Twitter has grown to millions of users since it launched in 2006, with some posting 140-character microbloggings, or “tweets,” several times per day. Twitter itself is even becoming more incorporated into the enterprise, with Salesforce.com adding the site to its Service Cloud solution and Microsoft sponsoring a site, ExecTweets, as part of its “It’s Everybody’s Business” campaign.
In March 2009, Twitter also added a search feature to its users’ main page that some pundits felt would put the microblogging site into a more directly competitive alignment with Facebook and Google. By allowing users to see, via a “Trends” menu, which topics are currently generating the most online traffic, Twitter became a more robust tool for the enterprise and small businesses looking to monitor the buzz about particular products within the marketplace.
Given its increased search capability, it’s little wonder that rumors started about Google’s possible interest in acquiring Twitter. The blog TechCrunch reported in early April 2009 that the two companies were indeed in talks, and pundits suggested that such a purchase would possibly put Google in a much stronger position in its competition against Microsoft and Yahoo.
For his part, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone volunteered in a blog posting that his company was in “discussions” with other entities “on a variety of subjects” but that the current focus of Twitter was on building “a profitable, independent company and we’re just getting started.”
As a company, Twitter has been expanding rapidly; it now has 30 employees in San Francisco and reportedly seeks additional staff.
With such immense popularity, it’s no surprise that luminaries ranging from Lance Armstrong to Al Gore would see Twitter as an increasingly important part of extending their personal brand to the world at large. Plus, famous Twitter users generally don’t need to worry about their “tweets” getting them fired from their job, unlike certain IT employees.
There has been controversy, though, about whether many celebrities on Twitter are actually posting the “tweets” themselves or are leaving that part to assistants. Further issues have erupted with people setting up fake accounts under a celebrity name and then proceeding to microblog as, for example, “Christopher Walken.”
The Top 10 Celebrities
Those problems aside, the following 10 public figures have managed to turn Twitter into an effective personal and professional platform:
Armstrong “tweets” on a variety of subjects ranging from a stolen bike to what song he’s currently listening to. For those convinced that the seven-time Tour de France winner is a humorless, goal-driven machine, some of his missives toy with that image: “Just took a shower. Got it down under 10 mins. Whew.”
The former Monty Python comedian updates his Twitter site frequently and actually seems to respond to his followers. While Twitter’s 140-character limit allows little room for one of his iconic rants, he does manage to place the occasional zinger.
Former vice president and Nobel-winning environmental crusader Al Gore updates fairly infrequently, but when he does, it’s generally to provide his followers with a micro-dose of climate crisis.
The PC guy in Apple’s “I’m a Mac” ads, Hodgman’s comments range from what’s going on backstage at the Daily Show to wishing his audience a “Happy Canadian April Fool’s Day.”
The storied filmmaker and the crown prince of weird updates his followers regularly on art exhibits, the weather in Los Angeles and whatever idea happens to be ambling through his brain at that particular moment. “Thought of the day: 42 seconds is a long time.”
Another politician to embrace Twitter as a way of extending his message online, McCain is notable for having conducted a well-publicized Twitter interview with George Stephanopoulos (another Twitter-er).
An occasionally stream-of-consciousness, frequently comedic Twitter page, plastered with Superman logos and missives such as “I’m lookin foor u mark Cuban,” has the basketball star winning points for distinctiveness.
Although the president employed Twitter as a campaign tool, providing frequent updates from the road, his last “tweet” on March 25 directed users to a White House site to ask questions about the economy.
The “governator,” or at least his assistants, uses Twitter to provide a constant stream of governing updates. The “tweets” are heavy on information (“57 infrastructure projects with $625 million Fed stimulus funding will create 11,000 new jobs in CA”) but light on corny puns or spectacular explosions.
Martha Stewart takes breaks several times a day to update her followers on filming, cooking and other day-to-day aspects of keeping her brand running. “I write my own tweets,” she defends at one point.