Celebrities Are Not Taking Over Twitter

crowdsCelebrities like Ashton Kutcher, Shaquille O’Neal and Britney Spears are not taking over Twitter.  A well publicized event like Oprah tweeting on her show won’t help.  Ashton vs. Larry King, in a contest to see which account, @aplusk (“a plus k”) or @cnnbrk can reach a million followers first is a publicity event that had lots of benefits for both in terms of building large networks, but they are not taking over.  Any way you slice it, their efforts are futile. They can’t take over Twitter because of one simple fact: people choose who they follow.

Twitter is a social network that allows a member to choose who to follow, and followers choose whether they follow back.  Follow who you are interested in.  Ignore spammers or folks who don’t interest you. It’s that simple.

The major benefit of all the celebrity activity around Twitter is that more people will be drawn to use the service.  For a concept that is so simple, Twitter is not the most intuitive network to navigate.  Understanding how to start and join in a conversation online is a little outside of the comfort zone of many people.  I’ve seen many people join Twitter and 6 months later they are following 10 people, no one is following back and the only post on their account is “Joined twitter, trying to figure this out.”  Take a look for yourself.

I will still contend that Twitter is not for everybody, but as more people figure out how to build their own communities on the platform, the more valuable content and discussion will be aggregated.  I like to think of the volume of content on Twitter as an unstructured Wikipedia – it’s not precisely accurate but directionally correct, and the more sources that contribute the better it gets.

Here’s an example.  I had a conversation last night with someone who had just joined twitter and had trouble convincing a friend why it is valuable.  I asked what that friend did for a living – the friend was a user experience designer, and very skeptical about Twitter.  I pulled up search.twitter.com and searched for “UX” – and immediately found UX job listings, informative blogs of well known people in the industry and a lot of people talking about user experience design.  I clicked through to a couple of twitter profiles and quickly identified the lead of user experience of AutoTrader.com.  Within a few minutes I could identify a dozen valuable resources that would help that friend in his career.

I’ve been using Twitter for nearly two years, and the community has changed and evolved.  I still keep to the core of interacting with folks who share common interests, whether it’s the Red Sox, social media or the fun of a lazy Saturday morning with the kids at home.  I’ve come to heavily rely on Tweetdeck to manage groups of friends and contacts that I don’t want to lose in the sea of “tweets,” but I am also continuing to find value by identifying interesting people who have something valuable to share.  With valuable contributors, searching Twitter has become an increasingly relevant way to get to content.  Celebrities joining twitter can only bring more interesting people to follow right along with them.

Are you using Twitter? Do you think celebrities joining is positive or negative, and has it changed how you use Twitter?  Feel free to reach out to me @adamcohen on Twitter to discuss, I’d love to hear from you.

Photo credit: Neon23 via flickr

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    RT @adamkmiec: RT @adamcohen: Blog post: Celebrities are not taking over Twitter [link to post] <– taking over, no. infecting, yes. – Posted using Chat Catcher

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    RT @adamkmiec: RT @adamcohen: Blog post: Celebrities are not taking over Twitter [link to post] < -- taking over, no. infecting, yes. – Posted using Chat Catcher

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  • Derek

    I have yet to see any evidence that @aplusk is using Twitter as anything but a vehicle for self-promotion (even by ‘evangelizing’ social media, he’s doing it in a ‘look at me’ sort of way; but at the end of the day his race w/ CNN proves he doesn’t get it)

    You, for example, have a 66.25% follow-back ratio (or whatever you want to call it; I’m sure there are some you’re following who aren’t following you back).

    Ashton, on the other hand, has a follow-back ratio of 0.006%. He’s broadcasting, not listening. … Read More

    He does very few @’s and those he does do are mostly…other celebrities.

    @hodgeman is largely the same way, though with far fewer followers. At least he does @ people, so he appears to be responding. Will be interesting to see how @Oprah handles it, but my guess is she’ll have a ghost tweeter.

  • Derek

    I have yet to see any evidence that @aplusk is using Twitter as anything but a vehicle for self-promotion (even by ‘evangelizing’ social media, he’s doing it in a ‘look at me’ sort of way; but at the end of the day his race w/ CNN proves he doesn’t get it)

    You, for example, have a 66.25% follow-back ratio (or whatever you want to call it; I’m sure there are some you’re following who aren’t following you back).

