FEATURE24 November 2016

How #research helped @twitter conquer the world

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Features Impact New business Technology UK

As Twitter celebrates its 10th year in business, Jake Steadman and Matt Taylor of its research team talk to Robert Bain about helping the social media giant prove its value


You’ve seen the photo. Ellen DeGeneres, accompanied by Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Lupita Nyong’o and a crowd of other A-list stars, grinning into the camera for a group selfie at the 2014 Oscars ceremony. DeGeneres tweeted the image with the message, ‘Best photo ever. #oscars’. More than three million people have since retweeted it.

The very language that it takes to describe the incident reveals the impact Twitter has had on our world: tweets, retweets, hashtags… before 2006, none of this meant anything to anyone.

For a quirky social network whose original USP is what it can’t do – namely, send messages of more than 140 characters – Twitter’s cultural influence has been astonishing. It has helped bring down governments. It has created superstars. It’s the first place to look for major public announcements – everything from political resignations to celebrity deaths – and the current US presidential election is the third to have had Twitter at its heart.