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Reflecting on Twitter's 10th birthday: giving a voice to anyone, to contact everyone

By JP Lespinasse | CMO

March 21, 2016 | 5 min read

JP Lespinasse is a seasoned marketing and pr executive, whose emphasis has been social media, digital strategy, and storytelling for the last 12 years at Nokia, NBA, Viacom and most recently at streaming start-up CÜR Music. You can follow him @djtakefive.

As we take a look back through ten years of tweeting, it is evident that Twitter is a different thing for different people / companies / brands/ organizations. That’s the best thing about it.

I recall when I first learned of Twitter. It was a few months after its launch – and I was working at Nokia. Text messages that could be posted for all to see, is how I remember it being described. At Nokia in 2006, texting was already ubiquitous.

When I flew to Helsinki, I’d order a cab via text message – and get pinged with a text via Bluetooth as I walked around the mall. But that was one-to-one (or one-to-few), and Twitter made texting a one-to-many proposition.

That one-to-many, or maybe better described as one-to-every, is what the internet was at the time. Log in, type a blog post for all to see. However, even in 2006 the internet wasn’t simple. There was potential for anyone to speak to everyone, but the barrier of creating a blog or a site (thinking of what to write, then sitting at a computer to write) was insurmountable to most. Twitter was phone-centric interconnection and easy because of the constriction to only 140 characters. That is what made it revolutionary.

I started using Twitter for business in 2008 when I was leading the marketing department for the NBA Development League. With a very small budget for a start-up within the broader NBA, I was trying all the digital (read: free) marketing vehicles at my disposal. It allowed for connection to hardcore basketball fans in their pocket, and afforded me the opportunity to give people an inside view as to what was occurring at the League office as I ramped up for our first-ever marketing campaign. #myfirsttweet was:

One year after this tweet, I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to run the social media group for all of the NBA. With the broad global fan base it brought flooding into the feeds I monitored each day, it also changed my perspective on its influence. In the years after 2009, Twitter exposed wrong doings, brought us humor in bite-sized morsels, helped overthrow a nation’s government, showed us behind the scenes aspects of Hollywood productions, allowed us to really get to know (for better or worse) people in power, and allowed brands to converse with their constituents.

Now, in 2016, much of the world is mobile-centric; with over 2 billion people owning a smart-phone. Twitter has adapted and grown since it’s inception – still 140 characters, but now infused with links, still images, video, gifs. What will come of Twitter in the next few years? No one can know for sure.

For TV and storytelling, Twitter ten years in, is not as new as Snapchat, or as video-centric as YouTube, or as broad as Facebook, but it still has a place (especially when you consider the additions of Vine and Periscope to its roster). However, the core of Twitter’s value in 2016, to me, remains listening. I used it for that purpose everyday as I led the social team at BET Networks from 2011-2015. The brilliance therein is that TV brands can immediately see what everyone has to say about their creation. The construct of 140 characters makes commentary more easily decipherable due to the brevity.

It has its target limitations, sure, but just like way back in 2006 – Twitter is tops at seeing what everyone is saying. It is up to the business to employ a service, from the enormity of available resources, to listen effectively. TV brands can use that massive pipeline to their advantage, whether it is to improve a current show, introduce new talent, or source material for the next big thing. So in 2016, look back to what made Twitter’s rise inevitable - its ability to give a voice to anyone, to contact everyone.

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