Curious about Twitter, not just as a social media platform but also as a company? Using a sample of recent tweets, this post offers a glimpse into the company’s leadership, its role in society, and how the platform and its features are evolving. Though neither comprehensive nor in-depth, this glimpse provides insights into the complexity of a Digital Era phenomenon that was built on the notion of simplicity. The end of the post provides additional resources for Twitter rookies.
Thanks to media hype, celebrity engagement and individual oversharing – along with a 140-character post limitation and an insane volume of activity – Twitter has developed a reputation as a bit of a digital wasteland. Sure, we’ve heard about the role Twitter played in the Arab Spring and we’re regularly reminded of its importance during crises and disasters, but most people still consider Twitter communication vapid and often narcissistic.
I’ve written before about the fact that we seem to hold Twitter – and social media generally – to a higher standard than other channels of human discourse. I don’t know about you, but most of my in-person communications don’t focus exclusively (or even primarily) on intellectual, deep and/or important subjects. How exhausting would that be?!?! The truth is that our exchanges with one another – regardless of the medium – range from the silly to the sublime. The difference is that our digitally-mediated exchanges are (quasi)public and (semi)permanent, making them a bit louder and harder to dismiss.
But, back to Twitter. Even with all the nonsense, Twitter is fascinating and, perhaps surprisingly, complex – both as a communication platform and as a company. The more I know about Twitter, the more intriguing I find it. Though it may have only a fraction of Facebook’s users, I consider it a much more powerful Digital Era utility and believe it has greater longer term potential as both a company and a social tool.
To illustrate this point, I have collected some “tweets about Twitter” since early October and organized them into a few categories. These tweets offer only a glimpse into what is happening at and with Twitter – and the story continues to change every day. Say what you will about the company, its leadership, and the platform itself, but you can never say it’s boring!
If you have other insights to share about Twitter, I’d love to hear them.
- Courtney Shelton Hunt
Focusing on the leadership of a company that plays a significant role in society and the economy is to be expected, but the media has a particular fascination with current CEO Dick Costolo and especially co-founder Jack Dorsey. Interestingly, the other two co-founders, Christopher (aka Biz) Stone and Evan Williams don’t garner the same level of attention…
The first tweet below links to a long profile piece on Costolo and the company that offers nice insights into each. The four tweets that follow are for pieces that “spun off” of the NY Times article, focusing on a reference to Jack Dorsey’s reduced role at Twitter. These pieces start off titillating and gossipy, by keying in on one quote from Costolo, but the tone changes after Jack sets the record straight. Fittingly, the series ends with a profile piece on Jack Dorsey himself, which was the Forbes cover story in November.
- @nytimes: Dick Costolo of Twitter, an Improv Master Writing Its Script http://t.co/p1JqaYYc
- @HuffPostTech: Jack Dorsey's role at Twitter reduced because he's reportedly "difficult to work with" http://t.co/zukBEpNy via @memeburn
- @HuffPostTech: Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey's role "reduced" (again) http://t.co/GvqPZ9dL
- @HuffPostTech: Twitter's Jack Dorsey strikes back! http://t.co/S3VR97oD
- @mashsocialmedia: Jack Dorsey: I Only Work at Twitter on Tuesdays http://t.co/Wng0Eray
- @ForbesTech: Our latest cover story: Jack Dorsey: The Master Entrepreneur's Journey From Twitter To Square http://t.co/l37jMHW6 [and] http://t.co/BE0vMVYQ
Twitter’s Role in Society
Promoting civic action and improving local government? Giving back to the community? Balancing freedom of expression against government bans on hate speech? Yep, the company gets involved in those things, as evidenced by the tweets below.
- @HuffPostTech: Twitter co-founders team up with other techies to solve San Francisco's problems http://t.co/HVtTu5mC
- @nytimes: Twitter Shuts Out German Neo-Nazi Group's Account http://t.co/TiPwFeE8 (ironically, the link is broken; click here for the article)
- @nprnews: Twitter Blocks 'Offensive' Accounts In Germany, U.K.; Deletes Tweets In France http://t.co/jFTt84J4
- @nytimes: British Police Investigate Twitter Account http://t.co/860XNhw9
- @nprnews: French Tweet Sweep Shows Twitter's Local Struggles http://t.co/o0IqtThb
Even when the company doesn’t get involved in social issues, the platform is still used to address them – sometimes seriously, sometimes humorously – as these tweets indicate:
- @nprnews: Tweet Chat: Chasing Down Polio, Eradication In Sight http://t.co/v7WdV9gD
- @nytimes: Twitter Gives Saudi Arabia a Revolution of Its Own http://t.co/oCecPQYB
- @nprnews: Want Thousands of Twitter Followers? Put A Meme On It http://t.co/F1510kAI
And of course we can’t forget the role that Twitter played during Superstorm Sandy, for better and worse:
- @nytimes: How #Sandy slapped the snark out of Twitter http://t.co/styDaHXQ
- @nytimes: At Sandy's peak, Twitter was abuzz with activity. Trouble is, not all of it was true. http://t.co/ZStBs8GE
- @nytimes: .@NYGovCuomo was among the public officials to embrace social media during Sandy: http://t.co/cIeDOXs9
Ongoing Platform Evolution
If you’ve been following Twitter’s activities for the past year or so, you’re probably aware that they are moving away from supporting third-party apps (which were absolutely crucial to their early development and still address a number of platform deficiencies) to promoting more native apps. This shift is controversial to say the least - but as three of the tweets below indicate, it’s inexorable. The fourth, about the online white pages, hints at an approach to addressing their fallout with Google earlier this year.
- @mashsocialmedia: Twitter's New VP of Design Doesn't Use Twitter's Mobile App http://t.co/wEpdAmsc
- @mashsocialmedia: Twitter Publishes Bizarre Online White Pages http://t.co/E7PJktSl
- @mashsocialmedia: Twitter Considers Building Own Video Service [REPORT] http://t.co/nkkA9TvB
- @nytimes: Twitter to add photo filters to compete with Instagram: http://t.co/2j8SnzRJ
Bonus: I didn’t learn about this through a tweet, but I would be remiss if I didn’t augment the above with this piece about potential changes in the platform: What The New Twitter Will Look Like.
- Twitter for Rookies: Simple Guidance for Getting Started
- 15 Twitter "Worst Practices" for Rookies (& Others) to Avoid
- 6 Tips to Avoid Making a Hash of Twitter Hashtags
- To Hash or Not to Hash? A Decision Making Guide