To mark the site’s takeover by the world’s richest man, Elon Musk, we present a survey of its most media-friendly moments
Twitter has great influence for a social media platform. It has a comparatively modest 230 million users, given that the likes of Instagram, Facebook and TikTok have user bases that run into the billions. But Twitter is beloved of politicians, celebrities, commentators and journalists and can have a great impact on the political and news cycle as a result. Here are some of the best-known and notorious tweets in the company’s 16-year history.
Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s co-founder and former chief executive, sent the first tweet on 21 March 2006. A cryptocurrency entrepreneur paid $2.9m for a non-fungible token of the tweet last year, only to see it plunge in value.
just setting up my twttr
In 2019 the Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa set a new record for the most heavily retweeted post in Twitter’s history – at 3.7m – when he offered to give ¥1m (£5,800) each to 100 followers who reposted his message.
ZOZOTOWN新春セールが史上最速で取扱高100億円を先ほど突破！！日頃の感謝を込め、僕個人から100名様に100万円【総額1億円のお年玉】を現金でプレゼントします。応募方法は、僕をフォローいただいた上、このツイートをRTするだけ。受付は1/7まで。当選者には僕から直接DMします！ #月に行くならお年玉 pic.twitter.com/cKQfPPbOI3
The actor’s family announced his death on Twitter in August 2020, thanking his followers for their “love and prayers” in a message that had nearly 1.9m retweets.
The former Tory prime minister’s warning on the eve of the 2015 general election that voters faced “chaos with Ed Miliband”, the then Labour leader, proved to be half-right in that it predicted bedlam. But under Cameron’s leadership instead. He won, called the European Union referendum and things have been far from stable since. It is now regularly retweeted when the Tories, and the UK, are going through yet another crisis.
Britain faces a simple and inescapable choice – stability and strong Government with me, or chaos with Ed Miliband: https://t.co/fmhcfTunbm
Ellen DeGeneres hosted the Oscars in 2014 and received 2.9m retweets for a celebrity-crammed selfie featuring, among others, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep. At the time, it was the most retweeted post ever.
If only Bradley's arm was longer. Best photo ever. #oscars pic.twitter.com/C9U5NOtGap
A niche one for UK Twitter users, but former Labour education secretary Ed Balls once accidentally tweeted his name while searching for references to himself on the platform. Ed Balls Day, marking the occasion of his slip-up on 28 April 2011, is celebrated by a group of devotees every year.
In what was then the platform’s most retweeted post, former US president Barack Obama posted a picture of him hugging his wife Michelle after winning the US presidential election in 2012. The message was simple: four more years.
Four more years. pic.twitter.com/bAJE6Vom
In 2017 16-year-old Carter Wilkerson, from Nevada, became a Twitter phenomenon after asking fast food chain Wendy’s how many retweets he would need to achieve for a year of free chicken nuggets. Wendy’s, which had a strong social media game, replied “18 million” and it took off from there. Wilkerson didn’t reach 18m (he got a solid 3m) but Wendy’s gave him $1,000 worth of gift cards anyway.
HELP ME PLEASE. A MAN NEEDS HIS NUGGS pic.twitter.com/4SrfHmEMo3
BTS, the South Korean boyband, have nearly 50 million followers, so they feature heavily in the top retweet lists. In this one, main vocalist Jungkook sings Never Not by US singer-songwriter Lauv. It had 1.5m retweets.
Never Not 💜 pic.twitter.com/Ag9oUTJvrN
The former US president has been banned from Twitter since the Capitol riot last year but his time on the platform embodied the divisiveness that has engulfed corners of the social media firmament. Trump may return, pending a decision from a new content moderation council promised by new owner Elon Musk, but a repeat of his pre-2021 antics would cause problems. In one example, Trump used racist language in 2019 to attack four progressive Democratic congresswomen, telling them to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came”.