James Perrin


21st Mar 2011 Social Media, Social Media, Twitter 3 minutes to read

TwitterBorn on March 21st 2006, the social networking site Twitter was quickly embraced worldwide as a way of communicating short messages to huge numbers of followers. As Twitter celebrates its fifth birthday, we take a look at the ways it has been used.

Whether it’s tweeting about random irreverence, revealing breaking news stories or helping to get messages out to the wider world, Twitter has been responsible for some memorable moments and at the centre of its fair share of controversies since2006. Let’s take a look at how it has helped shape the 21st Century, what we talk about and the way we do it has changed significantly as a result.

Political elections

Social media became one of the leading sources of information during both the 2008 US presidential election and the 2010 UK general election. This was used by both the general public and political figures themselves. In the UK 600 political candidates used Twitter during their campaigns, countless journalists and party workers also tweeted daily about breaking stories and information.

For the general public, it’s a great way to generate support and gather momentum. Looking at Barack Obama’s team, they did a fantastic job at creating a brand online, which is evident in the fact that he is in the top 5 of the most followed people on twitter, with a staggering 7 million followers plus.



Twitter has played an integral role in shaping the events in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Acting as a catalyst for communication, Twitter and other social media platforms played a huge role in organising mass protests in Tunisia and Egypt, whilst also communicating the anger, condemnation and scandals across the world. Whilst it would be a massive exaggeration to claim that Twitter changed history, it certainly played a important part in shaping and reporting it.

Breaking News Stories

For news, the use of Twitter has meant getting a story out first, and really is an unrivalled way of communicating en masse about important events going on in the world. Some examples include celebrity deaths (such as Michael Jackson) and unimaginable destructive natural disasters (such as the recent events in Japan). In the aftermath of such news stories, Twitter is also a way of generating and gathering support for those that have lost their lives and the people who have suffered as a consequence [See: News of Michael Jackson’s Death Causes Online Meltdown].


Unfortunately Twitter has also been responsible for some terrible practical jokes (as in the hoax news story of Jeff Goldblum and many other celebrities dying). The power that Twitter has achieved allows its users to both report and distort the news, which can potentially be very damaging.


A great way for stars to communicate with their fans (some friends as well). In a period of time when criticism has been levelled at the way sportsmen and women are unable to communicate with the common man, Twitter certainly allows for such conversations and interaction.

It’s even been used as an outlet for frustration on their behalf – sometimes justified and others not so. For example,  Former Premier League football player Ryan Babel was the first footballer to be charged with improper conduct for posting a picture of referee Howard Webb wearing a Manchester United Shirt.

Following his Liverpool side’s 1 – 0 FA Cup third round defeat, Babel took the decision to vent his anger at Howard’s decision to award Manchester United a penalty by tweeting about it: “And they call him one of the best referees? That’s a joke. SMH (shaking my head).”

Celebrity Culture

Celebrities find themselves turning to social media for additional promotion. None more so than Charlie Sheen, who recently turned to an online celebrity endorsement company called Ad.ly. E-consultancy have written an excellent blog on the Sheen’s endeavours at generating online publicity for his own gain. In such a way, celebrities can now get paid to endorse products through Twitter, all facilitated via companies like Ad.ly. In Charlie Sheen’s case, he broke the record of receiving the most followers in 24 hours, all one million of them. The phenomenon of modern celebrity culture is now inextricably linked with the phenomenon of Twitter.

Social Media, but more specifically Twitter is now an integral part of communication online. Politicians, journalists, celebrities and Joe Bloggs are tweeting upto 140 character messages 140 million times a day (1 billion messages a week). With 200 million users worldwide, 400 employees and an estimated value of approximately $10 billion, it’s no wonder why we are all in such tizz over Twitter – it’s truly changed the way we get our messages across. Happy 5th Birthday Twitter!

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