Want to feel old? Try this on for size: Twitter is now 10 years old. It began on March 21st, 2006, when Jack Dorsey shared this simple tweet:
Since that first tweet, Twitter has been both a colossal failure and a monumental success. It has been a failure in the sense that it can’t keep pace with Facebook and can’t seem to generate enough revenue.
But it’s been a success in the sense that it has revolutionized the way people communicate and the speed at which information travels. Twitter has transformed the way that media outlets report the news.
Here are four ways Twitter has altered the communication landscape.
Changing the Speed of News Reporting
News reporting no longer happens in traditional 24-hour news cycles. What used to be reported over a series of hours is now reported in minutes by those actually on the scene.
When U.S. forces raided the Bin Laden compound, it was live-tweeted by a Pakistani man hours before it reached traditional news outlets.
When a small earthquake happened in Virginia in 2011, it was reported on Twitter before it was even felt in Washington, D.C.
When U.S. Airways flight 1549 crashed into the Hudson River, it was documented on Twitter within a matter of minutes.
This dramatic increase in the speed of news reporting means that news organizations must constantly monitor Twitter and other social channels for breaking stories. News reported an hour after the fact is now considered old news.
While that means news is being delivered faster and to a broader audience, it also increases the risk of error.
Integration Of Twitter With Traditional News Mediums
Because most tweets are public, news organizations now integrate tweets from notable individuals in video broadcasts and online articles. News organizations also include reactions from the public at large in these broadcasts and articles.
For example, ESPN news anchors often reference tweets from notable athletes during broadcasts, and articles reference tweets from athletes and celebrities.
News organizations are also using Twitter as the first wave of reporting a story, much like the Boston Globe during the Boston Marathon bombing.
Over the last 10 years, Twitter has become tightly integrated with news reporting. Twitter is no longer simply a social media platform; it is a tool of journalism.
Amplifying Celebrity Influence
Few things have amplified celebrity influence more than Twitter. Celebrities, athletes and politicians can interact directly with fans and constituents, with no media middleman. They can shape how a story is told by speaking directly to the millions that follow them on Twitter.
In a sense, Twitter has diminished the power of traditional media by putting publishing into the hands of the people.
Donald Trump is using Twitter to shape the 2016 presidential election, creating a circus-like atmosphere with tweets like this:
When Ellen DeGeneres snapped this photo at the Oscars, it quickly set the record for most retweets ever, with over 3.3 million.
Over the last 10 years, Twitter has transformed the way celebrities interact with fans.
Creating Publishers Versed In Brevity
Twitter’s great strength is that it limits tweets to only 140 characters. This forces users to choose their words very carefully.
But a limit of 140 characters doesn’t lessen the impact of tweets. Users who harness the power of brevity can have a massive impact.
When gay marriage was approved by the Supreme Court, President Obama shared the following tweet:
Twitter has created a generation of publishers who are well-versed in, and even prefer, brevity.
Twitter’s future isn’t certain. With falling revenues and users, it’s unclear how long Twitter will be able to remain in the social media game without making substantial changes.
However, looking back on the last decade, Twitter has had an enormous impact on how media reports the news, on the speed that information travels, on the ways that celebrities interact with fans, and on the need for brevity.
Twitter may eventually go the way of MySpace, but there is no doubting its legacy.