The digital age has shaped and re-shaped various aspects of the human experience. With the internet came access to vast amounts of data, online shopping, app creation and social media platforms to name but a fraction of the elements that define our existence. Social media is at the crux of it all and is changing the way in which human beings socialize. Texting is normal, expressing your opinions about pretty much anything is allowed and sharing your life with hundreds if not thousands of followers and friends online is a day to day norm for most people. I mean are you even a person if you don’t have a social media account?
We are living in a time where impressions of who you are as a person are often formulated before you even meet other people. Your reputation and social media presence, chosen aesthetic and personality or lack thereof is often times people’s first introduction to you as an individual. That brings me to the topic of Twitter, what makes it different from other social media platforms? Why is this network and the communication that takes place on it of value and, in terms of the conversations that are happening on this platform, why can it be regarded as distinct from its other social media counterparts?
Twitter is the most open social network to engage with. Unlike other platforms such as Instagram and Facebook communication between yourself and other users is effortless. Unless of course, the user you wish to communicate with has a protected feed. You can speak to anyone and everyone on the network. On Facebook, messaging someone without being friends drops your messages in private folders that some users don’t even know about. Instagram, on the other hand, sends you message requests when you are not connected to an individual.
Posts on Twitter are limited to 280 characters per post, resulting in short bursts of information circulating online. Facebook, on the other hand, has no character limit and lends itself to being a platform for storytelling and long conversations. Think about your friends’ super duper long posts that are surfacing and yet to come about how life-changing 2017 was and how much more of a winner 2018 will be. Wow, fantastic I’m so happy for you Becky. Twitter can be regarded as the track star of all social media networks and its 280 character limit catapults it into being the fastest platform on which to push information.
On Facebook topics and posts, in other words, conversations are held longer than on Twitter. With Twitter, however, it is commonplace to post links directing your audience/followers to other sites resulting in a focus that is not just stuck on one platform. Third party content is a star on Twitter often combined with the use of hashtags acting as a tool for discovery and easy reference for other users.
There is also real-time content vs. evergreen content with Twitter being the platform for real-time posting. Twitter is regarded by many as a news outlet because of the real-time nature of the application. Twitter users lend themselves to short frequent posts that can act as a running commentary box on various situations. Looking at influencers such as Bee Diamondhead her followers are directed to news that she finds relevant. This is often done by sharing the posts of other users such as fashion blogger bryanboy. Other posts on her account feature the #girlscount and address Bee’s advocacy for the upliftment of African femmes. These two posts are an indicator of Bee’s investment in fashion and social activism highlighting the importance of this with her use of hashtagging. Some of 2017’s most powerful and unforgettable social media campaigns originated from this fast social media vortex such as the #metoo campaign. However, the lifespan of engagement with posts on Twitter is shorter than that of Facebook or standard Instagram posting.
What sets Twitter apart then is that it is a platform where you are the most likely to engage with strangers in comparison to Facebook and Instagram. Although Instagram allows you to connect with strangers more often than not you will tend to follow individuals you know or who travel in similar circles to yourself. Twitter is a completely different social sphere. It is a space in which you can address and communicate with anyone in a very direct, for the world to see manner. What is noteworthy about Twitter is how it is that much less personal than other social media platforms. Users sometimes speak about themselves or mention events that occurred during their day but it acts as a platform for news and social activism in many ways. Its users utilize the tool to create campaigns and to voice their concerns with conversations that often times spread over multiple posts. Re-tweeting is also a great way in which your ideas can be brought to a larger audience.