Elon Musk is a prolific figure on Twitter and his controversial and but consistently impactful posts. Many lessons, both good and bad, can be learned from how the Tesla boss uses instant communication with his followers and its impact on his business and many others. As one of the most famous users on Twitter, he has a history of making and breaking brands in just a couple of sentences.
From the fortunes of his own company to cryptocurrencies owned by millions, one tweet from Elon can create shockwaves through cryptocurrencies. They can send stock prices soaring and even land himself in front of US market authorities. Social media is a great way to communicate to your customers and fans, but, as Musk shows, the impact can have far-reaching consequences for your brand.
Elon Musk, the Unconventional CEO
For many businesses, the CEO and founder are the most public faces of a brand, particularly for investors. Their actions reflect on the company and vice versa. Industries are already seeing huge impacts from social media and how interests can be shaped by what we consume online. Nowhere is this more true than with Tesla and Elon Musk.
During a period of challenging production deadlines for Tesla, Musk announced he had taken to sleeping in the factory. He claimed this was so none of his employees would have to work in harsher conditions than he was willing to do himself. This attitude of the underdog against the world created a unifying spirit with his workers. Musk only has to visit a city, and it is enough to spark rumours and headlines, speculating over Tesla expansions and factory locations.
Due to his celebrity status and the demand for the Tesla brand, the two have become linked in the public consciousness. He is also known for being unpredictable and controversial. This adds a layer of mystery to where his companies will go next. Investors now track everything Musk speaks about, particularly on Twitter, as they look for hints about where he may take the company next.
Making Brands, and Billionaires
As one of the most famous entrepreneurs, many investors are waiting to see what Musk will be interested in next. After tweeting about the games company Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077, the resulting spike was enough to see the game developer’s co-founder become a billionaire.
A tweet that caused one unknown company to experience the Elon Musk effect was just two words long – Use Signal. This endorsement of the messaging service Signal was all some intrepid investors needed to try and buy into the latest winner from the Tesla boss. Unfortunately, Signal is a privately owned service, but that didn’t stop a completely unrelated company, Signal Advance, see its share price rocket up 5,675% and gain worldwide coverage.
Elon Musk – Cryptocurrencies At His Mercy
This attention to detail from investors and the sway Musk holds over them can be seen through his impact on the cryptocurrency markets. His use of social media can have profound implications for the price and fortunes of these digital currencies.
In a market that can see significant dips and peaks, Musk and his Twitter feed have already shown an ability to impact them significantly. Dogecoin (one of many digital currencies) has been a favourite of Musks, and his tweets can cause large spikes or falls in the price it trades at. A single tweet from Musk holding the mascot of Dogecoin aloft in a parody of The Lion King was enough to cause its price to rise by 50%.
His most considerable influence is on the largest cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, where his tweets can impact a currency valued at over $1 trillion. So great is the power on Twitter that all Musk had to do was add #bitcoin to his profile, and the value of the digital currency increased by 20%. It was then announced shortly afterwards that Tesla would accept Bitcoin as payment for its cars. This shows how even the slightest bit of information from a CEO can influence their brand’s followers and impact other brands and companies. That single change was enough to rally his supporters and those of Bitcoin holders while providing legitimacy to the currency.
But, with Elon Musk, what he gives with one hand he can so quickly take with the other. Just a couple of months following that announcement, Musk tweeted a statement stating that they would no longer accept Bitcoin payments due to the currency’s environmental impact from those acquiring it. This led to a crash in the price of Bitcoin.
The rise and fall of cryptocurrencies on the back of Musks tweets and decisions can have broad impacts. Journalists, investors, fans and other companies all watch his social channels, looking for hints as to his next move and the direction of his companies.
A Single Tweet Making and Breaking the Tesla Brand
Of course, it isn’t just other companies that can see their value shaped by one man’s tweets. Tesla itself has, on more than one occasion, had millions of dollars added or wiped from its balance sheets and stock valuations based on a handful of tweets.
In 2018 Musk caused great waves when he announced on Twitter that he was considering taking the company private, following which the shares rose 10%. However, while he decided not to press ahead with this, the claims in the tweet were enough to land both him and Tesla in hot water with the market authorities in the US. This ended in a settlement that included fines for Tesla of $20 million and cost Musk his position as chairman of the company (though he retained his role as CEO). All from the back of just a single tweet.
Twitter was the source of another large swing in the share price of Tesla as it appeared the 2018 incident was not enough to stop Musk. Just last year, another tweet saw the value of Tesla plummet by over $14 billion when he claimed in a post that the Tesla stock price was ‘too high’ and investors got spooked. While the price eventually recovered, there are not many CEO’s who would be able to get away with dropping the value of their company by $14 billion with a single tweet, at least if your name isn’t Elon.
Lessons to learn from Elon Musk
Given his history of outlandish and off the cuff tweets, it’s unlikely that these will be the last examples of Musk making and breaking not just his own brand but any he takes a passing interest in. It is also a lesson for other CEOs to be very aware of how their posts on Social Media can influence their company and those they work with.
What should CEOs consider before following Musk and his firebrand tweeting:
- Always use your platform to embody the values of your brand
- Use it to connect with more than just your investors, plenty of other stakeholders will also listen to what you have to say on these platforms
- Users expect and demand more personality on social media; they want more than just press release, so get your tone right for the platform you’re on
- If you post, they will read it – whether you want them to or not
- If you’re having a bad day, just put down the phone and survive to tweet another day!