In retrospect, I never liked Twitter. At least, a 13-year-old me. The user interface and overall experience seemed so overwhelming and complicated. Only if that would have stopped me; they didn’t. Even after forgetting old login information, I opened new accounts, with some usernames now lost to teenage imagination, never to be remembered. The reason for my perseverance and consistency? The desire to be the cool kid on the block and at school.
Those were the simple, good ol’ days. However, with adulthood comes a change in priorities, one of which is the need to stay on or ahead of the information curve. After all, information is arguably the world’s most valuable resource.
This raises the question of where to find reliable information sources or what should comprise an effective information strategy. In this piece, I will discuss why Twitter remains an integral part of information strategy, particularly real-time information.
If a survey was conducted using random selection to ensure fairness, the answer to the question, "What is the world’s largest information database?" would mostly return Google as the response. This should come as no surprise, considering how "Google it" is a typical response to ignorance.
Google is the most popular and visited website, and it is also the one most relied upon by billions of users for their daily searches. According to data by Semrush, as of January 2023, using traffic as a metric, Google.com is the most visited website, with over 102.2 billion monthly visits.
Based on the preceding paragraph, it might seem clear what our information strategy should consist of. Yet, Google is rivaled by Twitter as a source of information, particularly instantaneous information.
To suggest that Twitter is a more critical information hub than Google would be a stretch. Twitter is currently ranked as the world’s fourth most visited website by traffic, according to Semrush (2023). This, however, doesn’t provide a complete picture because the gap between Google and Twitter is significant. Google receives approximately 102 billion monthly visits, compared to Twitter's 8.9 billion. Therefore, it is pointless to compare using traffic as a metric.
But what about considering a different metric? Real-time information?
Before getting overly excited about this topic, a quick overview of Twitter is essential; founded in 2006 by Jak Dorsey, Biz Stone, Evan Williams, and Noah Glass. Twitter is a social and microblogging network. As a microblogging network, Twitter differs from a regular blog website in that each page has a character limit of 280 characters unless a thread is started. The United States, Japan, and India are the countries with the largest user bases, according to data from Statista (2022).
Twitter continues to be the platform to discover recent news and information, with over 368 million daily active users according to Twitter usage statistics by Business of Apps and at least 500 million tweets sent daily (The Social Shepherd, 2023).
Although it is both a social network and a microblogging platform, Twitter is primarily used for the latter. Twitter curates news, trends, events, and other information worldwide and makes it available to its users. It is a hub for breaking news, information about cutting-edge technology, and discussion of current global and local events.
Unsurprisingly, Twitter is somewhat akin to a mainstream news channel for disseminating current information and updates. This is evident in the billions of tweets sent; 4.6 billion about news in the United States, and 10.4 billion tweets about global news, in the first six and half months of 2022, according to data from Twitter. Furthermore, it is also a communication tool used by world leaders, with 83% active on Twitter as of 2015 (PR Newswire).
In addition, among journalists, Twitter ranks at the top for work-related tasks. Citing the Pew Research Center (2022), Twitter is the social media platform utilized the most or second most for work-related activities by 69% of US journalists and 83% of young journalists between the ages of 18 and 29. Twitter is still one of the best options for rapid information distribution, if not the best. Due to the wide range of opinions and topics available, it can also be likened to a large forum.
Twitter has grown into a vast repository of knowledge and information spanning a wide range of topics, industries, and sectors, such as entertainment, fashion, sports, science, technology, politics, local and international news, health, and wellness, to name a few.
Given the massive amount of daily content, Twitter is a means to stay current with relevant, trending news. It serves the current attention-deficit needs of global users with a skimmable and concise range.
Users may also customize their Twitter feed to display specific content and topics, making it addictive. Twitter's trend table, which lists current events in order of engagement, is another standout feature of the platform. Not to be overlooked is the search bar, which enables visitors and users to look up any topic, current trend or event, resource, or new technology.
Although Twitter is now a real-time information hub, it will be surprising to learn that this wasn't always the case. It was initially developed as a communication and SMS network. The change in its status update tagline from "What are you doing?" to "What's happening?" demonstrates the progression. With the restrictions removed, users now have the freedom to discuss and comment on anything, including current events, trends, and daily news.
Twitter may be a great source of current information, but comparing it to Google is still a reach. For context, Google processes over 8.5 billion searches daily, while Twitter receives 8.9 billion monthly visits.
Nonetheless, there are some situations where users will choose Twitter over Google. Twitter is a source of immediate, dynamic news. Users can interact with content on Twitter in a way that is challenging for Google, especially by participating in current discussions by tweeting, commenting, and retweeting. Also, unlike Google search, which only covers topics and articles, Twitter search provides real-time information garnered from conversations across the globe. The difference is that one is more immediate and, therefore, more effective.
The fact that Google is the best information source is undeniable, but Twitter allows people to interact socially with information. This includes sharing their opinions and insights on what is happening, making it a global forum. So, searching for a real-time information hub should lead users to Twitter, not Google, even when the latter has more daily traffic than Twitter has monthly. The platform helps filter stale information, with current and top conversations regarding a particular topic given precedence. As a result, it is an integral part of an information strategy.
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