What Is Twitter?
Twitter has been my favorite social media network.
According to my profile I joined in October 2007.
I thought I was a pretty early adopter, but the site launched in the Summer of 2006. So it was around for over a year before I got on board.
There was and remains a simple appeal with Twitter. I don’t even know if the creators realized what value they were offering when things were getting started.
Twitter hasn’t been one of the favorites in the social world the last several years. I believe growth has been relatively slow as has revenue. But they’re trying some things that could bode well for the future.
Let’s dig into Twitter a little more and really answer the question: What Is Twitter?
The Beginnings of Twitter
Twitter was born out of an idea for a way for people in small groups to communicate. They could create updates or messages that others could see. All in one place.
The first time I looked at Twitter it seemed like it was simply the News Feed from Facebook or even the feed from MySpace, which was still the biggest social network at the time.
And even the basic idea of a message board had been around for awhile both in forums, but also with simple email.
Why would people post public updates with groups instead of just sending a group email and keeping track of the thread?
Over the first year or so Twitter kind of came into its own. The site was a place where people could post various kinds of updates or information. It was a way for others to get information from various sources: friends, colleagues, influencers and…celebrities.
I remember one of the first big users on Twitter was Ashton Kutcher.
Twitter went along pretty strong through 2008. People were using it more and more and Kutcher came along in 2009 and seemed to legitimize the social site for celebs.
This marked a change on social media. Not just Ashton, but when celebrities started using Twitter they kind of changed an entire industry.
Instead of watching TV shows, reading interviews in magazines or things like that, fans could follow celebs on Twitter and get real time updates directly from the people they admired.
Celebs talked about their rockstar lives and also about how they were just people that lived regular lives. They could control the message. They could also get in trouble and it all helped to grow Twitter and bring more people to the network.
Twitter Becomes “The News”
It seems that once things started rolling that the founders and managers of Twitter realized that the value the site provided was a way for information to spread and spread fast.
At the time, 2009-2010, people still watched news on TV or listened to the radio and things like that when breaking news would hit. I don’t even know where else we got breaking news from.
Then Twitter came along and people, not reporters, but real people, starting reporting news.
Ashton Kutcher is at the baseball game? You don’t need to see it on ESPN at 11:00pm. You can see it during the game by logging on Twitter and seeing people sharing the news that are at the game.
Natural disaster somewhere in the world? You’ll see it on the 6:00pm news, but you can get up to the second updates from hundreds or thousands of sources right on Twitter.
This became a pretty big niche for Twitter and it was unique.
A service like Twitter had been around for awhile on other social sites like Facebook. People could post any kind of update.
But a key difference was that most Twitter profiles were public. Anyone could follow anyone by default. And it seemed that very few made their profiles private. If you want that you go to Facebook.
Twitter has continued to be a source of news. NFL and other sports reporters have really taken to Twitter to break or report news. Sometimes I wonder what Twitter would be without the NFL during the peak football season. Twitter explodes when big NFL reporters break player and team news.
But it’s also about more information than just the news. Blog posts, videos, etc.
All kinds of information is shared on Twitter because the site has become a place where people go to get information. It’s a way to easily curate information that you want to consume.
And it does it generally better than email.
The Character Limit
One of the curiosities about Twitter was the 140 character limit.
I never really knew the reasons for the character limit. It looks like there were technical reasons. Twitter came about at the same time as the iPhone. I think maybe there were limits with the number of characters you could type in one message or something.
Short messages could probably load faster than longer ones. Twitter was always a very fast loading app. It was a place to get information really quickly and basically as it was happening.
But most users didn’t really care about the technical reasons. The 140-character limit was kind of odd, but that was an appeal with Twitter.
As people used their phones more and more they became more efficient with language. They would shorten words and things like that while still making sense in conversation with others.
It’s kind of interesting. People are creative, but if you give them complete creative freedom they often get lost. Give them parameters, like a character limit, and they can really innovate and that’s what Twitter was able to do.
I don’t know if that’s what they intended, but it happened.
Twitter Bets Big On Live Sports
As I mentioned, Twitter kind of became the go-to place for sports reporters and fans.
The fans flock to Twitter to get the latest and most recent updates on their favorite teams or players. And reporters often use Twitter much more than they publish articles for their various publications.
And even players and teams now use Twitter to skip the reporter and go straight to the fan. It can get some players in trouble, but for the most part the fans love it.
In recent years, Twitter has kind of floundered a bit. It’s almost like things have reached a peak with sharing information.
But Twitter bet big with the NFL in 2016. Twitter apparently paid $500,000 per game to stream NFL games on Thursday nights. I don’t think they had all Thursday games, but they had some.
And my wife and I don’t get CBS where we are with an over the air antenna. So we watched a Packer game on Twitter and it was a great experience. You would never know it was a stream.
I read one NFL reporter’s take on what Twitter did. He said that the play reminded him of what Fox did in the ’90s when they bought a package of NFL games. Now Fox is a big name in the NFL.
Twitter also started working with the PGA Tour in 2017. Early round coverage of featured groups is featured for about 90 minutes on Twitter.
It’s a really interesting play from the social network and could be a way to the future.
The Future Of Twitter
Twitter seems like it will be around for awhile.
It’s not like other social media sites. It doesn’t grow as fast. It doesn’t seem to generate the same kind of revenue…right now.
But Twitter is a survivor and it seems like they might have something going on with this whole sports thing. Streaming of live events has an opportunity to really change things and probably kill cable TV for good or at least on a huge level.
Can Twitter disrupt things there while also sticking to its core of delivering all kinds of information as fast as possible?
That will determine the future of Twitter and how people use it.