How to save Twitter from being killed by Celebs

Posted by Minnaar Pieters 29 Apr 2009
Evolution of press

Twitter is a microblogging platform that has recently grown at a incredible pace, with more than 10 million current users. It is one of those ideas that is hard to understand for someone who has not used it before (that someone can be anyone). What recently started to happen is that celebrities are pouncing at it in droves. Think about Ashton Kutcher (who posts pictures of his wife's bum), Oprah (like she does not have enough TV viewers) and P Diddy (who posts the most irritating, self important tweets ever) - they are joining this service because it is another way for them to contact their fans.

Twitter users traditionally used the service to contact like-minded individuals who would post messages of interest that would encourage interaction. Know the same individuals who purchase Hello or Heat are seeing this platform thinking - hey, another way to see what's going on in Britney's life! Lets join!

The true value of twitter is only apparent once you start posting tweets other people care about. Following every celebrity and never forming your own "community" will very quickly make the system a "has been" fad.

John C Dvorak, in his infinite provactive wisdom makes the very good point that instead of having a natural growth, the system is currently overloaded by certain key individuals who I mentioned who are not using twitter in the way it was intended. The system is used currently as another marketing channel which will ultimately make the system fail, especially if it becomes another spam channel. Perhaps twitter's biggest mistake is the system recommending you "suggested" users.

Here is my idea:

I think a better idea is to tag users in say 5 categories that they can choose. I for example might tag myself as: technology, social media, south africa, blogger, mountain biking. In this way, like minded individuals (which is the success to twitter happiness) can quickly connect to one another through a smarter "suggested" list.

Also, perhaps another way to prevent "celebrity" fever is to systematically prevent insane growth of followers for certain individuals, for example, those with more than 10,000 followers. The only way their numbers grow is by them following more people. This will prevent twitter from becoming a one way communication channel for some people. Take this for example - how often do you get a reply from a celeb? Does that really belong in a well designed social network? Twitter should encourage users who actually create value for other users, and not put one way communicators in its suggested list. For example I use twitter grader to find people in my area who are highly rated - highly rated does not mean high number of followers. These are individuals who tweet regularly, reply and use twitter in the way it was intended.

Maybe twitter can look at a algorithim that can push you up in ranks according to how well you use the system (similiar to Twitter Grader). This will put all users on a level playing field.

So if you are joining twitter remember to tweet about something you believe others will read - and dont use it only to follow celebrities. You realize pretty quickly they do the same lame things you do, but get paid more.

Any other ideas? Or alternatively follow me at @mpieters
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I am a R&D Analyst in Stellenbosch South Africa who has a immense passion for all things tech related. I embrace technology, open source and web standards, and I participate and contribute to the social web.