Emil Sanamyan's articles on Armenian-Americans, Armenia and its neighborhood.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The deal with Twitter

Reporter.web.review 1.1: The tweeting world
by Emil Sanamyan
Published: Friday June 26, 2009


Kim Kardashian's portrait on Twitter. She is most popular Armenian on Twitter, with more than 1.2 million fans. The next most popular tweeter is the New York Times.

Washington - There is no doubt that when it comes to the Internet, Twitter has been all the rage this year. You've heard about it even if you've never used a computer, but tuned into any TV newscast lately.

This is because much of the Western coverage of Iran's post-election showdown has fed on Twitter messages, which along with YouTube videos, came directly from protestors, just as much of the traditional media was shut out of the country.

What is Twitter? It is a social media tool that helps you share your comings and goings and your thoughts with those who care to follow them. And you can follow others' if you like.

The main condition is that these thoughts have to be packaged in short messages of no more than 140 characters, including spaces (this sentence is 186 characters long and would not fit).

This limitation is also Twitter's major advantage, because 140 characters is how long text messages sent via Short Message Service (SMS) can be.

Almost every cell phone has SMS capabilities. In many countries, Armenia among them, sending or receiving an SMS message is cheaper than making or taking a telephone call.

The idea people behind Twitter realized that they could tap into the huge market of people who don't have ready access to computers but have access to much-less-expensive cell phones.

As a result, Twitter messages can be received or posted as text messages. (They can also be relayed via the regular Web, of course.)

The rise of Twitter

Still, at the end of last year, Twitter was only one of several companies experimenting with this "Facebook ultra light" approach. It helped that one of Twitter's early users went on to be elected president of the United States.

The service's user base has skyrocketed since then.

Shortly before the November 2008 elections, Barack Obama was the most popular Twitter user, with fewer than 100,000 followers. Since then Twitter has been flooded with celebrities and their fans.

As of this week, actor Ashton Kutcher is the most popular Twitter user, with close to 2.4 million followers. Mr. Obama is now in sixth position, with about 1.5 million followers.

At number 14 is Los Angeles socialite Kim Kardashian, with more than 1.2 million fans. She is by far the most popular Armenian user of Twitter.

The self-described "Armenian princess" identifies "Armenia" as her location and keeps her fans on top of her gym sessions, photo shoots, public appearances, and visits.

Pop star "Fergie just told me I look like the brunette Marilyn Monroe!" Ms. Kardashian shared on June 22. It helps that most gossip is short.

Why Twitter?

Like many others, I resisted joining Twitter for months. Why would I need yet another account in addition to Facebook, YouTube, and my two e-mail addresses? I thought.

But since signing up, I have realized several values to tweeting, as posting updates on Twitter is called.

One is that I can follow the news more easily than on e-mail or the Web. I pick and chose whom to follow, so there is no unwanted spamming.

Packaging is more user-friendly: there is almost always a concise explanation of a news link I am being offered to follow and read about.

Psychologically, possibly because this is not e-mail sent to me directly, it seems easier to pass on an item, if it doesn't seem to be worthwhile. The entire interface is simple and lighter on the senses, in a way similar to Google.

Another value is that as the Twitter base has grown so much, it is an easy way to stay on top of what the world is talking about. For much of last week and some of this, Twitter's "Trending Topics" were topped by reports on the aftermath of the Iranian elections.

Then, briefly, came Argentina as the secret getaway destination for a certain American governor. And right now it is Argentina's perennial rival Brazil - as the top performer in a soccer cup.

This is on the consumption side.

For production purposes, Twitter is becoming an increasingly indispensable tool for media that already have an online presence and seek to expand their reach.

Not surprisingly, CNN has the lead among tweeting news outlets, with their Breaking News followed by close to 2 million people. (CNN is the fourth most popular Twitter account overall). The New York Times is a distant second, with nearly 1.2 million followers (at no. 15 overall, just behind Ms. Kardashian).

The Armenian Reporter was possibly the first Armenian media outlet to start tweeting. It initially used Twitter to provide live coverage of the Armenia-Turkey soccer match in Yerevan last September. After a nine-month hiatus, we are back. So, check us out and follow us for regular updates.

-Emil Sanamyan@Twitter

UPDATE: six weeks later, Ms. Kardashian has moved up the ranks in Twitter popularity to nearly 1.8 million followers and 11th spot overall. Mr. Kutcher is still in lead, now with more than 3 million. CNN is still most popular in media category and still 4th overall, but now with nearly 2.5 million followers. Mr. Obama is now 7th in popularity, having been edged out by a relative Twitter newcomer Oprah Winfrey.

1 comment:

Observer said...

Nice post Emil! An interesting read. I'm always interested to know how colleagues: bloggers, journalists are finding value in social networking sites like twitter, facebook, livejournal.