No ignoring Election Day with social media

Ronny Kerr · November 2, 2010 · Short URL:

Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and all my online friends really want me to vote

If you’re one of my fellow Americans, you’ve likely noticed that social media sites on Tuesday are littered with features for Election Day coverage and tools encouraging citizens to get out and vote. Here are the most prominent.


Facebook election widget

Upon logging into Facebook today, users immediately face a widget at the top of their news feed declaring, “Today is election day.” Beneath a red, white and blue “VOTE” icon, Facebook lists all the user’s friends that have already voted, and above that list lies a counter, updated in real-time, with the total number of people on Facebook who have voted.

The only thing left for the user to do is to click that “I Voted” button in the dead center of the widget. If this is the ultimate peer pressure feature to encourage citizens in the direction of civic responsibility, I’m all for it.

fb polling place locator
People don’t even have a chance to say they don’t know where to vote because, from that very widget, Facebook links to a polling place locator, embedded directly into the site. Though some users have reported bugs with the tool, I found my own polling place instantly.

Users might notice that the poll locator is just one tab on the “U.S. Politics on Facebook” page, which is updating all day with coverage of election results, from the meaningful (who’s winning in the race between Republicans and Democrats?) to the mundane (little-known candidate for Congress just posted pictures of himself voting in Alabama!).


For complete and up-to-the-minute coverage of the election, Twitter is hoping to be the one-stop hub for voters, especially since its the very first election day for the young website.

Notably, Twitter announced in its election day blog post that The Washington Post would be the first news organization to sponsor a Promoted Tweet. Promoted Products is still part of an experimental revenue model being tested by Twitter, and The Washington Post itself likely sees election day as a good time to test out the new form of advertising.

Other major news organizations, like The New York Times and CNN, are incorporating visual analysis of tweet activity into their own special coverage of the elections throughout the day.

Twitter users should use hashtag #votereport (or #NYCVotes in New York City) when tweeting about experiences at their local polling center, or hashtag #ivoted just to motivate other users to get out and vote.


Finally, users who check-in to Foursquare today from their voting location will earn a special “I Voted” badge, as featured previously on VatorNews.

If all else fails and you still have a friend or family member who doesn’t feel particularly motivated to leave the house for a vote, you could always send them this link. Nice and straightforward.

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What is Twitter?

Twitter is an online information network that allows anyone with an account to post 140 character messages, called tweets. It is free to sign up. Users then follow other accounts which they are interested in, and view the tweets of everyone they follow in their "timeline." Most Twitter accounts are public, where one does not need to approve a request to follow, or need to follow back. This makes Twitter a powerful "one to many" broadcast platform where individuals, companies or organizations can reach millions of followers with a single message. Twitter is accessible from, our mobile website, SMS, our mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, our iPad application, or 3rd party clients built by outside developers using our API. Twitter accounts can also be private, where the owner must approve follower requests. 

Where did the idea for Twitter come from?

Twitter started as an internal project within the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey, and engineer, had long been interested in status updates. Jack developed the idea, along with Biz Stone, and the first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Odea. In May 2007, Twitter Inc was founded.

How is Twitter built?

Our engineering team works with a web application framework called Ruby on Rails. We all work on Apple computers except for testing purposes. 

We built Twitter using Ruby on Rails because it allows us to work quickly and easily--our team likes to deploy features and changes multiple times per day. Rails provides skeleton code frameworks so we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to add something simple like a sign in form or a picture upload feature.

How do you make money from Twitter?

There are a few ways that Twitter makes money. We have licensing deals in place with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Bing to give them access to the "firehose" - a stream of tweets so that they can more easily incorporate those tweets into their search results.

In Summer 2010, we launched our Promoted Tweets product. Promoted Tweets are a special kind of tweet which appear at the top of search results within, if a company has bid on that keyword. Unlike search results in search engines, Promoted Tweets are normal tweets from a business, so they are as interactive as any other tweet - you can @reply, favorite or retweet a Promoted Tweet. 

At the same time, we launched Promoted Trends, where companies can place a trend (clearly marked Promoted) within Twitter's Trending Topics. These are especially effective for upcoming launches, like a movie or album release.

Lastly, we started a Twitter account called @earlybird where we partner with other companies to provide users with a special, short-term deal. For example, we partnered with Virgin America for a special day of fares on that were only accessible through the link in the @earlybird tweet.


What's next for Twitter?

We continue to focus on building a product that provides value for users. 

We're building Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.

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