Twitter’s Big Day: Oprah Winfrey and Ashton Kutcher Bring Twitter to the Mainstream
Twitter has gone mainstream. Late last night, Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) became the first Twitter user with more than 1 million followers. Today, media mogul Oprah Winfrey sent out her first tweet and will dedicate a full episode of her talk show to Twitter.
While Twitter’s sudden mainstream appeal might be somewhat disconcerting for early adopters who would prefer it if Twitter wasn’t suddenly the cool new thing to try out for soccer moms, it will surely bring a lot of new opportunities (and challenges) for Twitter.
Like any good tool, though, Twitter is flexible enough so that it can be whatever you want it to be. At its best, Twitter can connect you with like-minded users, but for users with large numbers of followers, Twitter becomes more of a broadcasting than a two-way communications medium.
I Can Talk to Oprah Now!
Unless you are a public figure or a publisher, however, having a large number of followers may not even be the best way to create a positive experience on Twitter, though the current hype around Kutcher and CNN racing to the 1 million follower mark will surely drive the perception that follower numbers are what Twitter is all about. Also, while the current perception in the tech blogosphere is that Twitter is all about self-promotion, for those mainstream users who are joining Twitter now, that will simply not be the case, and we will have to wait and see how many of Kutcher’s and Oprah’s new followers will use Twitter for anything else but to follow their favorite celebrities. It will also be interesting to see if Oprah decides to continue using Twitter in following weeks and if she will actually use it for two-way communication with her fans (beyond the all-caps message that heralded her arrival on Twitter today).
Can the Mainstream Handle Twitter?
On its own site, Twitter will also have to explain its utility better if it wants to draw in all the potential mainstream users who will hear about Twitter for the first time today. Twitter, after all, still asks you what you are doing, even though that is probably the least interesting way of using Twitter. It is also important to note that Twitter, being the small company that it is, barely has any tech support besides its Get Satisfaction page, so a befuddled new user doesn’t have any place to go to ask questions about how to use it.
Can Twitter Handle the Mainstream?
This sudden mainstreaming of Twitter, however, doesn’t mean that Twitter has finally jumped the shark. In the end, Twitter going mainstream will barely affect most current users. After all, once you manage to unfollow Ashton Kutcher again, most of us won’t have to deal with Oprah, Kutcher, or any other celebrity on the service; though, who knows, you might soon be getting DM’s from your mom…