If you need any indication of Twitter.com’s booming popularity, look no further than Nick Douglas’s recent publication, Twitter Wit, which describes itself as “an authorized collection of the funniest tweets of all time.” Now, the book is probably premature and the title is clearly ridiculous, but what is also becoming increasingly clear is that Twitter — or at least its micro-blogging concept — is here to stay. With 55 million page visits per month and a membership increasing at a rate of 1,382 per cent it has become an online force that is simply hard to ignore. Of course, this means that the basic idea behind Twitter is well known, but for anyone who has just recently arisen from a 20-year coma, according to site creators Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams and Biz Stone, Twitter exists as a “a service for friends, family and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?”
In the years since Twitter’s founding in 2006 however, the site and its users have evolved beyond this most literal interpretation of “what are you doing,” and today “tweets” — sometimes in the form of questions themselves — often include links to photos or popular news stories, live reporting or insightful commentary on current events. Just as Twitter enables you to follow or view the updates of anyone else around the world, your tweets can potentially be seen by dozens, thousands or, in some cases, by millions of other users. Although Twitter itself is still searching for a reliable profit method (after all, its free!), other businesses have been clamouring to the site after recognizing its unique potential for product advertisement and for pairing fresh ideas with those willing and able to sell them. Also, true to the times, you can tweet on the go by using your cell phone or other mobile device.
Further, Twitter’s ingenious hashtag function, as in typing #Twitter or #Olympics, allows you to search for and engage in the worldwide discussion of the topics and events that resonate most with you. The re-tweet feature, abbreviated, as “RT” is another staple of the Twitter experience by handing users the ability to spread and attribute the particularly clever, insightful or informative tweets. This is how the very best of Twitter reaches a truly global audience. In fact, nearly 2 per cent of all tweets are of the re-tweet variety.
Playing a significant role in this community are a number of celebrities that are attracted to the site by the promise of quick, unfiltered interaction with their fans and admirers. Critics have been equally quick, though, to claim that this high-profile presence only symbolizes the irrelevant and narcissistic nature of Twitter. However, there exists an argument to the contrary. Like Andy Warhol once said about a bottle of Coke, Twitter can actually be seen as an equalizing force. No matter who you are, or where you come from, your ideas, thoughts and experiences have the potential to reach and affect millions — and like everyone else, the challenge is to do so in 140 characters or less!
If you’re just starting out, Twitter is pretty boring. It is crucial that you find a community of great people to follow and interact with. After you search for your friends and family (either by their real names or by their @-handles) and peruse through some of Twitter’s own suggestions, here are ten people you should take a look at:
10) Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) — Whether it is entirely justified or not, with more than 4.5 million followers, the former That ‘70s Show star, is the kingpin of Twitter.
9) Barack Obama (@BarackObama) — Although his account is run almost exclusively by staffers, he still happens to be the most powerful person alive. If you follow him in real life, he’s probably not a bad person to follow on Twitter.
8) The New York Times (@nytimes) — Twitter works as a great aggregation service for news, music and almost anything. By following your top sources you can get everything delivered to you in one place. Why not have the world’s most famous newspaper be a part of it?
7) Rain Wilson (@rainnwilson) — The Office funnyman can lighten up any day with his small doses of irreverent wit.
6) Conan O’ Brien (@ConanOBrien) — A new addition to the Twitter universe, Conan’s brief bio blurb provides reason enough to follow him: “I had a show. Then I had a different show. Now I have a Twitter account.”
5) Lauren Leto (@laurenleto) — The creator and co-founder of another Internet sensation, Textfromlastnight.com, this lady is just flat-out funny.
4) Anderson Cooper (@andersoncooper) — The highly-esteemed and influential CNN anchor was at his very best in his on-location coverage of this year’s Haitian earthquake, using his Twitter account to offer a personal account on aspects of the crisis that could not air on TV.
3) John Mayer (@johncmayer) — Because he’s witty. Because he’s a douche bag. Because witty douche bags are always entertaining.
2) Lance Armstrong (@lancearmstrong) — Armstrong is the perfect example of someone with tremendous fame using his celebrity status and a new medium to better humanity — in his case, by continually fighting to find a cure for cancer.
1) Yoko Ono (@yokoono) — Some people wonder what they were born to do in life. Well, it is becoming apparent that Yoko Ono was born for Twitter. It could be argued that she’s been doing this sort of thing for decades in her own crazy way, but if you need any more convincing, check out this gem of hers:
“Carry a heavy object on your back. Dance as swiftly as you can.”
— 11 a.m., Jan. 10.