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So Ashton Is The First To One Million Followers. Will Oprah Be The Fastest?

It’s official, and it’s finally over: Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) is the first Twitter user to boast one million followers. At the time of writing, he’s added about another fifteen thousand to that total.

The Kutchers

@cnnbrk – which only this week became an actual CNN account – looked the clear favourite for a long-time, but some serious buzz around Kutcher over the last 48 hours saw him take the prize with relative ease.

To his credit, Kutcher has donated $100,000 of his own money to MalariaNoMore.org, and others added more to his pot. We can be as cynical as we like about celebrity charity, but it’s a nice gesture. He didn’t have to do it.

Kutcher, alongside wife Demi Moore (@mrskutcher – who still looks absolutely amazing), and friends, sent out a live, streaming video about the time he hit 999,000 followers, and this definitely helped push him over the edge. (Watch a recording of the video here.)

All told, this is a pretty big deal, for a couple of reasons. One, it just shows how popular and mainstream-accepted Twitter has now become. Two, it’s nice to see an individual who actually uses Twitter appropriately make it to the top of the roost first, even if he was already world-famous. In his video, Ashton repeatedly makes semi-serious comments about how Twitter is changing media and this is true. What isn’t quite so accurate is his comment that ‘anybody’ can make it to the top; I’d like to see him open an anonymous account on Twitter and see how fast that makes it to the million. Don’t hold your breath.

It’s inevitably a better win for Twitter. The generally-liked, wealthy, amicable young man with the hot partner was probably the target audience of Biz Stone and Ev Williams when they first thought this thing up. Better that than a brand, especially one that wasn’t even authentic for the most part?

It’s important for Twitter.com to both welcome and promote brands within the network, certainly from a monetization perspective. But I would be willing to bet that probably 99.99 per cent of the rest of Twitter – relatively normal folk like you and me – don’t want to login and see Coca Cola, McDonalds, IBM, Microsoft and the like being the most-followed accounts on the network. I think that might end up burying Twitter pretty fast.

Way back when Stephen Fry was the most-followed celebrity on Twitter (he’s now a lowly #24), I predicted five celebrities who I thought could catch and surpass him. As of yet, none of these folk have joined the network. I completely overlooked Oprah Winfrey, and I’m kicking myself for that now. Later today on her television show, Oprah is going to write her first tweet. The @Oprah account has been going for a little while and already has over 62,000 followers, but thus far she hasn’t submitted a single update. This will change in today’s episode, when her guest is none other than Ashton Kutcher.

Oprah, of course, is incredibly popular. She’s arguably the most well-respected and liked female celebrity in America (with Jon Stewart getting the nod for the men). Her show is enormously successful and has an extremely loyal following, many of whom hang on her every word and recommendation.

So, this is what I’m thinking: when Oprah makes that first tweet, and then says to her TV audience, “Hey, everybody, get on Twitter. It’s great! We can talk!” isn’t it extremely probable that she’s going to be looking at a million followers within, what, an afternoon? The Oprah Winfrey Show averages about 8.5m viewers per original airing and 4.5m for repeats. It’s the most successful talk-show in US history. How can she fail?

Of course, probably 90% of her new audience will also be newcomers to the Twitter network, but that’s no bad thing. But the Oprah effect could easily account for an increase of a million or more members to Twitter within a week or two, certainly if she keeps pitching it on her show and website.

Which all adds up to one thing for the rest of us: expect a lot more downtime than usual.

(On a side note, I own the domain http://onemillionfollowers.com, which currently routes to this blog. If anybody has an interest in this for their own projects, please contact me. Thanks.)

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