Has a tipping point arrived for Twitter?

A lot of people have being doing a lot of writing about Twitter during the past week.

I’m not referring specifically to the awful events in Mumbai, India, where Twitter played a significant role in rapidly connecting online people with information (even if it was hard to really judge the ultimate value of some of that information as CNN’s “Tweeting the terror: How social media reacted to Mumbai” highlights), which I’m sure drove thousands of people to start twittering from their computers and mobile devices wherever they happened to be.

That is one focus in my mind, though: the recent growth in Twitter usage as more people have come to discover it and try it out, prompted surely by current events on a large and tragic scale like Mumbai.

Or maybe it’s on a more prosaic level: people they know or want to connect with in their own profession or just socially.

In July, I speculated that Twitter’s tipping point is coming, my view stimulated largely by the service outages Twitter was going through at the time and the fact that users were nevertheless not forsaking Twitter for alternatives.

I don’t have access to Twitter’s overall usage data that might show a tipping point for when any wide-scale take up by people happened. I can look at my own Twitter usage since I signed up on December 6, 2006, though, nicely captured in this TweetStats timeline.


Looks like my personal tipping point with Twitter happened in March 2007. Hmm, that’s when I said that Twitter could become compulsive.

[…] I think it’s got legs. It’s just beginning to gain traction. Tweets show up in Google searches. Technorati will rank your Twitter profile, just as it does with blogs. Indeed, that makes your Twitter a blog (or a micro-blog, as some are calling it).

There are now hundreds of journalists and PRs using Twitter as Stephen Davies’ lists illustrate. Plus individuals in hundreds of companies and other organizations including government agencies as well as politicians, famously the communicators at 10 Downing Street (“The official Twitter channel for the Prime Minister’s Office”) and Barack Obama’s presidential campaign team (no, not the man himself, a question I asked of Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd).

Taking a look at the professional usage level, there are lots of IABC members who have joined Twitter during November, now more than 140 in total worldwide when I looked at the IABC on Twitter blog just now (sorry, visible to IABC members only), plus the official IABC Twitter presence and a handful of IABC Chapters with generic accounts.

I’ve had a flurry of new followers during November, including fellow IABC members, more in any one month than I have had before.

For a good sense of what to think about Twitter, take a look at  Geoff Livingston’s ‘10,000 Tweets: Heaven and Hell’ post.

I just tweeted for the 10,000th time. So what the heck does that mean? I am a Twittering fool? 20 months, 10,000 tweets, 3,000 followers. What learning have I gleaned from all this?

Geoff’s 14 observations – and those of the Twitter friends he asked – are ones with which others will undoubtedly nod in some agreement. I did with most especially his points about how many tweets you post (see my timeline above) and the number of people you follow and who follow you.

And just for comparison with Geoff, here’s my own Twitter profile: 24 months, 11,073 tweets – averaging 18 per day according to the timeline – 2,055 followers (and I follow 730).

Then there’s an equally good post from Tim O’Reilly who writes about why he loves Twitter.

[…] Like a lot of people, I tried out Twitter early on, but didn’t stick to it. Most of the early twitter conversation was personal, and I didn’t have time for it. I came back when I noticed that about 5000 people were following my non-existent updates, waiting for me to say something. With that many listeners, I thought I’d better oblige. (There are now close to 16,000.) I soon realized that Twitter has grown up to become a critical business tool, ideal for following the latest news, tracking the ideas and whereabouts of people who will shape the future of technology, and sharing my own thoughts and attention stream.

O’Reilly lists six specific points he believes are compelling about Twitter, all of which I agree do precisely that – make Twitter compelling.

So has a tipping point arrived for Twitter?

Note I’m asking about a tipping point not the tipping point: unlike my thinking last July, I no longer believe there is a single tipping point for Twitter.

So has it? I believe the signs are there for many people.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Bernie Goldbach

    Even though Twitter has made mainstream media reports, I don't think it's mainstream enough to be a tipping point technology. I still attend industry events where people don't know what an RSS feed is. Nonethless, I've added my Twitter nic to my next set of Moo cards because I want to compress the time it takes to connect with new acquaintances.

  2. Jaz Cummins

    Great post, I think there's totally been a tipping point in the last few weeks.

    The big events like the American elections, Mumbai etc, just emphasize how ingrained it is in alot of people's experiences of world events now.

    Plus it's the anecdotal mentions from friends acknowledging that it's not just my weird little site – 'Oh yeah, a girl in my office uses that too now'. I find I spend less time explaining what twitter is now, and more time just talking about it – so I guess that means the circle is widening!

  3. Mark Story


    Agree completely, and I will not post my own Twitter stats because, as I mentioned, my next big step will be to get my Technorati authority ranking equal to or above my shoe size. Your own post got me thinking, however, and I just wrote a post on my own angle on why Twitter is here to stay (http://tinyurl.com/5kgyp4). During the Mumbai tragedy, we saw information go from Twitter to blogs back to Twitter to CNN back to blogs — all of which was consumed by a global populace hungering for information.

    I agree that Twitter is now here to stay; my only regret is that it took the Mumbai tragedy to make the case.


  4. neville

    I think it is mainstream enough, Bernie – but not as the tipping point, ie, a single event or circumstance that causes a broad shift in behaviour on a large scale.

    What I think is happening is tipping points for individuals such as Jaz and Mark indicate. Me, too, for that matter.

  5. Gabriel Rossi

    Twitter is practical, simple as well as it stimulates our voyer side. I personally use Twitter to learn and connect with people. There's a lot to benefit from. It's great.

    Mumbai tragedy made Twitter more popular and made clear its power and growing importance. Also, retweeting proved to be a big and powerful viral factor.

    On the other hand, let's consider that some people are not on the same technological pace as us. They are a bit afraid of the velocity and openess provided by microblogs or even blogs. At the end of the day, it's understandable and it'll take time to change. Many people in different societies are still assimilating and getting used to Social Media and the digital arena.

    Twitter is maybe getting mainstream and came definitely to say. However, in my opinion, we shouldn't wait for a tipping point. Evolution and acceptance will come slower but solidly built.


    Gabriel- Brazil

  6. geoffliving

    I totally agree. Twitter has crossed that point. For me, I realized it was becoming a different animal when CNN anchors started tweeting publicly on their shows, inviting people to interact with them. It's becoming integrated within our society, and is the next big social network (if it doesn't get bought by an existing player). Great post, Neville.

  7. Cision.net Blogs » Blog Archive » Mumbai, media, raw data and news cycles

    […] Last week’s Mumbai attacks prompted more (less?) than human interest for social media watchers, for whom Twitter was the key technology. An Associated Press report spoke of users “trading information at a rate of 50-100 posts a minute”, numbers capable of generating the kind of mainstream coverage that can push emerging consumer technologies toward tipping point.  […]

  8. Mumbai, media, raw data and news cycles

    […] Last week’s Mumbai attacks prompted more (less?) than human interest for social media watchers, for whom Twitter was the key technology. An Associated Press report spoke of users “trading information at a rate of 50-100 posts a minute”, numbers capable of generating the kind of mainstream coverage that can push emerging consumer technologies toward tipping point.  […]

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