Trouble with Twitter

top ten twitter uses May 2009

We are now just over three weeks past the great Twitter race to 1 million followers, and six of the top ten Twitterers have over 1 million followers, according to Twitterholic. When you add up the followers of the top ten, you get 11.6 million. And how many friends do they have? 1.1 million. It is even more dramatic when you remove Barack and Britney, leaving 8 of the top ten Twitterers with just about 1000 followers.

This is not engagement. This is not conversation. This is broadcasting. Yes, these people or organizations have the opportunity to respond to @ replies, or mentions, without following people. Some are only listening to tweets about themselves and responding. And certainly Shaq does that, as the most engaged top user. But this is a list of celebrities telling the masses what they are doing, what they are thinking and promoting their other, primarily offline, content. And people are listening.

And do you think the top 50 Twitterers look any different? Nope. The only difference is they only have 500,000 to 800,000 followers, but still just a handful of friends. Lots more celebrities, mainstream media organizations and some major tech blogs start showing up here. Twitter founders and a sprinkling of internet celebrities too.

So as Twitter is edging toward mainstream, and it is a very long way from being mainstream, the nature of the service is changing. While many people continue to build a Twitter network for information, interaction and conversation, as the early adopters did, the great influx of Twitter users are bringing the cult of celebrity to the fastest growing social network and overrunning the conversations.

Of course you can ignore those conversations and not follow the celebrities, but that’s not the point. This revolutionary service is turning into a broadcast network. The revolution is about engagement with others, but the one way opt-in nature of Twitter allows fans to eavesdrop on their favorite stars. Am I being a bit of a Twitter snob because I am not interested in the minutia of Britney’s life? No, and I will continue to use Twitter for the ways it works for me. The broadcast of celebrity promotion just increases the noise level.

Please let me know what you think about the change in Twitter below in the comments.


  1. First, let me just say that I follow some celebrities just because. However, what I use Twitter for is not to worship the ground those celebrities walk on. I use it for what the original founders had intended. I have made new friends and connections because of my active involvement in the tool. Engaging in meaningful discussion (and sometimes some fun banter) gives life to the conversation and brings a personality to the corresponding avatar while at the same time providing useful information to those same individuals (and vice-versa) whenever possible is just as important. What I don’t want to see is the nature of Twitter changing so drastically that for those of us that use it for the purpose in which it is intended, it then becomes the extraordinary rather than the norm, which is the direction I’d like to hope it’s heading.

    There’s my two cents. Now, I must go ReTweet this fine posting and it’s equally fine comment. 🙂

  2. It’s a little sad to me. The people that are following these celebs don’t expect them to interact with them. So I guess this “broadcasting” is what people want (or if they can’t get conversation, then it’s better than nothing). I don’t follow any of these celebs except for Shaq, because he does interact with people (and he’s hilarious).

    In a lot of ways, there is nothing you can do to stop this, and the same effect is happening at a smaller level too. If I suddenly got 10k followers, there’s no way I’d be able to (or want to) interact with all of them. I guess all you can say is that things change–when you have 100 followers, it’s pretty easy to be in personal touch with all of them. When you have 100k followers, it’s just not possible.

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