Let the social media world rejoice! Twitter has passed the decade mark. What began as one of those ‘why would anyone want that’ ideas has become a social media powerhouse that has changed communications over and over again. Even if the founder Jack Dorsey couldn’t clearly see the big picture of what Twitter would eventually be, he at least knew it had great potential. In its beginning Twitter, or twttr as it was called then, was kind of a one-way Facebook with no pictures, no user profiles to speak of, and posts that were limited to 140 characters. It was initially designed as a way for companies to do day-long brainstorming. If you had an idea, you would tweet it to the other members of your team, who could digest it and tweet related comments out to the same group.
One of the most important creations that has propelled Twitter was the development of the hashtag. Hashtags are so prevalent in today’s society that the word has been incorporated into the Oxford English Dictionary. The hashtag idea created a bridge for Twitter to wrangle some of the Internet’s most utilized function – searching. A user could use Twitter to search by hashtags, and tweet authors could embed hashtags in order to drive more search traffic to their tweet and hopefully increase followers. In 2010, Twitter created an explosion of traffic and boosted time-on-site by hyperlinking hashtags. Twitter hashtags have since been integrated into Facebook, Google Real Time Search, Gawker, Youtube, and millions of other sites through the Twitter API functions.
As the concept of tweeting became more mainstream, some unintended uses manifested themselves. Among the most important and relevant is the idea of trending topics. By monitoring which hashtags are being tweeted more often and at a faster pace, Twitter was able to identify ideas, personalities and organizations were becoming more important in a social sense around the world – or ‘trending’. For extremely high tweet bursts, Twitter can identify breaking news and can be used as an emergency broadcast channel of sorts.
Celebrities, companies and movements use twitter to reach their audience. The personal characteristic of a tweet allows a celebrity to tweet to his/her millions of followers, giving the followers glimpses into the celebrity’s life. Although a ‘follow’ is one way, followers get a sense that they are ‘friends’ in a Facebook sense. A company can also greatly benefit from their hashtagged name, or a campaign. Information on Nike, for example, can be found at @Nike or through one of the most successful Twitter campaigns ever, #JustDoIt. Even a social movement can effectively use Twitter to get its message out. A great example is the #occupywallstreet movement.
Trouble In Paradise
It isn’t always peaches and cream in the Twitter worlds. Whenever a new concept is brought to market, there are always those who abuse it or use it to facilitate illegal activities. In the early days of the Twitter boom, there were adopters who went all-out Twitter wild, tweeting even the most inconsequential events. ISIS, an international group notorious for using the Internet and social media sites has credited Twitter with helping to grow its member base. Twitter has also been accused of censoring accounts or tweets that don’t align with the political/social views of the Twitter executives. For example, recently a pro-Bernie Sanders account was banned just as Twitter executives were paying to attend a Hillary Clinton fundraiser. Another interesting fact is that Twitter has yet to turn a profit.
Anyway, happy 10th birthday, Twitter. We are anxious to see what you’ll accomplish in the next ten years – if you can hang on for that long!