If you are the type of person to read this you will love Twitter as much as I do. It’s more than a website, social network or channel. It is a medium in its own right; an invention I believe will be seen as important as the telephone by future generations.
Google and Facebook overwhelmingly dominate Search and Social Networking for most of the world but if you think really really hard, you may see a slim possibility that either could be replaced. I don’t know who by but there’s a chance.
If I try the same exercise with Twitter I draw a blank.
Visualise Google Search and I see the search box. With Facebook it’s a mobile app fast becoming an endless photo album of other people’s kids. Trying to visualise Twitter is more difficult. It’s like a raging river formed of innumerable tributaries; thousands of people standing at the various shores scratching a living like cyber-fishermen (I said it was difficult). Point is; Twitter is important and I love it.
So imagine my joy last Sunday when Chuck D began following me. I’m sure you all know who Chuck D is but on the off chance you don’t; he is the frontman of the greatest rap group of all time: Public Enemy. I grew up listening to PE religiously and still know the words to ‘Welcome to the Terrordome’ by heart. I don’t often tweet famous people but I’ve tweeted Chuck a number of times and when I received his follow notification I was ecstatic. I wanted to tell the world about it but my wife assured me that tweeting about how cool it was that Chuck D was following me was decidedly not cool. The great man may even unfollow me because of it; so I kept my calm.
I texted my mate Leo who is the only other person I know who would really care and he text me back the reply: Amazing! How many people is he following?
In work the next day I casually mentioned it to someone; first question: ‘How many people is he following then?’
OK I admit it; at the time he was following 17k people (he is now up to 18k). That’s a reasonable sized pool but I still felt closer to Chuck D. He has seen my picture, read my name & something I wrote then took an action. If I divide the 18k universe of people he follows into the population of the entire world I am in in the top 0.00026% of people he is interacting with. If the world is too wide a net I’ll take the active Twitter universe and that bumps me to the top 0.00779%. That means he isn’t following 99.99221% of people on Twitter.
Twitter often talk about the service being what connects you to what you love most whatever it may be and I think this proves it. I am definitely closer to Chuck than I was this time last week.
This all reminded me why I loved Twitter in the first place. Before we all had smartphones & the internet in our pockets. When I joined in late 2006; you had to send Tweets either via the website or on a dumb phone as an SMS to a short code. When you received a tweet it came as a text message from the tweeter. There weren’t too many people to follow in 2006 and to be honest I didn’t understand it at first. My first ever tweet is so embarrassing I’ll only admit it to you in person and when drunk.
One of the first people I followed was a guy called Larry Hryb or @MajorNelson. He works for Xbox in Redmond and is a true social media pioneer. He started tweeting codes for free Xbox games or discounts and would tweet while having meetings with famous games developers to provide followers with the inside track. He added value to his community and Xbox gamers were much closer to the brand than had ever been possible before. By no means was he the first and only; he just was the first who made Twitter make sense to me.
In some way; receiving tweets as text messages made you feel even closer to the tweeter than you do now. It was true 1-1 marketing in a world where SMS was the most intrusive message you could receive. It’s strange how it seems all so archaic now in Twitter terms.
Last week Twitter announced a stripped down version of the service that doesn’t rely on the internet & will connect even more people; primarily in the emerging world. I’m sure the technology is very different to how Twitter did it in 2006 but the result will be the same. Soon there will be millions more people with access to the medium for the first time. I bet you that Chuck D won’t follow many of them though.