Twitter was founded in 2006, but for brands it all began in 2009 when a critical mass of the nation's biggest marketers started tweeting.
As Twitter begins trading on the New York Stock Exchange today, we take a look back at when some of the brands that have amassed the largest followings over the years published their first tweets.
We looked at the brands with 500,000 or more followers on Ad Age's Leading National Advertisers list, as well as a few others flagged by Socialbakers. Twenty-three out of 40 began tweeting in 2009, according to a list of first tweets provided by Topsy, one of Twitter's official data resellers. (First tweets from an additional two brands that met the qualifications couldn't be retrieved.) That predates the launch of promoted tweets and the arrival of sales chief Adam Bain; both landed at Twitter in 2010.
Not coincidentally, 2009 was also the year in which Twitter's user growth began to explode. The company reported 5 million users in January 2009, 28 million six months later in July, and then 75 million in January 2010. (It's now reached 230 million users.) Celebrity Twitter powerhouses Katy Perry, Beyonce, Justin Bieber and Rihanna also joined the service that year. (Early adopter Lady Gaga has had a Twitter account since March 2008.)
The sole member of the list of brands with at least 500,000 followers to begin tweeting in 2007 (a year after Twitter was founded) was ESPN, which clearly hadn't mastered the art quite yet. Its first tweet was a link with a headline for a story about pitcher Kenny Rogers's surgery, which was cut off despite being well under the 140-character limit.
Rogers has surgery to remove clot, repair arte - http://tinyurl.com/22vpfp— ESPN (@espn) March 30, 2007
The last member of the list to join Twitter was Nike, which published its first tweet in December 2011 but has still managed to amass almost 2.3 million followers in the meantime.
If You Have A Body, You Are An Athlete. -Bill Bowerman http://t.co/PPE1BSs8— Nike (@Nike) December 29, 2011
Based on the resources that many brands are now devoting to social content creation and community management -- with a notable exception of Johnson & Johnson, which has largely abstained from Twitter across its product portfolio -- it's curious to see what the initial efforts looked like. Now ubiquitous hashtags and mentions that brands use to boost engagement were absent.
It appears that several brands were at a total loss for what to say.
Have you checked out our Facebook page lately? http://www.facebook.com/xbox— Xbox (@Xbox) May 5, 2010
Want to know what's up at Warner Bros.? Click on our profile URL to view our website and check out our latest press releases!— Warner Bros. (@WarnerBrosEnt) March 10, 2009
We'll be joining you very soon. Stay tuned.— McDonald's (@McDonalds) September 15, 2009
Meanwhile, Google's first tweet was delightfully nerdy. The account has since gone corporate with a mix of tweets that include product announcements and tips for using Google services, as well as the latest Google doodles.
I'm 01100110 01100101 01100101 01101100 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01101100 01110101 01100011 01101011 01111001 00001010— A Googler (@google) February 26, 2009
In Pepsi's case, the editorial strategy of tweeting about music and entertainment that would later unfold was not yet in evidence.
Hello Tweeps! Let's talk.— Pepsi™ (@pepsi) March 30, 2009
And Pizza Hut's first tweet was in the first person singular, which it and virtually every other brand has abandoned in favor of "we."
Devouring a Supreme Personal Pan as motivation for my first tweet.— Pizza Hut (@pizzahut) April 13, 2009
In chronological order, here are first tweets from 32 other brands with more than 500,000 followers.
BlackBerry: Getting ready for WES 2008 in Orlando (May 5, 2008)
Whole Foods: need help expanding your small, local food producing business? we can help! http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/products/locallygrown/lplp (June 20, 2008)
Paramount Pictures: Casey Here: Michael and I just created the first ParamountPics twitter entry. Stay tuned for more updates from Paramount Pictures. (July 7, 2008)
Bravo TV: There You Go: Well, there you go, everyone. Another stylist walked away with the Shear Genius title and e.. http://tinyurl.com/5z8xsj (Aug. 29, 2008)
Taco Bell: Taco Bell is going big once again. If any player steals a base in the 2008 MLB World Series, America get's a FREE taste of Taco Bell! (Oct. 22, 2008)
H&M: Getting ready for the H&M Comme des Garcons launch on November 13th. Find a store near you at www.hm.com/cdg. (Nov. 6, 2008)
Calvin Klein: View the new Calvin Klein Jeans video. It's uncensored at: http://www.calvinkleininc.com/ (Jan. 30, 2009)
Amazon: Follow Amazon Lightning Deals! @amazondeals (Feb. 14, 2009)
Skype: Skype brings High Quality Video calling to the NAB Show http://tinyurl.com/d7jw7l (May 7, 2009)
Subway: SubwayFreshBuzz is alive!! Hello Twitter. (May 12, 2009)
Coca-Cola: RT @Kenth Better than bananas! Zoo uses Coca-Cola to snare escaped gorilla back to habitat http://tinyurl.com/o6n8jk (May 28, 2009)
Louis Vuitton: Does the journey create the person or does the person create the journey ? http://www.louisvuittonjourneys.com (June 17, 2009)
Sephora: We're busy getting a makeover @Sephora! Find us at www.twitter.com/sephorablog, we'll be back soon! (June 19, 2009)
NBA on TNT: Are you as excited about the upcoming season as we are?? Start following us on Twitter to hear all about NBA on TNT and Inside the NBA. (July 23, 2009)
Microsoft: Hi Twittersphere! This is the official page for Microsoft consumer products and your source for major announcements and events. (Sept. 21, 2009)
Coach: Introducing the new Madison collection. Updated silhouettes, colors, and luxurious details. Check it out: http://bit.ly/Ogp8n (Sept. 23, 2009)
Target: Hello, Twitterverse! Target here. We've got news and deals to share, and we're looking forward to hearing from you. (Nov. 22, 2009)
Marc Jacobs Intl: welcome tweeties... (Jan. 9, 2010)
Armani: Emporio Armani Caffè Milano - Now Open. http://bit.ly/bBj32o (Feb. 1, 2010)
Victoria's Secret: Victoria's Secret has finally joined the Twitterati. Get ready to receive the sexiest tweets ever! #VictoriasSecret & #VSFashionShow (Nov. 29, 2010)
Disney: "The more the world shrinks because of electronic communications, the more limitless becomes the province of the storytelling entertainer." (Dec. 5, 2010)
App Store (Apple): Welcome to App Store on Twitter! Follow us to discover new apps, get exclusive offers, and share with friends. #appstore (Jan. 24, 2011)
Dior: Dior J'adore writes a new spectacular chapter on ultimate feminity. Follow Charlize Theron to get a sneak peek ! http://youtu.be/Em0CXuZgpz0 (Aug. 29, 2011)
Chanel: CHANEL donates a unique J12 Marine for the "Only Watch" charity auction on 9/23 in favor of Duchenne muscular dystrophy pic.twitter.com/2JjbI1Ow (Sept. 21, 2011)
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