Elon Musk is officially the most-followed person on Twitter, surpassing former President Barack Obama, five months after he bought the social media company for $44 billion and led a slew of changes, including tweaking the platform’s algorithms to promote his own tweets.
As of today (March 30), Musk has 133,068,117 followers, compared to Obama’s 133,042,358, according to their Twitter profiles. Although Musk joined the platform two years later than Obama, he has posted over 7,000 more tweets than the former president.
The Tesla and SpaceX CEO was already one of the most followed people on Twitter before he bought the platform in October 2022. His fanbase has only grown since then and surpassed 120 million at the end of last year.
Analysts previously predicted Musk would become the No.1 influencer on Twitter by mid-January, but that didn’t happen.
In February, Musk saw a surge of new followers in part thanks to an algorithm change ordered by himself. On Feb. 12, the day of Super Bowl 2023, Musk reportedly had Twitter engineers create a system that would boost his posts on the platform over others’ after his tweet about the Super Bowl didn’t get as many impressions as a similar tweet by President Joe Biden.
Musk’s tweet, which read “Go @Eagles!!!” and was accompanied by a U.S. flag emoji, generated about 9 million impressions, while President Biden’s tweet, also expressing support for the Philadelphia Eagles, generated 29 million impressions. Musk later deleted his flopped tweet and pushed Twitter’s engineering team to increase exposure of his posts, according to tech newsletter Platformer.
Hours later, users began noticing that Twitter’s “For You” tab, which shows tweets picked by an algorithm, was displaying nothing but tweets and replies from Musk. In a tweet the next day, Musk admitted Twitter was making algorithm adjustments and asked users to “stay tuned.”
Under Musk’s leadership, Twitter has implemented a series of user experience changes with the goal of increasing revenue. The most controversial is Twitter Blue, a monthly subscription program that includes a blue verification checkmark displayed next to a user’s Twitter handle and additional features like the ability to edit tweets.
Twitter’s blue checkmark used to be a free feature granted to verified accounts held by people such as politicians, celebrities and journalists. Critics say charging a monthly fee on the verification mark will undermine its credibility and enable abuse of the verification system.
Musk has been pushing for the full release of Twitter Blue since November. Starting April 1, Twitter will remove checkmarks from accounts that aren’t paying. And starting April 15, non-paying users will no longer be able to vote in Twitter polls or have their tweets appear in the “For You” tab.
“[This] is the only realistic way to address advanced AI bot swarms taking over. It is otherwise a hopeless losing battle,” Musk said in a tweet on March 27.