    Ashton, on the other hand, has a follow-back ratio of 0.006%. He’s broadcasting, not listening. … Read More

    He does very few @’s and those he does do are mostly…other celebrities.

    @hodgeman is largely the same way, though with far fewer followers. At least he does @ people, so he appears to be responding. Will be interesting to see how @Oprah handles it, but my guess is she’ll have a ghost tweeter.

  • Good post Adam! I think at end of day no press is bad press. My sense is the folks joining Twitter bc of the recent press are doing it as a mechanism to get closer to their “heroes” but a percentage of those will begin using the platform as a communicative channel with each other too.

    I know a lot of SM folks are turned off by these celebrities use of Twitter. Whether I like how Ashton Kutcher (why is he famous btw?) , Shaq or other celebs are using Twitter is irrelevant. It does not impact the value I derive from the platform. BTW, I have enjoyed following @stuartcink, especially during the Master’s.

    Also, with more terrific integration tools being developed (i.e. the new Tweetdeck) the line between Facebook, Twitter and other platforms will continue to be blurred …bottom line, this trend of Twitter becoming more mainstream and popularized by celebs was/is inevitable.

  • Good post Adam! I think at end of day no press is bad press. My sense is the folks joining Twitter bc of the recent press are doing it as a mechanism to get closer to their “heroes” but a percentage of those will begin using the platform as a communicative channel with each other too.

    I know a lot of SM folks are turned off by these celebrities use of Twitter. Whether I like how Ashton Kutcher (why is he famous btw?) , Shaq or other celebs are using Twitter is irrelevant. It does not impact the value I derive from the platform. BTW, I have enjoyed following @stuartcink, especially during the Master’s.

    Also, with more terrific integration tools being developed (i.e. the new Tweetdeck) the line between Facebook, Twitter and other platforms will continue to be blurred …bottom line, this trend of Twitter becoming more mainstream and popularized by celebs was/is inevitable.

  • Derek – There are better celebrity uses of Twitter than @aplusk. What about @rainnwilson or @mrskutcher or @jimmyfallon? While they have a low @ reply rate compared to the number of mentions they get, but it would be impossibly for anyone to keep up at their rate. They make a determined effort to engage as much as their busy schedules allow, while still broadcasting messages and information to their fans.

    Twitter isn’t just about conversation, it’s also about broadcasting. Rainn shares the launch of his new website (soulpancake), Demi keeps up her charity work and chatting with random fans, and Jimmy asks for advice on things to do when visiting new towns. These are all interactions that couldn’t exist without the broadcasting format of Twitter – It’s impossible to imagine another site where Jimmy could meaningfully collect feedback from his fans and Rainn could effectively disseminate news about Soulpancake.

    When I was hired for a new job and was leaving my old one, I needed to broadcast that to my followers – They shouldn’t look to me for news about OurStage anymore, but I’d have some great info coming soon about Hubspot! That’s not conversation.. just effective dissemination. It saved me needing to email hundreds of contacts to let them know about my big news!

  • Derek – There are better celebrity uses of Twitter than @aplusk. What about @rainnwilson or @mrskutcher or @jimmyfallon? While they have a low @ reply rate compared to the number of mentions they get, but it would be impossibly for anyone to keep up at their rate. They make a determined effort to engage as much as their busy schedules allow, while still broadcasting messages and information to their fans.

    Twitter isn’t just about conversation, it’s also about broadcasting. Rainn shares the launch of his new website (soulpancake), Demi keeps up her charity work and chatting with random fans, and Jimmy asks for advice on things to do when visiting new towns. These are all interactions that couldn’t exist without the broadcasting format of Twitter – It’s impossible to imagine another site where Jimmy could meaningfully collect feedback from his fans and Rainn could effectively disseminate news about Soulpancake.

    When I was hired for a new job and was leaving my old one, I needed to broadcast that to my followers – They shouldn’t look to me for news about OurStage anymore, but I’d have some great info coming soon about Hubspot! That’s not conversation.. just effective dissemination. It saved me needing to email hundreds of contacts to let them know about my big news!

