I joined Twitter on 27 June 2007. When I first got there, it was a fairly empty place and I left after just a few minutes. My first tweet, like so many others', was something like:
Since that fateful day, I have watched as many others jumped on board the Twitter Train and made it "mainstream." People like Robert Scoble and Guy Kawasaki and Oprah. Here I made a chart:
So with all this new press, the internet is becoming full of articles touting "why Twitter is a great new social media site." But I want to draw attention to what Twitter REALLY is.
"Social Media Site" is the term invented for MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, Orkut and others to describe online networks where you create a profile and fill it with pictures and quotes and articles and friends. Social Media Sites were built on the idea of mutual friendship and willingness to exchange information. They are the most recent step away from the long-held traditional media pattern of broadcast communication of the few to the many. Now, with Social Media Sites, people, including bands, brands, and companies, are communicating one-to-one.
Well, Twitter is not a Social Media Site. It is not a static page consisting of a user-defined profile stocked with photos, quotes, links, and lists of friends. The very protocol defies the Social Media standard. You do not "Friend" or "Add" on Twitter. You "Follow." There is no implied reciprocation. The list of people that you follow on Twitter is much more akin to the traditional media measurement of viewers or "eyeballs." And we are again using a broadcast medium, the few to the many. If this were MySpace or Facebook, the numbers for "Following" and "Followers" would all be equal. (i.e. - "Friends follow each other"). Instead they look like this:
Those ratios defy the one-to-one idea of Social Media and are akin to the one-to-many target numbers of several forms of traditional media. So what is Twitter?
Twitter is the fastest form of user-generated broadcast media.
I found this last week by Stan Schroeder on Mashable: "Yes, we all know that Twitter is great for tracking conversations. [However, there’s also] been a lot of talk that its biggest strength is precisely its search. But sometimes it’s hard to fathom just how important this is. Google is the biggest entity on the Internet. It is synonymous with “search”. It feels like it’s been around forever. It is also not able to compete with Twitter."He does not say that Google can't compete with MySpace or Facebook. Google owns a Social Media Site. What Schroeder says is that people are using Twitter as an ALTERNATIVE to Google. A peer-to-peer, unmonetized, predominantly unarbitrated search alternative in order to quickly gather information. This is not a new Social Media Site. This is a passing-of-power in the broadcast media field.