Twitter, a window to world.


Twitter, a window to the world.

Twitter app

Image: PhotoMIX, PixabaySome rights reserved


By Anita Zhu

As a web2.0 website, Twitter plays a vital role in mobilizing social change and transforming the way people participate in the public affair, Also, It has challenged conventional advertising for enterprise.

This essay will firstly introduce the characteristics of Twitter. The second and third part briefly discusses its development history and business model. Moreover, its internet ecology will be mentioned. The last part will analyse transformative influence towards to political, social ,economic and culture sphere.



What is Twitter ?


Twitter is a Microblogging and social networking service social platform of  the USA.  Users is able to post maximum of 280 characters “tweet” in once, and interact with other users by such as comment, like, retweet etc . The post pushes information to followers through updating feed (timeline).  Moreover, the hyperlink in tweets enables users to link to other sites, such as News, YouTube video etc. Twitter enrich its content layout through external links. Twitter As of October 2020,  Twitter Announces First Quarter 2020 Results shows that the total users approximately are 340 million and Average monetizable daily active users (mDAU)  are 166 million, and the data from Pew Research Centre below indicate that in 2019, “ twitter users  are younger, more highly educated and wealthier than general public of USA“.  It is a representatives  of Fuchs (2013) “participatory culture”,  the individual does not merely and passively accept what the media corporation released, instead,  On Twitter, people transform as both internet ecology consumer and producer.

Twitter users research

Image: Pew Research Center, Some Right Reserved


The history story of Twitter


Twitter was officially born in July 2006 (Burgess,2020), and found by Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Biz Stone , Evan Williams etc. It began with Jack Dorsey’s idea of  “I want to have a dispatch service that connects us on our phones using text”(The Guardian, 2010). It went to public at 2013 and  An initial public offering (IPO) to raise money from public investor,(About twitter, 2020). This YouTube video below is  Twitter Co-Founder Jack Dorsey Answers Twitter Questions, He answered some typical question people will be questioned about twitter.

Twitter CEO answer the question

Video: Wired, YouTube, Some right reserved.


Along with the rapidly increase number of user, twitter’s influence grows. Two reasons contribute to its transformative effect are the nature of platform and the increasing Corporate Competitiveness, and legitimacy. Initially, twitter establish an instant updating platform to discuss the public affair base on the extensive communication capabilities and platform characteristics Gillespie (2018) :

  1. organize and circulate user’s input
  2. not produce content, but shape the shape of public discourse.
  3. based on infrastructure and circulation of information” (p.18) ”


It can be perceived from the dramatically increased usage and influence in prevailing discussed events. For example, in the 2008 Barack Obama election, the signup number of twitter expanded by 23 percentage (The wired, 2008).


Different from the blog, the post content of Twitter is limited in 280 characters, so it relieves the pressure of reading and accelerates dissemination of information. Its competitors, Facebook, is more oriented to social network base on offline relationship , but “twitter message go out to the world”, which is also different from Snapchat(Mancini, 2009)


Moreover, Twitter continues to acquire variety of corporations to improve the industry competitiveness. The company vine which allows users to create the six seconds was brought by twitter in 2012(The verge,2016). Vine video shared in the twitter can be directly watched in the user’s twitter feed. In 2014, twitter announced to build partnership with International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) . In this case, enterprise able to utilize Twitter data for analysis their customers for further development (About twitter, 2020). Moreover, it is significant to notice that in early stage, Twitter was merely a platform that users share trivial daily, however, it later transformed to a more mature news sharing platform. It is relevant with twitter’s enhancement of its legitimacy and media communication (Burgess,2020)



How twitter earn profit?


The 75-percentage stock is owned by institutional investor, and the vanguard group is the largest shareowners of twitter. Its CEO is Jack Dorsey, CFO IS Ned Segal.


