The popularity of mobile devices and the era of web 2.0 have brought many opportunities for the development of social media platforms. Twitter is one of the examples of rapid growth in this era. The apt description of Twitter is “a microblogging space that allows users to share thoughts using a set maximum number of words and can also have links to external sites”. Users are able to create personal accounts and use functions such as following users, view and retweet other’s posts. An attractive purpose for many users is to magnified contents and increased their popularity. This essay will analyze the structure and operating model of Twitter, and then expand and analyze how it can change the market size and industry status through innovative means. Finally, critically comment on the advantages and disadvantages that users face in the process of using Twitter.
Twitter is increasingly becoming the social networking site of choice for many people due to the diversity and host of information that is available on the platform (Toubia and Stephen, 2013). The site has completely changed the interaction of people with the internet as more people become accustomed to the short and summarized version of communication. Twitter previously allowed only 14 characters per tweet but increased to 280 characters, which is traditionally a very short paragraph but was a big expansion for the social media giant. Users in the Twitter-verse are mainly individuals but organizations such as companies, and political institutions have accounts that help them interact with their stakeholders depending on the organizational policies regarding the use of social media accounts.
Twitter uses functionalities such as ‘like’ and ‘retweet’ and ‘hashtag’to break the inherent traditional media’s relationship that the popularity of posts is determined by users’ attention. In recent years, Twitter has gained momentum in becoming the best available social media tool for activism. Several political, social, and economic policies are often involved actively on the platform. Because of Twitter’s large user base that allows everyone to share opinions across boundaries, it can increase the visibility of the content to millions of other people. It, therefore, leads to traditional forms of media to discuss the issue and the majority of opinion based on trending hashtags. Some of the changes that have happened include the rise of geopolitics in which healthy democracies are created through increased citizen participation and constant requirement of accountability by giving the voiceless a platform to complain and judge performance (Segerberg and Bennett, 2011). In the economic capacity, companies are increasingly aware of the instant backlash or fame that comes with poor or exemplary service delivery respectively. The socialization of communities has also decreased significantly as more people spend their time on their smartphones as they jump from one social networking site to another. As socialization has reduced, connectivity has increased that surpasess geographical limitation. Nearly every social process has an online presence that completely changes the traditional forms and individuals gain more visible roles in the processes. Indeed, this can be seen in the popularity measures of people with the highest number of followers. These are the designated influencers and sources of information in which the political, economic, and social forces depend on to communicate with the masses more quickly.
Ownership and History of Development
The Twitter site was developed by four college mates; Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Biz Stone, and Evan Williams in 2006. The site had a slow start after its launch but quickly gained users, passing the 100 million mark by 2012. The company opened several offices across the world in an attempt to partner with corporations and marketing agencies to take advantage of its ever-increasing user accounts. The company is currently headed by Jack Dorsey as the CEO who works alongside a board of directors elected by the shareholders. The current approximate number of accounts is over 340 million people with over 500 million tweets being sent out daily.
“Twitter Ads in 2020/Is Twitter Marketing Worth it?”, by Alex Berman, Standard YouTube License
The business model of Twitter has always come into question as the hype of the social networking site continues to grow despite the abysmal financial performance of the company and a fluctuating valuation. Twitter introduced video sharing features which helped widen their revenue collection points. The company depends on the user benefits, advertisement benefits, and gave insight into its very large database to monetize the platform. Twitter has over the years acquired startups that strategically align with the mission of the company such as the acquisition of Crashlytics in 2013, Gnip in 2014, and Vine in 2013. Users can pay for their accounts and tweets to be promoted such that they appear on the top of users’ Twitter feed to increase their visibility. The company also sells their data which they have obtained data licensing and contributes nearly 20% of the company revenues.
Twitter is a stand-alone social networking platform that offers its users a pace for interacting with other users through tweets and links to external sites. Like any other social media site, its users are the main suppliers and consumers of its services such that individuals and corporations churn out the tweets and the same users are the consumers. The company only intervenes in this self-sufficient process when one party fails to abide by the terms of conditions.
