What practical use is Twitter?
Are its detractors correct in saying it’s a fad and a completely pointless waste of time? Perhaps. We have been using Twitter at Elevate CA for the past year – but in truth, our presence is mostly about being seen to embrace technology. Of course Twitter does drive plenty of traffic to our web site – in fact it is our single largest referrer. And we have picked up some good work from Twitter – but probably no more than if we had put in the same effort elsewhere.
I’m really not sure where this whole Twitter phenomenon is heading. Will it be past its peak in 12 months and populated only by late adoptors and armies of automated bots? Or will it continue to grow exponentially and become more entrenched as a mainstream communication tool? I can’t even guess the answers – but I do keep half an eye on the Twitter story as it evolves.
Here’s a story which probably adds nothing to the big Twitter question of “So What?” It gives a glimpse of the power of Twitter – but it gives no clues as to how that might be harnessed. I recently discovered TwitterScore >>> which ranks individual Twitter users according to some algorthym. And I soon noticed Lisa Ethridge, an Auckland Design student at Unitec who suddenly came from nowhere to become the 4th ranked Twitter user in New Zealand – with over 20,000 followers.
As an aside (maybe I should say “as a boast”), Elevate CA is ranked by TwitterScore >>> as New Zealand’s number 19 Twitter user with a community of 7,500 followers.
Back to Lisa – so how did she amass 20,000 followers from around the world in a very short time? It turns out the answer was as much a surprise to her as it was to anyone else – as you can see from this interview with Californian internet celebrity Leo Laporte.
Lisa opened her Twitter account in March – and posted her first tweet which went something like “I hate technology”. Fairly benign, but by that time she had just 3 people following her so she wasn’t out to impress.
At the same time, the hosts of popular US show “This Week in Tech” – Leo Laporte and Kevin Rose – decided to conduct a social experiment and encourage their listeners to follow a random Twitter user en masse. Kevin Rose searched on the random phrase “I hate technology” – and came up with Aucklander Lisa Ethridge’s brand new twitter account, which he proceeded to urge his viewers to follow.
Within minutes, Lisa Ethridge had thousands of people following her on Twitter – and had become an instant minor Twiter celebrity. She probably slept through it all initially – blissfully unaware. But as she had her “e-mail notifications” option ticked, Twitter sent her an e-mail every time someone new followed her. Imagine her surprise waking up in the morning to an inbox jammed with thousands more messages than her e-mail account would allow – and many thousands of geeks and tech folk watching her every move on Twitter!
So what? Who cares?
Well I don’t know, but I guess that’s up to Lisa. She now has an opportunity to say something meaningful (no pressure, Lisa) – and to be heard by the community of 20,000 people following her online.
I’ll be keeping an eye on this – as well as those bigger unanswered questions relating to Twitter itself: Like “So what?” and “Who cares?”