3/4/09

The Ashtonization of Twitter (March 2009)

The world is abuzz with Twitter.

Ashton Kutcher, who writes a many a mean tweet, was on TMZ because he tweeted about his neighbors' construction crew annoying him and his wife, Demi Moore,  around the Super Bowl.

Then celebrities started going on talk shows and hosts started asking them if they tweeted. News people also seem to love it and often there are tweets saying I'm at the president's news conference or sitting at the anchor's desk.

It's a service where anyone can join and post anything they like as long as it's less than 140 characters. It's kind of like a giant IM where you can choose to read (follow) whomever's tweets you want to follow.  So you're reading IM's from hundreds of people sharing random insights from the universe and hundreds more are reading yours.

I've been tweeting for two years. Someone I knew had a "badge"-- a little square with someone's latest tweet on their blog. With a note asking for you to follow him on Twitter.  So, I did. 

At first, it felt like stalking. One thing that made me interested about it was that within seconds after I joined a woman from the Middle East started following me. It was a weird, yet cool feeling.  The fact that I could connect directly with some anonymous person so far away made the world seem smaller. 

Do you ever have random thoughts that you think or funny or explaining the meaning of life when you're alone. You can write it down on some random piece of paper or computer document, tell one other person, or blast an email to your friends. But that's so inefficient.

By tweeting it, you share your perspective with all of the people who follow you.

At first it was a big deal if someone had 3,000 followers. Now Ashton has 231,480 followers -- that's so crazy. Almost a quarter of a million people. I bet it's going to hit a million. This reminds of me of Myspace in 2006 when that was also growing like crazy.

Hopefully the guys that started Twitter are going to be able to keep it pure and it won't turn into another Myspace which has become a mess of gadgets and status updates and has always been plagued with friend harvesting companies that just added millions and millions of "friends" no matter who they were.

The Twitter team don't currently have a clear monetization vision but obviously they're very smart guys and will think of something. The best and scariest alternative is that they get bought by a major media company whose main profit comes from advertising. Yahoo! seems to be most respectful to the successful startups they buy, but I don't think they have any money.

The good news about Twitter is that you get to choose who you "listen" to. So if someone is boring or offensive you can turn them off and if they're boring or offensive in responses (done with an @) sign) you can block them. So while Ashton has the same amount of people paying attention to his tweets he only reads the tweets of 48 people. Twitter is personalized, engaging, efficient and fun.

Companies are using it for customer service and reputation management but gratefully you don't have to follow them.  But if you have an issue with Comcast, you can try to tweet the official Comcast tweeter and hopefully he'll get right on it.

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