From conferences to live events and news coverage, Twitter is a home for rapid reactions, hashtags, and ongoing communication between online users and communities. The social networking application is a freemium platform for users to share thoughts, observations, news of the day, and other multimedia through tweets and threads. The famous software application is available across devices but has long been a mobile-centric app.
This article looks at the popular social network, Twitter, including its features, use cases, competitors, and the company behind its development.
In this definition...
Twitter is a social network where users can follow one another and communicate through microblog posts published on their profiles and shared in followers’ feeds. The public platform is free and widely accessible, offering users the ability to share content in real-time and connect with millions of other accounts across the globe.
A tweet is a publicly or privately shared post that fits within the platform’s character limit. As long as the post is at or under the character limit, tweets can contain text, links, images, and videos.
The initial character limit for tweets was 140 characters, before Twitter raised the limit to 280 characters in 2017. Though users have the flexibility to write more, social media analysts note engagement is optimal with tweets under 100 characters.
Most tweets are text-oriented posts; however, the company also allows organizations to livestream events and join live-audio virtual environments known as Spaces.
Account users have five overarching ways to engage with other tweets:
Within DM conversations, users also have seven emoticon options to react to specific messages.
Upon launching the application, users land on their primary feed with options to navigate a handful of pages. The below sections look at user pages for their primary feed, platform exploration, notifications, messages, and Spaces.
A user’s home page is the primary feed, containing their followers’ tweets, ads, and other tweets their followers interact with in an algorithmic or sequential order. Users can customize the order in which they view tweets, mute specific words, and block users to curate their Twitter experience.
Users can also create additional feeds, available through the home page through Twitter lists. Users can have their primary feed and feeds on distinct topics of interest.
The magnifying glass icon takes users to the Twitter Explore page to view trends based on a user’s current location or a designated country. Users can see recent tweets on followed topics; trending keywords or hashtags; and tweets related to news, sports, and entertainment on the Explore page.
Whenever a user has an unopened notification, the bell icon in the navigation bar will show an additional icon with the number of messages. Tapping the bell sends users to the Notifications page to see recent followers, tweet engagements, and trending news.
Like the notifications icon, the mail icon on the navigation bar will show a number when the user has unread messages. Within a user’s Messages page (known as an inbox or mailbox for email), users can view recent conversations, search direct messages for a keyword, and review message requests from non-followers’ accounts.
When followers are in a Space, or live-audio virtual environment, users can see their presence at the top of their primary feed. Alternatively, they can tap the Spaces icon to see trending active and scheduled Spaces or search for a Space.
Upon clicking a specific Space, users can start listening to the conversation and request to speak. Users can view conversation participants, highlight tweets, share the Space, or minimize the Space while navigating Twitter and other apps.
Twitter uses multiple algorithms throughout the platform to recommend accounts, topics, ads, and tweets for users. When numerous followers of a user interact with specific accounts or tweets, the company’s algorithms will suggest those accounts and tweets to the user.
Businesses using Twitter for advertising or marketing can pay to utilize the company’s breadth of user interaction data by promoting tweets that target specific users.
In June 2021, Twitter decided to launch its first paid subscription service for users interested in premium features. Though a few features vary between iOS and Android mobile applications and the browser-based web app, the subscription service includes the ability to:
Twitter is a frequently cited platform for public relations, marketing, and brand awareness among the top social media networks. Businesses and organizations can announce new products, respond to customer complaints, or engage with existing or prospective customers.
Twitter is individual-centric, relative to other team or community-based networks, but there is room for group communication. Group administrators or spokespeople can use Twitter to make announcements and answer questions, granted stakeholders follow the account. Users can also create lists of specific accounts to generate a curated feed. Unfortunately, this is the extent for group-oriented use cases.
