Used by millions around the globe on a daily basis, Twitter has become a way to communicate with friends, family and even celebrities, as well as being a source of breaking news stories and an Internet marketer’s playground. Here on its seventh birthday, ClickThrough copywriter Jack Adams looks at seven key events in Twitter’s history, and the impact they had on the world of digital marketing.

Over 500 million users, 163 billion tweets and many ridiculous trending topics later, micro-blogging site Twitter is celebrating its seventh birthday today!

So, one would assume it’d be the perfect time to dig out the colourful party hats, grab a slice of birthday cake and send a celebratory 140-character message in its honour – keep it clean though…

Although that sounds like fun, being Internet marketers we’d much rather spend the next 1,000-odd words geeking out over the impact Twitter’s had on digital marketing. (Although, admittedly, this wouldn’t look all that great on a timeline!)

So as we turn off the lights and wait for Twitter to turn up at the surprise party we’re holding for it in our server room, let’s ponder on seven key events that have occurred during Twitter’s lifespan:

2006 – Twitter Is Born: The brainchild of Jack Dorsey, Twitter was originally envisaged as an SMS service that would allow users to communicate with a relatively small group of people.

Working with Noah Glass, Evan Williams, Biz Stone and a number of others from podcast publisher and aggregator Odeo, Dorsey began work on the first version of Twitter – then known as twttr – on March 21, 2006.

Initially limited to use by Odeo employees, Twitter was made accessible to members of the general public in July.

Later that year Williams, Stone and Dorsey, as well as other Odeo members, formed Obvious Corporation. Obvious then acquired Odeo and all of its assets – including Twitter.

2007 – Establishment As A Marketing Force: Twitter’s traffic levels and the amount of tweets published on the site increased considerably at the SXSWi (South by Southwest Interactive) conference – going from 20,000 messages to around 60,000 messages a day.

This led many to label Twitter as ‘the next big thing.’

Naturally Internet marketers began to cotton onto the idea of using Twitter for marketing purposes.

2008 – Launch Of TweetDeck: Now owned by Twitter, TweetDeck was launched in July 2008 by Iain Dosworth.

It empowered advertisers to be able to plan social media marketing campaigns conducted via Twitter.

Before TweetDeck, managing marketing campaigns directly from within Twitter often proved to be quite difficult.

It wasn’t possible for marketers to schedule tweets – to target users at certain points of the day – monitor interactions across a number of accounts, or arrange the feeds they could see.

However, with TweetDeck marketers could, and still can, do all this with absolute ease.

It was later updated to incorporate Facebook compatibility – making it possible for marketers to manage campaigns across two separate platforms from one dashboard.

2009 – Enters Collins English Dictionary: A feather in the social network’s cap, Twitter was first included in the 30th anniversary edition of the Collins English Dictionary – displaying just how credible it had become over a relatively short period of time.

Featuring as both a noun and a verb, the definition for the former reads: “a website where people can post short messages about their current activities.”

By now big brands had really begun to get to grips with Twitter as a tool that could be harnessed for marketing purposes.

This was evidenced by none other than Vodafone, whose Dutch Upgrade A Stranger campaign encouraged users to nominate someone they wanted to win a flashy prize in a tweet.

2010 – Introduction of Promoted Tweets:  Rolled out in April, Promoted Tweets provided advertisers with the power to get their message out for all to see – at first within Twitter’s Search results and later within their own timelines.

With this ad platform brands could pay to have their tweets appear at the top of search results. This element was important as it made the ads hard for users to overlook amongst the masses of returned real-time tweets.

Promoted Tweets are paid for on a CPM (cost per thousand impressions) or CPE (cost per engagement) basis.

Now, advertisers simply select one of three options – target search results, timelines or their own profile –and set their targeting preferences to either locations, or specific devices. Then, they choose the tweets they want to promote, and set the campaign duration and overall budget.

Much like with PPC marketing and Google AdWords, the results delivered by this form of Twitter advertising can be tracked through Twitter Ads Analytics.

In 2010, Twitter also saw a number of massive businesses apply an innovative approach to the marketing campaigns they conducted across the site.

Two of the best examples relied heavily on direct engagement with users – an element that’s seen as key to a good social media marketing campaign on any social network.

Orange’s Singing Tweetagrams campaign allowed Twitter users to get their tweets – featuring the hashtag #singingtweetagrams – sung back to them by The Rockabellas.

Meanwhile, Old Spice’s hugely successful viral marketing campaign continued with its charismatic star, actor and former American footballer Isaiah Mustafa, personally responding to the tweets of users with a personalised YouTube video.

2011 – Say Hello To Enhanced Profile Pages: Twitter profile pages have always allowed for a certain amount of customisation.

Whether through a new avatar or a wonderful new background to make it stand out from the rest, brands were always able to make their Twitter profile ‘their own.’

Announced towards the backend of 2011, Enhanced Profile Pages enabled businesses to go a step further with their marketing efforts.

As well as featuring the usual components of a Twitter profile – an avatar, an about section and a wallpaper – these special profile pages also feature a promoted tweet, automatically expanded for users to see any linked content (such as videos or images) right from the off. Users with Enhanced Profiles Pages also get to choose a tagline, giving advertisers the perfect opportunity to really hammer home their message.

Despite being free, the feature is, as yet, only accessible to a select few giants – such as Coca Cola, Nike and Disney.

2012 – Twitter Marketing For Small Businesses: Recognising the interest of small businesses, looking to get their brand, products and services known to the Twittersphere, Twitter launched Self-Serve Advertising For Small Businesses in March in the United States.

Designed with simplicity in mind, the service allows smaller firms to promote their accounts, boost the reach of their tweets and target their Twitter marketing activity to the audiences that matter most to them.

Whilst it doesn’t sound all that different when compared to the standard advertising offerings, Self-Serve Advertising For Small Businesses’ introduction meant that there was no need for a vast amount of previous experience.

It effectively made Twitter advertising a more viable option for the little guy.

2013 – The Twitter Marketer’s Nightmare: Although we’re only in March, there’s already been a significant amount of marketing-related shenanigans on Twitter in 2013.

Not least with the hacking of the accounts used by Burger King and Jeep on consecutive days.

Burger King saw its page completely re-branded with the logo and colour scheme of big rival, McDonald’s.

The user responsible for hacking it then promptly went about tweeting about McDonald’s special offers, as well as retweeting the complaints of users about Burger King.

Similarly, when Jeep’s account was breached, the hacker announced that it had been sold to Cadillac – again, a rival – displaying the potential pitfalls of Twitter marketing.

In both cases, normality was soon restored and both accounts resumed with their usual activity.

However, the situation acted as a cautionary tale for many advertisers around the world – with many calling for Twitter to introduce stronger account security measures.

And with that I’m done.

Happy Birthday Twitter!

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About the author:

Jack Adams is a copywriter at ClickThrough Marketing, and is a qualified journalist. Jack also has a degree in Journalism, with a specialist focus on citizen journalism, which includes blogs, web content and social media.