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.


A pro-China disinformation campaign is targeting rare earth miners

It’s uncommon for cyber criminals to target private industry. But a new operation has cast doubt on miners looking to gain a foothold in the West in an apparent attempt to protect China’s upper hand in a market that has become increasingly vital.

It is very uncommon for coordinated disinformation operations to target private industry, rather than governments or civil society, a cybersecurity expert says.

Photo: Goh Seng Chong/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Just when we thought the renewable energy supply chains couldn’t get more fraught, a sophisticated disinformation campaign has taken to social media to further complicate things.

Known as Dragonbridge, the campaign has existed for at least three years, but in the last few months it has shifted its focus to target several mining companies “with negative messaging in response to potential or planned rare earths production activities.” It was initially uncovered by cybersecurity firm Mandiant and peddles narratives in the Chinese interest via its network of thousands of fake social media accounts.

Keep Reading Show less
Lisa Martine Jenkins

Lisa Martine Jenkins is a senior reporter at Protocol covering climate. Lisa previously wrote for Morning Consult, Chemical Watch and the Associated Press. Lisa is currently based in Brooklyn, and is originally from the Bay Area. Find her on Twitter ( @l_m_j_) or reach out via email (

Some of the most astounding tech-enabled advances of the next decade, from cutting-edge medical research to urban traffic control and factory floor optimization, will be enabled by a device often smaller than a thumbnail: the memory chip.

While vast amounts of data are created, stored and processed every moment — by some estimates, 2.5 quintillion bytes daily — the insights in that code are unlocked by the memory chips that hold it and transfer it. “Memory will propel the next 10 years into the most transformative years in human history,” said Sanjay Mehrotra, president and CEO of Micron Technology.

Keep Reading Show less
James Daly
James Daly has a deep knowledge of creating brand voice identity, including understanding various audiences and targeting messaging accordingly. He enjoys commissioning, editing, writing, and business development, particularly in launching new ventures and building passionate audiences. Daly has led teams large and small to multiple awards and quantifiable success through a strategy built on teamwork, passion, fact-checking, intelligence, analytics, and audience growth while meeting budget goals and production deadlines in fast-paced environments. Daly is the Editorial Director of 2030 Media and a contributor at Wired.

Ripple’s CEO threatens to leave the US if it loses SEC case

CEO Brad Garlinghouse said a few countries have reached out to Ripple about relocating.

"There's no doubt that if the SEC doesn't win their case against us that that is good for crypto in the United States,” Brad Garlinghouse told Protocol.

Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile for Collision via Getty Images

Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse said the crypto company will move to another country if it loses in its legal battle with the SEC.

Garlinghouse said he’s confident that Ripple will prevail against the federal regulator, which accused the company of failing to register roughly $1.4 billion in XRP tokens as securities.

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at or via Google Voice at (925) 307-9342.


The Supreme Court’s EPA ruling is bad news for tech regulation, too

The justices just gave themselves a lot of discretion to smack down agency rules.

The ruling could also endanger work on competition issues by the FTC and net neutrality by the FCC.

Photo: Geoff Livingston/Getty Images

The Supreme Court’s decision last week gutting the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions didn’t just signal the conservative justices’ dislike of the Clean Air Act at a moment of climate crisis. It also served as a warning for anyone that would like to see more regulation of Big Tech.

At the heart of Chief Justice John Roberts’ decision in West Virginia v. EPA was a codification of the “major questions doctrine,” which, he wrote, requires “clear congressional authorization” when agencies want to regulate on areas of great “economic and political significance.”

Keep Reading Show less
Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.


Microsoft and Google are still using emotion AI, but with limits

Microsoft said accessibility goals overrode problems with emotion recognition and Google offers off-the-shelf emotion recognition technology amid growing concern over the controversial AI.

Emotion recognition is a well-established field of computer vision research; however, AI-based technologies used in an attempt to assess people’s emotional states have moved beyond the research phase.

Photo: Microsoft

Microsoft said last month it would no longer provide general use of an AI-based cloud software feature used to infer people’s emotions. However, despite its own admission that emotion recognition technology creates “risks,” it turns out the company will retain its emotion recognition capability in an app used by people with vision loss.

In fact, amid growing concerns over development and use of controversial emotion recognition in everyday software, both Microsoft and Google continue to incorporate the AI-based features in their products.

“The Seeing AI person channel enables you to recognize people and to get a description of them, including an estimate of their age and also their emotion,” said Saqib Shaikh, a software engineering manager and project lead for Seeing AI at Microsoft who helped build the app, in a tutorial about the product in a 2017 Microsoft video.

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