Communicators reflect on Twitter’s 10th anniversary

Twitter helped define the term ‘social media.’ As it turns a decade old, social media managers, marketers and professional wordsmiths discuss how the platform has affected their efforts.

For many marketers, PR pros and journalists, Twitter is an invaluable asset.

This morning, Twitter users received a message from CEO Jack Dorsey and his team. It read:

Ten years ago today, it began with a single tweet. Since then, every moment of every day, people connect live about the things they care about most—all over the world. Throughout the years, you’ve made Twitter what it is today and you’re shaping what it will be in the future. And for that, we thank you.

Despite the social media platform’s ebb and flow, it’s remained an integral part of everyday communication. It’s a device for promoting content and a livestream for breaking news. It can tarnish reputations and award 15 minutes of fame.

Over the last 10 years, Twitter has affected how millions of people absorb information and interact with the rest of the world.

Here’s a sampling of reflections from communicators, along with a few takeaways for PR pros:

Jill Stewart, professional lecturer at DePaul University’s College of Communication ( @jillostewart ):

When I joined, I knew I wanted to keep up with social media as a fast-growing platform. I appreciated that Twitter was a “man on the street” medium and wanted to understand how it worked and how I could use it.

I wrote an article in 2013 for a friend’s blog and realized that Twitter—along with Facebook and LinkedIn—could gain greater exposure for ideas. Before that, I heard that Twitter was the earliest indicator that the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound was happening. This increased my appreciation for it as a breaking news source. Many reporters rely on it as a source—just as they used to rely on the wire services—and many media outlets use it to cross-promote their content.

In the classroom, I encourage using it for special events—as a way of taking notes, capturing key quotes and recording the experience.

As a baby boomer, I have a lot of friends and colleagues who refuse to adopt these new platforms. My 11-year-old beagle still enjoys chasing a ball, so this old dog [me] needs to keep learning in order to keep up. I am not an early adopter by nature, but I’m also not willing to ignore new ways of communicating with key audiences. That’s a fundamental tenet of PR, and Twitter is a great way to do that.

Michelle Dziuban, social media manager at Cision ( @dziubs ):

I joined Twitter to connect with and follow brands. I liked that you could reach out to them and likely get a response. Additionally, I joined to follow news outlets [as] news is shared faster on Twitter than on traditional websites or channels.

In my job, I am on Twitter constantly. I spend a good chunk of my Monday mornings scheduling tweets for the entire week so that I can focus on listening to conversations. A big part of Twitter is sharing messages with your audience, but an even bigger part is listening to what people are saying. People don’t want to be bombarded with marketing messages. Twitter should be used as a way to talk one on one and humanize your brand.

[Now] a brand’s absence from Twitter is conspicuous. Brands [that] do not engage alienate users and damage reputations. They also risk being unaware of discussions in their market. It’s better to be listening and engaging than unaware. During a Ragan Twitter chat not too long ago, I saw someone tweet “You have two ears and one mouth.” I wrote this down and taped it to my computer. I look at it as a reminder that listening is more important than blasting out messages. PR Daily readers should do the same; listen more.

Kathryn Swartz Rees, freelance editor ( @kathrynswartz):

The fall of 2008 was rough for a lot of media professionals. Twitter’s user base felt small and accessible. I think a lot of journalists took to Twitter because we liked to share stories and thoughts, and we didn’t have anything else to do.

Twitter is still the best platform for event-based social [media] communication—think the Oscars or any Republican presidential debate. It’s so easy to find people with whom you disagree. I still wish that Jack [Dorsey] had figured out a way to address corrections. Twitter is easy in a breaking news situation, but it disseminates misinformation so quickly that one wrong keystroke can [necessitate] hours of damage control.

Carrie Morgan, PR consultant and author of “Above the Noise” ( @morgancarrie ):

I joined Twitter after launching my independent consulting business. I was hoping it would help me build influence and land larger clients. How can you sell social media services if you don’t walk the talk? Learning the platform was extremely important.

The best way to become successful in social media is to use it constantly; it’s the only way to learn nuances and best practices and understand it with the depth needed to create [useful] strategies.

I use Twitter to curate content around specific topics and to educate myself and others. Once I decided to write a book about digital PR, it became a way to build an audience.

Twitter for brands is a different story. Twitter is only included as a strategic tool if the client has a community manager with the bandwidth to handle it. It’s a time-intensive platform to use effectively and isn’t appropriate for every strategy. Twitter has significant issues, including an inability to grow its user base. I don’t understand why executives don’t use their own platform to educate and train users. It could have an incredible impact.

It’s also improved my writing skills. Its character limits force [communicators] to be compelling and insightful while using brevity. Thanks to Twitter, I can pack more into a single sentence than I ever thought possible.

RELATED: Want to get your employees involved and active online? Download our free guide: 6 steps to crafting an internal social media plan. How about you, PR Daily readers? How have you used Twitter in the past decade—and what practices have you adopted?

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