NBCUniversal advertising chief Linda Yaccarino has been named Twitter’s CEO, owner Elon Musk confirmed on Friday, and one of her first jobs will be ensuring brands feel safe on the social media platform.
“I am excited to welcome Linda Yaccarino as the new CEO of Twitter!” Musk tweeted. “[She] will focus primarily on business operations, while I focus on product design and new technology.”
Musk, who has served as chief executive since buying Twitter in November, will transition to executive chairman and chief technology officer when Yaccarino takes charge in about six weeks, the Tesla CEO said.
While the move has satisfied some parties, including frustrated Tesla investors and shareholders, communications executives are waiting to see how Yaccarino handles brand-safety concerns.
Brian Snyder, Axicom’s global president of digital, says Yaccarino could be “a good complement” to Musk given her experience running an ad-driven media business and the reputation she’s accumulated.
“In the very short term, the power of her personal brand with advertisers could be very helpful to Twitter,” Snyder adds.
Snyder is looking to see how Yaccarino tackles radical messaging, especially with ousted Fox News host Tucker Carlson saying he’s planning to bring his show to Twitter.
As long as Musk is in control of the product, it’s going to be an uphill battle in terms of moderating extremist voices, says Andrew Graham, founder and head of strategy at PR agency Bread & Law.
“[At platforms such as Twitter] the product is the moderation. Moderation is what defines the experience for users and advertisers,” he says. “If Musk is still overseeing product, then that means to me that the moderation is unlikely to change.”
It’s incumbent on Yaccarino to sway Musk on his moderation policies, Graham adds, to create a safer space for brands to engage on Twitter.
“Yaccarino has to convince [Musk] he’s wrong about moderation,” says Graham, who also previously served as president of the PRSA’s New York chapter. “Unless and until that can be done, brands are not going to be safe on Twitter. [It’s not going to change] just because another person has CEO behind their name.”
Yaccarino has already tried to plant some ideas in Musk’s head. Last month, in a keynote discussion with Musk, she cautioned Musk against frequently tweeting after 3 a.m. When Musk responded, citing the influence of free speech, Yaccarino detailed the larger state of play.
“I want to be specific about influencing,” Yaccarino said. “It’s more of an open feedback loop for the advertising experts in this room, to help develop Twitter into a place where they will be excited about investing more. Product development, ad safety [and] content moderation; that’s what the influence is.”
Right-wing Twitter users are also concerned about Yaccarino’s business and political views. #RIPTwitter trended in the hours after Musk’s announcement that Yaccarino would succeed him, with conservative users berating the billionaire for appointing a leader who serves as executive chairman of the World Economic Forum and worked on a COVID-19 vaccine campaign with the White House and Pope Francis.