Elon Musk's Approach To Social Media Will Help You Learn Faster, Be Happier, Be More Successful, And Make A Big Impact


Not only is Elon Musk one of the most successful and innovative entrepreneurs in history, he's also one of the most public. Since Twitter was founded he has written the equivalent of 10 books of tweets or 12,500+ Tweets.

What's innovative about Musk's approach is not just his volume. It's also his style. Whereas most CEO communication is written by the PR team in corporate speak, Musk uses his for self-expression. He weighs in on topics from universal basic income and Coronavirus to memes and videogames. Most surprisingly, he's willing to take real financial risks in order to say what he actually thinks.

Media stories focus on Musk's few mis-steps or his most controversial statements. For example, they summarize a two-hour, in-depth podcast by turning 30 seconds where he smoked weed into a meme.


If you've been reading these headlines, you're missing the bigger picture. His approach to social media has been paying off incredibly well...

  • With one tweet announcing a new company, Musk can attract thousands of the world's smartest employees, tens of millions in funding, and hundreds of millions in new customer orders. He has now spawned 6+ multi-billion dollar companies (SpaceX, Tesla, OpenAI, Solar City, Neuralink, Boring Company) in large part through his personal brand.
  • It is easy to make a case that a big portion of Tesla's market cap is simply a result of Musk being CEO.
  • His following continues to grow in size and loyalty.

More so, if you're following media headlines on Musk, you're missing two fundamental questions...

  • Why does arguably the most busy person in the world with several multibillion companies and 5 children find time to tweet so actively?
  • What can we learn from it?

After asking myself these questions, to me the answer is clear...

Musk's Approach To Social Media Helps Him Learn Faster, Accelerate His Mission, and Express Himself

Musk is NOT a primarily warning for irresponsible social media use. Rather, he is model for how professionals, leaders, and entrepreneurs can and perhaps should communicate online in our modern world.

And, I'm not alone in my thinking. Jack Dorsey, CEO and co-founder of Twitter, and one of the more thoughtful tech CEOs agrees...

What does Jack see that others miss?

Here are five lessons we can all learn from Musk's Twitter usage that will make us smarter, more impactful, and more successful...

Lesson #1: In our social world, the benefits of speaking your voice outweigh the costs


With Musk’s mis-steps one would think that he’d lose huge government contracts and see the value of his company decrease. The opposite is true. While Musk has certainly attracted many detractors, the size of his haters pales in comparison to his legion of fans. Based on their earnings, Tesla is one of the highest valued companies in the stock market.

Yes, Musk has made mistakes with how he communicates. But the lesson learned from these mistake should NOT be throwing out the baby with the bathwater and making his Twitter account into a corporate PR account. Put more simply, people resonate with people, not spokespeople for companies. The benefits of free expression outweigh the costs.

Lesson #2: Build your personal brand over your current company’s brand

Many would be philosopher CEOs only create content for their current company. In other words, their personal brand is subsumed by the company’s brand. Musk’s does the opposite. His companies are subsumed under his personal brand. This gives Musk a huge tribe of true fans that will follow him to every project he does for the rest of his life.

A lot of entrepreneurs feel guilty devoting time and money to writing on topics they're passionate about, but that don't directly relate to the business. Musk’s approach shows that this more personal approach can be better for your current companies as well as your future ones.

Lesson #3: Speaking your truth makes you antifragile

Nassim Taleb, New York Times bestselling author of Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder is not afraid to share what he really thinks and put his reputation on the line. Like Musk, he has built an antifragile reputation.

As he explains in the book, things that are fragile break when they’re exposed to stressors. A glass vase is the perfect example. If you drop it, it breaks. With fragile objects, you want to keep them as safe as possible.

Things that are robust do not change when exposed to stressors.

Nassim’s contribution is the introduction of a third category; antifragile. Antifragile things actually want stress up to a point, because they become stronger with it. Our bodies are a perfect example. We grow muscle by exposing it to lots of resistance.

As we enter this new reputation economy, 'outing' who we are and what our best insights are may be the best approach to building an antifragile reputation. Senior executive Cindy Gallop captures the power of outing yourself in the following quote from a Forbes interview I did with her:

"If you identify exactly who you are and what you stand for, what you believe in, what you value, and if you then only ever behave, act and communicate in a way that is true to you, then you never have to worry about when anybody comes across you or what you're found doing, because by definition you are never caught doing anything to be ashamed of." — Cindy Gallop

In his book, Nassim gives the following advice on how to become antifragile:

You do not want to “control” your reputation; you won’t be able to do it by controlling information flow. Instead focus on altering your exposure, say, by putting yourself in a position impervious to reputational damage. Or even put yourself in a situation to benefit from the antifragility of information. In that sense, a writer is antifragile.

Lesson #4: CEOs should be thought leaders

Many CEOs think of thought leadership as a nice-to-have. So, they hesitate to develop the skillset because they are too busy. If Musk can find the time, so can you. I personally believe that having a personal brand is becoming more and more of a long-lasting competitive advantage.

In Good To Great, Jim Collins makes the case that the best leaders are level 5 leaders. They shun the press and most people don't even know their name. While that may have been true in the past, in the age of social media, it doesn't seem to be. I believe its worth it for every entrepreneur to master the skill of thought leadership and build up a tribe of true fans. As your tribe grows, you'll be able to rapidly get new customers, top talent, and investors for every company you start with just a few tweets.

Lesson #5: Social media can help you learn faster

Feedback is one of the four essential ingredients in the universal learning loop that all organisms use to learn...


Feedback is particularly important to Musk. In a 2012 interview, he was asked about his best advice. His first hack did not disappoint. His suggestion to Think From First Principles became the fodder for tens of thousands of articles and videos extolling its virtues. Musk’s second hack was no less profound, but it has been almost completely forgotten.

Here’s the first part of his answer…

It’s very important to actively seek out and listen very carefully to negative feedback. This is something that people tend to avoid because it’s painful to hear, but it’s a very common mistake.

With that said, most of Musk's tweets are actually responses to other tweets—many of them from Tesla customers. Here's a very common example.

Using Twitter gives Musk direct information flow from his most important stakeholder — customers. This way, Musk doesn't get distorted feedback via his corporate communications hierarchy or the media.

Bottom Line: Thought Leadership Is An Essential Skill

20 years ago, putting your photo online was weird. Today, billions of people share their ideas, photos, and videos publicly weekly.

10 years ago, social media was considered something that teens did for fun. Today, social media is a fundamental part of the political and business world.

I now believe that being able to share your story and best ideas publicly in a way that spreads virally and transforms people's lives is one of the most valuable skills that all executives and entrepreneurs can develop.