How Twitter uses Twitter

From private Spaces to work DMs, Twitter employees sound off on how they use the platform.

Twitter icon chatting Twitter icons

How Tweeps interact with their own platform and how non-Tweeps can make the most of it.

Illustration: Christopher T. Fong, Protocol

We took you inside how Slack uses Slack, but how does Twitter use Twitter? And what tips do the real Tweeps — as Twitter refers to its employees — have for making the most of the one social media platform people can’t seem to get away from? This story is part of a series.

Alphonzo “Phonz” Terrell, the global head of Social and Editorial at Twitter, is responsible for Twitter’s tweets, which is perhaps the most meta (not Meta) job that has ever existed. His tweets are pretty iconic. His opinions on tweets are equally iconic.

He gave Protocol an inside look at how Tweeps interact with their own platform, as well as how non-Tweeps can make the most of it. The No. 1 Phonz Twitter rule: If you use an animated GIF, you are an old.

During a recent company all-hands, Terrell asked new CEO Parag Agrawal if he uses them. He doesn’t. “Apparently, he’s already ahead of the curve, so we chose the right guy,” Terrell said.

Hiding in plain sight

One interesting quirk of Twitter that savvy users might discover with some clever sleuthing is the fact that public responses to private accounts are public. Some might call it a design flaw, but essentially, you can look up any response to a private Twitter account by searching “to:<username>”.

"I am passionate about Bay Area sports and my hometown of San Francisco and Tweet a lot about current events in that part of the world. Hosting Spaces has been an awesome way to engage our shareholders, and we’ve been doing a quarterly post-earnings Space to be more accessible and hopefully inspire other companies to use Twitter to engage with investors who otherwise would not have access!" Ned Segal, chief financial officer

To see what Twitter employees are talking about, for example, you can look up replies to the private @TwitterOneTeam handle, which was originally created for the company’s inaugural global, in-person, all-hands event in 2018. Since then, according to a company spokesperson, the account has evolved into amplifying “the best of our people, inside jokes, special moments and more.” Or, as one senior engineer told Protocol in a DM on Twitter: “Literally internal memes.”

Early bird

Besides access to private meme accounts, Tweeps also get access to Twitter features ahead of the general public through the developer app Earlybird. The app looks just like Twitter, but with a slew of unreleased features that employees get to test and give feedback on to the product teams before everyone else. All Tweeps also get free access to premium Twitter features like Twitter Blue, the company’s latest and biggest bet on its power users, which plebeians can access through a subscription fee.

"As a fierce advocate for pay equity and gender equality, I use Twitter in a few ways. The first is listening to and learning from voices on the ground doing the work. The second is by reporting on our I&D progress at Twitter. Transparency is key to our journey, and each quarter, I make it a priority to share our latest representation numbers and narrative on how we’re doing." Dalana Brand, VP of People Experience and head of Inclusion & Diversity

Twitter rolled out Twitter Spaces, its answer to Clubhouse and what seems to be the platform’s best chance at a new hit, internally toward the end of 2019. During the Spaces pilot period on Earlybird, Terrell and others flagged the need for features like pinning and taking down Tweets in a Space, as well as adding captioning and a co-hosting feature.

Using Twitter for work

Unlike the rest of us, for whom Twitter is a temporary distraction from work, Tweeps actually use Twitter for, well, work. How does one do work on Twitter, you ask? Through DMs.

Some execs are even known to prefer receiving messages and pitch decks via Twitter DM rather than email, simply because they spend more time on Twitter than in their inbox. Chief among them: CMO Leslie Berland, who “loves her DMs,” according to Terrell.

"When I Tweet, it’s usually in both my mother tongue, Japanese, and English. If you’re curious about what I’m saying in Japanese, simply click on 'Translate Tweet' and the texts will automatically be translated by Google. Twitter is an international service, and language shouldn’t get in the way of finding what’s happening in the world." Yu-San Sasamoto, vice president, Twitter JAPAC

The social and editorial team at Twitter, as well as other teams, also does a lot of its work and communication through Twitter DMs rather than Slack or email. During the season finale of "Succession," for example, members used the team’s group DM to share creatives and brainstorm things like, “How can we make this a meme? Can we change this header?” Tweeps are, unsurprisingly, encouraged to be on Twitter.