  • @ericglazer – if that’s a serious question about Ashton, he is famous as an actor – first on That 70’s Show, and then a series of movies, mostly comedies, after that.

  • @ericglazer – if that’s a serious question about Ashton, he is famous as an actor – first on That 70’s Show, and then a series of movies, mostly comedies, after that.

  • Derek

    Brian – I didn’t mean to imply that NO celebrities are making good use of Twitter or that all you should be doing is listening; I was commenting on Ashton specifically. Of course he couldn’t keep up with millions of followers, but he could follow more than 80, and doesn’t need to see how high he can get his count; that’s not the point of Twitter.

    And of course it needs to be used for broadcasting as well.

    BTW, I think Eric was commenting on the quality of Mr. Kutcher’s body of work. 😉

  • Derek

    Brian – I didn’t mean to imply that NO celebrities are making good use of Twitter or that all you should be doing is listening; I was commenting on Ashton specifically. Of course he couldn’t keep up with millions of followers, but he could follow more than 80, and doesn’t need to see how high he can get his count; that’s not the point of Twitter.

    And of course it needs to be used for broadcasting as well.

    BTW, I think Eric was commenting on the quality of Mr. Kutcher’s body of work. 😉

  • Adam,

    You nailed it on the head here. If you go to a bookstore there are literally thousands of choices of magazines on the racks. Some are celeb rags like US Weekly and others are focused on other points of interest that people may consider “more intelligent.” Regardless, people choose to receive the information they want.

    The underlying reason for people thinking that Twitter is being ruined by celebrities is the same reason that people don’t like when their favorite bands make it on the radio. Something that was personal to them, something that made them feel different is now being diluted and shared with thousands of other people. Is it selfish to have those feelings? Debatable. But it is definitely something we’ve all felt.

    In this particular case, a lot of us nerdy folks who have been on Twitter since 2007 or earlier feel like all the time we’ve put into building this community is being ruined. That the hours we spent earning our 200 followers is somehow now worthless because people like Ashton Kutcher can build up 500k in a week. The reality is though that the idea of “quality vs. quantity” plays a big role here and you and I both know that our network is 10 times more powerful for our specific needs than that of a person with masses of followers.

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  • Adam,

    You nailed it on the head here. If you go to a bookstore there are literally thousands of choices of magazines on the racks. Some are celeb rags like US Weekly and others are focused on other points of interest that people may consider “more intelligent.” Regardless, people choose to receive the information they want.

    The underlying reason for people thinking that Twitter is being ruined by celebrities is the same reason that people don’t like when their favorite bands make it on the radio. Something that was personal to them, something that made them feel different is now being diluted and shared with thousands of other people. Is it selfish to have those feelings? Debatable. But it is definitely something we’ve all felt.

    In this particular case, a lot of us nerdy folks who have been on Twitter since 2007 or earlier feel like all the time we’ve put into building this community is being ruined. That the hours we spent earning our 200 followers is somehow now worthless because people like Ashton Kutcher can build up 500k in a week. The reality is though that the idea of “quality vs. quantity” plays a big role here and you and I both know that our network is 10 times more powerful for our specific needs than that of a person with masses of followers.

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  • Let’s be very clear, here. The typical “celebrity,” which I’m defining as encompassing 90% of Twitter co-founder Evan Williams’ friend stream, is not microblogging but broadcasting. That person, many of whom you link to above, Adam, may care about engagement but is focused on caravanning fans from one medium into another.

    MC Hammer is not broadcasting. Nor are Wil Wheaton, Stephen Fry, or Shaq (who is also close to 1 million followers). These are folks who use Twitter to communicate, participate, and be transparent; the three tenets of the first White House blog post on January 20. How is Ashton or Demi participating? They’re using Twitter as a public instant message to each other and their celebrity friends. Maybe it works for them, but when the mass media focuses on their using Twitter “to broadcast,” that’s CNN. I don’t follow CNN on Twitter. Do you?

    At least Howard Stern has it right. He’s someone Ashton’s fans should look to for guidance: @SternShow. When every other tweet is a reply, that’s telling.

