November 22, 2009
Earlier this month talk-show host Ellen began following me (and other tech people) on Twitter. Did her move display something more than just a simple follow?When Ellen started following me at the beginning of November, I did what I always do with "odd" followings. I copied the line, "Ellen is now following your tweets on Twitter." into a message on Twitter. I made no comments, just the note on following. It's the same thing I did when California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger started following my startup on Twitter. While it would be awesome if the Governor was interested in my startup, I live across the country from his state so I wasn't sure why he showed interest.
Social media consultant Louis Gray mentioned that the most likely reason that Ellen started following me was because of the new lists feature that allows Twitter users to basically create groups of users around a topic. It's easier to subscribe to users of a list than to try to subscribe to users one-by-one. My guess is that the goal with Ellen asking her interns to click every follow button is to hope that some of us will return the follow and Ellen can continue to increase her numbers. What makes this behavior odd is that Ellen is on the "default list" (also known as the Suggested User List). Unlike most Twitter users, Ellen belongs to a special list that receives free followers. It's the reason her numbers are always on the increase while most Twitter users flatline or decrease over time. Valley gossip blog Valleywag took a look at the following pattern that Ellen employed and agreed with Gray that it had to do with the new lists functionality. Author Ryan Tate noted, "Lists show celebrities exactly who can send them followers. And thus who to spam." He went on to say that in just a couple of hours, Ellen added 600 new followers. What we don't know is how many of her new followers will return the favor. I am not one of them because when I look at her Twitter account, there's no interaction. Maybe I am wrong and perhaps Ellen and the Governor actually are interested in me and my startup. If so, they will have to prove it before I can create the full circle on Twitter. If the celebs and news outlets can't grow organically, will this start the talk that Twitter is a fad? I've said for a long time that Twitter has a very short lifecycle and perhaps we are just starting to see this pattern. I am noticing less push from the television news outlets (Fox News, CNN, etc.) to use Twitter. We've heard story after story that Twitter's growth is slowing. Twitter staff has talked about removing the Default List soon and while I've believed that the list should have been removed early on, it's going to be a tough "feature" for Twitter to remove. My belief is that Twitter would have provided a stronger value equation for new users had they offered a list of people who match the interests and/or location of the new user. To provide a new user with a big bunch of tech blogs, lots of celebrities and some Twitter friends does nothing to keep a user engaged. And that's why there's a slowdown in growth. There's no doubt in my mind that Twitter will replace the default list with something else that pumps who they need pumped. Twitter grew quickly because the numbers grew in the right places. The Twitter team knows it's critical for their own success that certain accounts show major growth every single day. The early days of Twitter made many of us believe that we could get closer to our favorite celebs and stars. Unfortunately the realization is that we are no closer than we were before. Heck, even our President apparently doesn't even post his own messages. Twitter is just another marketing vehicle and if Twitter needs to shift this view if they want to make sure they never become a fad and continue their growth into the next decade. Is Twitter a fad? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
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