Twitter’s main competitors are social sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, and Reddit. The competition in this industry is however hard to illustrate given that consumption is not limited to one product, an individual can have multiple social media accounts and actively use of all them depending on their intention. For example, Instagram has cultivated its niche as a picture sharing platform, Facebook is a social platform for connecting family with friends, while Twitter is considerably acknowledged as a source of news and information in addition to its conversational features (Garcia, Mavrodiev, Casati, & Schweitzer, 2017).
The massive and large number of data that the company has collected through its registration process and from individual tweets. The platform has the biggest impact on the notion of sensor society that Andrejevic and Burdon discuss in the text titled Defining the Sensor Society. Whenever an individual tweets, they share a personal opinion, and when they retweet a post is a show of shared opinion that generates large metadata on the individual and the society that they live in. The author posits the biggest concern regarding modern internet usage when the privacy of the user is brought into question and if the site is indirectly monitoring the behavior of the account owner (Andrejevic & Burdon, 2015). Twitter has its regulatory policy that terminates accounts reported for failing to adhere to the security and harassment policy (Shafi, 2017). As a sensory device, Twitter can be used to measure the spread of news and information in a given society based on the number of people who tweet a certain phrase and the time it takes a hashtag to trend, or how long it stays as a trending topic.
According to Goggin and associates (2017), the discussion of how digital rights of users are protected by the company to ensure that constitutional rights such as freedom of expression, access to information, and privacy are reflected in the use of networking platforms. More importantly, its focus on how consumer data is protected and used by the company and other third-party organizations (Small, Kasianovitz, Blanford, & Celaya, 2012). Twitter has a suppression policy for extremely divisive content in which the company has the freedom to curtail an individual’s freedom of expression if it does not meet other legal stipulations. The company is also censored in other countries such as China in which the governments believe that it will expose the citizens to anti-national values.
Attempts to improve digital security in the Australian context includes the most recent directive by the Australian government that social media executives will be held liable for allowing messages of hate to be shared on their platforms. This new directive applies to social media giants such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google. The above directive is considered as a first of its kind as the society makes the attempts to improve online safety by putting the responsibility of protecting users to the social media companies. The above law provides the Australian government with the powers to enact the laws even if the social media execs are residents of another country. The punitive damages include the option to jail or fine the executives, with a more strict punishment of business restrictions if the same non-compliance issue persists.
The biggest social impact of Twitter is that it has led to a shift in the conversational habits in today’s Millennial and Gen Z cohorts who prefer the instantaneous, short, and frequent messaging style. The 140-character limits accustomed the users to writing short messages and communicating similarly. Nowadays, young people keep in touch sparsely and are perfectly fine with that as families and friendships can be created using smartphones. The manner of interaction with the larger society has also changed significantly as corporations and institutions are engaged online and required to reply or risk going viral in a negative light (Karppinen, 2017). Twitter has also replaced traditional media outlets as the major source of breaking news within this generation cohorts. The real-time feature of users posting something as they happen provides followers across the world with a first-hand look at the event without the need for waiting for news or evening dailies to read about the breaking news (Woyke, 2018).
The other area of today’s world changed by the emergence of Twitter is the politics and discussion of political discourses by world leaders on Twitter where different people can voice their opinions using hashtags or by replying to a tweet. The current feature of a tweet in which a user can conduct a poll also has changed the political landscape by shifting power back to the citizens and promoting democratic processes. Nearly every political leader views the need of having a Twitter account as essential in providing services to the people who elected them into office (Grant, Moon, & Busby Grant, 2010). The organization of political protests is also closely supported by the activity of protesters on Twitter who ensure that their hashtags are trending as well as using the platform to provide information on where protesters can seek help or offer assistance.
Twitter has had the biggest impact on the modern society as it has touched every part of the political, economic, and social lives of the global population. It is a platform that essentially has the features of nearly every other social network site combined due to the ability to send out messages, pictures, and videos. The rise of the social networking site has been accelerated by its ease of use and applicability in helping create awareness of complex issues that traditional forms of media often censored. It is practically hard to imagine how the society existed in the pre-Twitter era, a fact that signifies the transformative nature of the platform.
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Grant, W. J., Moon, B., & Busby Grant, J. (2010). Digital dialogue? Australian politicians’ use of the social network tool Twitter. Australian Journal of Political Science, 45(4), 579-604.
Karppinen, K. E. (2017). Human rights and the digital. The Routledge Companion to Media and Human Rights.
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