The last week saw two interesting movements from Twitter in the land of brand communications. First, in an announcement from the CEO Dick Costolo, we saw a clear positioning statement for the social network. Coming shortly after Facebook's first advertising campaign, (Facebook is like a chair...?) Twitter, we're told, intends to be our 'second screen'.
The social network's role as our second screen has been true for many users unofficially for the past few years. Hashtags have naturally lent themselves as the perfect placeholders for discussion around events or TV shows for as long as the Twitter has been online. The usage of hashtags such as #bbcqt for BBC's flagship political panel show Question Time frequently trends and reveals one of the most interesting uses for the social network. Officially positioning itself as our second screen is a logical progression.
As reported in GigaOm: "Twitter CEO Dick Costolo says the most powerful feature of Twitter is the way it can show us what others watching the same event are thinking, and that the best use of this feature is as a companion to a televised event like the Olympics."
But the second interesting movement from Twitter this week has left some with a sour taste in their mouths.
Twitter has always embraced freedom of speech. That's what makes it a compelling second screen. It has been a platform of dissenting and diverse opinions from the get-go. But this week we saw a new precedent being set when Twitter itself blocked a neo-Nazi Twitter account in Germany.
Until last year, Twitter as a platform was for many the bastion of free speech online. It gave a voice to the unheard in parts of the world where their opinions were locally not considered or valued. It opened a window to the rest of the world during the Arab Spring and the other fights for freedom in the Middle East. Even following the London Riots, Twitter refused to shut down the accounts of rioters using the service to incite hatred saying that "freedom of expression is essential." 2012 has seen a very significant shift indeed.
Many Twitter watchers didn't like the idea of Twitter censoring content when the move was first announced earlier this year. However, in our experience, brands prefer to operate in a tidy environment when it comes to brand engagement. The reduction in spam and, what we're now seeing, incendiary comment, goes down well with the brands.
So, this will be an exciting time for Twitter as it grows up and creates something that could change things for the better for the conservative and the mainstream.