Will Twitter Inc. (NYSE: TWTR) ever be what it was before the current political turmoil in the United States? President Donald Trump will no longer be around, now that he has been kicked off by management. It has wisely shuttered more than 70,000 accounts linked to QAnon conspiracy theories. As politically motivated violence in America rises, Twitter may close even more. In the process, much of this kind of communication will move elsewhere, if it can move at all. Conservative knockoff Parler has been shut down by Amazon, Apple and Google. It may not recover.
It is easy to forget that most of the largest accounts on Twitter are not those of politicians. The largest, admittedly, based on followers, is former president Barack Obama. After him, however, almost every one of the top 50 accounts belongs to celebrities, news outlets and sports figures. Twitter never lost its roots as a megaphone for artists. It will return to those roots almost certainly.
After Obama’s account, the most popular based on followers are Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Rihanna, Cristiano Ronaldo, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande. They are there because they sell huge numbers of albums and songs, almost all online. Twitter for this group is a way to make money. For them, it is the greatest marketing platform in the world.
CNN, The New York Times and the BBC also have huge followings. For their followers, Twitter is an endless stream of news headlines and a way to promote their journalism to audiences.
Another, smaller category is business leaders who are also considered thought leaders. Billionaires Bill Gates and Elon Musk sit at the top of this list. Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, has become an expert on contagious diseases, most recently COVID-19. He also has invested hundreds of millions of dollars through his foundation to find a cure. Musk’s fascination is much more centered around the technology he has invented, from Tesla to SpaceX.
Twitter will go back to many of its roots. It will have to. Investors and social media experts wonder whether the change will cut into revenue and profits? That remains to be seen. Celebrities may be enough to carry it through a period when politics is no longer the source of a huge portion of its traffic.