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Not Your Father’s Twitter Anymore – 3 Things the Celebs Change


ashton-puffy

Last week was quite a famous one for Twitter. We had the race to 1 million followers, Oprah joined the fray and Larry King did an hour with Ashton Kutcher, Sean Puffy Combs and other celebrities.

For those early adopters who have been on Twitter for a while, was it a time for rejoicing, as the promised mainstream-land was clearly in sight?

Here’s what Steve Rubel tweeted:

Been thinking a lot about this week’s events and feel Twitter will never be the same.

I suspect there’s truth in Steve’s statement…but the questions are how and does it matter?

It’s early yet, but never too early to consider how things will change. Here are three things I can see changing with Twitter.

  1. Twitter gets younger
  2. Twitter is the new email
  3. Broadcasting on Twitter gets more respectable

Twitter Gets Younger

twitter-age-demographics-2008-2009

Credit: Hitwise

Teens love texting one another, using that familiar 140 character format. So naturally, they dominate Twitter, right? Nope. Until recently, Twitter was dominated by the over 35 crowd.

Twitter is a playground for the professional set, and for social media aficionados in particular. Teens and those in their early 20s are more likely to be found on Facebook and MySpace.

But what happens when Ashton Kutcher, Sean Puffy Combs, Britney Spears and Ryan Seacrest start tweeting?

Psychology Today wrote about a study of celebrity influence on teens. The article noted:

A whopping 60 percent admitted that an idol had influenced their attitudes and personal values, including their work ethic and views on morality. And nearly half said that their idol inspired them to pursue activities including acting, sports, becoming a vegetarian or using marijuana.

You want to keep up with and maybe even talk with your favorite celebrity?  Better get on Twitter. And hey, since you’re on the site, why not share your thoughts about school, the environment, sports, the best beer, good books, etc.? You know, like the celebrities?

As the Hitwise stats show, teens and college students are the last frontier for Twitter age demographics. Look for that segment to grow. Once that happens, a whole new wave of culturally hip companies will hit Twitter.

Twitter: The New Email

The media saturation bombing of Twitter stories is incredible. Oprah‘s joining Twitter has been heralded as a milestone in Twitter’s ongoing march to the mainstream. I was shocked to be followed by a cousin of mine on Twitter. She’s not even on Facebook.

TMZ.com, Us Weekly and other magazines will be in full Twitter fury.

Currently, the question you ask others is, “Are you on Twitter?” This is a bit like asking someone back in the early 1990s, “Are you on email?” Not everyone was.

Twitter becomes the standard way we update everyone, and communicate with the @replies and DMs. Your twitter handle becomes a standard element of your business card:

spigit-business-card-twitterized

Twitter ubiquity.

Broadcasting Gets More Respectable

Ashton Kutcher and CNN both have over 1 million followers. How much listening can they realistically do?

Twitter’s entry box says, “What are you doing?” Not, “What do you want to reply?” The roots of the company are more broadcast-oriented. Not to say conversation isn’t incredibly important to its growth. But many people feel that two-way conversations are all it’s about. The ability to broadcast, without guilt, is the fundamental engine of Twitter’s growth. Otherwise it’s a forum without the threading.

Of course, with broadcasting comes a related media orientation – number of followers. This is something purists decry. But it’s happening. Check out these following/follower stats for some selected users:

twitter-following-vs-followers-for-selected-users

Many celebrities will follow only their close connections, but will be followed by hundreds of thousands. Of course, it should be noted that this dynamic isn’t limited to non-tech celebs. Check out Jason Calacanis and Loic Le Meur pursuing a similar approach.

And had to throw Robert Scoble in there. He’s doing things differently.

But Does It Really Change?

Ultimately, Twitter only changes for you if you let it. If you only follow those that interest them, your experience isn’t going to be any different with Oprah now on the service. And as Steven Hodson notes, people have too much built up with their existing networks to leave.

If you get caught up in the celebrity and start following a lot of them, then you probably are changing your Twitter experience. As long as you’re happy…

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About Hutch Carpenter
Senior Consultant for HYPE Innovation (hypeinnovation.com)

5 Responses to Not Your Father’s Twitter Anymore – 3 Things the Celebs Change

  1. Mark Koenig says:

    Hutch – Nice analysis of this inflection point. I can’t help but think back to the mid-90s when AOL became the gateway for its users to the Internet newsgroups and usenet groups. When this happen there was a tremendous backlash on the part of the the “true” Internet users, during which terms such as “newbie” and “flame war” entered the lexicon. The Internet was changed by this influx and ultimately became a platform for businesses followed – a pattern similar to the one you suggest above. I for one am looking forward to seeing how the change plays out.

  2. kit says:

    Thanks Hutch… my thoughts are right with yours. This is only the beginning and we really cannot know exactly where it will go from here, but, it IS going strong.

    The celebrities may be adding to the excitement for some users, but I am not so sure that is why it is pulling in the younger crowd. Simply being in the news and on tv, that adds a lot to a popularity wave for an application.

    You say the “older” crowd were the main early users, and then point out that this is the new email. This made me smile because it was the older crowd that made email the main communication method, at which point the youth gravitated to chats, etc., and do not use email much at all. So, this is a reversal of that trend, and I like it!

  3. Pingback: Twitter Today: April 24, 2009 | kenneth lim . net

  4. Pingback: Read/Write Twitter - Thoughts on social media, the web and technology - jungleG

  5. gay singles says:

    i love twitter. it is addicting. it is very marketable. and it is IN.

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