Twitter’s Mainstream Appeal


The jury is still out on Twitter. There’s no doubt that Twitter has achieved mainstream notice. It pops up on CNN approximately every 10 minutes. A co-founder, Biz Stone, was recently on The David Letterman Show to celebrate Twitter’s fifth birthday. Like a 5-year-old, Twitter has lots of growing left.
EMarketer crunched the various estimates of Twitter’s size to ballpark its user base at a respectable but hardly otherworldly 20.6 million monthly users. That’s up about 26 percent. Yet eMarketer takes a dim view of Twitter’s mass appeal, titling its report, for example, “Twitter: A Vocal Minority.”
There’s little arguing that Twitter right now is not a mainstream product at 20.6 million users. It clearly gets outsized attention. Yet eMarketer makes a mistake when it states the reasons: many visitors to are simply reading public tweets and not truly using the service.” Yes, many people simply read tweets without tweeting. This hardly counts as “not truly using the service,” which is an information network. That would be like saying those reading blogs but not commenting aren’t “truly using blogs.” The truth is Twitter must find even more ways for people to “use” the service without tweeting. That’s when it will become more valuable. Look how many news outlets rely on Twitter.
It’s no mistake that I was told Twitter’s exclusive gathering at South by Southwest Interactive recently was chockfull of high-end publishers. What’s more look at the ambitious iPad apps that depend on Twitter “information graph” data in order to construct personalized news magazines. One of these, Flipboard, is aiming for a $200 million valuation. (The caveat here is Silicon Valley valuations are currently in a silly season by any normal measure.)
Twitter’s got 99 problems — a questionably scalable ad model, for instance — but non-tweetting users isn’t one. The world has plenty of oversharers already without all of it going that route.

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