Monday, April 20, 2009
How Oprah and Ashton have forever changed Twitter
Clay Shirky got it right, here comes everybody.
Celebrities and mainstream media have been gradually becoming more aware of Twitter over the last few months. But that awareness just got launched into the stratosphere (statusphere?) last week when Oprah joined Twitter. Oprah had Ashton Kutcher on her show last Friday to discuss his 'race' to be the first to 1 million followers with CNN. It seems Oprah joined Twitter last Thursday, and already has close to 400K followers.
Those of us that have been active on Twitter knew it was only a matter of time before 'everyone else' found out our favorite lil social tool. But now that celebrities have found Twitter, what will change?
First, Twitter is already feeling the 'Oprah affect'. I saw that Pistachio tweeted last night that almost 2 million people had signed up for Twitter since Oprah's show last Friday. I believe it, as the service was having constant problems yesterday.
Second, expect to see Twitter featured more prominently at social media conferences, and see celebrities being offered more speaking invitations. Beth Harte has a great debate at her blog over what role celebrities such as Oprah play in social media, so I'm not going to rehash it here. Bottom line is that celebrities bring more attention to whatever they touch, and Twitter will be no exception.
Third, celebrities will use Twitter as a broadcast tool. And to be fair, many of their fans won't have a problem with this at all. It's silly to expect Oprah to be able to effectively 'connect' with 400K people. Right now, she's using Twitter to give 'behind the scenes' updates on her show, and to many of her fans, that will be gold. I find it interesting as well.
But the problem is, I think this will stunt the effective use of social media by companies. Because what's going to happen (and is already happening), is that how these celebrities use Twitter is going to get a LOT of mainstream media attention. And companies are going to see how they have hundreds of thousands of followers, and only follow 5 people. Companies will see how celebrities are using Twitter as a broadcast tool, and that will influence how they do as well. And besides, most companies are more comfortable pushing messages out, rather than communicating anyway. This will be a way to 'validate' a method of 'communicating' that's more comfortable to them to begin with.
Fourth, some early Twitter adopters will move elsewhere. I think Jeremiah is partly right here. But for me, I won't stop using Twitter simply because celebs have found the tool. Still, that does mean that we'll be looking for better and more efficient ways to filter information, and stay in touch with close contacts. I think this does open the door for competitors in the microblogging space, especially new ones. For a while last summer, it seemed like a new 'Twitter killer' was popping up every week or so, but there's been little movement for months. That could soon change if the crush of new users continues to make Twitter more unstable.
BTW I snapped the above picture of the Ashton Kutcher Twitter billboard the other day as I was driving down the highway. I posted it to Twitpic with the caption 'The shark has officially been jumped'. What do you think? How will celebrities joining Twitter change it, and will it be for the good, or bad?