The leading microblogging platform comes with its share of criticism and controversy. Twitter’s popularity highlights common social media problems like online harassment, bots, disinformation, and data privacy.
|Twitter users can target or troll other users by responding to tweets or DM. To avoid unpleasant interactions, users can block malicious users or turn off public DMs and replies by non-followers.
|“Twitter bots” are bot software that use the Twitter API to autonomously conduct everyday interactions (tweet, retweet, like, follow) through a non-human account. Bots designed to send automated replies based on keywords on an unsolicited basis are against platform rules.
|The combination of a real-time news-sharing platform, potential botnets with malicious intent, and user challenges to decipher the integrity of news or accounts makes disinformation a widespread problem on Twitter.
|Users must practice vigilance in securing account access through a robust password and enabling two-factor authentication (2FA).
Other controversy surrounding Twitter includes moderation, censorship, and the policies used to determine the suspension or banning of accounts. Twitter is legally protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act from liabilities resulting from individual user tweets. Still, attempts by the company to curb harassment, dangerous speech, and bots have led to a debate over online free speech.
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The prototype was live within a few months, but growth in users and tweets per day was slow for the first year. In the following years, Twitter saw tremendous growth, going from 20,000 tweets per day in March 2007 to 65 million tweets per day in June 2010.
Originally a part of Odeo’s portfolio, Twitter spun off into its own company in April 2007, followed by its first funding round of $5 million the next month. In November 2013, Twitter went public on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) with an end-of-day valuation of $31 billion.
In all, Twitter has made almost 70 acquisitions, including notable additions like:
|Twitter client application
|Social media analytics
|Social video content
|Mobile advertising exchange
|Mobile ad targeting
|Magic Pony Technology
|Neural network technology
|Spam and fraud prevention
Twitter reported growth of 13% in average monetizable Daily Active Users (mDAU) to 217 million and 37% in annual revenue to cross $5 billion in FY 2021. In April 2022, entrepreneur Elon Musk tendered an offer of $44 billion to acquire the public company.
Are you interested in creating a Twitter account? Prospective users only need an email or phone number to register and can start using their profile within minutes.
All users can curate their experience through their account settings. Within the account “Settings and privacy” menu, users can review:
|View or change account information; change password; archive data; add TweetDeck Teams; or deactivate account.
|Security and account access
|Enable 2FA and password reset protection; view sessions, and history; or manage connected apps.
|Privacy and safety
|Protect tweets; turn off photo tagging; add location to tweets; select topics and interests; set sensitive content restrictions; mute and block content; manage DM settings; manage who can see your Spaces listening activity; control discoverability; set ad preferences; restrict offline data collection and sharing; or learn about privacy policies.
|Enable the quality filter to reduce duplicated or automated tweets; set muted notifications; or enable or disable push and email notifications.
|Accessibility, display, and languages
|Manage color contrast, motion, and autoplay; set font size, color, and background; choose display language and additional languages; or limit Twitter usage of data on cellular or Wi-Fi networks.
|Read release notes; review legal policies for cookies, privacy, ads, and terms of service; or read miscellaneous documentation on a range of company and user-related features.
Users can configure their profile and tweets to be public or private. This decision is made upon initial setup but is also changeable at any time and instantly executed.
Public accounts and tweets are available to all other Twitter users, whether following the account or not, and are easily discoverable through an online search.
Private accounts and tweets are only visible to accepted followers. Personal account holders can limit followers to known individuals to ensure privacy or to communicate with a specific group.
The most followed accounts on Twitter are some of the most recognizable public individuals in music, politics, sports, news, and entertainment.
|Barack Obama | @BarackObama
|Justin Bieber | @justinbieber
|Katy Perry | @katyperry
|Rihanna | @rihanna
|Cristiano Ronaldo | @Cristiano
|Elon Musk | @elonmusk
|Taylor Swift | @taylorswift13
|Lady Gaga | @ladygaga
|Narendra Modi | @narendramodi
|Ellen DeGeneres | @TheEllenShow
|YouTube | @YouTube
|CNN | @cnnbrk | @CNN
|Twitter | @Twitter
|NASA | @NASA
|The New York Times | @nytimes
|BBC | @bbcbreaking
|Starbucks | @Starbucks
|FC Barcelona | @fcbarcelona
|PlayStation | @PlayStation
|ESPN | @espn