I love Twitter. I admit it. It is incredibly useful. I find all sorts of information there, keep up with friends, and even follow people I don’t know for their crazy antics or great information they provide. But it is strange – as CBC’s Nora Young said, It’s a “Crazy and beautiful thing that may collapse under the weight of its own absurdity”.
I have another theory about its popularity.
I believe twitter is popular – or gets the attention it does – primarily because it is useful to reporters and the media (and I’d include influential bloggers in this group). They are the primary users, and lovers, of the medium. Why do they love it? Because it’s fast, quick and immediate. It’s a great source of current, up-to-date, on-the-street information. Reporters are by nature information addicts. They have short attention spans, and their job is to consume large amounts of information, filter it, and then retransmit it in a changed form, with their own spin and slant. To put it bluntly, they have a reporter form of Attention Deficit Disorder. Read, consume, understand (as much as possible at that speed) and communicate – all quickly.
But there’s also another factor which then amplifies the medium. It is public relations professionals. Their job is to find out where reporters and the media is, and be there in front of them with information they want to convey from their clients. In order to get the attention of reporters media in general, PR pros need to build relationships and trust with reporters, and twitter is just the medium for doing that.
Media and PR people are generally in their jobs because they are considered ‘influencers’. They are the people that people look to when they want to find out what’s going on – the cool kids that people want to hang with. When they are using new things, others want to jump along and use them also.
What explains the rest of us? We caught on because that’s what we’d heard about. We’d heard about it from the (older) PR and media professionals who were using it to do their jobs. They explained how great it was, because they influence, and it made their life better. We caught on. Young people haven’t yet, but they will. The medium has evolved. It’s not the small community it once was – a manageable community, but now filled with too many users, spam, and sponsored tweets.