Twitter is a microblogging network that enables users to post, read and share 140-character message and images called “tweets.” To tweet, registered users enter their text, image and/or URL in the space marked “What’s happening?” and click “Tweet.”
To see tweets, registered and unregistered users can search for specific content or individuals—only registered users can “follow” other individuals or companies. Each time a tweet is posted, anyone who follows that particular user will receive instant updates in their timelines (customizable content feeds) and, from there, can engage with the tweet, by retweeting (reposting), replying to or “favoriting” it. These social sharing capabilities are at the core of Twitter’s massive success and unparalleled reach—by encouraging users to organically and personally share short, pithy and often provocative content, the site gained increasing notoriety, awareness and traction. In 2013 Twitter was among the top 10 sites on the web and, today, there are nearly 1 billion unique accounts from which 500 million tweets emerge daily.
Another distinctive feature of Twitter—and one that has further fueled its meteoric growth—is the integration of hashtags (#) which “assign a topic to a Tweet.” By adding a hashtag to a message, users instantly align their tweets with other relevant content, helping fellow users find relevant information, real-time updates, images and more. For example, #WorldCup and #oscars have, historically, been among the most popular. Users tweeting about those topics would utilize the appropriate hashtag at the end of their message—when fellow users click on the hashtag they can immediately all other tweets that incorporated the same hashtag. This method not only enables users to find the right content quickly, it also helps expose audiences to many content updates, sources and individuals, beyond those they follow.
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