5 ways Twitter has changed has changed the world

Launched on 21 March 2006, Twitter turned 10 years old this week. This post highlights some of the areas in which Twitter has made a lasting impact.

Where would the world be without Twitter? Although Twitter’s subscriber base, at over 320 million as at December 2015 (Source:
Twitter), is less than a third that of Facebook, it is still a powerful and influential social network that – more than Facebook – has changed the way how we, globally, communicate. This year, and similar to YouTube, Twitter is celebrating its 10th anniversary; so it is opportune to reflect on how it has changed the world.

1.  Succinct communication

To communicate successfully on Twitter, users must master condensing their messages to no more than 140 characters. In other words, brevity is key. Further that environment, specifically the Twitter news feed, has helped readers to develop the art of scanning and distilling copious amounts of information, which has become increasingly useful when the deluge of information that we receive daily is considered.

2.  A news channel

As a medium that allows virtually instantaneous receipt of messages to all of a subscriber’s followers, Twitter became the channel through which ordinary citizens shared what might be newsworthy situations and development that were happening around them. The importance of Twitter was clearly evident during demonstration and protests that started in December 2010 in Tunisia, and lasted through to around mid-2012: the Arab Spring.

That approach contrasted with traditional news reporting agencies, which only disseminated stories through their own platforms and usually at specific times of the day. Hence Twitter sped up the flow of information by became the place to get the latest breaking news, thanks to subscriber postings, and not from formal news organisations. As a result, and to remain relevant, the latter have had to embrace Twitter as a critical information dissemination channel, and have tapped into the potential mainstream and newsworthy items that subscribers are also posting.

3.  First responders assistance

Following from the previous point,Twitter has become a powerful channel to disseminate the latest developments in emergency and adverse situations. As a result, it has become a critical resource when coordinating first responders, especially when subscribers are in a position to the latest communicate first-hand, on the ground information.

4.  Fostering the collective audience

Have you ever watched a popular television programme, such as Scandal, American Idol, The Voice, or the SuperBowl and tracked the activity on Twitter? Twitter has become the virtual watercooler, where as those events unfold, there is running commentary by subscribers, which not only entertains, but creates a collective (and loyal) audience that can complement the television viewing experience. Shows have tapped into those virtual communities by allow them to influence some of the show’s outcomes, such as through voting via tweets.

5.  Hashtags

Many people might not know this, but the use of hashtags (#), was not invented by Twitter. In fact, it originated in chat rooms: but Twitter made it not only mainstream, but essential when to tag or assign topics to posts, be they on Twitter or other popular social networks..


Image credit:  SambaClub (flickr)



  • As a service and as part of everyday social media life, yes Twitter has everything raving. But as a business it is yet to show that is an investment destination and a confident going concern.

    I did comment in an earlier article at the time of Twitter’s IPO listing, that to the extent that it differs in the underlying business approach from that of Facebook, we may have to see a lot more of hurdles for the social media.

    Facebook listed with a better, positive and optimistic financial position. Twitter ever since its listing has always posted losses.

    But it is not just about the bottom line performance. A cursory glance at Twitters financials does not give a happy prospect, at least not for the moment.

    For example in their respective previous years, compared with Facebook, Twitter spent about half of revenue on R&D ( a very necessary spend and a critical metric in their industry ). Facebook spent only about 22%. In the following year, the latest year, Facebook increased its spend to about 27% while Twitter decreased it to about 36%.

    A similar trend can be seen across marketing and sales spend. Twitter is “drastically” easing on key operating spending ( clearly to mitigate loss reporting ), while Facebook is “moderately” increasing on the same. Conversely, admin costs ( salaries, etc ) for Twitter appear to be above 10% of revenue. Facebook records below 8%.

    Another component of interest is Facebook’s management of gross margins, an aspect that appears not under good control in the Twitter camp.

    If Twitter continues to record losses, it shouldn’t surprise anyone with business open eyes.

    • Hi Kamutula,

      The profitability, or lack thereof, of Twitter has been a sore point for a while, especially since it is so popular and has been a disruptive force worldwide. Ultimately it is a concern is several quarters that unless the firm finds a way to become, at the very least sustainable, especially since it is a publicly traded company on the NYSE, its future will be bleak at best.

      What do you think would be the impact of a implementing some kind of fee, either paid by users, or by telecoms firms, or some other party (govts, e.g), or a combination of those three?

      Thoughts… anyone…?

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