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Why is Twitter Popular?
What's the Big Deal with Twitter?
"I Don't Get Twitter"
I'll admit to trying to convert others to Twitter. Every time I try to convince someone to join Twitter I get the same response: I don't understand Twitter. I sometimes get this response even from other internet professionals. But when they start using it, suddenly they understand. I would suggest anyone who "doesn't get twitter" just give it a try.
The Social Media Pattern
I believe there are a few different reasons Twitter has become popular. The first reason is that there is a pattern to these social networks that seems to continue repeating itself. A new service comes out and becomes popular. People start using it and enjoying it and they get their friends to use and enjoy it as well. So far, so good.
Soon, businesses start to notice that people are using and enjoying this particular medium and they move to exploit it. Upon doing so, the owner of said social network realizes that there is a potential for income and they start selling ad space, or start "business pages" or do something else that caters to companies rather than consumers. Eventually, they begin to cater only to those businesses... because social networks are free, but businesses pay.
You are a Product
So Facebook is now catering to business. It's not just your grandmother who has a Facebook profile, so does the soda you drink, the razor you use and the store you shop at. Maybe people don't realize it, but many social mediums have leveraged their memberships in this manner. Instead of being a consumer, you are now the product. Whether people consciously realize this or not is up for debate. But there is definitely a tipping point where people start to realize that whatever network they are using just is not fun anymore.
I won't argue that Twitter is not going in the same direction. It most certainly is. But for a long time, businesses ignored Twitter. This is beginning to change and I fully believe that the next big thing in social media is right around the corner.
Facebook got Lame
Originally, it seems that Twitter was for those who rejected Facebook. A lot of people started to realize that they just didn't really care to look at baby photos from that one girl who sat behind them in biology class in the 9th grade.
In addition to uninteresting updates from people you barely know, Facebook mixes up your social groups. You speak differently to your drinking buddies than you do to your parents. It doesn't take very many inappropriate comments before you realize that the only thing you can update Facebook about is what you had for lunch... or pictures of your baby. Benign updates are the only things you can post that is acceptable to all of your social groups.
When your mom sends you a friend request Facebook stops feeling social... and starts to feel restrictive. You have to watch what you say. Your boss may see this and... your Grandma has a profile now? For a medium that is supposed to encourage socialization, it just serves as a reminder that there are very few people you can share everything with.
Of course, there are settings available to fix this, but Facebook keeps changing things around. Many people don't understand the privacy settings and just became uncomfortable about the privacy of information being posted there in general. So they jumped ship. They had to go somewhere, right?
Someone Killed Blog
Before Facebook we had Blogging. Remember blogging? It was wildly popular around 2006-ish. Blogging used to be an excellent way for one to anonymously share thoughts, post poetry or just vent frustrations. The anonymity of blogging is what made it so popular. The fact that strangers would read and comment satisfied the exhibitionists.
Somewhere along the line someone decided blogs should be commercialized. Every corporation with a website now has a blog. The internet has gone into blog overload. It is hard to find good blogs even more difficult to find one that isn't covered in ads and constantly assaulting you with pop-ups and product reviews.
The Mommy Bloggers survived this cut and rose to power. More posts about what is for dinner, coupon clipping and pictures of babies. All of those things are great, but they just aren't for everyone. Plus you can find all that same stuff on Facebook, right?
Who is left to read your blog and provide feedback or interact with you in any way? No one.No one reads your blog. Blog is dead. So now what?
Twitter takes the Cake!
The death of Facebook and Blogging has given rise to services like Twitter. On Twitter you can be anonymous again. Therefore, you have more freedom to say what is on your mind. Since it is so short, you can feel fairly confident that (at least some) people will read it. Since commenting back is so easy and uniform (unlike blogging, with all the different comment forms) it is more likely that you will receive actual responses instead of just a "like". This puts the social back in social media.
As an added bonus, Tweets are short. People are lazy. No longer do you have to spend time crafting a long and well thought out blog post. You can just throw things into the universe from your smart phone. Easy. And if no one reads it, so what? It's not like you spent hours writing a well thought out post. It was just a quick tweet. Right?
People crave acceptance but they do not to want risk rejection. So they will continue to flock to services that allow them to be a part of a community that accepts them and offers a very low risk of rejection. Twitter is currently filling that niche for a lot of people. The question really is when Twitter goes, what will take it's place?