Twitter’s tech rivals are mimicking Elon Musk’s playbook — even Mark Zuckerberg

Elon Musk has attracted plenty of criticism since he bought Twitter in late October and began overhauling its operations, but his influence on other social media moguls has been undeniable.

These CEOs have been taking notes and mimicking parts of his strategy, from cost-cutting to paid verification.

The latest CEO to acknowledge that influence is Reddit’s Steve Huffman. He told NBC News in an interview last week that Musk had demonstrated how a social media app can pursue profit without needing to grow to the enormous size of Instagram — specifically, by cutting operating costs without apology.

“He’s affected us, but maybe in a way that’s not obvious to somebody who doesn’t work at a company like Reddit,” Huffman said.

“We’ve chatted a handful of times, almost exclusively on this topic, on work, on internet platforms,” he said.

Beginning in November, Musk laid off more than half of Twitter’s workforce, citing a need to cut costs and focus on rapid change. Reddit announced this month that it would lay off about 5% of its workforce.

Reddit isn’t alone in following Musk’s lead. Other apps that are more or less rivals of Twitter have experimented with actions that Musk has taken at the company, suggesting that the mercurial billionaire, despite being a new entrant in the social media industry, is already making a mark.

“Every CEO in Silicon Valley has looked at what Elon Musk has done and has asked themselves, ‘Do they need to unleash their own Elon within them?’” Marc Benioff, CEO of the business software firm Salesforce, told Insider earlier this year.

Benioff once sought to buy Twitter before Musk did, and like Musk, he has been cutting jobs. Salesforce announced it would lay off 10% of its staff in January.

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, said recently that Musk had given other tech executives permission to be more aggressive in cutting jobs and remaking their organizational charts.

“A lot of the specific principles that he pushed on around, basically: trying to make the organization more technical; around decreasing the distance between engineers at the company and him; fewer layers of management — I think that those were generally good changes,” Zuckerberg said in an interview with podcaster Lex Fridman.

He went on: “I also think it was probably good for the industry that he made those changes, because my sense is that there were a lot of other people who thought that those were good changes but who may have been a little shy about doing them.”

It’s impossible to say how many layoffs in tech would have happened without Musk’s example at Twitter. Layoffs have been coming in waves in the industry recently, both before Musk’s purchase of Twitter and afterward.

Zuckerberg, who has a long-running feud with Musk that has seemed both personal and professional, said Musk got him thinking beyond just cost-cutting.

“Certainly, his actions led me and I think a lot of other folks in the industry to think about, ‘Hey, are we doing this as much as we should? Could we make our companies better by pushing on some of these same principles?’” Zuckerberg said on the Fridman podcast.

Meta is expected to release a new app in the near future to compete directly with Twitter in the world of text-based social media — a sign of either Twitter’s perceived weakness or Musk’s influence in deciding to invest $44 billion in the same area.

CEOs were praising Musk early in his tenure at Twitter when he appeared to rule with an iron fist and pushed back against the demands of workers. But now the admiration some of those CEOs had for his personality has turned into imitation of concrete examples.

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