Twitter goes mainstream?

Was this the moment Twitter went mainstream?

When Stephen Fry and Jonathan Ross start discussing niche social networks on primetime television then you know something is about to change. In what seems like a matter of days, Twitter has gone from the playground of geeks and social media nuts to the place to be seen for the famous and their stalkers alike.

Of course we’ve been plugging Twitter for ages – my first tweet was way back in May 2007:

I’m also at work.

Inspired isn’t it? I hadn’t worked out @replies but was talking to the only other person I followed at the time, Alison Wildish (formerly of this parish).

In the last series of posts about Twitter I covered a few of the ways I’d found it useful – things like networking with colleagues and contacts, crowd sourcing help and engaging with the back channel at conferences but since then I’ve found some of the ways I use Twitter have changed – I’ve gone beyond my own network.

My network of friends and followers on Twitter grew pretty organically over the last year but recently I’ve been less constrained by it. I didn’t realise it at the time, but one of the first examples of this was the US presidential election. Twitter added a special election site which allowed you to track tweeks about the candidates. On election night, I was watching TV, browsing the web, and keeping an eye on Twitter too. So was the BBC – the first time I’d heard it mentioned by them outside a technology programme.

When watching TV, I now find I often do a Twitter Search for the programme name to see what other people think of it – often with surprisingly differing opinions! [And anyone who says things like iPlayer will be the death of live TV is lying – there will always be a place for shared experiences].

Most recently, I’ve noticed a few Twitter phenomenon that have swept the nation:

  • #uksnow – reinforcing the world’s stereotype that British are obsessed with the weather, the #uksnow hashtag beat the Superbowl to become one of the hottest topics on Twitter.
  • Twestival – this Thursday, 12th February in over 150 cities around the world, Twitter Communities will come together to raise money for Charity:Water. The Liverpool one is being organised by Edge Hill’s very own Mandy Phillips and other people you might know will also be in attendence (but unfortunately not me – I’ll be a couple of hours into a very long drive up to the Scottish Highlands).
  • Celebrities – Fry, Ross, Philip Schofield, a gaggle of comedians and growing by the day. Chris Moyles gained over 38,000 followers in just five days.

Does this all add up to Twitter now being “mainstream”? For me, not yet, but it’s moving that way. Celebrity Twitterers are bringing in large numbers of new users, and while some may simply be using it to cut out Heat Magazine and get gossip direct from the source, others do seem to be engaging.

With a growing user base, perhaps it’s time to look again at how Edge Hill can make use of Twitter and if there’s things we can learn from other universities, or even celebrities. But that will have to wait until next time!

4 thoughts on “Twitter goes mainstream?

  1. Mandy Phillips

    You’ve stolen my thoughts!

    A conversation with some very similar themes took place in a coffee shop on Saturday morning. I agree Mike, not yet mainstream, but as with anything, when there is more of it , in the case of users of Twitter, you need to work harder to filter the good stuff.

    I can see lots of opportunites for Edge Hill to use this tool to really add value to events (SOLSTICE/CLTR conference), both prior to, during and afterwards, and also to build on our already good reputation for using Twitter; see http://is.gd/iQtx.

    As a feedback mechanism, there are areas that could be explored.

    But – as with any other technology to aid teaching and learning, and engagement – it should always be about purpose, and if that isn’t clear from the outset, then we may find we’re engaging with the tool that is Twitter for all the wrong reasons..

    Great post!

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