July 10, 2023
The social media landscape has become a battleground, with tech titans Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg at the forefront. Their fierce personal rivalry and the resulting corporate drama seems straight out of Succession and has captured the attention of audiences worldwide. The clash has taken an unexpected turn, with talk of a physical cage match, leaving their respective platforms, Meta and Twitter, and the creators on those platforms, caught in the crossfire.
In this blog, we will delve into the rivalry and explore how content creators can navigate these social media wars unscathed. We'll also evaluate the impact and rollout of Meta's new Threads platform, shedding light on the broader implications for creators in the ever-evolving Creator Economy.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have reportedly both agreed to a cage match. UFC President Dana White confirmed the seriousness of their interest, catapulting this rivalry to new heights of public intrigue. As for the fight’s location, a fight this big certainly warrants one of the seven wonders of the world as its host, so interest was further elevated when the Italian Minister of Culture offered the Coliseum as the venue.
While Musk has a distinct size advantage Zuckerberg, videos of Zuck’s Brazilian Jiu Jitsu bouts have surfaced in recent months contributing to a likely significant skill gap in favor of the Facebook founder. Nonetheless, renowned UFC fighter Georges St. Pierre has offered to help Musk train, as some of the biggest names in combat sports are doing everything they can to help the fight materialize.
To understand the depth of this rivalry, we can trace its roots back to incidents of jealousy and public spats between Musk and Zuckerberg.
The first notable incident occurred in 2016 when a SpaceX rocket carrying a Facebook satellite was destroyed during a launch failure and Zuckerberg publicly expressed his disappointment and frustration. Later, during a Facebook Live session, Zuckerberg participated in a Q&A and was asked about his thoughts on Musk's concerns regarding AI. In response, Zuckerberg dismissed Musk's warnings, asserting that he had a “limited understanding of the subject.”
Finally, the 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal, a significant turning point in the history of Facebook, also played a pivotal role in intensifying the rivalry between Musk and Zuckerberg. As the controversy unfolded, Musk publicly criticized Facebook, deleting the official Facebook pages of his companies, Tesla and SpaceX, and even tweeted #DeleteFacebook a number of times over the years.
This rivalry only accelerated in 2022 when Musk completed his acquisition of Twitter, pitting the two as direct business competitors for the first time.
Musk’s tenure as Twitter’s owner has been marked by controversy and perplexing product decisions.
Fearing that these decisions will result in a decline in user engagement and a loss of trust in the platform, they’ve been met with backlash from advertisers. Some advertisers have pulled their ads from Twitter in protest of Musk's policies and Twitter’s revenue is expected to decline sharply in 2023.
Mark Zuckerberg is not one to let a competitor’s crisis go to waste, so he had Meta’s developers working on an alternative. Meta's response came in the form of Threads, a Twitter-like micro-blogging platform. Amid recent backlash against a decision (that appears to have been reversed quickly) to limit the amount of Tweets users can see in a day, Meta seized the opportunity to compete by accelerating the launch of Threads to July 6.
When Threads made its entrance on to the social media scene, it garnered a mixed response among users. Posts are limited to 500 characters and videos can be up to 5 minutes in length. A few notable drawbacks include the inability to edit posts once they are published and the absence of content search functionalities.
Threads is powered by Instagram, so users on Threads have the same handle as their Instagram account and they can automatically follow everyone they currently follow on Instagram. This integration aims to streamline the user experience and leverage the existing connections and following of creators on Instagram, providing a seamless transition to the new platform.
However, Threads is not available in Europe due to its potential non-compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). By taking a cautious approach and preemptively adhering to GDPR guidelines, Meta aims to avoid potential blocks or penalties imposed by European regulatory bodies in the future. The Digital Markets Act sets regulations preventing large tech companies, referred to as "gatekeepers," from favoring their own products or services over others. These gatekeepers are required to provide access to data for third-party developers and avoid self-preferencing their own offerings. Meta’s aim is to ensure compliance prior to launching Threads in Europe, though they have not given a specific timeline.
The backlash Twitter has received underscores the concept of platform alignment, which has gained urgency among creators. Creators recognize the importance of aligning themselves with platforms whose values resonate with their brand. The most successful creators think about their brand in the same way that Fortune 500 companies act on their brands. One of the most important aspects of branding is brand positioning–literally where your brand is displayed. Regardless of whether you love Elon or you hate him, brand positioning has never been more front and center when it comes to social media platforms.
For creators, this means you don’t consider adopting a presence on social media platforms that have big user bases, but also prioritize platforms whose values are aligned with your brand.
Here’s an example:
Sute is a platform for edu-creators, our term for education-focused content creators, in the fields of entrepreneurship, career development, and personal finance. Our values are to pursue interesting opportunities, to constantly adapt through growth and curiosity, and to embrace community. Our goal is to empower our creators and members to grow their business, their career, and their wealth.
So if you think these values are inline with your own, then you might be a good fit to host a premium membership community with us and I’d encourage you to fill out this form to start that conversation.
Not only will joining a values-first platform introduce your content to like-minded followers, but it also implicitly demonstrates your values, even off that platform. If this still isn’t resonating with you, ask yourself what assumptions you make next time you see an OnlyFans link in an Instagram bio.
As new platforms continue to emerge, users are eager to explore these alternatives, potentially leading them to abandon their profiles on original platforms. For creators, this fragmentation of audiences poses a challenge, as they may be forced to spread their efforts across different platforms, potentially stretching themselves thin.
When it comes to social media, it's important to understand that the connection you have with your audience isn't truly in your control. Instead, the platform itself holds ownership over that relationship. While creators actively engage with their audience through content creation and interaction, they do not have complete ownership or control over these connections.
Social media platforms act as intermediaries, facilitating and profiting from these interactions. They establish the rules, algorithms, and policies that govern the distribution, visibility, and engagement of content by the audience. Even if a creator invests significant time and effort into building a substantial following and fostering consistent engagement, the platform has the power to introduce changes that can impact how content is presented, who gets to see it, and the frequency with which it reaches the intended audience.
To avoid being caught in the crossfire of platform friction or disintermediation, creators need to consider ways to establish ownership over the relationships they have with their audience. The most effective methods for achieving this are through email lists and communities.
In an email list or with a community app, creators possess a direct line of communication with their audience that cannot be disintermediated by a platform. The value here lies not in email communication itself, but in having an independent means of connecting with your audience. When creators own this line of communication, they no longer have to worry about algorithms or users shifting from one platform to another. They have the ability to manage communication on their own terms, and that serves as a valuable asset always within their reach and with no dependencies.
By embracing these owned channels, creators can establish a more resilient and direct connection with their audience, fostering ownership and independence. This approach allows them to navigate the landscape of social media while maintaining a steadfast connection with their supporters.
We’re currently taking applications from the best creators in entrepreneurship, career development, and personal finance, so apply now to secure your spot!
With Sute, you’ll get a premium membership community that will help you avoid platform disintermediation, build a monetized creator business, create a deep connection with your audience and understand them like never before!