    One more thing: Have you seen @aplusk’s web link? It goes to Blahgirls.com, an celebrity gossip site. He’s not blogging, like Hammer and Wil; and he’s not doing podcasts like John Cleese.

    Celebrities may or may not be taking over Twitter, but they’re definitely not alike.

  • Let’s be very clear, here. The typical “celebrity,” which I’m defining as encompassing 90% of Twitter co-founder Evan Williams’ friend stream, is not microblogging but broadcasting. That person, many of whom you link to above, Adam, may care about engagement but is focused on caravanning fans from one medium into another.

    MC Hammer is not broadcasting. Nor are Wil Wheaton, Stephen Fry, or Shaq (who is also close to 1 million followers). These are folks who use Twitter to communicate, participate, and be transparent; the three tenets of the first White House blog post on January 20. How is Ashton or Demi participating? They’re using Twitter as a public instant message to each other and their celebrity friends. Maybe it works for them, but when the mass media focuses on their using Twitter “to broadcast,” that’s CNN. I don’t follow CNN on Twitter. Do you?

    At least Howard Stern has it right. He’s someone Ashton’s fans should look to for guidance: @SternShow. When every other tweet is a reply, that’s telling.

    One more thing: Have you seen @aplusk’s web link? It goes to Blahgirls.com, an celebrity gossip site. He’s not blogging, like Hammer and Wil; and he’s not doing podcasts like John Cleese.

    Celebrities may or may not be taking over Twitter, but they’re definitely not alike.

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  • Thanks for the comments all – good thoughts here. I want to address a key point – celebrities will be celebrities. They are celebrities because they are broadcasting – the fact that some are choosing to do so on Twitter is really inconsequential. Ashton, Demi, Ellen, Oprah and others are making a buzz because they are trying a new technology, but they were already making a buzz. So, now some are doing that on twitter – big deal. There are some impacts though. There will be a ‘bandwagon’ effect, but many celebs (as Ari points out) and new joiners are taking it a step further to engage the community on Twitter. Those folks get it – and I would hope benefit from it more than the others in many ways. The celebs who do so are providing a level of access that is nearly impossible to achieve on any other platform.

    Len – great feedback and analogy of the magazine rack. I agree with both of your points too about us ‘normal’ folks working hard to establish followers. I’d take 10 engaged followers like yourself over a thousand spammers – no question. Its a balance of short term gain with long term value. On your other point on people feeling like Twitter is being ruined – I need to finish my other blog post about “What if everyone you knew was on every social network?” The ultimately goal of these networks are to be ubiquitous as the telephone or TV. How we use them may evolve, but at least it should be easier to find what you need or who you are looking for – and those that benefit from the “newness” of something unique on these platforms will fade.

  • adam

    Thanks for the comments all – good thoughts here. I want to address a key point – celebrities will be celebrities. They are celebrities because they are broadcasting – the fact that some are choosing to do so on Twitter is really inconsequential. Ashton, Demi, Ellen, Oprah and others are making a buzz because they are trying a new technology, but they were already making a buzz. So, now some are doing that on twitter – big deal. There are some impacts though. There will be a ‘bandwagon’ effect, but many celebs (as Ari points out) and new joiners are taking it a step further to engage the community on Twitter. Those folks get it – and I would hope benefit from it more than the others in many ways. The celebs who do so are providing a level of access that is nearly impossible to achieve on any other platform.

    Len – great feedback and analogy of the magazine rack. I agree with both of your points too about us ‘normal’ folks working hard to establish followers. I’d take 10 engaged followers like yourself over a thousand spammers – no question. Its a balance of short term gain with long term value. On your other point on people feeling like Twitter is being ruined – I need to finish my other blog post about “What if everyone you knew was on every social network?” The ultimately goal of these networks are to be ubiquitous as the telephone or TV. How we use them may evolve, but at least it should be easier to find what you need or who you are looking for – and those that benefit from the “newness” of something unique on these platforms will fade.

  • Tweetdeck FTW. I’m a big fan. I’m also quite guilty of starting a profile only to have one post and never use it for anything ever again, but I have learned the error of my ways. Twitter search helped me a lot when looking for a Job in Buffalo. It’s like google blog search only faster and more relevant.

