The Twitterati

Twitterati: The Tweet elite, whose feeds attract thousands of followers and whose 140-character spews capture the attention of the rapt who doggedly monitor them.                 -As defined by Urban Dictionary

Twitter, a mircroblogging site launched in 2006, is a triple-threat source for news, gossip and social networking. (That sums it up in 140.)

Recent reports estimate that 90 percent of tweets are generated by less than 25 percent of Twitter users. Let’s call them the Twitterati. The USA Today broke them down into four categories: media, celebrities, organizations and bloggers.

Twitter is trying to change that and increase its Twitter appeal among a wider user base. Last week, Twitter announced it will be making its homepage more user friendly. More accessible for those who haven’t yet made the Twitter jump; for those who are on Twitter but don’t often tweet; for those who don’t quite understand Twitter. (And those who have no connections to the Twitterati.)

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, who returned to the company in late March, is in favor of a more mainstream website. Dorsey served as Twitter’s first chief executive, then took a step back in 2008 and handed the CEO duties to co-founder Evan Williams; the two essentially switched roles. Dorsey is now back in the fold as executive chairman.

Jack Dorseys Twitter account, announcing his return on March 28, 2011

Per Reuters, Dorsey wants to focus on users “that don’t really understand what Twitter is and see Twitter mainly as a consumption experience.”

“We have a lot of mainstream awareness but mainstream relevancy is still a challenge,” Dorsey was quoted on Reuters.com, from an event in New York hosted by the Columbia Journalism school.

I noticed the home-page change Thursday, April 14. Here’s a screenshot I grabbed. The tag has been changed to “Follow your interests,” more in-line with way most people use Twitter. Subtitle: “Instant updates from your friends, industry experts, favorite celebrities, and what’s happening around the world.”

The new home page hasn’t rolled out to everyone just yet. In fact, I visited the site two days later and saw the old page. Which offers only “Twitter. The best way to discover what’s new in your world.”

The change might seem subtle, but for someone new to the site and the service, the re-design definitely accomplishes what Dorsey wants. And it could be the difference in Twitter gaining mass appeal.

Dorsey started Twitter in 2006 with co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone. In addition to his return role at Twitter, Dorsey serves as chief executive at mobile-payment startup Square.

Rumors were also floating around the web that Twitter is planning to redesign its Brand Pages, which as of right now are no different than user pages. The said move will make Twitter Brand Pages more like Facebook Pages.

Twitter’s microblogging service has exploded among celebrities, reporters and sports stars; and has filled a niche that Facebook doesn’t. All within 140 characters. Pro athletes are announcing moves on Twitter before the reporters have the story. Celebrity tweets are quoted daily in the news.

I’m new to the Twitter scene. One of the aforementioned ‘on Twitter but don’t often tweet’ users. But now, I’ve decided, I’m in. I made the plunge a few short weeks ago. Actually, the specific moment was after I attended a lecture by John Andrews, Founder and CEO of Collective Bias.

“Collective Bias is an emerging media firm focused on the intersection of mobile/social media and social shopper marketing. Through our proprietary Social Fabric shopping influencer group, we build dedicated communities for our clients designed to foster the shared conversation between consumers, brands and retailers, creating an advocacy platform that fosters organic dialogue and strong brand relationships and ultimately enhanced loyalty and sales.” – From Collective Bias handout at Penn State University in March, 2011. Collective Bias is based in Southfield, MI; Bentonville, AR; Scottsdale, AZ; NYC.

Andrews recently visited Twitter headquarters to get a first-hand look. See his visit on Whrrl.

“I must admit that my opinion on Twitter has changed greatly since visiting,” Andrews told me via email after returning from his trip.

“Twitter is doing some great thinking on products.  Their point of difference is focusing on the interest graph vs the social graph.  I think this is a very powerful marketing tool when you think about the connection of people sharing their interests actively (like a google search with friends and family connected).”

In the NFL, Denver Broncos Executive VP of Football Operations John Elway announced the team’s new head coach on Twitter before anywhere else. John Fox was announced as coach @johnelway on Jan. 13, 2011. It was retweeted by @Denver_Broncos soon thereafter.

Twitter has successfully evolved into a full-fledged news outlet, from the sources themselves. That’s powerful stuff.

“I believe that small media wins ultimately and search levels the playing field,” Andrews said. “Media is decentralizing away from brand control to consumer control.  Content still wins, there is just no longer barriers to who produces that content.  Search, to which I include Twitter, allows the consumer to decide what content is important vs. the channel owner.”

Twitter’s microblogging service has exploded among celebrities, reporters and sports stars; and has filled a niche that Facebook doesn’t. All within 140 characters. Pro athletes are announcing moves on Twitter before the reporters have the story. Celebrity tweets are quoted daily in the news. Twitter is on the map. And I think it’s here to stay.

If it’s accomplished this in only four years, where is it headed? What’s next for Twitter? And will it mean the fall of the Twitterati?

Source: Twitter, Urban Dictionary, CNet, Mashable, USA Today, NYTimes, Reuters, Adweek, Fast Company, Ad Age, Collective Bias, Reuters, John Andrews, Twitter.com/johnelway. Twitter screenshot from sageisland.com, @jack screenshot from Mashable

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