Twitter is Not Rocket Science. It’s Way Harder.

It should not come as a surprise that Elon Musk, the world’s richest man and a pioneer of space and motor industries, would think that he could run a social media company. It is not rocket science after all.

Rocket science it is not, indeed. But that doesn’t mean social media is easy. In fact, it’s probably harder.

Building rockets and shooting them into space, all while turning a profit is an extraordinary accomplishment, no doubt about that. But behind all that brilliant engineering are decades of well-established physics, advances in material science and manufacturing, countless blueprints, scientific papers, and conferences. Rocket science is far from uncharted territory.

Compare that to social media, where almost no hard truths exist. Not only is the entire industry relatively young, it is also based on one of the hardest and least understood phenomena in the known universe: human psychology. And it’s not just interactions of a handful of individuals we are talking about here, but hundreds of millions of people around the world.

That is why running a social media company requires a very different skillset compared to running a space company. It cannot be organized around technology and science alone, but rather, as another famous entrepreneur liked to say, “the intersection of technology and liberal arts.” Geekiness mixed with savoir faire, if you will.

In other words, to run a social media company you need more than a mastery of mathematical equations. You need empathy, emotional intelligence, social awareness and the ability to connect with others. An organizational culture that can keep a pulse on the society and can respond to changing tastes, trends, and fashions. Not just for a couple of years, but decades to come.

Of course, one should never underestimate Elon Musk. The man has proven himself time and time again. Whatever his next moves are going to be, though, one thing’s for sure: the road ahead won’t be easy.

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