One tip for wannabe Tweeps: if you’re looking for a job at Twitter, follow the @TwitterCareers handle. That handle only follows Twitter’s recruiters, and all those recruiters have their DMs open. If you’re interested in a job, it doesn’t hurt to slide into the recruiter’s DMs, said Terrell. And yes, you heard that correctly: This is one situation in which it is totally work-appropriate to slide into someone’s DMs.

"Twitter Lists and the ability to Mute keywords are two of my favorite underrated features. I pin curated Lists to my home timeline and can easily keep up with what’s happening beyond the accounts I follow. I have one List with entertainment talent, another for industry news and journalists, and one from @TwitterTogether called 'Diversify Your Feed' that I regularly scroll through. With Mute, I’ll plug in character names and series hashtags to avoid worrying about spoilers if I’m behind on a TV show that everyone is live-tweeting." Jenna Ross, head of TV Partnerships

Weekly AMAs with Parag

With CEO Parag Agrawal new to the role and still relatively unknown to a lot of Tweeps, Twitter wanted a way for all employees to get to know him. They started that last week with their first companywide Space called #LetsTalkTwitter, a sort of AMA led by Agrawal in which Terrell and others introduced the former CTO-turned-CEO, and during which Agrawal responded to questions from Tweeps, over 600 of whom attended.

"My fave way to use Twitter is tweeting out concepts we are working on. The community is so responsive and gives us amazing feedback. I love co-designing with them. We’ve also done a few Spaces regarding how we are trying to make Twitter safer, and those have been a blast as well." Anita Butler, head of Consumer Design

Employees submitted their questions through DMs to the hosts as well as through the hashtag. Usually, Spaces are all public, but this one was “Tweep-only” and will continue to happen on a weekly basis going forward. A private Spaces feature may be “on the roadmap” for non-Tweepers in the future, said Terrell.

Tweeps sound off on the edit button

“I feel like it’s a journey that every Twitter employee takes,” Terrell said about one of the most controversial, oft-suggested Twitter features: the edit button. (Twitter users have long cried for an option to edit an existing tweet, something that Twitter has resisted for years. Jack Dorsey even said one time after being repeatedly asked, “We’ll probably never do it.”)

"Our company culture really comes to life on Twitter through our Tweeps' Tweets. I love to see posts about events like #TweepUps or experiences like #BackToTheNest, and messages of gratitude for coworkers and managers with the hashtags #LoveWhereYouWork and #OneTeam." Julie Steele, head of Internal Communications

The journey that Terrell refers to is this: You start your job at Twitter, and like most non-Tweeps, are pro-edit button. “You think it’s so obvious, right? Like, of course, edit the tweets,” he said. Then as you spend more time at the company and are brought into the fold, you start to see the other side.

Here’s the classic argument Tweeps make against the edit button: Say you were to tweet a news article with one headline, but then you decide to change the headline. That change “changes the entire context” of your tweet, but by the time you change it, perhaps tens of thousands of people have already retweeted you. Those people thought they were elevating one message, but turns out, they were actually promoting a different one than they originally thought when they retweeted it.

"As a flaming extrovert, one of the best parts of my job is bringing our company and community together in person. Twitter kept that going for me during the months I was stuck in my house. We transitioned our events like #TwitterForGood Day and #HackWeek to fully-remote, and conversations on Twitter seamlessly took the place of cocktail hours and chats in the hallway." Karl Robillard, head of Social Impact

Most people at Twitter go through that philosophical evolution, said Terrell, and after a year or two at the company, most end up turning around and saying, “Yes, I get why we don’t do it.” (Tweeps, this journalist’s DMs are open if you disagree…)

"Lists are a great way of 'irrigating' your Twitter feed into different topics and interests. So I have one for people who tend to Tweet about my football team (Wolves), another for the media and ad industry, another I've simply called "radiators" full of positive, warm people you can just have a chat with. You can pin your lists to the top of your Twitter feed once you've curated them and easily swipe between them." David Wilding, director of Planning at Twitter U.K.

