These crazy celebrities don’t get Twitter, their new followers don’t get Twitter, and together they are bound to ruin it for good.
Evan Williams (Twitter’s co-founder “ev”) may be all a-twitter about tomorrow’s big Twitter day, but for me, Oprah joining the micro-blogging service and talking about it on her show is the beginning of the end.
Still, I fell in love with the service for all I can give and for all that it gives back to me. The instant exchange of ideas and information in 140 characters is achingly beautiful in its simplicity.
As I’ve mentioned before, not every celeb abuses Twitter. Shaquille O’Neil (“The_Real_Shaq”) does some nice stuff, like connecting directly with fans. Ashton Kutcher has, up until this point, been a pretty good Twitter citizen. Then he started trolling for followers—mostly because he saw he had amassed roughly 800K and could taste one million.
His current follower number is not a measure of his Twitter cred. The guy rarely offers quality information. His posts are mostly self-referential and promotional. (Okay, we all do some self promotion, but the good Tweeters try to mix it up.) Yes, his tweeting lets him jump past a team of publicists and handlers to reach his fans directly, but that kind of activity also tends to fill Twitter with a lot of noise.
Obviously, if I know what Ashton is doing on Twitter, I’m following him, too; I follow him because Ashton does have some tech industry involvement. I saw him in person last year when he presented his Blah Girls project at the TechCrunch 50 show. To a certain extent, he understands this environment, which makes his abuse of it all the more frustrating.
How did Oprah get in on all this? Well, Ashton discovered his growing list of followers and how many CNN had, and then initiated some sort of bizarre follower-building competition between himself and the news service. I won’t go into the details, because they’re pointless and ridiculous. To sum it up, Ashton is promising to give his 1 millionth follower something cool and donate a whole bunch of mosquito nets to malaria-infected third-world countries.
Oprah producers must’ve gotten wind of this whole thing because now she’s prepping her first-ever “Twitter Show.” Ashton will be on there. I don’t know if Twitter co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone (“biz”) will also be in attendance, but I bet they will. To prepare for this event, Oprah is now on Twitter herself as, naturally, “Oprah.” She had 23,000 followers within hours of the profile’s creation, and she’s sure to have hundreds of thousands by tomorrow. Bully for her. It’s doubtful she’ll Twitter on her own after tomorrow and almost a certainty that nothing followers find on her Twitter feed will have much more value than checking your local listings for the topics of her next show.
When television journalists discovered Twitter, I was pretty happy. Most, like Rick Sanchez at CNN (“ricksanchezcnn”), seem to use it as a back channel to their audience to collect consensus or first-person information, or even to share interesting tidbits. Celebrities, however, are almost uniformly useless on the service: Martha Stewart, Ellen DeGeneres, Stephen Colbert, etc. Most of them do not post for themselves, or post so infrequently that they might as well send out a weekly press release instead. The problem with their presence on Twitter is how much interest they drive. When Barbara Walters covered Twitter on her mid-morning show The View, the flood of interest brought down the site. The hordes of people who come through celebrity endorsements to the Twitter homepage likely think they’ve arrived at the Tower of Babel: “Who are all these people and what the hell are they talking about?”
If the first Twitterer you follow is Oprah, Ellen DeGeneres, Ashton Kutcher, or his wife Demi, you’ll end up with a wildly distorted view of the service.
One of the crazier aspects of all this is how excited Evan Williams is. “Tomorrow just became a very big day,” he tweeted. Doesn’t he know what Oprah fan interest will do to Twitter? First, the service will crash, over and over again. The Fail Whale will rule tomorrow. Then it will recover and get bigger than ever, but with more Twitter users like Ashton and Oprah, it will ultimately be hollow on the inside, just like a bubble. And we know what happens to them.