“#LOVE WHERE YOU WORK” reads the bright fluorescent sign on the 6th floor lobby of the Twitter headquarters in Manhattan. This perfectly describes the company and its culture; it is evident that those who work at Twitter are deeply passionate about what they do and the important role that this social media company plays in communication on a global scale. Twitter grew out of SMS communication, which is why tweets do not exceed the 140-character limit. It has since evolved into one of the most widely used social media platforms for up-to-date news and information. As avid lovers of Twitter, a group of NYU MS in Publishing: Digital and Print Media students were excited to visit the company’s offices last week to learn more about its mission, recent innovations and products, and what the future holds for tweeters worldwide.
We spoke with Eric Zuckerman, Partnerships Manager, News, and Emily Lanfear, Associate Partner Manager, who started off by sharing some Twitter stats: there are a billion tweets every two days on Twitter; 320 million monthly users; three out of four world leaders are on Twitter; and—big surprise—80% of users access Twitter through mobile. Photos, GIFs, emojis, and videos all make tweets more engaging and boost the retweets significantly, noted Zuckerman and Lanfear.
Then we learned about some brand new features the company launched just this past month. “Polls” are now available for any user to create and get instant statistics and results on issues ranging from who people think will win the World Series to what ice cream flavor is the best. This feature is particularly useful for media outlets in need of numbers in real time.
The other new feature entitled “Moments” permits Twitter and other news sources to curate and group content posted on Twitter in one place. “We felt that people were missing out on some news on Twitter,” explained Zuckerman. Divided into several categories, ranging from straight news, sports, and entertainment, to a general “fun” category, Twitter Moments help people sift through all the information being posted and sort it into easy-to-consume departments. Twitter’s new team of newsroom curators is “telling the story” with Moments, which is perhaps the site’s most progressive innovation to date.
Zuckerman and Lanfear also elaborated on one of Twitters newest acquisitions, Periscope, an app that allows its users to live stream video with their smartphones from wherever they are in the world. This is especially useful for news organizations seeking “in-the-moment” information that they might not have access to otherwise. Just after Twitter launched Periscope, a fatal explosion occurred in Manhattan’s East Village; witnesses were streaming live from the scene. It was one of the first instances in the app’s history that showed both the company and its users the potential Periscope has to literally pull people into the story not just throughTwitter’s text feed, but through Periscope’s live streaming capabilities.
These two services illustrate what Twitter is and wants to be—a source of conversation and information consumption for the global audience. With Twitter’s role reporting the revolutions in Egypt and Ukraine in recent years, it is difficult to discount the level of awareness Twitter has brought not only to issues, but to social change.
“Twitter is definitely a force for good, and a force to empower communication across the world. Twitter brings you into the conversation and now Periscope brings the images and puts them into your hand,” said Lanfear. “It’s definitely important to us as a company that we are able to give a voice to those groups [forces of change], and as journalists it allows us to tell the story in new ways by using these platforms. We take this function we have in society very seriously,” added Zuckerman. So keep an eye on the @TwitterForNews team.
Of course, we couldn’t leave without asking about what it’s like to work at Twitter, where free food is rampant and spaces to lounge and relax make work fun. “It’s a very unique and special culture,” agreed Lanfear. Some of us left wishing we could be part of it. At any rate, we were happy to tweet about an amazing afternoon.
by Bernadetta Deron