Ten years ago, on March 21, 2006, Twitter was born. But not as the social media giant we know it to be today. You couldn’t log into Twitter on your desktop or phone and fire off tweets; instead you had to send an SMS message to the number 40404. These were dark times. So much so that when Twitter was launched, it was spelled twttr because Twitter.com was already taken and presumably no one liked vowels anymore. But let us not forget this was also the time when celebrities were naming their kids after the Japanese word for “pickpocket” and famous dogs, all of whom have certainly contemplated changing their names. So I guess leaving out a few vowels is forgivable.
Why did I join Twitter?
Since it’s inception, Twitter has grown into the perfect platform for breaking news and real-time advertising. However, that was not the reason I joined Twitter in early 2009*. Ashton Kutcher was my reason. I don’t remember being particularly obsessed with Ashton as a 13 year old. But at that time, he was THE celebrity on Twitter. I love pop culture, and it was exciting to me that I could potentially have knowledge of everything Ashton was doing. I am not sure why, because I am pretty sure the only movie or show I had ever seen him in at that age was “Cheaper by the Dozen,” which by all standards was not cinematic gold. A couple months after I joined, Ashton Kutcher was the first Twitter user to reach one million followers.
*Fun Fact: Todd was the first member of the Access team to join Twitter.
As time went on, my affinity for Ashton Kutcher declined as my use and love of Twitter grew. Of course, I still depend on Twitter for my daily celebrity fix, but it offers so much more now. Twitter is where I get my breaking news, as do a lot of people. Twitter as a news platform started with the “Miracle on the Hudson” and has since provided real-time coverage of tragedies like the Boston bombings (27 million tweets) and sporting events like the World Cup (672 million tweets in 2014). You didn’t have to watch the 2016 Oscars to know Leonardo DiCaprio finally won, because users were tweeting at an astronomical rate about it – 440,000 tweets per minute. That’s more than Ellen’s Oscar selfie the previous year.
Over it’s 10 years, Twitter has introduced many wonderful things to us. In 2007, Chris Messina started using hashtags, a tag used on Twitter and other social networking sites making it easier for users to find messages within a certain theme or conversation. At the beginning of 2013, Twitter launched Vine, a six-second looping video service, followed by Periscope, a live video streaming service, in 2015.
Now that Twitter has entered it’s awkward, pre-teen years, they have hit a bump in the road. Even though they have 320 million active monthly users, Instagram has more and Snapchat is quickly gaining with the younger generation. Where does Twitter fit in? It seems as though Twitter wants to focus on the real-time, cultural moments. Last year they launched Moments, a collection of curated trended topics, which to me needs more refining before I use it more than once a month. Additionally, they are rolling out new ad products, most notably a video ad that will stay atop people’s feeds all day long. The catch? It costs a cool half a million dollars to run.
Is Twitter Here to Stay?
From both a personal and business perspective, I think Twitter is here to stay. I personally don’t use Facebook to post about my life or my thoughts for that day, I use it solely for passive stalking. It could be that I am too self-conscious and I think no one could possibly care what I happen to be doing. In contrast, I actively use and engage on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.
From a news standpoint, it has been reported that Facebook drives more traffic to news sites than Google. Facebook’s push towards new has been evident in their changes the past couple of years, including the introduction of trending topics as well as Instant Articles. And I do use the trending topics for events, but I usually don’t discover these until a couple hours or even days after the event. Furthermore, most of the posts listed under the topic are articles from news websites. How real-time can these articles be? How many people had to proof and approve before it was posted?
Twitter is different. Over the past couple of years, the number of users who get their news via Twitter has increased 10 percent. Any old Joe can see something take place and tweet 140 characters about it. How did we learn about the Miracle on the Hudson? Janis Krums was on the commuter ferry helping rescue the passengers of the plane, he took a quick with his phone and tweeted it out to his 170 followers. But the tweet was retweeted, retweeted some more, and soon Krums was inundated with interview requests and his photo was used on the front pages of countless newspapers. He was a bystander, an average citizen. He wasn’t a reporter, but that is who reported the news that day. When I want real-time updates on what is happening, I go to Twitter not Facebook.
From a business perspective, we use Twitter with a couple of our clients. It especially comes in handy when the client is at a conference and we are not. We can follow along with the hashtag to see what is taking place and who is there. That way we can engage with people we know are at the event, and post more engaging content as well.
If Twitter can hone in on it’s news capabilities and expand on what it has created, I think they can be successful. I like the Moments feature and the fact that they integrate Vine and Periscope videos into this feed, but generally this feed does not feature what I would call breaking news. The news tab feature is more up my alley, in that is pulls in top daily news headlines alongside top trending tweets. I want everything instantaneously, including my news, and Twitter can provide that in 140 characters or less.