Twitter is a San Francisco, California-based microblogging service where an individual can read and post short messages which are known as “tweets”. Twitter is a social media platform that allows its users to stay interconnected as they follow, like, and retweet experts and their corresponding tweets. Unlike other social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, which are text-heavy, Tweets consist of only 280 characters or less and can contain various types of information, such as, links to articles, gifs, photos, and videos. Twitter is one of the contributors in the sharing economy era, as people nowadays are more open to disseminate information, perceptions, and recommendations about ideas not just to family and friends, but also to strangers online. Furthermore, it allows its users to tweet short updates on various topics, from personal feelings to political and business announcements. It has transformed the way we send and receive information within the social, political, and cultural spheres. It also allows its users to reach a large number of audience by tweeting using hashtags, and contributing and following discussions.
How Twitter started:
Evan Williams and Noah Glass, two of the founders of Twitter, invented Odeo, a music podcast platform (Mullins & Komisar, 2010). As Jack Dorsey joined the team, Odeo launched its first product in 2005, however, apple came up with iTunes then. Hence, Odeo did not satisfy its consumers and target market as no one was thinking of purchasing it. Jack Dorsey had an idea, wherein he imagined twitter as an SMS-based platform to communicate and check on his group of friends using status updates (History.com Editors, 2019). There was quite a bit of a setback as Evan Williams and Biz Stone, the other co-founders of Odeo and Twitter, were not keen on the platform. Odeo was not doing very well, thus, the team acquired the majority of the company and bought shares from shareholders (History.com Editors, 2019). They then transformed it into Twitter. The first time Twitter, as a platform, reached its tipping point was in March 2007 at the South by Southwest festival in Texas, where there were more than 60,000 tweets sent per day (Mullins & Komisar, 2010).
Twitter’s revolutionary business model:
The collaborative nature of Twitter allows its users to create content and post messages regarding anything that is on their minds. This has made disseminating knowledge and gathering news information much easier than acquiring information from broadcast televisions. Despite there being people who prefer watching the news from the television, Twitter still proved to be an important source in spreading information instantly (Greer & Ferguson, 2011). In 2009, US Airways flight 1549 made an emergency landing in the Hudson River where five people were injured (Greer & Ferguson, 2011). This made a land on Twitter before the mainstream media broadcasted the story (Greer & Ferguson, 2011). This example comes to show that Twitter serves as a digital update service that connects individuals and keeps them up to date with the necessary information.
For digital companies, a business model is to attract traffic to a particular website. It needs a large number of people and then it gives others the chance to advertise their own respective products to the huge crowds trafficking their corresponding website, in return for a monetary value (Ovans, 2015). Twitter has the ability for users to not only post information, but, to like and retweet someone else’s posts, which is usually considered as external validation. CEOs who have Twitter accounts take this opportunity to initiate online conversations with their stakeholders, consumers, or any external party. Tweeting can help shape the company and the CEO’s public image which allows its consumers to have a positive outlook on them, which will more likely influence consumers to follow and purchase any good or service that they produce (Malhotra & Malhotra, 2016). Company profiles and CEOs usually share business-related content, such as the latest and current product announcements. More often than not, they also promote the tweets they share (Malhotra & Malhotra, 2016). These tweets usually get liked or retweeted which allows them to reach a bigger market, thus, the profile gains new followers. Using features of Twitter such as, like, retweet, mention, hashtags, promote, and merely tweeting itself, allows companies to build brand awareness and to build relationships with external parties. Additionally, these features also allow consumers to speak up concerning their thoughts and feelings about the company and its products. Therefore, businesses benefit from this as they reach a broader audience. They can also use these tweets as data when analyzing consumer behavior and developing marketing strategies. Moreover, Twitter also benefits from this as users are more likely to hop on the application and produce content if they know that their specific favored company is talking about their product preferences. Not to mention that Twitter also generates income due to promoted tweets and accounts.
Among the many user-interface features of Twitter, such as, hashtags, tweet-threads, direct messaging, and creating polls, advertising is the key to twitter’s generated revenue. Twitter’s revenue amounted to over 936.23 million U.S. Dollars, just in the third quarter of 2020 (Statista, 2020). 86% of Twitter’s revenue comes from advertising on the site, through ways like promoted tweets, promoted accounts, and promoted trends (Statista, 2020). One of the ways Twitter charges its advertisers is according to the amount of engagement their posts generate (Gadkari, 2013). In short, they pay per retweet.
There has been a shift in the social ecology wherein technological developments have caused online media to flourish, rather than the traditional media. Thus, media ecology mirrors an adjustment to the changing media as Twitter has replaced mainstream media in a way where status updates, political announcements, and news and business broadcasts are shared within a blink of an eye (Lev-On & Uziel, 2018). Twitter is a part of the sharing economy as it is an online social media platform that has become an established means for producing and consuming content (Lev-On & Uziel, 2018). Many are active in this media ecology as it is accessible at anytime and anywhere, through a click of a button.
