What Happens When Twitter Gets Mainstream Attention

Twitter is getting a tremendous amount of buzz from brands, celebrities, media, politicians, and athletes. Despite the hype, it’s still a very small social networking site (likely under 10mm), compared to the social giants like Google, Microsoft, Facebook and MySpace (150-300mm), see my stats page to learn more. I assert that mainstream attention is different than mainstream usage.

Even respected analyst firm Gartner suggests that the backlash may start as this microblogging tool gets mainstream attention, although I’ll suggest we haven’t even begun to see the upcoming revolt, as the pivot point is dependent on mainstream usage.

Here’s what we should expect to happen over the next few months:

Mainstream media and celebrities to flood Twitter
The tool, having received attention from the elections and political media engines has slowly gained the attention of local based TV news and talk show hosts. It’s hard to listen to a talk show, or watch local news without hearing a self-pitch to follow their Twitter account. With several celebrities jumping on board and playing the ratings game (first to a million) we should expect this to be a wake up call to the rest of celebrities and mainstream.

Most media and celebrities will use as a broadcast tool
Being world famous comes with challenges, it’s hard to tell who your friends are, and as a result, they will likely use these tools to communicate with each other, or talk about their personal insights. We shouldn’t expect them to engage in individual conversations with their community. These stars simple can’t scale, are busy, and well, have better things to do. Expect some to hire community managers (Britney does this) that interact with their followers and post up one-way information. As a result, expect this to primarily be used as an insiders tool among the elite, but primarily as a broadcast tool, which is what they do best.

Empowered, celebrities will fend off tabloids
Ashton gets self-empowerment from social media, in fact, he commented that he’s now got the power of a large media network, despite being a single individual. As a result, expect celebs to bypass intermediaries like tabloids, instead they will directly speak to the people using these self-publishing tools. Celebs are now more empowered than ever before.

Increase in brands listening then they’ll join Twitter
Brands, in an ever quest to follow communities and customers are quickly launching Twitter accounts, or dealing with those that have taken over their own namesakes. Now with mainstream attention, expect more brands to jump on board, and within a few months, it’ll be an account grabbing experience, much like we saw in late 90s when companies were registering domains. I’m waiting to see some celebrities promote brands right on Twitter “I drink @coke, don’t you?”

Users get new experience with mainstream –yet many will revolt
The conversation with Twitter has always felt personal, with the exception of the elite ‘A-lister’ community. Now, many people will be excited about the chance to interact with celebrities and get to know their personal experiences, but after a while, the excitement will wane, and people will move back to connecting with their true friends.

The geek ‘A-List’ early adopters seek a new stage
The ‘A-Listers’ are now just ‘B-Listers’ again, in fact, this list of the most popular twitter users has dramatically shifted to mainstream media. We’re already starting to see some early adopter geeks, those that first experimented and evangelize the tool to seek other communities to join that aren’t saturated. I was one of those early adopters in early 2007, but I embrace the mainstream media in this media, it’s validating, although I expect many of them to approach it without fully understanding. Expect the early adopters to shift back to blogs, Friendfeed, or put up stronger filters in Twitter. The power is shifting back, and the bruised egos will force them to move on.

Celebrities will monetize faster than Twitter themselves…
Twitter has only experimented with different ways to monetize such as this sponsored aggregation campaign, but we should expect that celebs will cascade their sponsorships to Twitter, promote their latest work, or benefit from word of mouth marketing. Collectively, celebs have likely generated more revenue from Twitter than Twitter themselves.

…Yet expect Twitter to monetize brands, media and celebrities
Twitter has indicated that they plan to offer features and tools that help brands (whether it be corporate, media, or celeb) to help them manage their own accounts and information. Expect them to launch new platforms that involve sponsorship, advertising, and potentially lead management (like CRM).

More Hay and less Needles
This increase in people, and brands of all sorts joining Twitter will cause more noise and content to be created. We haven’t even seen the half of it, as devices like your car, laptop, can start auto-emitting signals that could become tweets. As a result, expect more filtering tools and analysis by humans to matter more and more.

I’m having breakfast with Steve Rubel tomorrow morning, he says he thinks Twitter will never be the same, I’ll update this post linking to his followup.

Love to hear from you in the comments, has Twitter reached a tipping point? (update: or perhaps, “Twipping Point“) If so, what happens next? How does this change your experience? Are you using Twitter to follow friends? get news? or interact with celebs?