Twitter: reaching critical mass?

It’s been almost impossible to avoid Twitter in the media over the past few weeks. Stephen Fry and Jonathan Ross, two of the most popular UK Twitterers (user names @stephenfry and @wossy respectively) discussed Twitter on the return of Wossy’s show last night. Philip Schofield (@schofe) gave Twitter a mention on This Morning – which is about as mainstream and ungeeky as it comes – and just now passed a total of 7,000 followers to his Twitter stream.

London was recently proclaimed the top city for Twitter use, indicating that the cult of Twittering has taken hold in the UK more than anywhere else with Twitter now the 291st most visited website in the UK. This excludes the considerable mobile use of Twitter, which is massive with iPhone users and would surely push the stats higher still.

If you’ve hitherto failed to hear about Twitter, it’s a social media system allowing messages of up to 140 messages to be posted and shared with the world. It’s rather akin to the status updates on Facebook and you can choose to follow the Twitter streams of others, whose updates you can be instantly alerted to. It’s the immediacy of the system which is part of its success as is its simplicy, which has nevertheless been employed to share a huge variety of information.

We’re not just talking about people boringly posting the minutiae of their lives. Although there’s an element of this, which in itself leads to users sharing experiences, knowledge and interacting socially, Twitter is also used more broadly to alert and offer the opportunity to interact. Most major newspapers and news organisations feed their headlines through Twitter with some actively engaging with the userbase and requesting input on the stories being covered. The potential for enhancing interaction in the democratic process is also being explored with a number of MPs and prospective parliamentary candidates on Twitter, conveniently indexed on the Tweetminster website.

Twitter still feels quite raw and in its early stages, although already it seems it is heading rapidly towards reaching a critical mass. This is point where everyone will find friends or colleagues to connect with on the system and so joins up. Facebook reached this point a year or two ago and Twitter seems to be verging on the same revolutionary point of development. New applications keep appearing and it seems Twitter is destined to reach yet untapped potential

Still not convinced that this Twitter thing is for you? Here’s what the mainstream media and press have been saying about Twitter over the past few days:

Stephen Fry and Jonathan Ross set Twitter alight – Telegraph, 24 Jan 09

Why Britain is suddenly all a-twitter – The Independent, 23 Jan 09

Social-networking sites share breaking news – CNN, 22 Jan 09

Twitter to hit the big time with explosion in microblogging – The Times, 22 Jan 09

It can take a while to get used to new social media platforms but after a relatively short period of using Twitter I’m finding it invaluable. I’m fed local news from nearby newspapers and international news and comment from my favourite media outlets. I know what the London Mayor and US President are doing and I’m alerted to any problems on the tube lines I use. Better still I’m connected with dozens of professionals in areas I work and am interesting in, plus there’s a growing pool of friends Twittering too. It’s revolutionised the way I receive information and network and I’ve only been using Twitter for a couple of weeks. Give it a try; you can find the Inconvenient Mule at @imule.

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