Curious about Twitter, not just as a social media platform but also as a company? Using a sample of recent tweets, this post offers a glimpse into the company’s leadership, its role in society, and how the platform and its features are evolving. Though neither comprehensive nor in-depth, this glimpse provides insights into the complexity of a Digital Era phenomenon that was built on the notion of simplicity. The end of the post provides additional resources for Twitter rookies.
Thanks to media hype, celebrity engagement and individual oversharing – along with a 140-character post limitation and an insane volume of activity – Twitter has developed a reputation as a bit of a digital wasteland. Sure, we’ve heard about the role Twitter played in the Arab Spring and we’re regularly reminded of its importance during crises and disasters, but most people still consider Twitter communication vapid and often narcissistic.
I’ve written before about the fact that we seem to hold Twitter – and social media generally – to a higher standard than other channels of human discourse. I don’t know about you, but most of my in-person communications don’t focus exclusively (or even primarily) on intellectual, deep and/or important subjects. How exhausting would that be?!?! The truth is that our exchanges with one another – regardless of the medium – range from the silly to the sublime. The difference is that our digitally-mediated exchanges are (quasi)public and (semi)permanent, making them a bit louder and harder to dismiss.
But, back to Twitter. Even with all the nonsense, Twitter is fascinating and, perhaps surprisingly, complex – both as a communication platform and as a company. The more I know about Twitter, the more intriguing I find it. Though it may have only a fraction of Facebook’s users, I consider it a much more powerful Digital Era utility and believe it has greater longer term potential as both a company and a social tool.
To illustrate this point, I have collected some “tweets about Twitter” since early October and organized them into a few categories. These tweets offer only a glimpse into what is happening at and with Twitter – and the story continues to change every day. Say what you will about the company, its leadership, and the platform itself, but you can never
say it’s boring!
If you have other insights to share about Twitter, I’d love to hear them.
- Courtney Shelton Hunt
Focusing on the leadership of a company that plays a significant role in society and the economy is to be expected, but the media has a particular fascination with current CEO Dick Costolo and especially co-founder Jack Dorsey. Interestingly, the other two co-founders, Christopher (aka Biz) Stone and Evan Williams don’t garner the same level of attention…
The first tweet below links to a long profile piece on Costolo and the company that offers nice insights into each. The four tweets that follow are for pieces that “spun off” of the NY Times article, focusing on a reference to Jack Dorsey’s reduced role at Twitter. These pieces start off titillating and gossipy, by keying in on one quote from Costolo, but the tone changes after Jack sets the record straight. Fittingly, the series ends with a profile piece on Jack Dorsey himself, which was the Forbes cover story in November.
Twitter’s Role in Society
Promoting civic action and improving local government? Giving back to the community? Balancing freedom of expression against government bans on hate speech? Yep, the company gets involved in those things, as evidenced by the tweets below.
Even when the company doesn’t get involved in social issues, the platform is still used to address them – sometimes seriously, sometimes humorously – as these tweets indicate:
And of course we can’t forget the role that Twitter played during Superstorm Sandy, for better and worse:
Ongoing Platform Evolution
If you’ve been following Twitter’s activities for the past year or so, you’re probably aware that they are moving away from supporting third-party apps (which were absolutely crucial to their early development and still address a number of platform deficiencies) to promoting more native apps. This shift is controversial to say the least - but as three of the tweets below indicate, it’s inexorable. The fourth, about the online white pages, hints at an approach to addressing their fallout with Google earlier this year.
Bonus: I didn’t learn about this through a tweet, but I would be remiss if I didn’t augment the above with this piece about potential changes in the platform: What The New Twitter Will Look Like.