Twitter’s rapid growth and slow-but-sure push toward the mainstream has had another hard-to-measure, but noticeable effect: Seemingly normal people I know from real life — not just other nerds on the Internet — are starting to use it. That’s an important factor if Twitter is going to be more than a passing fad — or ever worth billions of dollars. (Perhaps more important than celebrities like Demi Moore or Shaq using Twitter.)
It hasn’t always been like that. When I joined Twitter in 2007, the only people I actually knew on the site were my work colleagues — pretty much everyone else, just strangers from the Internet. Only one friend that I knew from “real life,” an IT geek from Chicago, was on Twitter by the end of 2007. Contrast that to Friendster in 2003, Facebook in 2004, and MySpace in 2005, when 100% of my friends were people I knew offline first — dozens or hundreds of actual friends and acquaintances.
But every week now, I find a few more real-world friends from outside the tech bubble on Twitter. Sure, most of us are in our mid-to-late 20s, so perhaps we’re still considered early adopters. Some of them are fellow journalists, so perhaps they’re just there to promote their work. But many others have nothing to do with my impression of the early Twitter “scene” — financial industry-types, former Miss America contestants, an overseas English teacher, etc.
So far, it seems they use Twitter a little differently than the Web 2.0 loudmouth-types I follow. They seem to tweet less, and seem more likely to protect their tweets from strangers. So maybe they’re just poking around before heading back to Facebook. But it’s probably too early — and too small a sample size — to gather anything meaningful from that.
Twitter still has a lot of growth — user-wise, perhaps feature-wise, and definitely revenue-wise — if it’s going to be a viable, mainstream company. But if there’s one trend that should make its founders happy, it’s this growing list of Twitter users announcing that their mums have joined the site: