The Power of Twitter

I was reading Slate today when I came across something interesting in a blog post in future tense. The post was titled: “Teens Hate Twitter, World Leaders Love It.” Writer Will Oremus reports, obviously, that teens hate Twitter and world leaders love it.

The important thing is the world leaders part. A group called the Digital Policy Council in a report entitled ‘World Leaders on Twitter: Ranking Report,’ claim that leaders in 123 out of 164 countries they surveyed “were utilizing the social media site Twitter.” This is interesting all on its own, the fact that Twitter can connect you so closely to the leaders of so many governments.

Anyone can sign up for a Twitter account and have access, however limited, to these and other powerful people. Twitter is also gaining steam as a de facto establishment media outlet. People, powerful or not and famous or not, make proclamations on Twitter all the time. Oremus wrote in another blog post, ” Twitter’s growth is largely a function of its pivot to becoming a mainstream media outlet—a news source, a hub for celebrity profiles and gossip, and most of all, an interactive complement to live events like the Olympics and the presidential debates.”

Twitter currently has over 200 million users. In a population of this size any individual will have only a fraction of the total audience’s attention. According to TwitterCounter.com, Lady Gaga has almost 31 million followers. Barack Obama is the only politician in the top 20 (number 5) with just over 25 million followers. What makes having those followers so powerful is that these followers are self-qualified.

Twitter is a broadcasting system. When you use Twitter you are broadcasting your thoughts to over 200 million people. Most of them will never pay you any attention. But followers are choosing to pay attention to what you broadcast. They want to see what you write, regardless of how they feel about it. Some will agree with you, others will follow you to see what the other side is thinking, but in either case it is a tool for sending your message across a wide geographic area to an interested audience.

That is power. Governments and world leaders recognize the power of Tweeting. Ordinary people can use that power as well.

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