What is Twitter About, Anyway?

A blue twitter logo on a white background.

You know that social media is one marketing avenue you want to invest in this year, but you’re struggling to decide which platforms deserve your time and money.

If you’re considering Twitter, but wondering what it’s about, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, you’ll learn what makes Twitter the social media platform that it is and the story behind why it was created and how it’s changed over time. Finally, you’ll get some expert insight to help you make the decision on whether or not Twitter is right for your business.

Ready to learn more about Twitter? Jump to one of the following sections: 

  • What is Twitter about?
  • Twitter’s evolution and historical impact 
  • Recent Twitter news
  • Whether or not Twitter is good for business marketing

What is Twitter about?

Twitter is a social media platform in which people share their thoughts, opinions, news, and experiences. In addition, users can find and follow other individuals, businesses, influencers, celebrities, and politicians to learn more about them and read what they share with their audience. All users can interact with each other’s tweets by liking, sharing, or replying to them.

One important thing to know about Twitter is that the length of the messages (known as Tweets) users post are capped at 280 characters, though they can include text, photos, videos, and links to other websites alongside those characters. However, users get around this limit by creating threads on tweets by replying to their own post until they’ve completed what they wanted to say.

All Tweets are public — unless the user changes the security to make their profile private —and can be viewed by anyone that uses the platform or stumbled upon a Tweet as part of an online search. Yes, this means search engines index public Tweets and whatever is written in a user’s profile.

Twitter’s evolution and historical impact

Twitter’s origin story

Twitter was formed in 2006 by Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Biz Stone, and Evan Williams as a micro blogging platform with a social element. People were absolutely wondering “What is Twitter about?” when it first launched. 

According to Brittanica, Dorsey originally pitched Twitter as “a short message service (SMS) on which one could send share small bloglike updates with friends.” The article continues on to explain the presentation of Twitter at South by Southwest, also known as SXSW, in March 2007, as well as venture capital funds received shortly after is what  really pushed the platform into light. The public began to take interest, and as you’ll soon read, celebrities and politicians did too.

Twitter’s transition to being a vital social media platform

One of the first major shifts in the company’s history was in January 2009 when Janis Krums, a Twitter user traveling to New Jersey via ferry, shared the first image of a partially submerged US Airways flight 1549 after its successful water landing on the Hudson River. This moment set Twitter up to be on the forefront of modern journalism — users were able to get in-the-moment updates to what was happening both locally and globally. This drew hungry journalists to the platform, as well as everyday individuals who were tired of waiting for the nightly news or daily newspaper to report on major events.

Now, Twitter continues to be the go-to social media platform when people are looking for news as it unfolds or opinions as live events take place.

The history and relationship between politics and Twitter

Another big shift in the platform’s history was the celebrity and political involvement in tweeting. Twitter was one of the first places where someone could see a glimpse into the life and thoughts of the celebrities they admired. Additionally, the 2008 presidential elections were the first elections with candidates who used social media as a way to strengthen their candidacy.

According to PewResearch, “Three-quarters (74%) of internet users went online during the 2008 election to take part in, or get news and information about the 2008 campaign. This represents 55% of the entire adult population, and marks the first time the Pew Internet & American Life Project has found that more than half the voting-age population used the internet to connect to the political process during an election cycle.”

And Twitter led the pack with presidential campaigning and commentary. According to Britannica, President Obama had more than 20 times as many Twitter followers than his opponent John McCain. Twitter usage surged on the night Obama was elected president.

Co-founder Biz Stone reported to wired.com, “We’ve yet to do a full analysis for election day, but last night we saw messages per second peak at about 2-3 times what they did during the first presidential debate — which at the time was record-breaking activity for Twitter.” The article reports that “The first debate saw updates jump 18.5 percent in a week and sign-ups boosted by 23 percent.”

At the time, the presidential candidates were using their own personal Twitter handles to tweet. The first official tweet to the @POTUS account came in May 2015 during Obama’s second term. Once a president’s term is over, their account is archived, with their handle changing from @POTUS (which transitions to the next president) to a handle that includes the number president they are. As an example, Obama’s handle later became @potus44.

