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How Twitter reset its Twitter account

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On Friday morning, Twitter posted a single word to its Twitter account: "The." Average users began re
 
September 21 · Issue #211 · View online
The Interface
On Friday morning, Twitter posted a single word to its Twitter account: “The.” Average users began replying, telling a story one word at a time. When it was done, the first thread read: “The beginning of the end is near. Yay.”
Had it been posted a month or so, it’s likely the world would have written off Twitter’s “the” as a pocket-tweet. But if you’ve been paying attention to @Twitter for the past few weeks, you’ve noticed an undeniable transformation. An account best known for posting almost comically remedial education to its user base — it was still instructing followers on how to retweet as recently as 2016 — suddenly felt a bit more alive.
In recent days the account started a service-wide conversation around the meaning of users’ Twitter handles, which went viral. It asked all users who was up, generating 7,000 replies from people who were. Most recently it just tweeted “tweet, tweet,” and got 45,000 likes in return.
Other brands have been interacting with followers playfully for years. The most famous early example was probably the Oreo Super Bowl tweet; later, the Denny’s account one fame with a series of dadaist breakfast posts.
Brands like these were inventing the Twitter playbook for other brands, Twitter included, to use. But Twiter never did.
After seeing the “tweet, tweet” tweet, I decided to investigate — and tweeted at @Twitter asking what was going on over there. A series of whimsical replies followed, ending with: “Old bird, new tricks.”
I followed up with Twitter proper, and got a little more detail. The @Twitter account is run by the company’s marketing department, led by Leslie Berland, who joined the company two years ago. Berland spearheaded an effort to refine the company’s voice.
“We’re listening and learning a ton, and the team is having a blast,” a spokeswoman told me. “Goal is to have fun, bring everyone into the conversation, and celebrate the best of Twitter. It makes the world feel a little bit smaller.”
It also addresses a longstanding deficiency in the organization, which is that Twitter employees generally do not post on Twitter very much. (Tweeting among Twitter’s board members is so rare that people have occasionally wondered whether it’s considered disqualifying among potential recruits.)
The chirpier version of @Twitter also comes at a time when top executives, led by CEO Jack Dorsey, are exploring ways to promote healthy (which is to say, non-abusive) conversations. And at a time when much of the service is devoted to documenting America’s ongoing political crisis, good-natured questions about who stayed up late provide a nice tonic.
So here’s to Twitter using its Twitter account in strange new ways. If the company wants to see healthier conversations on the platform, it seems only fair that it should start some.

Democracy
Google Suppresses Memo Revealing Plans To Closely Track Search Users in China
Google Workers Discussed Tweaking Search Function to Counter Travel Ban
Senators' Gmail accounts targeted by foreign hackers
How France beat back information manipulation (and how other democracies might do the same)
Marc Randazza Is Fighting To Keep Nazis And Trolls On Twitter In The New Speech Wars. Here’s Why.
Vox’s Carlos Maza turns in another lucid, entertaining video about the bad incentives built into social networks — the same ones Jack Dorsey now says he’s reconsidering. Among other good nuggets in here, Maza cites a study showing that the more liberal or conservative a politician is, the more Twitter followers they have. It’s a good watch.
Why every social media site is a dumpster fire
Elsewhere
Facebook's 'Portal' Video Chat Device to Be Announced Next Week
Instagram's TV service, IGTV, recommended potential child abuse
Twitter bug may have sent users’ direct messages to external developers
Instagram is testing a native resharing feature for the feed
PayPal bans Infowars for promoting hate
New Pressure on Google and YouTube Over Children’s Data
Takes
Instagram denies it’s building Regramming. Here’s why it’d be a disaster
What is ActivityPub, and how will it change the internet?
And finally ...
The best Earth, Wind & Fire memer returns right on time
Talk to me
Send me tips, comments, questions, weekend plans: casey@theverge.com.
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