Three years after launching as an innocuous micro-blogging site, Twitter officially has a king and queen. One is a professional prankster and Web entrepreneur; the other is a daytime talk-show host and media mogul.
Early Friday (April 17) on her show, Oprah crowned Ashton Kutcher the "King of Twitter" after beating CNN in the race to 1 million followers. Oprah also inadvertently appointed herself as Twitter royalty while making her first Tweet, to the delight of more than 30,000 Twitter users who were already breathlessly waiting her first update — a number that has grown to 160,000 and counting after Tweeting, "HI TWITTERS. THANK YOU FOR A WARM WELCOME. FEELING REALLY 21st CENTURY."
Although appearing slightly perplexed by the functionality of Twitter at first — on her show, she questioned how one could tell "if it's a fake person or not" — Oprah's final verdict on Twitter was that "it's really cool," to the delight (and dismay) of Twitter users and journalists tracking its evolution.
Is it safe to say that Oprah is the Twitter Tipping Point?
Celebrities from Britney Spears to Jimmy Fallon to David Lynch already use the site (even President Barack Obama has an account) to send 140-character updates to their fans, who have joined to follow their every move, but their influence pales in comparison to the power of the Oprah empire.
The irony of Friday's benchmark for Twitter is that Oprah doesn't need Twitter. With even the slightest mention on her various platforms, Oprah has sent unknown authors to the top of the bestseller list, turned guests on her show into international stars and made box-office sales rise or fall. People will still tune in to her show even if they don't know what she had for breakfast this morning.
(Find out what Jim Cantiello hopes the Queen of Daytime will Tweet about, in the Newsroom blog.)
The celebrity migration to Twitter has garnered complaints from tech-savvy communities. Some predict that @oprah's participation will create a deluge of fickle users simply signing up to respond, comment and Tweet details, only to quickly move on to something else.
But isn't that what everyone said about Friendster, MySpace and Facebook? Social-media platforms inevitably are infiltrated by marketers and individuals using the space to promote goods and services. Many Oprah fans have certainly been waiting for this opportunity to communicate directly with their favorite daytime host as a way to get on her show.
Oprah suddenly "discovering" Twitter (is a woman as intelligent as she is really just discovering it?) demonstrates how social media is increasingly moving into the mainstream, with push-vs.-pull communication becoming an unavoidable requirement to remain relevant in a world of seemingly endless entertainment options.
Whether you choose to leave Twitter in lieu of FriendFeed or obsessively follow a celebrity's every Tweet, the Oprah effect has left its mark and things will never be the same.
Who do you follow on Twitter? How do you use the service? If you don't like Twitter, why? Tell us in the comments!