In an article in today’s Observer,Â David Mitchell waxes fairly eloquently about the reasons he was drawn to Twitter in the first place (essentially, to usurp an imposter pretending to be him, which seems to have been the case for several celebrity appearances of late and, of course, as time passes, will increasingly become of import), and why, a heady 34 days later, he still isn’t really getting it.
Mitchell isn’t alone. I like the guy – at least, on his endless television appearances he comes across as being essentially okay -Â but the reason he isn’t getting Twitter is the same reason numerous other Twitterslebs aren’t getting it either: they’re not making the required effort.
Wikipedia, of which Mr Mitchell is a fan, describes Twitter as “…a social networking and micro-blogging service that allows its users to send and read other users’ updates (known as tweets), which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length.” Seems fair enough. But what Twitter really is, essentially, is a giant chat room. One that affords the user the luxury of defining both whom they wish to listen to, and whom they wish to hear them speak.
Of course, for your common or garden celebrity, the latter is all that really matters. It’s certainly true that all it takes to build an almost instant following in the tens of thousands is to be remotely famous. The more famous you are, the more you can quickly expedite that number to the glory of the top 100 most followed Twitter users. Not that you would imagine many celebrities really care about, and are even aware, of that. (Nor should anyone else, really. There’s a certain faux-credibility that comes with being in the top 100 list on Twitter – or at least there was – even if, in many instances, the actual value of following that user is of some debate.)
But, what many of them are simply not getting is this: Twitter is meant to be a two-way medium. It always was. I mentioned previously my idea that one way for the platform to move forward was to impose a ratio of followers to followed on all new accounts, so, if that ratio was imposed at 1:4, then you could only have 40,000 followers if you followed 10,000 people yourself. That might seem a little radical, but it would certainly mean that your more uneducated public figure would be somewhat forced to ‘get it’ pretty sharpish.