Is Twitter Mainstream?

Brent Finnegan -- July 24th, 2009

How do you know when a trend has gone from a subculture secret to a widespread fad?

Riding the tail end of the first wave of Twitter’s popularity — the microblog network “ruled” SxSW 2007 — hburgnews began our Twitter experiment in early March of last year (and added the hashtag eight months later). Since last fall, it’s spread like weeds. Now the DNR, TV3, DNR reporters, area attorneys, politicians, and businesses are using the micro blogging service.

Earlier this week HDR posted a list of downtown businesses that tweet. It’s longer than you might think.

Exact numbers of users in a specific area are hard to find, because metrics are based on whether a user shares their location or not. Twitter’s API can index tweets by location, but not users (thanks to the Twitterers who helped me figure that out). So the numbers are most likely off. For example, according to Twellowhood, there are only about 300 users in Harrisonburg.

Does any of this matter? That depends on whether you perceive the trend as an ocean of noise, a fad, or an important tool for communicating and crowdsourcing. For what it’s worth, Twitter has come in handy for us on a number of occasions. But perhaps more importantly, it gives readers a way to contribute directly to hburgnews.

So what do you think? Is it mainstream? Does it matter?

14 Responses to “Is Twitter Mainstream?”

  1. Chris Bell says:

    brent i think you are aware of my opinion

  2. JGFitzgerald says:

    “Why do you park on a driveway, and drive on a parkway?” Forty-five characters, and funny, and so long as both are true, there will be a place for things like bumper-stickers and Twitter. Which makes me, first, wonder about the possibility of an LED bumper-sticker than can be changed at will (“Elect Obama/Biden” becomes obsolete, so one changes to “Intelligent design explains the strawberry, not the fundamentalist.”), and, second, to think of the political post I read recently in which an official said how he would vote and explained why, but not until the third paragraph, with the first two being taken up by an explanation of why he was telling people how he would vote. The second would be impossible on Twitter, as would, for instance, this comment, including, as it does, a 500-character sentence fragment. That in itself is a draw.

    At some point, Twitter users will probably move on to the next big thing, but for now it seems to be at the point that Facebook was when a teenager described it thus: You have your home life with your parents, and your school life with your friends, and then one day you go to school and your aunt and your uncle and your parents are there.

  3. Deb SF says:

    My disdain for social networking sites like twitter and facebook evaporated after the Iranian Elections. The Revolution Will Be Twittered
    is a nice summary of the effects twitter and facebook had/are having in transforming the political and real-time reality on the ground. It seems that twitter gone from niche to mainstream status, and will maybe approach one of those “killer” applications which suddenly change the paradigm of computing altogether. I just got up and running on twitter last week. Facebook is next. Old dog, meet new tricks.

  4. Joey Groah says:

    I’d echo Joe’s statement. When I first started on Twitter it was mostly tech people and entrepreneurs. A lot of the early adopter Merlin Mann-types ( that got me interested three years ago have stopped posting as frequently once the Aston Kutchers came on board and the signal-to-noise ratio changed.

    Having said all that, I have some metrics to show that our work Twitter account has brought a few eyeballs to our main site. Is their measurable ROI there? Not really, but there’s a decent amount of info coming through some of the people we follow.

  5. Scott Rogers says:

    I think it’s becoming much more mainstream. In explaining something I learned on Twitter, I’ll ask someone “have you heard of Twitter” — the response these days is almost always affirmative, whereas a year ago, was a resounding “huh?”

  6. Josh says:

    Of course twitter is mainstream. But mainstream doesn’t imply good or bad. I think twitter is over-used, if nothing else. Fortunately it’s an opt-in system, but the danger is that other forms of “better” communication may be neglected if one is overly enthused about the twitter bandwagon–some people really don’t want to follow your tweets, even if they are fully supportive of you, your organization, etc. otherwise.

  7. Renee says:

    Wow I had missed that HDR post about the downtown businesses on twitter, nice.

    I “get” twitter and find it handy for staying in touch with what’s going on around town even though I often work at home and don’t get that “water cooler chat”. I also have been able to give feedback to (and receive responses from) journalists such as Miles O’Brien (ex-CNN) and Jeremy Wagstaff (BBC, etc.) on stories they reported that I liked. I keep up with a few of my favorite musicians and technology blogs via twitter, too.

    I think it is a useful tool, and I’ve heard more than a few people bash twitter until they tried it for a while, then they “get” it.

    For hburgnews, it’s another way to engage people and instantly alert them of new posts (I learned of this one on twitter) and to allow us to communicate things instantly that we couldn’t otherwise (I signed up for twitter to provide live updates from the Obama rally).

    Yes, I think twitter is mainstream, and it makes me laugh when I see the quote that sometimes comes up on the login page about twitter being “the next big thing”. I think it’s a big thing now, and it’s here to stay for a while.

    Calling twitter a trend is like calling text messages a trend to me – it’s not really a “site” that can go “out of style” but more like a new way to communicate with people. I think if twitter itself ever goes away, it will be because another twitter-like service replaced it.

  8. JGFitzgerald says:

    As to Twitter’s mainstreamness, or mainstreamhood, as the case may be … I told a joke that required knowledge of twitter to a group of people my age or older and they all got it. That is a sign of … something.

  9. BANDIT says:

    Tried to twitter you with no luck….What happened to Tim Murphy?

  10. Karl says:

    Bandit, Tim went to Jackson, MS to do a morning show.

  11. Bandit, you can follow Tim here.

  12. BANDIT says:

    Thank you for the replies.

  13. Renee says:

    Blog article from a recent JMU grad living in Chicago about how Twitter is “working” for him:

  14. Thanh says:

    This is interesting:

    “Will one Chicago woman’s Tweet cost her $50,000? Who knew less than 140 characters could potentially cost more than $50,000, in the form of a defamation lawsuit?

    That’s something Amanda Bonnen is discovering the hard way.

    In May, the Chicago resident did what many of Twitter’s millions of users do–she tweeted a complaint. Specifically, she tweeted THIS complaint: …”

Reader Tweets

Latest Flickr photos in the hburgnews Flickr pool
Announcements & Press Releases
  • Friendly City Grand Opening Set for July 9

    Friendly City Food Co-Op, Harrisonburg’s consumer-owned grocery, invites the community to come see its new destination for natural, organic and locally-produced products at the store’s grand opening 11 a.m.-5 p.m. July 9 at 150 East Wolfe Street.

  • Friendly City Becomes Member of National Cooperative Grocers Association

    HARRISONBURG, VA — Friendly City Food Co-op, slated to open this month in Harrisonburg, Va., has become the newest member of the National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA), a business services cooperative serving 120 consumer-owned food co-ops nationwide.

  • Harrisonburg Recognized as a Bike Friendly Community

    May 2: Harrisonburg was honored when the League of American Bicyclists announced the latest round of Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC) designations over the weekend to kick off May as National Bike Month.