Everyone's New Favorite Question About Twitter

For a while there, you couldn’t surf a single drop of the web without smacking into the question, “How will Twitter make money?” Although that question remains unanswered, Internet interest has shifted. Today’s favorite question about the micromessaging service is: “Has Twitter has gone mainstream?” Or, somewhat less optimistically, “Will Twitter go mainstream?

Of course, the question isn’t new; people have been asking it since about three minutes after Twitter debuted. But with an ever-rising tide of media exposure, it’s becoming more likely that Twitter has become part of everyone’s everyday experience.

As the mother of all mainstream events, the Superbowl gives us a handy gauge of Twitter’s reach. On the one hand, Twitter played a big role in fan reviews of the ads during the game. In addition, traditional media outlets now regularly refer to Twitter without feeling the need to explain to readers what the service is. Check out this this cool, Twitter-driven post-game report from The New York Times, or Forbes’ casual mention of tweetups.

On the other hand, NBC didn’t incorporate Twitter into its broadcast, and–more telling–not a single ad included a sponsor’s Twitter handle. While a few brands did use Twitter to reach fans, you’ll know for sure that Twitter has hit the big time when you begin to see @CompanyNames in television and print ads.

Meantime, if you’re looking to incorporate Twitter into your own company’s communication strategy, join us this Friday, February 6, at 10a PT for a new webcast, “Advanced Twitter for Business.” We’ve posted a preview with a couple of juicy tips, and I’ll be offering discounts from @TweetReport.

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  • Twitter = analytics. Mark Drapeau from Mashable recently opined on this with some good points:

    Viral marketing guru Scott Stratten recently commented that Twitter is “the conversation that’s happening, right now,” and I cannot think of a more simple way to describe it to a newbie. But what many people perhaps don’t realize is that quantitative analyses of these conversations are themselves valuable.

    …Twitter itself is closest to the data surrounding human engagements and therefore best-suited to analyze it

    …Paradoxically, the best vision for Twitter may be to change very little – let the users define what Twitter is and how it should be used, and choose a business model that stays out of their way. That business model could very well be tracking the sentiment of large groups of people to help businesses make smart and profitable decisions.

  • Hi,

    interesting references. I agree there is an long ongoing question about the Twitter business model. I think this is a luxury few can afford: wait until you find the “right” business model. I mean I’m not sure many VC’s would appreciate a “wait for it” response ;)

    On the other hand, I published today an overview of “what kind of new media is Twitter” and I would appreciate your insights (see http://www.wavyx.net/2009/02/03/what-kind-of-new-media-is-twitter/)

    IMHO, Twitter is still a very young communication channel that will need to evolve before talking about ROI.

  • > you’ll know for sure that Twitter has hit the big time when you
    > begin to see @CompanyNames in television and print ads.

    This reminds me of the late 1990s when over about 18 months you saw URLS on billboards evolve from
    http://www.companyname.com to
    http://www.companyname.com to


  • I think there is no doubt that it’s gone mainstream…. it would just be nice if they did a bit more to share the all the information they have with researchers, rather than focusing on commercial applications

  • To me, Twitter will only be mainstream when mobile internet is considered mainstream.

    Mobile internet as in: using the internet on a handheld or mobile device. An HTC or iPhone. — Yes, a laptop is mobile as well but most of us don’t manage to walk from A to B while handling a laptop.

    Here (Belgium, Europe) the people I know paying for 3G networks and using netconnected handhelds are mostly business people, techies and a small amount of ‘hipsters’.

    I consider mainstream to be ‘the masses’, so mobile internet and thus Twitter are definitely not mainstream, yet.

    I agree with Noah Iliinsky considering something to be mainstream whenever the advertising industry starts to communicate and drives traffic to Twitter pages or other Twitter extensions. But on the other hand this would mean that the advertising industry decides whether something is mainstream or not, or rather when something has started to be mainstream. Usually it takes the advertising industry, except for some early adopters, a while before they can convince their clients to incorporate action or presence on services like Twitter. Yet for clients I think Twitter can prove to be an excellent push – far better than email – to serve customers updates on there favorite products.

    Can you define what mainstream means to you?

  • It’s interesting that you bring up the Superbowl & Twitter. Twitter is increasingly becoming a tool that you can use for evaluation of effectiveness, collecting (crowdsourcing) opinions and information. Companies no longer need to send $2 in an envelope to have consumers fill out surveys; simply use hashtags and twitter.

    I think we just need some additional analytic type tools to aggregate the tweets semantically outside of hashtags (as they are obviously something not everyone “gets”)


  • (slightly OT)
    “On the other hand, NBC didn’t incorporate Twitter into its broadcast”

    Can we honestly see a world where John Madden and Al Michaels seamlessly transition to any Internet service, let alone Twitter, during a broadcast? I, for one, would love to see it. I immensely enjoyed watching my 73 year-old father finally “getting google” last month.

  • Rob

    What is twitter?

  • Eric–I get a 404 at that link.

    Noah–Agreed! It’s 1997 all over again.

    Grapplica–My implicit definition of mainstream is that an idea has been picked up by consumer-product advertisers in the US (who are pitching to the broadest possible audience), and they’re using it in traditional media (print, TV, radio). That hasn’t happened yet with Twitter. (Incidentally, in the US at least, Twitter usage on mobile devices is a small percentage of all use. That’ll probably change over time, but here, mainstream digital services aren’t defined by mobile usage–at least not yet.)

    Brian–StockTwits is the only service I can recall offhand that semantically recognizes information in a tweet and does something useful with it. Its existence does suggest more are on the way.

    Dave–Madden and Michaels use a lot of sophisticated visual technology in their broadcasts. So I can picture NBC’s incorporating Stuff From the Internet.

  • @sarah just remove the trailing ): http://www.wavyx.net/2009/02/03/what-kind-of-new-media-is-twitter/

    I like the “media adoption” mainstream definition.

    But thinking about it, I think we should split the business and the mass adoption. And for the last one, they might be a need or something people like (as we see with the FB status). But you really have too few space to monetize in 140 char. FaceBook at least has the full screen to display ads.

    As I pointed out in my post, Twitter is a media and not a service/product. Would you pay for personal mail?

  • I’m doing MY part to help Twitter go “mainstream”. I’ve been holding seminars for it cuz I’m so crazy about it I wanna be able to share it with others.

    Thanx for these great links in this post, and for pointing to the webcast that’s coming. I love O’Reilly Media webcasts. Lots of talented professionals. Always good information.

  • Was this session recorded? I was registered for it but couldn’t make it.