Inside the Twitterverse
I was once on a panel with Twitter's president of global revenue, Adam Bain, and he 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.
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 or 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.
At the Huffington Post, 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. Having created a proprietary social dashboard, we've built social sharing into the very architecture of the editorial process itself. And then we give every editor training on how to use it.
And it's not just about using Twitter to take information in -- Twitter is also indispensable in helping us distribute our reporting and blogging. Our main Twitter feed tweets every five minutes, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (God took a day of rest, but Twitter doesn't).
With Twitter, we've been able to not only get our message out, but also have a real dialogue with thousands of other people who share this need to recalibrate their lives. That's because, like real communication in real relationships, Twitter isn't just about talking, it's also about listening. And that's central to the Huffington Post's DNA, too.
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. Then, we again needed Twitter for our RaiseForWomen Challenge, encouraging women-focused charities; and 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 somehow proves Twitter is shallow -- based, I guess, on the odd idea that usefulness and value are in direct proportion to length, that quality equals quantity. But, in fact, 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 insatiable need is going to take off. We're also built for narrative, and even at 140 characters, Twitter can tap into that too. Adam 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, well, history. Twitter is such an important part of the story of who we are that the Library of Congress is archiving tweets, having amassed 170 billion of them so far.
Twitter co-founder Biz Stone once said, "Twitter is not a triumph of tech; it's a triumph of humanity." That's true. 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 serve as a communication lifeline, as it did during the earthquake and tsunami in Fukushima when cell phone networks went down. And it can make watching the red carpet a lot more fun.
(Arianna Huffington is president and editor-in-chief of Huffington Post Media Group. Her email address is email@example.com.)