It seems as if almost every news article today quotes someone from Twitter, whether it’s a celebrity or an eye-witness. Clearly, Twitter is ubiquitous. But how did we get to this point? And is Twitter really just fodder for journalists, or does it serve a wider purpose? We take a snapshot of Twitter in 2017, to see where it came from and what’s currently happening on the network.
TWITTER’S STORY BEGINS…
It all began in Noah Glass’s apartment with a start-up called Odeo which was going to become a podcasting platform. However, Apple launched iTunes Podcast, and Odeo became an irrelevant site. This called for urgent action so Jack Dorsey came up with the idea of Twitter – a global community of friends and strangers answering one simple question in 140 characters. But the investors of Odeo didn’t like the idea of Twitter, so Jack Dorsey did them a huge favour and bought all of their stock back from them.
By late March in 2006, Twitter was officially set up and it was only four months after that till Twitter had its first media coverage.
Twitter took to the internet like a storm and by the end of 2008, there were more than 4 million accounts. Its popularity just began to grow from there and has given it the position as one of the most popular methods of social media for businesses.
In the words of Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, you should ‘make every detail perfect and limit the number of details to perfect.’ With the focus on the amount of characters you use, every word counts for what you say and is what truly differentiates Twitter to all of the other social media networks.
But whether people actually do reach for perfection in their tweets is a different story – take Donald Trump’s tweet that baffled the internet with ‘covfefe’…
Fast forward to 2017 and Twitter now welcomes more than 328 million monthly users with 80% of these accessing their accounts through their mobile devices. That means, if Twitter was a country, it would now have the same population as the United States of America.
However, it’s not all good news for Twitter. In July 2017, they announced a $116.5 million loss and had failed to grow its monthly user base. As a reaction to this, their stock prices fell by 14%.
Potentially, this could be down to Twitter being notorious for online abuse which puts people off from signing up. This then would have an effect on the number of advertisements that businesses post on Twitter as it wouldn’t be as effective as posting on other social media platforms like Facebook. Therefore, Twitter begins to work at a loss and it’s a downward spiral from there.
This called for major action and a time to start listening to their users to see what they wanted and how to try and attract new people and prevent users from leaving.
TWITTER’S NEW FEATURES
Twitter has had numerous fresh licks of paint and their latest redesign to their desktop site and mobile app was to create a ‘lighter, faster and easier to use’ Twitter. To do this, they:
- Decluttered their User Interface by offering a sidebar menu making it easier to navigate to profiles, lists and personal settings.
- Created a real-time reply, retweet and like counter. As your engagement goes up, so does your counter without having to refresh or reload your tweets.
- Clearer typography and iconography to attract attention in a busy feed.
- Rounded avatars are now a thing rather than squared.
With one of the biggest complaints against Twitter being the ease of harassment, Twitter has decided to create a series of new features and services in response to the intimidating and threatening comments to keep people safe. These additions include:
- Notification filtering allows you to specify which accounts you do not wish to receive notifications from.
- Mute option to silence specific keywords and phrases for a chosen length of time.
- Reporting transparency means that the user will now receive notification when Twitter intervenes on an abuse report
- Time-out for some users who are reported whilst Twitter investigates the report
- Safe search by machine-learning technology to prevent users from seeing potentially abusive content
- Hiding abusive tweets by making them harder to find by showing the high-quality tweets first
- Reducing the amount of new abuse by preventing reported and flagged users from creating new accounts
Even though Twitter started as a text-based platform, images seem to be one of its top sources of engagement as tweets with images receive 89% more favourites and 150% more retweets than those without. This has led them to adjust the size requirements for photos so most photos will not have to be force-cropped anymore.
Along with the uncropped photo update, they have also introduced a multi-photo display to allow their users to seem more of the individual photos included, displayed as a collage. Their latest new feature is being able to use up to 280 characters in one tweet, which is still being tested to see how people react to it.
Since Twitter was created 11 years ago, they have always had the 140-character limit and the brevity of tweets was one of the most appealing features. This change may seem quite controversial as big changes can be the thing that people dislike however in time, the new feature will be embraced.
WHAT IS THE PERFECT TWEET?
Twitter is a great form of social media for businesses for many reasons. It creates good brand awareness and trust, enables you to access global communities and helps you quickly sort out any queries that customers may have.
According to surveys, the ideal tweet is:
- Between 20-40 characters long and includes 1 hashtag, so pick your words wisely
- Includes an image
- Doesn’t include any question marks
IS TWITTER KILLING IT?
Twitter killed it back in 2006. They came up with a concept to keep communication short and sweet but still informative. That was something that none of the other social media channels did and was a unique selling point for them.
Their ability to keep up with what their users want sent them downhill. Social Media became a place to express your views and with only 140 characters, that expression became more obviously limited in comparison. This may explain why Twitter is considering a raised character limit.
Twitter is not dead yet though. Businesses still thrive on Twitter with the ease of communicating with their customers directly and there are many potential updates for Twitter to increase their rate of user growth in the future.
Let’s just keep an eye on Twitter to see what they do next!