Twitter business model is mainly constituted by advertising and data licensing and other relevant services. (About twitter,2020).  Gillespie (2018) described twitter as  “ …brings together independent speakers with interested listeners, coordinates their interaction, and takes a fee from the exchange- in the form of valuable user data.”  ( p22)


Twitter attempts to enlarge the user’s number and enable them to spend as much as possible time to produce interactive activity. And user’s tweet, information, and activity in the platform will contribute build a “social graph” for more precisely advertising strategy (Gillespie, 2018, p16-19)


A BBC news reported that in 2013 the Twitter change timeline to automatically preview the link (including the video and image), thereby the advertisers have a vivid style in first look to display their content. Also, it stimulates users’ interaction to the tweet.

Twitter Timeline Preview

Image: Twitter, Some right reserved


Twitter internet ecology


Although in the social media stats shows its ranking is third of marketing share, different from the “ Facebook-style reciprocal ‘friending’,” and long text in blog, Twitter allows users communicate about instant message globally, and news spread in the platform efficiently than the conventional news site.

Social media global stats

Image: StatCounter, Some Right Reserved



Twitter’s competitors are Facebook, which allows users to create the profile, and build a social network based on friend, relatives, colleague, and the enterprise is able to build a community and interact with targeted customers group. Instagram is video and picture oriented social platform. Tumblr is blogging and snapchat is message platform but a short time storage form (Curran, 2011)


Twitter cooperates with data analyse and Ads company, such as IBM and 4C insight…etc, and it is regulated by the both government and users.  (About twitter ,2020) Government establish law to regulate its conduct, and users play a supervisory role.



Ecology of twitter

Image: Anita Zhu, Some Right Reserved





Twitter transform our use of the internet



  1. Promoting political participation


Twitter as social platform enhances the participation to public affairs. Gillespie (2018) in his article mentioned that in last century, the publishers and broadcasting company played a role of gatekeeper, but open web emphasizes on knowledge and sociality. Social platform enables users to write without knowing for Hypertext Markup Language( HTML) , and simplify the producers of publishing, commenting and sharing (p.15 ) . The dataverse of Harvard collects the 28 million post in twitter about 2016 American election. Although it has been criticized for artificially amplify specific sounds, essentially, it promotes citizen’s political participation by propelling the dissemination, reproduction , collision, and evolution of information (Castells, 2007)

Hashtag #Election 2016

Image: Twitter, Some right reserved

Policy issue users mention

Image: Twitter, Some right reserved



  1. Producing New advertising way


Twitter’s community service contributes to the brand sales and promotion, and provide the internet public word of mouth with enterprise. There is an increasing number of companies use social media to advertise their brand.


However, Twitter is outstanding since it constructs instant feedback, relation for company to analysed consumers. Twitter allows company to use strategy to build connection with existing customers and protentional customers (Curran, 2011) , For example, by interacting with consumer and establish brand “character”, company tend to evoke the customers emotion as interpersonal relationships. In other words, the brand attempt to create the illusion of real people so that consumer can respond in positive and humanized way (Kinney, 2015 )


  1. Mobilising social change


Hashtag of twitter promote social change by mobilising the social member and offering a innovate way for citizen participate in.  Virality dissemination is described as a


“ social information flow process where many people simultaneously forward a specific information item, over a short period of time, within their social networks, and where the message spreads beyond their own (social networks) to different, often distant networks, resulting in a sharp acceleration in the number of people who are exposed to the message ”(Nahon & Hemsley,as cited in Wang, 2016)


Twitter’s information dissemination and large number of user’s facilities the virality dissemination to online social movement.  The hashtag  is an effective way for gaining the virality by efficiently spread the information in topic “followers ”  (Wang,2016). And hashtag allows users to index keywords or topics and follow the topic they are interested in. To click a hashtag word, it will display other tweets which include hashtags. Moreover, hashtag word can boost the posting’s reach, so it can promote the topic in trend (Rauschnabel, 2019). Rauschnabel  (2019)in his research reckoned that one of the  motivations of users express the individual opinion to public is  “a sense of empowerment which include the leading and influence public opinion”


Hashtag inventor

Image: Chris, Twitter, Some right reserved



Some of famous #hashtag activisms are #MeToo (movement to condemn sexual harassment and abuse for women) and #BlackLivesMatter, #IceBucketChallenge etc.  These hashtag movement is not merely slacktivism which refer to just limited to online “ retweet” or “ like” but not produce the actual effect in reality. They triggered a massive parade and, make contribute to social and cultural change.


