Why all of your friends are on Twitter

    Ashton Kutcher’s challenge to CNN was the shot heard ’round the Internet. Kutcher bet that he would be the first user on Twitter to have one million followers reading his page, which would mean beating out CNN, the most-followed user at the time. Kutcher promised to ding-dong-ditch CNN founder Ted Turner’s house if he won his bet. Kutcher soon surged past CNN’s count and on April 20, 2009, hit the one-million mark, making Twitter history.

    Kutcher’s challenge incited CNN personnel like Larry King, who offered an official response to Kutcher’s initial challenge of his network. Now, even with the challenge technically over, Kutcher is still pulling new competitors into the ring as Twitter’s numbers grow rampantly.

    But why now? After three years of operation, why is Twitter only just now entering the public lexicon? In the last few months, the modestly-trafficked and relatively unheard of social networking Web site exploded in popularity, officially becoming the third most popular site of its kind, behind only Facebook and MySpace according to a February 2009 report from Compete, a Web traffic analysis site.

    Hopefully one of your Internet-literate friends has explained the site to you by now, but if you still don’t know, Twitter is a micro-blogging Web site that allows you to leave posts of no more than 140 characters to your readers (or “followers”).

    Sounds pretty unexciting, I know.

    Yet somehow, Twitter experienced a 1382 percent growth in estimated user base over the past year with an approximated 7 million users according to a Nielson survey. One can only speculate @Twitter: How? Why?

    Some would argue that the popular trend, like most web phenomena, cannot be explained, but there are clearly some factors that contributed to the sudden popular acceptance of this social networking site.

    For one, it seems that Facebook’s trash is Twitter’s treasure. When Facebook overhauled its platform a few months ago, complaints poured in accusing Facebook’s feed system of being glorified Twitter-plagiarism, accusations to which Mark Zuckerberg replied, in different words, screw all of you, it’s staying. All the hubbub over Facebook prompted estranged users to wonder, what exactly is Twitter anyway?

    Now, press organizations from the New York Times to even North by Northwestern are using Twitter’s to-the-point update system to post links to top headlines. Here at Northwestern, each college (and even the library) has its own Twitter page.

    But Twitter’s best endorsement comes from a new generation of social networkers: celebrities. With each week that passes, the chance that your favorite rock star or news anchor is on Twitter increases. The world of publicist-created “official artist” MySpace and Facebook pages has finally given in to celebrities branding themselves online through their own candid pages. Plus, why read often fraudulent gossip articles about famous people when celebrities themselves post their every thought on the web?

    If you’re not following already, here’s a selection of some of the celebrities that make Twitter worth your while:

    Sean (Diddy) Combs: Just when you thought P. Diddy had finally settled on a name, the superstar rapper and producer entered into a love affair with Twitter and has now made the shift to P. Twitty, referring to his devoted followers as the P. Twitty Nation. P. Twitty’s shamelessly misguided attempts to add to his brand name are always hilarious. Watch as P. Twitty spreads new gospel on an episode of his YouTube counterpart, P. Twitty TV:

    P Twitty’s remarkably frequent use of the Web site makes fans wonder if Twitty still bothers to spend time in the studio these days (he was famous for rapping at one point, right?). Be forewarned that if you follow Twitty, expect to have your feed fill up fast. http://twitter.com/iamdiddy

    Larry King: Everyone with a parent who has friended them on Facebook has learned the hard way that to social networking sites, age is but a number. The 76-year-old news legend embraces the age of information on an hourly basis. His updates usually contain the kind of information your friendly old neighbor might offer you — stories about the weather or baseball games, mainly. King even leaves a tweet on each commercial break during the taping of his show! http://twitter.com/kingsthings

    Shaq: Mr. Shaquille O’Neal is another frequent user of the site who finds that no detail is too small for his followers to be concerned. The silly nature of Shaq’s pictures and grammar never fail to amuse, and the basketball star never fails to deliver. http://twitter.com/the_real_shaq

    Photo from Shaq’s Twitter

    Aziz Ansari: The young comedian who got his start on MTV’s Human Giant is now growing in popularity thanks to a supporting role as one of the new interns on Scrubs and a lead role in NBC’s Parks and Recreation. However, Aziz is quickly becoming known amongst the Twitter community for his TwitPics of other celebrities, parody battle with Weird Al Yankovic and constant willingness to share behind the scenes gossip about goings-on at major networks. Most importantly, Aziz’s page is funny, helping to establish Twitter as a place for humor. www.Twitter.com/AzizAnsari

    Tila Tequila: Tila Tequila, if I remember correctly, was originally famous for having the most friends on MySpace. Now, it is only natural that she is out to reclaim her networking popularity once again. Tila is willing to share every detail of her life (even things she won’t tell the police, like when her house was robbed and she received a death threat). Other common features of Tila’s Twitter are videos of her singing into a mirror, partial nudity and correspondence with Yoko Ono. https://twitter.com/officialTila

    Where else but Twitter could you witness so much celebrity interaction? Or read every joke John Mayer can come up with? Obviously, the aforementioned examples are just a sample of the bizarre online musings of celebrities that make Twitter a worthwhile stop. While Facebook offers you a window into the lives of your friends, Twitter offers a window into the lives of the rich and famous, people who don’t even know you.

    If you still doubt the site’s potential popularity, consider this: Twitter received the nation’s greatest endorsement just a couple of days ago. Yes, Oprah.


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