Posts Tagged ‘popularity’

For Twitter, popularity is a double-edged sword

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

Twitter is the social networking service that has revolutionized the way people communicate online. Twitter allows twits (users) to send out tweets (messages) to their followers (those minions who opted to follow updates from the sender). These updates are limited to no more than 140 characters in length. Tweets can be sent via computer, cell phone, or handheld device.

Lately, Twitter has become known for its Fail Whale graphic (pictured) and accompanying message, “Twitter is over capacity. Too many tweets! Please wait a moment and try again.”

Many disgruntled users vent their frustrations by sending terse missives such as: “Someone broke twitter again – that bloody fail whale needs a harpoon!” or “Dammit the dreaded Fail Whale is rearing it’s ugly head again…what’s going on people???” And these are the nice ones…

While I consider myself an advocate of the customer with a low tolerance for service failures, I’d make an exception in Twitter’s case. Here’s why:

Twitter is evolving. It was only launched in March 2006 and, after a period of incremental growth, its usage has grown dramatically. From February 2008 to February 2009 Twitter grew 1,382 percent and currently has more than 8 million unique users in the U.S. Facebook, by comparison, grew only 228 percent over the same period. Want to read more? Here’s the post by Adam Ostrow (@adamostrow in Twitterland).

Don’t get me wrong. I too am frustrated when I see the Fail Whale. That’s to be expected. I do recognize, however, that popularity is a double-edged sword: both attractive to many and, at the same time, crowded.

Twitter is extremely popular and has been thrust into the mainstream media recently with the competition between Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) and CNN (@cnnbrk) to see who could be the first to attract one million followers on Twitter and Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) exposing Twitter to her 20 million viewers.

And it’s crowded. Just last week I read a Sprint advertisement in the Wall Street Journal that quoted these statistics: “29,997 people just twittered on Twitter for the first time today (and) 9,002 people just twittered on Twitter for the fifth time today”

There is a restaurant consultant on Twitter named Jeffrey Summers (@JeffreySummers). He makes his living by helping restaurateurs to fill the seats in their restaurants. Most of us have a favorite restaurant and, chances are, your favorite restaurant is attractive to many others as well. Because it’s popular, it’s crowded. Just like Twitter.

You wouldn’t throw your hands up in frustration in front of the hostess at your favorite restaurant and say, “Geesh! What’s it take to get a table in this wildly popular restaurant?” You would understand the reason for the wait and probably just get a drink at the bar and relax.

So the next time you see the Fail Whale, consider the restaurant analogy. Be grateful that you’re associated with Twitter’s emerging technology with its untold potential. Be thankful for the knowledge you’ve gained (perhaps from one of @guykawasaki’s Alltop links) or music you’ve received (maybe from @sharonhayes or @DJDaveM). And be appreciative of the many relationships that you have established, both personally and professionally.

Then, if you’re still frustrated, get a drink and relax. ; )

By Steve Curtin (@enthused)

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