One of the best features of Twitter is the “network effect”. You tweet something that resonates with the world and it can literally end up going around the world in relatively short order.
We’ve seen this countless of times since Twitter’s inception. We saw it today with our mutual web friend Molly Holzschlag’s campaign to help raise money for her illness.* I’ve personally seen it with our release of Barley and how, within 48-hours or so, we had interest in our product from every Internet connected country on the planet – in very large part due to Twitter.
However, if you are joining Twitter today because they are going public and you’re first hearing about Twitter or just-now-beginning to understand its potential – getting the word out may not be that easy. Why? Because you don’t have enough followers to get the network effect rolling. Yet.
Twitter handled this problem early on by having a global stream of all public tweets. Something akin to App.net’s current Global page (which is slowly slipping away also) where all public posts to the service are shown in relative realtime. A tough thing to track and serve as the service grows and grows. Which is why Twitter eventually bagged it. Back then someone could have their tweet seen on this page and it get picked up and RT (old school retweeted). It made the rounds on Twitter regardless of your follower count.
Then Twitter solved this issue by providing a better “on boarding process”. When you first sign up you’re pushed through a series of steps to get acquainted with the service. One of these steps is to give you at least 5 people to follow. Another is to invite or search for your friends. This way you can quickly grow your network of connections on Twitter.
I’d say for someone to have the ability to burst through the ceiling of the Internet one must have at least 20 followers who use Twitter pretty regularly and have a few followers of their own. This can start the trickle than can lead to the flood.
For people that don’t have 20 active followers yet but do have a really important tweet they’d like people to see they’ll sometimes write “please RT” in their Tweet. Some people abuse this like crazy so you have to add a few filters. I use “-follow” at the end of mine. As I use this search more and more I’ll likely find more terms to add to the filter list.
Lately I’ve been poking my head into this search to see if there is anyone out there that I might be able to help get exposure for their tweet. Currently I have a few thousand Twitter followers. Nowhere near enough to make a considerable dent in, say, Molly’s issue. However, I’m followed by people that are far more popular on Twitter than I am. Some have ten thousand, twenty thousand, or a million and more followers. From what I can tell my potential Twitter reach is somewhere around 1.6M people. That’s pretty extraordinary and I really don’t want that to go to waste for a good cause or issue or tweet.
I’ve only been doing this for a few days and so far I haven’t found anything that I’ve wanted to retweet. I’m pretty picky. I’m trying to be selective. However, I’m looking forward to the time that I do find a good tweet and I’m able to help someone that is perhaps just joining Twitter to help spread the word about a worthy thing.
* The campaign isn’t Molly’s but rather her friends created it.