Posted May 22, 2009 8:59 am by with 18 comments

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An article over at CNN Money ran the headline “Oprah’s Skypefest draws backlash” while the page title included Twitter as well so I decided oprahto take a look. Now honestly, outside of my mom, I don’t know anyone that is part of “Oprah Nation” and I like it that way. It’s the numbers attached to her every move that are at once intriguing and disturbing. Now with her supposed love affair with social media, marketers have to at least keep an eye out to see what happens through this highly influential channel.

Well, according to the article, if you are Twitter, the initial press was pretty cool but as Oprah’s first tweet of


gets smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror the reality isn’t quite matching the hype. I know that you are all shocked that this apparent gap between what was pitched and what actually happened has occurred. Ok, so you’re not but this one may be worth a little investigation.

Twitter has been enjoying endless kudos for its game changing possibilities in how we conduct our lives. It has been courted by every big name and has been perceived as a threat to even, gulp, Google. For an interesting look on Twitter’s search issues be sure to check out Louis Gray’s analysis. It’s an eye opener for sure.

Back to Oprah. It turns out that the most famous first tweet was created by someone who can influence everyone but apparently is not much different than everyone, despite her status. What happened with Oprah’s actual use of the service has mirrored some of the larger concerns that are being voiced about Twitter.

But like many new Twitterers, Oprah dove in big and tapered off fast. Oprah tweeted 10 times on April 17, her first day as a user. That’s almost a quarter of her 45 total updates so far. The tweets are few and far between, leaving followers to question whether she’s bored with the account. Her last tweet came 5 days ago.

@oprah seems to fit the pattern spotlighted in Nielsen report last month. The online traffic-measurement firm found that more than 60% of Twitter users don’t return the next month.

The analysis of the situation concludes with a rather dim view of Twitter’s prospects which are at least interesting.

“There simply aren’t enough new users to make up for defecting ones after a certain point,” Nielsen said. “Twitter has enjoyed a nice ride over the last few months, but it will not be able to sustain its meteoric rise without establishing a higher level of user loyalty. Frankly, if Oprah can’t accomplish that, I’m not sure who can.”

So going into the unofficial start of summer, is the bloom starting to fall off the Twitter rose already? Is the current negativity just a response to the previously unrestrained praise that Twitter has received? Maybe an opinion from the lowly level of actual Twitter user would be helpful to hear. I know for me personally I don’t use it like I used to but I also may not be using it as I should. It’s to be determined for me. What about you?

  • It was always going to end in tears. Oprah did what she did because Twitter was perceived as 'hot'. As soon as she made the point that she was on it, her interest was always bound to wane and she will move on something or someone else.

  • Adam

    The bloom is certainly off the rose. It's going to take some time, but the hype will die down when the national media finds something else to fixate on. Then Twitter will revert to being a useful, but not life-altering technology.


  • It will be interesting to see which way twitter goes over the next year or so…i for one struggled at first as i generally get out-tweeted by many of the “power users” who must not have anything better to do than tweet 200 times a day. However, I have pushed through all the mess and have worked hard to make it a part of my strategy.

  • Sometimes, the hype outweighs the reality. There are some great uses for Twitter, and the service has some very loyal users, but there is clearly straining on its infrastructure, best exemplified by the downtime, reduced feature set, API limits and now, the deprecated search. Of note, to make sure your link in this article makes sense down the road, it'd be best to link to the article and not to my blog's front page, if you could.

    • Hi Louis, yeah we normally do just that. An oversight on our part, so I'll fix it. 🙂

      • I know – you guys do a great job. I just wanted to make sure the link made sense next week and beyond. It also might get you into the correct aggregator flow. 🙂

  • The question about @Oprah's reality ought to be asked not by you, Frank, who I'm guessing never manually “followed” her but by an Oprah fan who followed her to Twitter because she said it was hot. And whether that fan's/follower's tweeting frequency mirrors Oprah's.

    • FrankReed

      True, Ari. If you hang with crowd let me know what they think. Like I said in the post, other than my mom I wouldn't have access to an Oprah fan, let alone one who uses Twitter! Mom barely uses e-mail so Twitter is out of the question.

  • Byoung

    Well, Pilgrim, I've heard that the Nielsen poll took into account only those Twitter users who tweet from their computers (as do I) but did not count those who tweet from phones or use apps such as TweetDeck, so I'm not going to write Twitter's obit based on information that might not be 100% accurate. That said, I started on Twitter in March, around the time that the infamous Hudson river plane landing took place, as first reported on Twitter. I thought i'd try it. I've since posted almost 650 times, I've tailored my followers/following to people in my field (advertising/marketing), people heavily engaged in Social Media Marketing/Social Influence Marketing (it's total immersion learning for me), and a handful of junior high students, my own, who are amazed that a 58-year old man is comfortable with the technology. I've also launched a Twitter presence for our small, parochial school to feed into our website and hope to launch an internal blog on the site this summer to complete the “three-legged stool” of social marketing engagement. Beyond that, I am heavily involved with facebook, administrate a facebook Fan Page, have beefed up my LinkedIn presence and have joined friendfeed, where the real SN/SM tech gurus hang out. I think that many Twitter drop-outs are initially put off by the experience before they realize that the experience can be tailored to specific, unique needs. As Twitter grows, albeit more slowly, I think it will continue to add serious communicators who realize that, contrary to how it is portrayed, Twitter is not necessarily about what a celebrity ate for breakfast, but a significant and powerful tool for conversation and relationship-building.

  • If we had similar stats for Facebook that would be interesting 🙂 Otherwise there's really nothing to compare these stats to is there?

    I stopped using Facebook after a while cos I'd linked up with my old school mates, and then lost interest. I'm back now, but mostly just for casual use.

    Twitter is the mobile service that I just keep going back to. It's still early days though.. That may sound weird but it's true. Twitter is still strange to many people. Slowly slowly slowly people are realising what Twitter is, what it can mean for them.

    The complex thing is that it's really really personal. Everyone sees Twitter as something different from the next person. To one person it's like MSN, to the other it's a feed reader, to the other it's a marketing goldmine, to the next it's just a bit of fun and chat and exploration.

    Keep exploring Twitter people, we're not even a fraction of the way to getting to what Twitter will become.

  • FrankReed


    That was my screw up. Sorry about that!

  • A few petals may have fallen off the Twitter rose recently put just like the perennial rose, Twitter gets stronger. There is lots of potential when you marry Twitter with the persistent data found in the new TEL domains and vice versa. I'm currently experimenting with both Twitter and TEL through and

  • Not everyone dives in and stays underwater. The fact that all of those accounts are already created, however, lowers the barrier to eventual use at a higher level. It doesn't bother me if the Nielsen projection turned out to be true (I question the interpretation), because I'm confident that people with inactive accounts do find there way back to the system, in their own time, for their own purpose.

    Having watched Twitter for a few years now, I have noticed some Facebook-only friends are starting to send things to Twitter now (which is where I consume status updates). That's a population of users that would never be considered by Nielsen. I have also seen a number of early-adopting classmates in grad school stop using Twitter only to resume again over a year later.

    There is a natural rhythm to how an individual finds value in this system. All the How-To lists and guidelines to the contrary, everyone is on her own journey at her own pace. Everyone with a dormant account is a potential contributor down the road, with one less thing to do (register)

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  • It is hard to predict what the future holds. Just because Oprah liked it for “a minute” I don't think that will have an overall impact on the long term future one way or another. I think those that are loyal and use it for business purposes will remain so … maybe not in the initial drove of flock that they had been using it, but what new product or service keeps their initial “hyped” roll-out numbers over the long haul?

  • i love this blog

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