Win the Moment. That’s the theme of the conference that Twitter is holding for its employees in San Francisco. In many ways, it’s a modest topic, since whether Twitter has won the moment is not very much in doubt. It’s like Apple having an event called Win the Tablet Market.
Twitter is definitely the market leader in winning the moment. But the value of Twitter, especially for a news organization, goes well beyond the instantaneousness commonly associated with Twitter.
I was once on a panel with Twitter’s president of global revenue, Adam Bain, who said that the three best ways to monetize Twitter are: humor, humanity and huge deals.
Humor and humanity perfectly describe what’s best about Twitter, and what we like best about it at the Huffington Post, where Twitter is deeply integrated into virtually everything we do.
The Huffington Post is both an outlet for journalism and a platform for blogging. But fundamentally, it is a publication about conversation and engagement. And Twitter plays an important role in all the ways in which we carry these out, and is essential in helping us define and amplify our core passions.
For breaking news, Twitter’s value is obvious, functioning as an instant live-blog for the entire world. When a story breaks, our reporters and social editors are glued to Twitter. Even more than television, Twitter is the place to be because of its ability to both bring in and then instantly disseminate relevant information. For all reporters these days, Twitter has become like having the police scanner on all the time was for crime reporters.
And for live events, watching them along with Twitter is like watching along with a few million of your wittiest friends — and some you wish would shut up. Whether it’s the Oscars, the Super Bowl or political debates, there are times when the commentary on Twitter is actually more fun than the event it’s based on.
When we post a story, that’s just the beginning, not the end of the conversation. The news experience has moved from presentation to participation, and so we try to make everything we do a vehicle for engagement. And Twitter is an important tool in bringing conversation into every post and in keeping that discussion going as the story continues to unfold. This is why Twitter is deeply integrated into our content management system.
Twitter is also indispensable in helping us distribute our reporting and blogging. Our main Twitter feed tweets every five minutes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
This year our JobRaising Challenge brought together a group of nonprofits that — using thousands of tweets — competed and raised over $1.2 million that went to helping Americans get back to work.
We used Twitter again for our RaiseForWomen Challenge, encouraging women-focused charities. With a larger group of competing nonprofits and more than 10,000 tweets, we raised another $1.1 million.
Of course, Twitter is defined by its 140-character limit. Some critics have pointed to this restriction as if it proves Twitter is shallow, based, I guess, on the idea that quality equals quantity. But far from limiting value and utility, the format has expanded them in ways that I doubt even the creators had guessed.
Humans are built for communication, and anything that helps fill that need will take off. Bain once said that “Twitter is series of ‘now’ moments across the world.” But add up an accumulating series of now moments and what you have is history. The Library of Congress is even archiving tweets, having amassed 170 billion so far.
Twitter co-founder Biz Stone once said, “Twitter is not a triumph of tech; it’s a triumph of humanity.” And like anything that’s so closely intertwined with humanity, it can be funny, angry, happy, messy, selfish and selfless.
It can help topple governments, as it did during the Arab Spring. It can be a communication lifeline, as it was during the Japanese earthquake and tsunami when cell phone networks went down. And it can make watching the red carpet a lot more fun.