Twitter Brands Itself as a News Distributor, Not Social Media

Twitter wants to explain its purpose 10 years after it was founded.


Twitter acknowledged it has an image problem today, after 10 years of sub-par marketing. Finally, the company said it has found its calling: as a news distributor, not a social network.

According to the company’s most recent blog post, ninety percent of people around the world recognize the Twitter brand. Despite that huge claim, there are only 310 million monthly active users, which means that 71 percent of the people who know that Twitter exists have decided: “nah, not for me.”

The disconnect, Twitter says, is mainly because people really just don’t know what it is.

“First, most didn’t know or simply misunderstood what Twitter was for,” Twitter’s chief marketing officer Leslie Berland writes. “People either though of it primarily as a place to connect with family and friends, or thought they were supposed to tweet every day. To which Twitter responded: ‘We realized we had some explaining and clarifying to do!’”

Indeed. Twitter’s new marketing campaign aims to show people that you don’t have to be a tweeter, or a newsmaker, or even have something to say to use Twitter. You just have to want to know what is going on in the world.

The videos were pushed out on Twitter, so the odds of the company’s explanation reaching wide swaths of its intended unknowing audience aren’t great. Still, the video highlights and puts into context the changes to the platform over the last year. All of the changes have been pushing toward this one idea: Twitter is for learning about and participating in the news (both hard and entertainment news).

First off there are Moments, which allow people to see curated Twitter stories of what the platform believes is important and what is trending. There has always been trending hashtags for current events, and in the future, Twitter will stream news, entertainment, and sports straight from the app.

Twitter wants to be a broadcaster, which has its own pitfalls: accusations of bias, appalling harassment, racist bots that reach a huge audience.

Twitter has always proven itself as a good place for knowing the news. It was crucial in the Arab Spring. Black Lives Matter started as a Twitter hashtag at the same time as everyone’s Facebook feed was dominated by people pouring buckets of ice over their heads.

The new marketing campaign is essentially just Twitter’s way of telling everyone what it’s good for. It’s not Facebook and never will be (and vice versa, as Facebook moves to show users more of their friend’s content and less publisher content). Twitter will also never be a core part of peer-to-peer communication, since Snapchat already has that wrapped up.

Twitter has settled on what it wants its identity to be. Now it just needs to convince everyone else.

“Starting today, we’re taking steps to express what we’re for and what we’ve always been,” Berland writes. “Twitter is where you go to see what’s happening everywhere in the world right now.”