reveals a significant drop in X’s daily user base. Under Musk’s ownership, the number of daily users has fallen from an estimated 140 million to 121 million.
Additionally, there is a growing disparity between daily and monthly users. While X’s remaining daily users remain engaged, the total user pool is diminishing.
Under Musk’s leadership, the primary use case of X has significantly changed. The platform initially gained relevance by providing real-time updates on critical news events from primary sources and reporters. However, Musk altered the main news feed algorithm to prioritize ChatGPT influencers, edgelords, and his associates in business and culture.
Verification became a paid feature, adding more responsibility to users to discern credible sources from those merely posing as news sources. These changes have left some users with few incentives to remain on the platform.
Impact of the Rebranding
Musk’s decision to rebrand Twitter as X in July caused harm to the platform. In August and September, X lost over 5 percent of its daily users each month, erasing any positive momentum generated during the ownership transition. The rebranding led to a substantial increase in negative daily app reviews.
Keywords such as ‘logo’ and ‘blue bird’ appeared with negative sentiments in user reviews. Contrary to X CEO Linda Yaccarino’s statement that X usage was at an all-time high, the data suggests otherwise.
Despite the decrease in daily users, those who remain spend a consistent amount of time on the app. On average, users spend about 15 minutes on X each day. Usage remains top-heavy, with the top 10 percent of users accounting for 72 percent of all time spent on the platform.
This indicates either a new group of power users has replaced those who left, or power users and casual users have left in similar numbers.
Meta’s Threads: A Potential Twitter Killer?
Meta’s introduction of Threads in July was seen as a potential rival to Twitter, but its performance has not matched the expectations. Threads initially commanded more than 20 minutes of daily use from X users, but that has now dropped to under five minutes.
Apptopia estimates that only about 10 percent of X users have tried Threads. Despite Mark Zuckerberg’s ambitions for Threads, achieving even 100 million users appears challenging.
Threads has moved away from news content, making it less suitable for fast-paced news events. Speeding up the app could potentially improve engagement, but Meta is hesitant to re-enter the news space due to past controversies. With Musk introducing a $1 fee for essential X functions, a new window for a competitor may open.
However, the decline in X usage without a clear replacement suggests that the product or similar platforms may not appeal to the masses. In the age of platforms like TikTok for entertainment and established online news outlets, X’s appeal as a space for heated debates over breaking news may be diminishing.
Elon Musk’s one year at the helm of Twitter has shown that the reality of social media isn’t always what one imagines.
The impact of Elon Musk’s ownership on Twitter (now X) is evident in the platform’s declining user base and changes in its key use case. While X continues to have engaged daily users, its appeal to the masses may be waning.
The performance of Meta’s Threads as a Twitter alternative has been underwhelming, and competition in the social media landscape remains a challenge. Musk’s introduction of fees for essential X functions may pave the way for new competitors, but the platform’s diminishing user base reflects changing user preferences in the digital age.