Figure 1: Twitter ecosystem map. Source: authors own
An average user of Twitter is found to be on the younger side, educated, and they identify as a democrat (Hughes & Wojcik, 2019. Consequently, millennials are the most active users of Twitter. The total number of Twitter users is 340 million, 166 million are monetizable daily active users (Sehl, 2020). In Australia, there are over 4.6 million active users (“FIBER | Social Media Statistics (Worldwide + Australia)”, 2020).
The active users of Twitter are its suppliers as Twitter depends on them to supply both the content of the posts and the engagement. These posts and impressions on Twitter are how Twitter generates advertising income.
Twitter partners with Brandwatch for an analytics provider, Dataminr for monitoring social trends, and Sprinklr to help them create memorable customer experiences and increase customer satisfaction (“Data Partners”, 2020).
With technology evolving, Twitter has countless competitors. Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and Myspace are all competing for an increase in user attention and engagement. Facebook is twitter’s main rival as it allows its users to post and update their status, which is comparable to tweets. The only difference is that Twitter has a 280-character limit, while Facebook allows its users to go on and on. With that in mind, users tend to go direct to the point when posting tweets due to the character limit, which is beneficial for users as it decreases reading time and allows them to stay longer to explore other parts of the platform.
Twitter is responsible for regulating itself. However, the intervention of federal and state governments is permitted if any legal action is necessary. In this case, social media regulators, such as, the Federal Communications Commission and General Data Protection Regulation are the ones who regulate Twitter.
Twitter has transformed our internet use in the following aspects:
Twitter lets its users communicate and share what they are feeling within a matter of a few seconds. Twitter has changed the way people relate socially, not just in a way where people get to know each other’s whereabouts, likes, and dislikes. But, it also mobilizes social change through the voice of many strong individuals. For example, stories that arise from the #MeToo movement increase awareness as it reaches millions of people (Airey, 2018). These survivors who are able to share their stories and experiences with sexual harassment through tweets have come to realize that through empowerment and solidarity for women from all backgrounds, they are not alone (“Understanding the Me Too Movement: A Sexual Harassment Awareness Guide”, n.d.). Twitter has changed the way people relate as it provides a space for people to simplify relationship building, foster interactions with an enormous audience, mobilize supporters and bring attention to the issues that might otherwise be overlooked by mainstream media (Guo & Saxton, 2013). Through the power of Twitter, to create and transform a social change is essential to bring together a world where violence and harassment do not exist.
Twitter is a platform that is used to spread political messages, raise awareness, and organize collective action. Twitter is also a space for political campaigns. For example, Barack Obama devoted much of his money and manpower to his Twitter campaign, which brought him great success (Adams & McCorkindale, 2013). Twitter allows audiences to disrupt one-way communication in traditional media and interact with one another about political issues. It has changed the way people relate politically in the sense that it has produced a sense of harmony and consensus (Himelboim, 2014). This is when people tend to connect with like-minded individuals who have similar views by exposing a range of perspectives available to their audiences and by exchanging information. Furthermore, it also makes people open-minded about political stands that are different from theirs. Twitter provides a social space where the information intake of users can come from a selection of sources. With these sources, Twitter transformed internet use as it provides users with a range of political debates and views that fills in the gaps in their political knowledge (Himelboim, 2014). Therefore, most people would rather check their political and news updates online.
Tweets sent by Ryan Perez to Felicia day. Source: (Tomkinson & Harper, 2015)
In the past, women were always excluded in the video game industry, as they were considered weak. Thus, excessive violence in video games was seen to be a restraint for women (Tomkinson & Harper, 2015). However, nowadays, female teenagers are increasingly active in forming a game culture and community online, and this is due to social media platforms such as Twitter (Tomkinson & Harper, 2015). In 2012, Ryan Perez, a video game journalist, sent a tweet to Felicia Day, a 35 –year-old female figure in the game culture. In the tweet, Perez criticizes Day for being a female in the geek culture and questioning if she is a “glorified booth babe” (Tomkinson & Harper, 2015). Perez’s tweet resulted in many angry tweets due to his sexist and condescending tone. However, these tweets have resulted in a change in the gaming culture as this incident is one of the many ways that changed the connotation of a gamer. Twitter is able to mobilize cultural change in a way where it unites people, provides knowledge and it puts a stop to any stereotypical notion of a culture, in this case, it is that gamers are strong, aggressive, and violent men.
Twitter has impacted millions of people around the world in various ways. It has affected the way people relate and use Twitter in an economic, political, cultural, and social sense. Culturally and socially, Twitter has made us active and aware and it has given us a voice to stand up for the issues that are dear to our hearts. Politically, it makes us dynamically involved and knowledgeable by following experts and contributing to many discussions. Economically, it has given businesses opportunities to grow and flourish. Twitter has reshaped how individuals live, work, and study by making its users a part of an interconnected world, just by simply asking its main question, “What’s Happening?”.
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