Politics became so big on Twitter that future presidential candidates even went so far as to announce that they were running for president on Twitter. PewReseach reports that in 2012, Newt Gingrich tweeted a link to a video on his website declaring his intentions. Gary Johnson also announced his intentions with a tweet.

In March of 2016, Ted Cruz announced he was running, later followed by Hillary Clinton who shared a video announcement originally posted on her website to her Twitter account. In 2020, President Biden was one of the many candidates who announced their candidacy using Twitter. Intentions to run in 2024 have already been made by rapper Kanye West

The 45th presidency was incredibly volatile, especially so on Twitter. The platform fought incorrect or manipulated information dissemination. 2018 MIT research found that misinformation spread much faster than the truth on Twitter. At the time, Sinan Aral, research co-author and professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management announced, “We found that falsehood diffuses significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth, in all categories of information, and in many cases by an order of magnitude.”

In attempts to prevent this, Twitter began tagging Tweets that may potentially share misinformation, along with taking other steps to build trust with users regarding election announcements and voting rights. 

The platform later permanently banned the 45th president (two days after the events) after he encouraged insurgents who stormed the Capitol as senators were attempting to certify the votes of the 2020 election — votes which confirmed he had lost. However, after a 2022 change in ownership, Twitter reinstated the former president.

Recent Twitter news

The most recent — and biggest — platform changes was the acquisition of the company in October 2022 by Elon Musk. According to the timeline provided by Search Engine Journal, ”Musk makes an offer to purchase Twitter for $43 billion, or $54.20 per share, and take the company private.” The deal was completed in October 2022 for $44 billion and Musk took ownership on the 27th.

A week before the acquisition was made final, The Washington Post reports that Musk “told prospective investors in his deal to buy the company that he planned to get rid of nearly 75 percent of Twitter’s 7,500 workers, whittling the company down to a skeleton staff of just over 2,000.”

Within a week of taking over Musk laid off half of the company’s employees, while also launching a new paid verification program in which users could pay a monthly fee — originally set to be $20, but dropped to $8 after user criticism. The pay-to-play verification system created a storm of users who impersonated other people or businesses. This seemingly small-scale trickery proved to have much larger effects. Besides creating a culture of misinformation and unease, the impersonation-with-the-help-of-verification fiasco caused some real off-site issues. 

Take pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly as an example. After an impersonated account claimed the company would be providing free insulin to their customers, “Eli Lilly’s stock tumbled more than 5 percent in morning trading…and was still down more than 4 percent at the close.”

Impersonations like this (and others) pushed the company to create a lockdown on name changes, which caused its own sense of trouble for active users who were using something other than their names in their profile. Rapper Doja Cat, for example, got stuck with the name “Christmas.” When she couldn’t change it, she turned to Musk for help. Now, Doja Cat has the handle of “fart”.

See the original Tweet here.

Is Twitter good for business marketing?

Now that you know all about Twitter’s history and evolution, the question is whether it’s a good tool to market your business.

Out of all the social media platforms, Twitter is the one I’m most nervous to comment about. Previously, I would have shared that many industries could do extremely well using Twitter as a marketing tool for their business. For example, my online literary journal once used Twitter as its sole marketing platform, and still enjoys the wonderful literary community that participates on the platform.

Because of all the recent changes to the company and the unknown for Twitter’s future, I’m going to have to withhold comment and suggest you either try Twitter out if you’re interested and it’s a new-to-you platform, or wait and see what transpires over the next few months to determine for yourself if the platform is viable for your business.

That all being said, I did just welcome two guest experts onto the Talk Copy to Me podcast to talk about their Twitter usage and how they think other business owners can benefit from the platform. I hope their insights will help you make a decision on whether or not Twitter is a good marketing tool for you.

Check out these two episodes to hear what they had to say:

So, what’s next?

Before you head off to strategize your social media approach, I want to remind you of one very important thing—your website.

Remember, social media is a borrowed landscape, and you want to point people back to your website, whether you do it directly, by sharing links to your website with the content you post, or something less obvious, like placing the link to your site in your bio.

Is your website in the best shape it’s ever been in? If not, it needs a touch up before wasting too much time and energy in your social media presence. How about you dive into your Twitter strategy and let me work on your website rebrand? 

Reach out to learn more about how we can work together!

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