Tweet Twist: The Evolution of Twitter

Jaime Escott - 3 Min Read


Twitter serves a much different purpose now than it did a few years ago. When it was founded in 2006, Twitter was a medium to share daily status updates with friends and acquaintances.

But Twitter has evolved into a PR-infused media outlet – keeping news headlines and stories front and center on everyone’s feed. 

It’s become so influential in this way that 71% of Americans are using Twitter to read news. This means not only are people consuming this type of information on Twitter, but PR professionals and journalists are actively leveraging this channel to elevate their content and their career.

According to Forbes, journalists love Twitter and use it to break news, promote their articles, blogs, opinions, upcoming and already aired TV appearances, and more. This means Twitter has become a publicity tool and those who use it to its full potential can create a larger, more engaged following. 

So how did Twitter get to this point? Let’s take a look at the major milestones we’ve seen through the years…

Twitter’s Timeline 

  • 2006– Twttr is founded by Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass and a German contract developer. At this point, it was established as a microblogging platform for users to send out short text messages to friends and acquaintances, with a max character limit of 140 characters. 

Fun fact: the character count was kept at this limit to accommodate the size of the screen on pagers #throwback.

  • 2009– Twitter adds hyperlinks to hashtags and introduces retweeting, giving users the ability to stay in the know of current trends, share stories with followers, and boost their engagement. This was the point where conversations in Twitter took off – with a means to share content with hashtags and direct messages, it became an engagement platform for users.
  • 2010– Twitter had the largest update to the user interface. 
  • 2012– Tweets linked to videos or images, which surfaced a “content preview” within the tweet – catering to a fast, visual user experience.  
  • 2013– Twitter launched Vine, which paved the way for video’s major role in social.
  • 2014– Animated GIFs were introduced and shared across all platforms. 
  • 2015– Twitter acquires Periscope to enable live streaming, and introduced poll questions, which gave users an unprecedented amount of control over content in tweets. Twitter also added a direct message features, which sparked more private conversations within the platform.
  • 2016– Tweets surfaced that related to the 2016 presidential election and created a new way to get to know candidates and their opinions. 
  • 2017– The character limit was increased (from 140 to 280 characters) to adapt to longer tweets, and a plus button was created to easily thread tweets. 

As we scroll through the years of Twitter, a few things are clear. A simple tweak to a character count has a greater meaning: more characters lead to more storytelling, which results in more usage of the platform for content activation. 

In addition, including simple features, such as a hashtag or a content preview changes the entire engagement of a tweet, because it creates a skim-mable experience that makes it easier to browse, share, and promote.

And with all of these adaptations to Twitter’s platform, it’s a dominant medium in the PR space. It allows publicists to send and receive information in real-time and publish content that reaches audiences in seconds.

Therefore, Twitter has evolved from a social platform for staying in-tune with friends to a less personable news feed for staying up to date with happenings around the world.

This begs the question – if Twitter is constantly evolving and reshaping, which industry will it tap into next? And if it gains more traction in a different space, what will this mean for PR professionals and their followers who’ve come to rely so heavily on the platform as a means for sharing and consuming news?

Time will only tell the fate of Twitter, but for now, we can foresee this channel playing a key role in the publicity space for years to come. In fact, with 2020’s election on the horizon, it doesn’t seem like publicity is straying from Twitter anytime soon…

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