Elon Musk also threatened to buy my company, here’s how we handled it

Elon Musk’s unsolicited offer to buy Twitter is a watershed event for me and my former colleagues. In 2019, I was working as the digital editor of London-based New Scientist, the weekly science magazine, when Musk lazily tweeted about the cost of his purchase.

Barbarians at the door? Try Billionaire in DMs.

Occasional interactions with @Elon Musk were not new to me or my team. A colleague used to direct message him every few months asking for an interview and sneakily promoting my colleague’s book. At times, Musk even responded by saying “New Scientist is my favorite periodical.” Little did we know that this flirtation would lead to a takeover bid, on Twitter, for our science magazine one day in the spring of 2019.

After complaining about our publication’s paywall, Musk asked how much it would cost to just buy New Scientist. Ultimately, no deal was reached, although the company was later sold to the Daily Mail Group for around £70 million (around Rs 698 crore). But Musk’s offer has management wondering how to respond.

Here is what my team learned from the experience:

1. Audit your Twitter account

The harbinger of an impending takeover bid from Musk is that he’s following your account. Is he @-ing you with cryptic tweets? Does he DM you? These are the key indicators of a hostile Musk takeover that you and your social media handlers should be looking for.

2. If Musk tweets that he wants to buy your company, don’t panic

Good advice in all circumstances. Especially one where the fate of your business rests on the whims of the richest man in the world – with 81.7 million Twitter followers – who seems to relish chaos.

3. Trust your social media manager

That underpaid, frustrated person who sits in the corner of your desk all day thinking about the best GIFs to send to Slack? They are now the most important person in your entire business.

4. Gather your emoji game plan

Musk is known as a “memelord”, someone who creates and distributes memes (check with your marketing team later). Responding with an emoji is a great way to strike the right balance between responding seriously to their offer and making it casual enough not to be embarrassed if it turns out to be a joke.

5. Be concise

Your board and executives should probably be aware that you are about to negotiate ownership of the company using a medium with a character limit of 280 characters. Every letter counts.

After Musk asked “How much does it cost?” in reference to the company, New Scientist chief executive Nina Wright wrote a tweet that kept it light (blinking emoji) and promised to fix the paywall issue.

6. Send the tweet

You’re on Twitter, aren’t you?

7. Don’t take it too seriously

Musk never bought New Scientist, and as he admitted on Thursday, he may never buy Twitter. So it’s best to respond carefully, while taking any offer with a grain of salt.

© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.


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