At the start of 2007 it was a best kept secret, and didn’t even start as a separate company until April of that year. I was early enough to grab a 2 character ID, my normal nickname in business, DT. Those few of us that were cool enough to have heard about it then were the social media early adopters who usually signed up to any and every new web 2.0 service and tried to figure out if it was useful. Twitter didn’t really begin to take off until a few months later when two big plasma screens were set up displaying Twitter as the official backchannel at South by South West 2007 (SxSW). From that point user take up really began to spread.
A year ago Twitter users were sending 50m tweets a day. Last month that had risen to 110m tweets per day from 200m registered accounts, and 40m of those have signed up since September last year. Twitter usage really is exploding. Most radio and news programmes will tell you their Twitter identity, it contributes to World events like the popular uprising in Egypt, and there is a huge queue of social media marketers and advisors knocking on your door to explain how it needs to be part of your marketing mix and how you should use it to help your business (I should know, I’m one of them).
Even just over a year ago at a NESTA event in November 2009 I saw Biz Stone, one of the three Twitter founders, explain that they were still trying to figure out the business model and how to monetize the service. A few months later it’s said that they turned down a $2Bn offer from Google. Last week it has been reported that Google have upped their offer to $8-10Bn. This is for a company which hasn’t even broken $100m in revenue yet (and that’s revenue, not profit). This is the sort of crazy valuation for an Internet company that we haven’t seen in, oh about 10 or 11 years. Don’t get me wrong – Twitter has enormous value and a huge user community that a potential buyer could tap in to, but those numbers don’t make sense to me (or Google shareholders I’ve spoken to).
For me Twitter has enormous personal value. I haven’t got as many followers as Stephen Fry (who has 2,222,481). I only have 1,797 following me, but I have tweeted about the same amount as him – I’ll break 8,000 public tweets sometime today. The most important resource, though, is the 921 people I follow. I listen to them every day and they help me filter the fire hose of information floating around the Internet. Pretty much all of the cool stuff I read comes from them, and I’ve chosen people who help me keep up to date with social media, enterprise 2.0, Cloud Computing, SaaS, accountancy, sales, marketing and entrepreneurship sprinkled with some music, politics, the Hammers and stuff about my favourite charities. Breaking news on major events, or some actor or musician who has died, usually comes to me first on Twitter. I monitor the whole Twittersphere for stuff sometimes too – with search or Twitter clients like Osfoora HD and Tweetdeck it’s easy. I converse with my community regularly out in the open, and direct twitter messages are often the communication method of choice in place of emails. Back in 2008 I quoted JP Rangaswami’s 140 character explanation:
“a newspaper. a bulletin board. a club. an “adda”. a telephone network. Twitter.”
In many ways Twitter has changed my life, and I wouldn’t be without it. It’s helped raise my profile and connected me with experts around the world that I would never have got to meet or talk with using conventional business networking. Actually, one of my mates from the Tuttle Club – Arie Moyal – is writing a book about exactly that. He’s collecting stories of how Twitter has changed people’s lives. Email him at arie (at) ariemoyal (dot) com and your anecdote could make the book.
The one down side of Twitter is when you’ve got a “significant other” who doesn’t quite get it. Particularly on days like today I’ll have to take care that I’m not sharing my thoughts in 140 characters with a cloud of my friends through my BlackBerry smartphone, when I should be paying attention to her.