Twitter getting in the pollster business

Steven Loeb · October 21, 2015 · Short URL:

Users can create polls about anything they want, but Twitter doesn't say how it will curb abuse

Ok, here's a question for you: do you actually care what other people think about things? Think about that seriously. When it comes down to it, do the feelings of other people on issues you care about, whether it be political or otherwise, actually matter to you?

For me, personally, the answer is pretty much no. My personal beliefs are my own, and I suspect that at least half of the world disagrees with me, and that's perfectly ok with me. If you do care about what the masses think, though, then Twitter has a new feature that's right up your alley.

The company announced on Wednesday that it's rolling out the ability for any of its users to create a poll about anything they want.

So, for example, if you want to know if your followers prefer Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton, you can create a poll. Or if you want to know if they think the Cubs have any shot at coming back to beat the Mets (they do not), you can create a poll.

Once created, the poll will stay up for 24 hours, and can only contain two choices. Any user can vote on any poll, whether they follow the creator or not, and how they voted is not shared publicly.

Twitter has created features around voting before, such as Tweeting questions and tracking replies, tallying hashtag votes, or asking followers to favorite or Retweet to vote. This, however, is the first fully realized feature of its kind for the company. 

"If you want the public’s opinion on anything — what to name your dog, who will win tonight’s game, which election issue people care most about — there’s no better place to get answers than on Twitter," Todd Sherman, project manager at Twitter, wrote in a blog post.

"For poll creators, it’s a new way to engage with Twitter’s massive audience and understand exactly what people think. For those participating, it’s a very easy way to make your voice heard."

One thing that Twitter does not mention is what, if any, restrictions will be placed on polls. If someone creates a poll that is racist, for example, or one that targets a specific person, Twitter does not say if it will be giving users a way to report polls that may be abusive or offensive.

Sadly, given that this is Twitter, a network that has come to be known for bullying and group think (don't believe me? Ask Justine Sacco) I predict that it will not be long before either of those things happens. And Twitter should be taking steps right now to make sure they curb it right away.

VatorNews has reached out to Twitter for further comment. We will update this story if we learn more.

Polls are just the latest way that Twitter, and new CEO Jack Dorsey, are attempting to create an environment of inclusion for the site, one that allows more people to participate and feel included on the site, without being intimidated.

Engagement levels for Twitter have historically been skewed, with a small percentage of users creating the majority of the content. A feature like polls allows the rest of the community to easily participate, and feel like they are part of the discussion.

As long as Twitter does not let it get out of hand.

(Image source:


Read more from our "Trends and news" series

More episodes

Related Companies, Investors, and Entrepreneurs



Joined Vator on

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.