For folks frustrated about this, the next best feature is Twitter Blue, which has an option to undo a tweet within 10 seconds of posting. Alternatively, as Terrell put it, “There is an edit button in your brain.” In other words, think before you tweet.


Apple's new payments tech won't kill Square

It could be used in place of the Square dongle, but it's far short of a full-fledged payments service.

The Apple system would reportedly only handle contactless payments.

Photo: Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash

Apple is preparing a product to enable merchants to accept contactless payments via iPhones without additional hardware, according to Bloomberg.

While this may seem like a move to compete with Block and its Square merchant unit in point-of-sale payments, that’s unlikely. The Apple service is using technology from its acquisition of Mobeewave in 2020 that enables contactless payments using NFC technology.

Keep Reading Show less
Tomio Geron

Tomio Geron ( @tomiogeron) is a San Francisco-based reporter covering fintech. He was previously a reporter and editor at The Wall Street Journal, covering venture capital and startups. Before that, he worked as a staff writer at Forbes, covering social media and venture capital, and also edited the Midas List of top tech investors. He has also worked at newspapers covering crime, courts, health and other topics. He can be reached at or

Sponsored Content

A CCO’s viewpoint on top enterprise priorities in 2022

The 2022 non-predictions guide to what your enterprise is working on starting this week

As Honeywell’s global chief commercial officer, I am privileged to have the vantage point of seeing the demands, challenges and dynamics that customers across the many sectors we cater to are experiencing and sharing.

This past year has brought upon all businesses and enterprises an unparalleled change and challenge. This was the case at Honeywell, for example, a company with a legacy in innovation and technology for over a century. When I joined the company just months before the pandemic hit we were already in the midst of an intense transformation under the leadership of CEO Darius Adamczyk. This transformation spanned our portfolio and business units. We were already actively working on products and solutions in advanced phases of rollouts that the world has shown a need and demand for pre-pandemic. Those included solutions in edge intelligence, remote operations, quantum computing, warehouse automation, building technologies, safety and health monitoring and of course ESG and climate tech which was based on our exceptional success over the previous decade.

Keep Reading Show less
Jeff Kimbell
Jeff Kimbell is Senior Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer at Honeywell. In this role, he has broad responsibilities to drive organic growth by enhancing global sales and marketing capabilities. Jeff has nearly three decades of leadership experience. Prior to joining Honeywell in 2019, Jeff served as a Partner in the Transformation Practice at McKinsey & Company, where he worked with companies facing operational and financial challenges and undergoing “good to great” transformations. Before that, he was an Operating Partner at Silver Lake Partners, a global leader in technology and held a similar position at Cerberus Capital LP. Jeff started his career as a Manufacturing Team Manager and Engineering Project Manager at Procter & Gamble before becoming a strategy consultant at Bain & Company and holding executive roles at Dell EMC and Transamerica Corporation. Jeff earned a B.S. in electrical engineering at Kansas State University and an M.B.A. at Dartmouth College.

Why does China's '996' overtime culture persist?

A Tencent worker’s open criticism shows why this work schedule is hard to change in Chinese tech.

Excessive overtime is one of the plights Chinese workers are grappling with across sectors.

Photo: VCG/VCG via Getty Images

Workers were skeptical when Chinese Big Tech called off its notorious and prevalent overtime policy: “996,” a 12-hour, six-day work schedule. They were right to be: A recent incident at gaming and social media giant Tencent proves that a deep-rooted overtime culture is hard to change, new policy or not.

