Twitter, everyone’s favorite microblogging service, is extremely popular. So popular, in fact, that it recently raised over $35 million in funding, while also seeing the number of users who actively use the site increase by 900% in just one year. Not too shabby
Twitter, though, isn’t only a province for the technologically inclined as a number of mainstream celebrities, such as Ashton Kutcher and Cash4Gold pitchman MC Hammer, have recently amassed an impressive number of followers.
But in a clear sign that the service has officially gone mainstream, Twitter was featured today on one of ESPN’s most popular TV Shows, Pardon The Interruption (also known as PTI).
Filling in for Michael WIlbon, sportswriter Dan Le Batard and PTI co-host Tony Kornheiser discussed how Twitter is increasingly being used by sports stars as a way to connect more directly with fans. Specifically, they mentioned how NBA All-Star Chris Bosh uses Twitter to communicate with fans, and even to get restaurant suggestions while on the road. They, of course, also mentioned Twitter superstar Shaquille O’neal who at the time of this writing has a whopping 106,000 followers. O’neal doesn’t hide his love for Twitter, and in a recent tweet, noted that he wanted to buy the entire Twitter office lunch.
Le Batard and Kornheiser went on to discuss whether or not Twitter can actually bring fans and stars closer together, and it seems obvious that the answer is yes. The reason why celebrities and athletes like Shaq attract so many followers is because fans love being able to connect with them without any filters. It’s one thing to read in the paper that Shaq and Kobe Bryant recently shared the NBA All-Star MVP Award. It’s an entirely different experience to read a tweet from Shaq where he writes, “Kobe is the best, he told me to take the trophy hm for my sons, class act, thanks bro.” Until now, that level of connection between stars and fans was, for the most part, non-existant.
One interesting point mentioned on the show was the idea that as more athletes begin connecting with fans directly via services like Twitter, the reliance upon traditional media outlets will necessarily diminish, at least for the biggest stars. Who needs a Sports Illustrated cover when you can instantly connect to over 100,000 fans on a daily basis?
Twitter may have been mentioned on ESPN, but that doesn’t mean that everyone “gets it” just yet. In one exchange on the show, Kornheiser asked if Le Batard would ever use a “twitter machine.” Hmm.. baby steps, I guess.
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