Twitter May Already Be Cashing In On Conservative Users Lured By Musk
Twitter could be gaining millions in quarterly ad revenue from an influx of conservative Twitter users in the days after Elon Musk’s takeover bid, data of followers of major partisan accounts suggests, more than offsetting potential losses from an exodus of left-leaning accounts amid concerns over the billionaire’s approach to free speech and censorship on the platform.
Two days following the announcement of Musk’s acquisition of Twitter on Monday, leading conservative accounts gained an average of 17,229 followers while leading liberal ones lost 6,062 followers, according to data from analytics tool Social Blade analyzed by The Verge.
The shift—with conservative accounts gaining roughly three followers for every one liberal accounts lose—appears to be the result of organic “account creation and deactivation,” rather than the platform taking action against rule breaking accounts, a Twitter spokesperson told Forbes.
The influx of users following the top 50 conservative accounts could net Twitter around $5.6 million a quarter in advertising revenue, assuming no overlap between the new followers, Forbes estimates, based on Twitter’s financial report from the last quarter of 2021.
The number of new users following Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday alone (141,556)—the most of any top 50 conservative account—could earn Twitter an estimated $923,000 in ad revenue a quarter, Forbes estimates, with gains to Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) that day worth around $163,000 and $267,000, respectively.
The gain Twitter stands to make from users flocking to follow conservative accounts on the platform after Musk’s announcement outweighs the prospective loss of users unfollowing liberal accounts, which Forbes estimates could lose Twitter nearly $2 million a quarter based on losses from just the top 50 accounts.
Of the top 50 liberal accounts, Vice President Kamala Harris lost the most followers on Tuesday (22,453), which amounts to a loss for Twitter of around $146,000 a quarter.
$6.50. That’s how much each Twitter user is worth to the company in ad revenue per quarter, according to the platform’s financial filing from the fourth quarter of 2021. During that time, there were an average of 217 million active daily users on the platform, Twitter said, and it made $1.41 billion from them in ads. Ads make up the vast majority—around 90%—of Twitter’s overall revenue and the total revenue per user will be slightly higher.
Musk has offered to buy Twitter for $44 billion. The company’s board has accepted the offer and it will now be presented to shareholders for a vote. The deal is not closed, however, and both parties can walk away, subject to a termination fee of $1 billion. Regulators could also step in to stop the deal, but seem unlikely on antitrust grounds as Twitter is not joining a competitor.
Since news of Musk’s acquisition broke on Monday, there have been reports of liberal users leaving Twitter in droves. NBC first reported an exodus among top liberal accounts and celebrities, though the figures quoted were significantly higher than Social Blade data suggests (including around 300,000 for former President Barack Obama and 200,000 for singer Katy Perry, which would be worth roughly $2 million and $1.3 million a quarter in ad revenue, respectively). Concerns over Musk’s approach to censorship on Twitter and his self-proclaimed absolutist views on free speech purportedly motivated the exodus. These could also potentially explain the uptick in followers for conservative figures on Twitter reported gaining followers, many of whom have previously slammed the platform for perceived bias and censorship and praised Musk’s criticism apparent commitment to protecting “free speech.”
What We Don’t Know
Who is driving the changing number of followers. While the makeup of users following leading liberal and conservative accounts has changed, this may not have been driven by a shift in the number of conservative or liberal users on the platform and other factors could possibly explain the changes. Managerial and policy changes are unlikely to have been made and the deal has not yet closed. Twitter said it has not taken significant action against spam accounts that could explain the change. Data from app analytics firm Sensor Tower indicates a broader interest in social media apps that are popular among the political right, however, with former President Donald Trump’s Truth Social jumping to the top spot on Apple’s App Store on Tuesday.
What To Watch For
Continued demographic changes on Twitter. The data in this story only covers changes in the number of people following top liberal and conservative accounts on the Monday and Tuesday since the deal was announced. These changes have broadly continued throughout the week.