  • Tweetdeck FTW. I’m a big fan. I’m also quite guilty of starting a profile only to have one post and never use it for anything ever again, but I have learned the error of my ways. Twitter search helped me a lot when looking for a Job in Buffalo. It’s like google blog search only faster and more relevant.

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  • Strangely enough Adam…I’ve found that I don’t care very much at all about celebrities being on twitter. I was thinking about the Oprah thing just last night while I was working on a press release for my upcoming book and a few radio pitches to generate early buzz. I was thinking about the sheer number of people who would join as a result of Oprah introducing her gazillion viewers to twitter and how a great deal of them wouldn’t get it or begin to understand the power of an active twitter network. Great post, Adam. Way to put it all in perspective. Now I will blast this to my tweeps so they can read it and get this great perspective for themselves.
    Angela Connor | @communitygirl

  • Strangely enough Adam…I’ve found that I don’t care very much at all about celebrities being on twitter. I was thinking about the Oprah thing just last night while I was working on a press release for my upcoming book and a few radio pitches to generate early buzz. I was thinking about the sheer number of people who would join as a result of Oprah introducing her gazillion viewers to twitter and how a great deal of them wouldn’t get it or begin to understand the power of an active twitter network. Great post, Adam. Way to put it all in perspective. Now I will blast this to my tweeps so they can read it and get this great perspective for themselves.
    Angela Connor | @communitygirl

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  • Perhaps I’m a bit jaded, or just feeling cranky (it is Monday after all), but I fail to see the point of this debate. Oprah is on Twitter. So is Ashton Kutcher. So are a bunch of other celebs that are using Twitter as a broadcasting mechanism and not as a way to initiate conversations with like-minded individuals.

    If it is their choice to join Twitter and do that why should I care? I am not going to follow them because I’m using Twitter to talk with like-minded folks. If the “masses” want to join Twitter and follow Oprah, who are we to say that they shouldn’t?

    If Oprah and other celebs have any impact on Twitter it will happen on a macro level. It will probably help to further the push to make Twitter mainstream (if it isn’t already). But I don’t think it will impact my experience on Twitter, or yours, or anybody else’s (with the exception of seeing the “whale” a few more times).

  • Perhaps I’m a bit jaded, or just feeling cranky (it is Monday after all), but I fail to see the point of this debate. Oprah is on Twitter. So is Ashton Kutcher. So are a bunch of other celebs that are using Twitter as a broadcasting mechanism and not as a way to initiate conversations with like-minded individuals.

    If it is their choice to join Twitter and do that why should I care? I am not going to follow them because I’m using Twitter to talk with like-minded folks. If the “masses” want to join Twitter and follow Oprah, who are we to say that they shouldn’t?

    If Oprah and other celebs have any impact on Twitter it will happen on a macro level. It will probably help to further the push to make Twitter mainstream (if it isn’t already). But I don’t think it will impact my experience on Twitter, or yours, or anybody else’s (with the exception of seeing the “whale” a few more times).

  • Spot on Chuck – You said it with a lot less words than I did. I was inspired by a newspaper article interviewing people who were concerned that celebs had taken over and that the masses joining twitter will ruin it.

    The one subtle impact beyond the additional fail whale sightings is that this could bring in a lot more legitimate users – not just the folks who want to follow Oprah. In that sense I think it’s more positive than neutral. Thanks for the comment!

  • adam

    Spot on Chuck – You said it with a lot less words than I did. I was inspired by a newspaper article interviewing people who were concerned that celebs had taken over and that the masses joining twitter will ruin it.

    The one subtle impact beyond the additional fail whale sightings is that this could bring in a lot more legitimate users – not just the folks who want to follow Oprah. In that sense I think it’s more positive than neutral. Thanks for the comment!

  • no problem, and thanks for doing the great post. That is a positive outcome from this “saga” that I hadn’t really thought of.

    Though, I don’t think consultants could walk into a boardroom and say Oprah and and Ashton are on Twitter…why aren’t you?

  • no problem, and thanks for doing the great post. That is a positive outcome from this “saga” that I hadn’t really thought of.

    Though, I don’t think consultants could walk into a boardroom and say Oprah and and Ashton are on Twitter…why aren’t you?

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