Ten years of Twitter - building business 140 characters at a time 24 March 2016

Twitter celebrated its tenth anniversary this week so we asked one of the younger members of our team, our Marketing Assistant Kieran, to give us some of his thoughts on what Twitter has meant for professional and financial services firm over the last decade. Has Twitter lived up to it own promises?  Is it still a relevant communications channel for business?  What does the future hold?

When co-founder Jack Dorsey posted the first tweet: "just setting up my twttr ”, who knew that ten years later it would generate 200 billion tweets per year – all within 140 characters.

Named Twitter because the founders thought the definition, 'a short burst of inconsequential information', summed it up perfectly at the time. 

It was 2006 then, when Uber, WhatsApp and Tinder were just a mere glint in entrepreneurs' eyes, and Myspace was the most popular social network.

Born at a startup named Odeo, Twitter was created during a company hackathon where an engineer came up with the idea to post status updates via the internet. The team soon hacked away at a prototype and came up with the service we know as Twitter, boasting an innovative way for people to communicate online.

It became a magnet for the tech-savvy, drawing a crowd of followers which quickly grew into the millions. People were obsessed with Twitter's real-time capabilities and freedom to post whenever and wherever.

The advent of Twitter quickly became a potent platform for breaking news. People could get the blow by blow of global events, one step ahead of traditional news providers who failed to keep up with its relentless immediacy. It brought citizen journalism to the masses, with millions of users broadcasting eye-witness reports of world events. Twitter brought big audiences and even greater marketing opportunities for businesses.

 

Corporate firms were slow to adopt

Fast forward to 2016, Twitter has hugely impacted the way businesses communicate. Over the past decade, we’ve seen millions of professional and financial services firms adopt the channel - with over 83% of companies tweeting to the world, hashtag by hashtag.

For many businesses, it's been a long, tough road. Financial and professional services firms were slow to join the party with many in a sweat over regulatory restrictions. But they soon found their feet and their voice, with Twitter feeds full of verve and vigour.

 

It made Marketing more commonplace

Twitter has forced professional and financial services firms to have a cold hard look in the mirror and think about their image.

It made having a social media strategy more important than ever before; Twitter means firms can communicate with audiences directly and at a much faster rate. And with over 50% of users going on Twitter at least once every hour, it's an essential marketing channel for businesses.

 

It taught firms to say it simply

It's a channel that's ripe for interesting content - but only if simply put. With a 140 character limit, it certainly isn’t a channel for lengthy discussion.

The challenge for firms has been to unlocking the smorgasbord of knowledge from their bricks and mortar offices and converting it into bitesized social content.

Passive offline content assets like billboards, flyers and brochures were the victims of decreased spend. Today, social takes the lion's share of digital advertising budgets, with 56% of financial services firms upping their Twitter spend over the past 12 months, and it’s a move that’s paying off.

Financial services firms generating 40% of their leads online grew four times faster than those without a social presence, and businesses generating 60% or more of their leads online are twice as profitable than those generating less than 20%.

 

Firms learnt by their mistakes

There's been some digital disharmony, as firms quickly discovered the fierce underbelly of the channel.

Social media lessons were learnt the hard way. Firms found that the power of Twitter is with the user, quickly learning that a digital backlash is only a bodged tweet or fudged advertisement away.

Still today, there’s varying degrees of Twitter effectiveness. Some firms have gotten it right, but many are playing an un-winnable game of catch up.

Our Living Ratings studies of digital communication in professional and financial services firms reveal many companies fail to utilise social channels correctly. Surprisingly, industry leaders fail to produce good content, while smaller firms are capturing the attention of audiences with content that's simultaneously engaging and informative.

 

The future of Twitter

Monetisation of Twitter continues to be a vexing challenge for the firm, having failed to make a profit since it began. Tellingly, it's churned through four vice presidents of product in five years, something that’s vanishingly rare. Although Twitter has amassed millions of users, it’s not the billions that advertisers expected. After widespread concerns about its future and its lack of financial success, Dorsey returned to the CEO role last year in a bid to jumpstart growth.

Ten years later, Jack is still setting up his Twitter. But now it’s a platform that’s unrecognisable to the one he launched in 2006. With longstanding rumours the 140 character limit is set to be removed, could the change provide a jumpstart to the firm's success?

“It stays” was the response from CEO Jack Dorsey, when he quashed rumours about the change earlier this week. It’s an announcement that’s pleased millions of Twitter purists, who cite the character limit as the platform’s sweet spot.

Twitter's bank balance may be small, but the platform’s impact on society is bigger than most firms could ever attest. Here’s to another ten years of tweets and hashtags with companies using the channel to forge connections with their customers.

 

Kieran Haddock, Marketing Assistant

 

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