Monday, April 20, 2009

Thoughts on Twitter and Celebrities

Twitter is a social media messaging tool where community exists in tiny little 140 character messages we send back and forth to one another. I've been a member for a few years.

On Twitter you "follow people" -- subscribe to their messages and others "follow" you -- subscribe to your messages. A common courtesy on Twitter is to have a nearly 1:1 ration of who you follow and who follows you. Take Robert Scoble for instance -- one of the most famous Twitter geeks. He follows MORE people (88,562 currently) than follow him (82,425). This is a pretty important indicator of what he GIVES BACK to the community. Remember that word "social" media. Think community.

Last week the actor Ashton Kutcher, as his tally of followers approached 1 million, threw down the gauntlet challenging CNN (Breaking News) to see if they could reach 1M before he did. He bought billboards *(see my error below) and did other things to promote his cause and CNN was equally energetic in their self-promotion. On Thursday late last week, he won the challenge.

This also meant Twitter was suddenly big news in the mainstream media. He's a pretty boy with a pretty face -- a thing MSM loves, especially TV. Television producers love pretty and not-so-pretty pictures -- just as they can't get enough of police chases and catastrophes and fire engines and other things toddlers love. Toddlers love shiny junk they find on the beach. In TV, all that glitters IS gold.

The Twitter story became bigger on Friday, when Ashton "appeared" on Oprah and she joined Twitter as well. His promise to "appear" on Oprah actually was a Skype video appearance, not a real jump-up-and-down-on-the-couch type appearance. These celebrities seem interested in using Twitter to help others, a noble stance ... to reach out to some community in need ... but they haven't bothered to reach out to the Twitter community oddly enough. Unlike Scoble, who follows 88,562 people, and that is MORE people than the vast number of people who follow him, Mr. Kutcher only follows 84 people but has 1.2M followers.

I've been thinking about this odd arrival of celebrities to our social media tools. I was trying to piece together the history of Twitter, how it was used in the beginning, what it "felt like" in the old days when it was a community of knowledge and sharing. These are some posts I did this morning about the whole thing.


So as for Twitter, do you come here to promote your self and ego, or come here to actually love thy neighbor, help him/her, promote others?
13 minutes ago from web

@tommorris yes. it makes my head hurt to even TRY to remember what was great about it before it grew to monster size.
25 minutes ago from web in reply to tommorris

I guess I miss the real Twitter. It's grown from mom and pop shop to giant boring mall store.
28 minutes ago from web

Based on IRC, you remember that I'm sure, it was a global tech conversation, to increase your speed and excellence in development.
29 minutes ago from web

Twitter, invented in South park, was a place to go between work sessions, have coffee, hang out, enlist help of colleagues.
30 minutes ago from web

Like a hidden nightclub door, u gained entry to Twitter not because you were famous, but you were smart and got along famously w/other geeks
32 minutes ago from web

That was the hero's journey on Twitter of yore ... it was a workplace, not a stage, where you could enlist the help of other brilliant folks
33 minutes ago from web

In an open source community, the real celebrities were the geeks solving the most daunting fascinating problems with aid of the community.
35 minutes ago from web

Call me crazy, but remember when Twitter was a tool of an open source community trying to build things, get tech info, share knowledge?
35 minutes ago from web

I've been thinking long and hard about celebrities using Twitter and what's slightly OFF about that. Why they may have ruined it now.
36 minutes ago from web

Note: Be sure to read Pete Cashmore's take on Twitter here.

* about the billboards: [a reader tells me this is inaccurate, I'm checking it; LATER: egebhardt tells me "The 1,133 digital billboards were provided pro bono by Lamar Advertising." per Ad Age]