Defiant Tencent worker Zhang Yifei, who openly challenged the company’s overtime culture, reignited wide discussion of the touchy topic this week. What triggered Zhang's criticism, according to his own account, was his team’s positive attitude toward overtime. His team, which falls under WeCom — a business communication and office collaboration tool similar to Slack — announced its in-house Breakthrough Awards. The judges’ comments to one winner highly praised them for logging “over 20 hours of intense work nonstop,” to help meet the deadline for launching a marketing page.

Keep Reading Show less
Shen Lu

Shen Lu covers China's tech industry.

Boost 2

Can Matt Mullenweg save the internet?

He's turning Automattic into a different kind of tech giant. But can he take on the trillion-dollar walled gardens and give the internet back to the people?

Matt Mullenweg, CEO of Automattic and founder of WordPress, poses for Protocol at his home in Houston, Texas.
Photo: Arturo Olmos for Protocol

In the early days of the pandemic, Matt Mullenweg didn't move to a compound in Hawaii, bug out to a bunker in New Zealand or head to Miami and start shilling for crypto. No, in the early days of the pandemic, Mullenweg bought an RV. He drove it all over the country, bouncing between Houston and San Francisco and Jackson Hole with plenty of stops in national parks. In between, he started doing some tinkering.

The tinkering is a part-time gig: Most of Mullenweg’s time is spent as CEO of Automattic, one of the web’s largest platforms. It’s best known as the company that runs, the hosted version of the blogging platform that powers about 43% of the websites on the internet. Since WordPress is open-source software, no company technically owns it, but Automattic provides tools and services and oversees most of the WordPress-powered internet. It’s also the owner of the booming ecommerce platform WooCommerce, Day One, the analytics tool and the podcast app Pocket Casts. Oh, and Tumblr. And Simplenote. And many others. That makes Mullenweg one of the most powerful CEOs in tech, and one of the most important voices in the debate over the future of the internet.

Keep Reading Show less
David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editorial director. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.


Spoiler alert: We’re already in the beta-metaverse

300 million people use metaverse-like platforms — Fortnite, Roblox and Minecraft — every month. That equals the total user base of the internet in 1999.

A lot of us are using platforms that can be considered metaverse prototypes.

Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

What does it take to build the metaverse? What building blocks do we need, how can companies ensure that the metaverse is going to be inclusive, and how do we know that we have arrived in the 'verse?

This week, we convened a panel of experts for Protocol Entertainment’s first virtual live event, including Epic Games Unreal Engine VP and GM Marc Petit, Oasis Consortium co-founder and President Tiffany Xingyu Wang and Emerge co-founder and CEO Sly Lee.

Keep Reading Show less
Janko Roettgers

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) is a senior reporter at Protocol, reporting on the shifting power dynamics between tech, media, and entertainment, including the impact of new technologies. Previously, Janko was Variety's first-ever technology writer in San Francisco, where he covered big tech and emerging technologies. He has reported for Gigaom, Frankfurter Rundschau, Berliner Zeitung, and ORF, among others. He has written three books on consumer cord-cutting and online music and co-edited an anthology on internet subcultures. He lives with his family in Oakland.


Lyin’ AI: OpenAI launches new language model despite toxic tendencies

Research company OpenAI says this year’s language model is less toxic than GPT-3. But the new default, InstructGPT, still has tendencies to make discriminatory comments and generate false information.

The new default, called InstructGPT, still has tendencies to make discriminatory comments and generate false information.

Illustration: Pixabay; Protocol

OpenAI knows its text generators have had their fair share of problems. Now the research company has shifted to a new deep-learning model it says works better to produce “fewer toxic outputs” than GPT-3, its flawed but widely-used system.

Starting Thursday, a new model called InstructGPT will be the default technology served up through OpenAI’s API, which delivers foundational AI into all sorts of chatbots, automatic writing tools and other text-based applications. Consider the new system, which has been in beta testing for the past year, to be a work in progress toward an automatic text generator that OpenAI hopes is closer to what humans actually want.

Keep Reading Show less
Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.

Latest Stories