Twitter executive stresses global conversation

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Ashley Hirsh, ’05, a Twitter senior manager for the company’s marketing platform program, spoke at Lehigh on Wednesday as part of a Global Union speaker series to share the website’s core values and the importance of social media in a global context.

“It’s such a simple tool, yet people have done so many amazing things with it,” said Hirsh, who graduated with a major in marketing and a minor in journalism.

Twitter thrives on its simplicity, Hirsh said. The 140-character limit allows direct, straightforward communication, where users can connect with an @ sign and enter into a global conversation with a hashtag (#).

“Twitter is a direct connection. It is the shortest distance between you and what matters to you,” Hirsh said.

Describing Twitter as the epitome of free speech, Hirsh explained how it allows users to join a global conversation regardless of their location.

Hirsh used the World Cup as an example of when Twitter was able to unite users around the globe. The world watched the games – and, though most viewers could not be in the stands, they came to feel involved in the action by joining the conversation on Twitter.

Fans tweeted alongside sports stations, soccer players and coaches. Different brands and companies jumped in on the global conversation for a chance to market their products.

A Snickers advertisement, with the headline “more satisfying than Italian,” made light of the incident where Uruguayan player Luis Suarez bit Italian player Giorgio Chiellini during a group stage game. The tweet garnered over 45,000 retweets and gained the Snickers brand significant attention.

Twitter is available in over 30 languages and has offices in 25 countries, according to Hirsh. With over 247 million active Twitter users globally and 77 percent of those outside the US, Twitter is dedicated to understanding different religious values and government relations.

This understanding is integral to the continuation of Twitter’s use. For a period of time, Twitter was shut down in Turkey for political reasons. In response, the company assembled a team to study Turkish law and fight for freedom of speech.

Facilitating a virtual, global conversation is only one facet of Twitter. The network has also supported an entirely new way for people to disperse and create news.

“It’s wild to be able to know exactly what is happening in the news moments later,” Hirsh said. “We don’t have to wait for the story to filter down anymore.”

Any user can now become a creator of news by publishing a photo they snapped or a piece of information they overheard. Hirsh argued that social networks like Twitter are not hurting journalism. In fact, she thinks they strengthen the industry.

“You have an account of what happened right in front of you, in real time, when it happened. What you choose to do with that information is up to you,” Hirsh said.

One billion tweets are sent every two days, 80 percent of which are from mobile devices, she said. And whether you are tweeting to join a conversation, market a product, support a cause or exercise your freedom of speech, the opportunities afforded by the platform are seemingly limitless.

“I thought it was very eye-opening how huge Twitter has gotten, (as well as) all the uses out there for it, whether it be to support a person or cause, or just for fun,” said Ayelet Gat, ’15.

This lecture was the first installment of a semester-long series brought to Lehigh by the Global Union. According to Bill Hunter, the director of the Global Union, speakers from either Google or Facebook will be at Lehigh soon.

“The Global Union always tries to localize international topics and make them as relatable and relevant to students as possible,” Hunter said. “I hope we hit that this afternoon. I think we did.”

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