Twitter, the newest social networking website to add to the myriad of existing online phenomena, has ostensibly gone from strength to strength within the public domain in recent months. It has acquired fans all over the world and cemented itself firmly within contemporary popular culture, with the help of some celebrity endorsements from the likes of British personalities Stephen Fry and Chris Moyles. However, since the initial burst of interest things seem to have died down somewhat, which begs the question: was Twitter really as destined for greatness as many would have us believe? Furthermore, what does the future hold for online social networking?
Advances in technology mean that the Internet has revolutionised the way many people, particularly youngsters, communicate and share information. We are no longer bound by prohibitive long-distance telephone costs or even time zones – the immediacy and convenience of the Internet allows us to communicate, in real-time, with people all over the world, at virtually no cost. Social networking sites represent the latest evolution in online information sharing, and while they may not be for everyone, it is hard to deny the overall impact of websites such as Facebook, Myspace and Twitter.
Whatever your opinion, it is fairly obvious that online social networking heralds one of the first fundamental changes in the way ordinary people use the Internet to facilitate their day-to-day lives. Twitter, for example, has become de rigueur for many companies, particularly those in the creative industry, as a quick and easy way to inform clients and customers of new products. In years past, this would have been the forte of a clunky mailing list, which in many cases would be quickly regarded as spam and junked by the recipient. Twitter allows the discerning consumer to ‘follow’ only those whose updates they are interested in, cutting the wheat from the chaff and providing quick access to the desired information.
Social networking as a business model remains one of the most lucrative around – access to reams of profitable marketing information gained from content voluntarily uploaded for free by its users, not to mention the huge advertising potential – and when this is combined with human beings’ basic need to interact and communicate, the resulting push-pull dynamic ensures that as a society, it is almost certain that we will be Facebooking and Tweeting for a long time yet.