It’s official. Twitter has gone mainstream. Hundreds of celebrities have notched up hundreds of thousands of online followers. Now businesses, the media and even politicians have latched onto Twitter’s potential. Even the White House has a Twitter profile.
Twitter exploded into the popular consciousness thanks to Barack Obama and the 2008 Presidential Campaign. Practically every twitterer circa November 2008 was followed – meaning one subscribes to his updates – by Mr. Obama, feeding worldwide users with news on his campaign.
On a smaller, but nonetheless cultish scale, the geek freak Stephen Fry, also promoted the Twitter revolution by tweeting his plight of being stuck in a lift in a London shopping centre. With pictures and witty 140 character or less text messages, the news was picked up by UK media and the Twitter love took hold. Stephen Fry currently has over 500,000 followers.
Oprah Winfrey is one of the latest megastars to join the micro-blogosphere. She sent her first “tweet” on April 17, notching up more than 370,000 followers just three days later. I have no doubt that number will continue to exponentially grow.
Others celebrities and famous figures are even more popular. Actress Demi Moore’s husband, Ashton Kutcher, who has a remarkable 1,2m followers. And yes, – it really is him tweeting, no ghost writers (although this is a growing secret phenomenon among famous twitterers).
The growth of Twitter (the name refers to the sound small birds make) has been truly remarkable — and its momentum appears to be gathering pace with each passing week. According to Nielsen NetRatings, the service had 7m users in February — up 1 386% year on year. And, unlike social networking websites Facebook and MySpace, it is used less by teens and students and more by people over 35.
Twitter’s success can partly be attributed to the fact that people can tweet wherever they are.
In January, 735,000 unique visitors accessed the Twitter website on their mobile phones — and this excludes the many thousands of people who use dedicated Twitter applications on their handsets. There are over 20 different Twitter applications for iPhone users alone, not to mention the many more for computer users.
Media groups are making excellent use of this microblogging-come-news feed service too. It is not just a platform for friends to stay connected in real time, it has evolved into an important component of brand marketing and news making.
One can subscribe to the BBC and CNN to receive breaking news updates – not to mention numerous newspapers and sports and fashion outlets.
The use of picture and internet media links adds to the usefulness and functionality of such an instantaneous service, increasing the personalised service that the internet can provide to individual users, based on individual tastes and needs.
Is this the future of internet media communication?