The Twitter Explosion

The Twitter Explosion

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Twitter LogoIt’s been amazing to see the social phenomenon that is Twitter explode from relative obscurity to global recognition over the last few months. Jon Stewart has covered it on the Daily Show, US senators have been accused of inattention because they were busy twittering during an Obama address…Twitter is primetime.

I’ve been using it for about twelve months now – not a foundation member by any means but a little ahead of the wave – and I’ve been thinking about how it has changed over that time and some of the implications of informal social networking.

1. What is it all about and why would I want to do it?

The same question that I asked a year ago when my some of my work colleagues introduced me to Twitter. This hasn’t changed as far as I can tell, the normal response from the uninitiated is an incredulous few questions

a) “I just say what I’m doing right now?” followed by
b) “Why would I do that and who would care?” soon followed by
c) “How do I find people to follow?”

And therein lies the beauty – it is a natural, organic mechanism just like any other human interaction. Rules and social norms have quickly developed where there were none, some will always break the rules for personal or pecuniary gain, it will develop beyond the imaginations of the initial creators – which takes me to point 2…

2. If everyone’s doing it – it’s not cool anymore

In any select social group, that exclusivity creates a lovely warm feeling of superiority amongst its adherents. We know something, have access to something that others don’t – they’re not in our club.

Once the club has gone global it will lose its appeal to the early “pioneers”. This is also  true of blogging (which has reached endemic proportions – and I’m adding to it right now!) - no one reads blogs anymore…because they’re too busy writing their own.

Already corporate versions of the Twitter concept like Yammer have appeared in an attempt (I think) to reset the boundaries. It’s easier to be a famous Tweeter inside your company firewall than beyond.

3. The Celebrity Tweeter

Another curious thing Twitter has given rise to is the celebrity tweeter, usually an already famous person who collects an enormous number of followers (100,000+) due to their existing fame – and the fact that the follower can feel very, very close to the celebrity, can even send them a message and maybe (just maybe) get a response.

This cuts through eight decades or so of separation, where stars of the stage, screen and recording studio have been remote icons seemingly removed from our mortal plane. The irony is that the celebrity/follower model is completely at odds with the almost egalitarian, semi-anonymous original premise of Twitter.

4. Blurred Lines

Which brings us to the crossroads where many other social networks have gone before. Twitter is fast becoming a legitimate marketing device. You can imagine the conversation flying around the marketing department “okay, we have a landing page for the campaign, we’re on Facebook – what are we doing with Twitter?”.

..and so it crosses from the purely personal to a more indistinct personal/corporate/commercial combo. My Twitter activity started off as a mostly personal thing where I could tweet about whatever came into my head…but now I do a quick double-check before posting, is this appropriate for my work colleagues? What about my business associates? My boss? Customers? Friends? Complete strangers in other countries?

My wife is probably a good case in question. She asked questions a) to c) above, but started tweeting anyway - while remaining very sceptical about the whole thing. She runs a start-up business and guess what? Twitter has become a fledgling tool that helps connects her to people with similar business interests, but this means she can’t tweet so much about what her dog might be doing…so maybe this isn’t such a bad thing after all? :)


Anyway…gotta run – need to tweet about my blog :)

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