To take #Occpuywallstreet  as example to analysed the influence of hashtag. It began with the  Canadian anticonsumerist publication Adbusters July blog post in September 2011 with the twitter #OccupyWallstreet hashtag. It was announced that protesters aim to oppose the power-for money deals,  Bipartisan political dispute in American politics, social injustice and economic inequality . Accompanying  with  increasing post in hashtag   #occupuywallstreet,  part of those online voice by a noticeable scale took offline action in the wall street,( Tremayne, 2014)

Movement of occupy wall street

Image: BBC News, Some rights reserved

Movement of occupy wall street

Image: BBC News, Some rights reserved


It is founded that in hashtag #Occpuywallstreet , there is 33%-44 tweet include the hyperlinks, such as YouTube video, article etc, and it allows users exposure to multiple perspectives. In addition, large percentage users generated content in twitter revealed that twitter support participation in social movement. (Rheingold,as cited in Gleason 2013)


According to Tremayne (2014) analysis,  he claimed that the @mention and #hashtages can be understood as “corss-cutting network mechanisms”, which assembles people from disparate backgrounds. Furthermore, the negative side also takes advantage of Twitter. In Sullivan (2014) research, he illustrated the terrorist use Twitter to spread information to achieve strategic goals in 2013. Therefore, twitter’s transformative effect is reflected in promoting or initiating social change efficiently.



In conclusion, Twitter as Microblogging and social networking service enable people to take part in the public affair in a different way, and the hashtag facilitates to mobilize the social change. Moreover, the community of Twitter allows the company to interact with consumers by instant feedback, which reinforces the brand sales and promotion inefficient and innovative way, compared to the pre-internet era.





Academic resources


Burgess, J., & Baym, N. (2020). Twitter : a biography . New York University Press.


Castells, M (2007) Communication, power and counter-power in the network society. International Journal of Communication 1(1): 238–266.


Curran, K., O’Hara, K., & O’Brien, S. (2011). The role of Twitter in the world of business. International Journal of Business Data Communications and Networking, 7(3), 1+.


Fuchs, C. (2013). Social media a critical introduction . SAGE.


Gillespie, T. (2018). Custodians of the internet : platforms, content moderation, and the hidden decisions that shape social media . Yale University Press.


Gleason, B., Tufekci, Z., & Freelon, D. (2013). #Occupy Wall Street: Exploring Informal Learning About a Social Movement on Twitter. The American Behavioral Scientist (Beverly Hills)57(7), 966–982.


Kinney, L. (2015). Brand Spokes-Characters as Twitter Marketing Tools. Journal of Interactive Advertising15(2), 135–150.


Mancini, J. (2009). 8 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT TWITTER AND BUSINESS. Infonomics, 23(5), 18.


Rauschnabel, P. (2019). What motivates users to hashtag on social media? Psychology & Marketing36(5), 473–488.


Sullivan, R. (2014). Live-tweeting terror: a rhetorical analysis of @HSMPress_ Twitter updates during the 2013 Nairobi hostage crisis. Critical Studies on Terrorism7(3), 422–433.


Tremayne, M. (2014). Anatomy of Protest in the Digital Era: A Network Analysis of Twitter and Occupy Wall Street. Social Movement Studies13(1), 110–126.


Wang, R. (2016). Hashtags and information virality in networked social movement: Examining hashtag co-occurrence patterns. Online Information Review40(7), 850–866.



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Twitter (2020).Image of Hashtag. Retrieved from


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