April 20, 2009

We Were So Wrong About Twitter

By Rob Diana of Regular Geek (Twitter/FriendFeed)

It feels like ages ago, but it was only four months ago when the extended louisgray.com team debated whether Twitter would go mainstream. Did we underestimate Twitter and its team? No. We did not foresee who would be using it. What did we think was needed for Twitter to hit the mainstream? Here are some examples of what we were thinking:
  • It needs a lot of filtering and searching.
  • There is too much noise for most people.
  • It is too public, and it only fits a small niche of the population.
  • Some people may just not 'get it'.
  • Twitter will not go mainstream until another service appears that makes Twitter a cellphone SMS gateway.
  • It still lacks the features needed to go mainstream, video, images etc.
  • The combination of other services (Facebook, FriendFeed, Yammer, etc.) will steal Twitter's thunder and leave it behind.
Why were we so wrong? Basically, we are a bunch of early adopters who were thinking that people would be using it in the same manner as we were. We thought people would be searching for information, or would want to be more mobile or share pictures.

We totally missed the power of celebrity. At the time that the debate post was written, only a few celebrities were using Twitter and they were using it for conversations and finding information. Ashton Kutcher recently joined Twitter and exploded. Britney Spears joined Twitter a little while ago and is growing quickly as well. Why are they growing, taking over Twitter and introducing it to the mainstream with the help of Oprah?

People are fascinated by celebrities. I am not one of those people, but the amount of traffic that celebrity gossip sites like Perez Hilton received proves that point well enough. With Twitter, the celebrities are able to interact directly with their fans, and those fans can send notes to their favorite stars. This is the same reason that people like Robert Scoble and various Web celebrities are popular on Twitter. That direct interaction and the continuous updates make people feel closer to these stars. I am not sure how we missed it, but I think most of the early adopters missed the call on Twitter. Hopefully we are wrong about their ability to make money as well.

Read more by Rob Diana at RegularGeek.com.