This paper discusses the information network and communication tool known as Twitter. It highlights the basic features, reasons for usage including personal use, news dissemination, and corporate communication. It also highlights the challenges that come with this innovative microblogging site.
Table of contents:
- Features of Twitter
- Twitter Usage
FEATURES OF TWITTER
Twitter, a microblogging site introduced in 2006, has become one of the most innovative and popular social media tools. The site allows users to update statuses using up to 140 characters per message. There are a variety of navigation tools and options that a Twitter user has at his or her disposal. The most basic is the Tweet button, which allows a user to tweet, or write, any messages that he or she wants to be distributed to followers. The follow button allows users to connect with friends or other members that they wish. Tweets from members that a user is following will then appear on the user’s main feed. The retweet button, or RT symbol, allows users to duplicate a message as their own tweet. A hashtag, or ‘#’ symbol creates a quick way for users to follow all conversations and tweets about a specific event, topic, or brand (Valee 2009).
Twitter can be accessed through the online platform, at Twitter.com. Here, users can access through laptops and other devices with Internet access. The site consists of four tabs including the home tab, connection tab, discover tab, and profile tab. The home tab is where the news feed is, which contains all recent tweets. The connection tab includes all interactions that a user has had with friends that they are connected to on the site. The discover tab contains all recent trending topics and shows updates categorized by specific events and topics. Lastly, the profile tab is where the user’s personal profile containing pictures, recent tweets, and friends are located.
A Twitter application also exists for Twitter access from mobile devices such as iPhones, Androids, and other smartphones. The “app” has increased Twitter usage dramatically by creating a simple way to access the site from almost any location. The apps have simplified photo uploading and friend finding, making Twitter user-friendlier.
Twitter also recently acquired TweetDeck, a short messaging platform that allows users to organize brands, celebrities, news feeds, and people they “follow” (Twitter Buys TweetDeck 2011). This dashboard application allows users to be more flexible and stay updated on the most recent updates. It allows users to customize a variety of columns to represent their own personal preferences.
Twitter is used by a variety of different audiences for a variety of diverse reasons. Anthony Farina, the Director of Global Public Affairs for DuPont is aware of the importance of Twitter and how popular it is among consumers no matter what their age or demographic is. “Our followers are a mix of every demographic from scientists and journalists to NASCAR fans and new graduates looking for job opportunities. Farina says, “Whether younger or older, male or female, employee or consumer, our Twitter accounts have interactions with a wide range of people” (Frost, 2012).
Many people use Twitter mostly for their own personal use and entertainment. Several Twitter users follow their favorite celebrities and politicians. Most public figures have personal accounts that they personally and actively update. Because of this, Twitter has become a medium for reaching celebrities directly. There is an opportunity for two-way communication where there never was before. Many users also consult their accounts for recent updates on sporting events and other entertainment programs. Even live television shows have made an effort to integrate Twitter into their programs. Twitter has become a resource for getting information directly from viewers for those shows. An example of this is show, X Factor, a live television series that features individuals with an array of unique talents. X Factor asks for feedback and opinions from viewers and since its Twitter entrance in mid-September, they have generated 3.1 million tweets (Batistich, 2012).
Twitter is quickly replacing traditional methods of news reporting. Newspapers, magazines, television news programs, and other media outlets have their own Twitter accounts. By following these accounts, users can get the most recent news in real-time, making it both quicker and cheaper to stay current. News is also quickly spread through individual users. For example, when an earthquake or other type of natural disaster occurs, Twitter is the first place to have the most recent information. Accounts can be updated and checked immediately through personal mobile and computer devices making it one of the most popular ways to spread information. One of the best examples of this was the Egyptian uprising that occurred in Tahrir Square on February 2. This event has been described as a Twitter Revolution and although that may be a bit of a stretch, Twitter played a huge role in the uprising as an organizational tool. During this time in Egypt, Twitter offered some of the most emotional and critical real-time coverage for people all over the globe (Idle, Nunns 2011). Before twitter, this coverage, as well as news about many other similar events, may never have reached the audiences that it did. Instead, traditional news methods may have been shut down or covered up.
Twitter has become an innovative communications tool for corporate communications in all types of companies. Company Twitter accounts aid organizations in marketing and promoting products, public relations, and even in recruiting new employees.
Twitter is the perfect tool for raising brand awareness through marketing and product promotions. Organizations’ accounts can update consumers on the latest products, their features, benefits, and promotional prices in a simple way without bombarding the consumer. Consumers willingly follow company accounts and seek out these updates from companies. Twitter is a great medium for alerting broad audiences about new promotions and deals. According to Media Bistro, “Over 400 million people are using Twitter to bring news to the forefront in this competitive marketplace” (Frost, 2012). Twitter allows companies to differentiate themselves from the clutter that is overwhelming in traditional mass methods of advertising and promoting, such as television and magazines. Another benefit of Twitter marketing is the real-time aspect. Corporations can tweet about events, news product information, and current promotions to alert them immediately (Frost, 2012).
Twitter is a tool used in organizations’ public relations efforts. It allows organizations to create a face and personality for their company as a means of reaching out to their consumer. Organizations use Twitter to post press releases, promote events, and update consumers on new information about top management. It is a tool that helps organizations to constantly improve their reputation with consumers. Because Twitter is a tool for two-way communication and not just one for distributing information, it can be used as a means to gather feedback from consumers. Morgan Johnston, Manager of Corporate Communications with JetBlue, says this about using Twitter to get feedback, “Twitter is a great way to talk to many, but even better for listening.” Any major brand can search twitter using some relevant keywords to get feedback about what consumers are saying (Yegulalp 2011).
Corporations are now using Twitter as a recruitment tool. Organizations post job openings on their account or sometimes on a separate recruitment account. Twitter creates benefits for recruiters because it is free, which cannot be said about other traditional job boards, and because it engages potential employees and encourages conversation. Because there is an opportunity for conversation, recruiters are able to connect with employees without wasting time. Two representatives from a digital advertising agency, Organic, spoke about the benefits of job searching online. They said, “We don’t have to interrupt potential candidates during their busy workdays; they can engage with us when it’s convenient for them. And candidates who aren’t ready to make a move can easily retweet, or forward, our opening to peers who may also be a fit” (Bowers 2009). Organizations also encourage current employees to retweet job postings and even offer some incentives for their involvement in recruiting.
Although Twitter is an invaluable resource for users, there are some challenges that are associated with this new communication platform. For example, because Twitter reaches such a huge and diverse audience, it can be difficult to choose what will be relevant to the entire public. It is hard to send tailored messages to a specific geographic population or demographic for instance.
The age gap of Twitter users can also pose a problem for some organizations with company accounts. Liesa Brown, Marketing Director of Socma, discusses why the age gap can be a problem. “Older generations struggle to get on board and say it takes too much time. Whereas, the younger people are excited to get involved and are more interactive” (Frost 2012). Although the age gap is a current problem, younger generations are easily adapting, meaning the majority of people will use it in the future.
Twitter is a resource for people of all ages and demographics. It can be used for a variety of reasons including personal use, news distribution, and corporate communications. The many opportunities that Twitter offers for personal use include sharing personal thoughts, learning about trending topics, and staying updated on real-time news. Twitter also is a platform for businesses to market and promote their brand, maintain a positive public opinion, and recruit new employees. Overall, the most beneficial aspect of twitter is that it creates an environment for two-way interaction where real-time information is shared and discussed.