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Why McDonald's, Starbucks, And GM Stopped Using Elon Musk's Twitter

Those companies are not alone in going silent on Twitter since Elon Musk bought the social media platform.
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It's been awfully quiet over at the McDonald's  (MCD) - Get Free Report Twitter account.

The company's most recent tweet came on Nov. 17 when the fast-food giant posted an image of a spoon with three floating hearts.

"This is a straw," the tweet reads. "If you see a spoon it means you're in love with me."

You may see a spoon, but you haven't seen a tweet from McDonald's since then. Nothing about the Christmas holiday. Not a word about the New Year.

Ronald McDonald is not the only one experiencing the silence of the tweets. Coca-Cola's  (KO) - Get Free Report, Starbucks  (SBUX) - Get Free Report, Sonic Drive-In, General Mills  (GIS) - Get Free Report and Dairy Queen  (BRK.A) - Get Free Report  (BRK.B) - Get Free Report are among the companies that seem to be stuck in 2022.

And while Twitter is getting the silent treatment, all these companies have been active on Facebook and Instagram. 

None of the corporations who appear to have gone Twitter silent responded to requests for comment from TheStreet, but their tweet shyness might have something to do with the upheaval Twitter has endured since Tesla  (TSLA) - Get Free Report Chief Executive Elon Musk bought the microblogging site in October for $44 billion.

Companies Taking a 'Wait and See' Approach

Arun Lakshmanan, associate marketing professor at the University at Buffalo's School of Management, said uncertainty about the platform's direction since the Musk takeover may be a factor in the tweet drought.

"I'm not saying that they are for or against the change in ownership," he said. "I don't think these companies really want to take any position there. I think it's more a business decision to wait and see, to look at Twitter's viability as a PR platform, the advertising mechanics, and what Elon would bring in terms of the business model."

"I think they just want to get some clarity on that before they relaunch," he added. 

It was been a rocky few months at Twitter, with Musk laying off half the social network's 7,500 employees in one day and watching a thousand more hit the road after he demanded they commit to working long hours or leave. 

His brash leadership style has also led to hasty decisions such as adding and pausing Twitter Blue, a $7.99-a-month service for users to receive the once-hailed blue check mark.

But after many public companies such as pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly  (LLY) - Get Free Report were impersonated and lost millions of dollars in market capitalization overnight, several ad and media buying agencies told their clients to stop advertising on the microblogging website.

Musk, who calls himself a free-speech absolutist, also reactivated the accounts of many conservatives, including that of former President Donald Trump, who was booted off the site in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. 

The number of tweets containing one of several different racial slurs soared in the week after Musk took over, according to a report by the Center for Countering Digital Hate.

Musk himself has taken flak for criticizing Democratic Party members, particularly progressives, because they are a natural customer base for his environmentally friendly cars, TheStreet's Luc Olinga has reported.

Advertising is also an issue on the platform. Half the site’s top 100 advertisers appear to be no longer be advertising on Twitter, according to a Nov. 22 report from the liberal news site Media Matters for America

"Platforms like this have their own brand equity and companies have their own brand equity," Lakshmanan said. "So when they engage in a platform of this nature, which has its own reputation, then that reputation can cross over, too. So you have to be cautious and wait to see which direction the platform itself is taking because there are going to crossover effects."

Concerns About the Musk Takeover

At least one corporation, General Motors  (GM) - Get Free Report, has been open about its tweet freeze. The automaker said in October that it was evaluating the platform's direction under the new ownership.

"There are still a lot of unknowns about the overall direction of the platform, including how our data would be protected," the company said in a statement. "With a major competitor running the platform – it’s prudent for us to make sure we are protecting our data, our brands, and our customers."

GM said it still engaging with Twitter "but at this point there are still a lot of unanswered questions – especially around the issue of data protection."

Andrew Selepak, a social-media professor at the University of Florida, noted that while some companies have not posted original content in a long time, they are responding to consumer questions and complaints.

"I think companies are probably a bit concerned with the tumultuous way that the takeover of Twitter had occurred more than anything else," he said. "I think a reasonable speculation is that there was so much media coverage and a number of bumps in the road during Musk's initial takeover. But I don't know how much that rationale really holds, as I think most of those problems have subsided."

He noted that companies might be at some risk if they're seen as taking a political stance against Musk.

"These are not companies that from a business perspective should have an ideological stance," he said. "Their customers are Republicans and Democrats. Their customers are conservatives and liberals. I think it would hurt their bottom line if it starts being said they're doing this for ideological reasons."

"Then again," Selepak added, "if the purpose behind it is 'we just want to kind of see how this goes, we've had some concerns about the rollout of these new features, we've had some concerns about Musk and what's going on with Twitter since he's taken over,' that's perfectly reasonable."