In 2009, Twitter has officially taken the world by storm. The social networking service provider was born in 2006, but it took a couple of years to truly take off. The basic concept of sending cell phone text messages, or tweets, to as many people as you want at one time has proved popular with famous people and ordinary folks alike. Celebs certainly have the ability to draw a large Twitter audience, but you don't have to be a movie star to draw attention. Respected news media outlets and even some areas of the United States federal government use Twitter to instantly release useful information to anyone who chooses to follow. You can follow what Britney Spears ate for breakfast if you want to, but the following 10 Twitter feeds may actually give you some useful information.
You know him as one half of the "Mythbusters" -- Discovery Channel's wildly successful show that's part science, part fun. Aside from being a pretty smart person, Savage (@donttrythis) also has a pretty interesting life, one actually worth following on Twitter. Fans can get an inside peek into the world of a real mythbuster -- "Just finished watching "Stand By Me" with my boys. They LOVED it (of course). AND I finished all my homework for our RSA appearance soon." Part of the appeal of Savage is that he doesn't seem to have bought into his own celebrity and he's extremely fan friendly. His tweet regarding a recent walk down the red carpet -- "This is far out. There are tons of ACTUAL famous people here" -- is the kind of humble self deprecation that has earned Savage nearly 30,000 followers as of April 2009 [source: Twitter].
British author Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) is famous for his science fiction novels, film screenplays and graphic novels. The film version of his fantasy novel "Stardust" grossed more than $135 million worldwide [source: Box Office Mojo]. Gaiman has a blog on his Web site that has become pretty popular due to his interaction with fans. The same fan connection has happened with his Twitter account as well. Gaiman tweets about his life as a world traveling writer, keeping fans in the know about book signings and appearances as well as alerting folks when he's finished a longer blog post on his Web site. Part of the charm of Gaiman's tweets is that he's a respected author, so you won't find any silly Internet abbreviations. If you're expecting "just ate rotten mffn for b-fast - LOLZ!" then you'll be disappointed. If you appreciate sly British humor, Gaiman is your man:
"It is beautiful. As if every photo should be captioned 'by nightfall their peaceful town would be the scene of unimaginable horror'."
Not all the Twitter feeds worth following are actual people. CNN (@cnnbrk) has been a respected news media outlet since it was founded in 1980 by media mogul Ted Turner. It has since been absorbed by Time Warner Cable, but it still retains its place as leader in providing accurate and up-to-the-minute news from every corner of the globe. To keep up with news in real time, you can follow the CNN feed or the CNN Breaking News version on Twitter. Both feeds are sanctioned by CNN, and you can find news as it happens on both. CNN made headlines in April 2009, when actor and Twitterholic Ashton Kutcher challenged CNN to a race for one million followers and won. It was all in good fun though, with Kutcher donating $100,000 to a charity that helps fight malaria after his victory.
The New York Times (@nytimes) was founded in 1851 and quickly became the most successful newspaper in the United States. To this day it's the go-to news publication in the United States, where you always get "All the News That's Fit to Print." With print media outlets falling on hard times during the economic hardships of 2008 and 2009, "The Times" has embraced Twitter as a way to stay relevant and connected in an increasingly paperless world. The Times has no less than 50 different Twitter feeds for newshounds to follow. You can keep up with personal tweets from editors, writers and reporters as well as a host of news feeds. Each section of the paper has its own Twitter account as well, so if you love The Times sports coverage, but don't enjoy the style section so much, you can choose only to follow what you're interested in. Most of The Times' section tweets are blurbs with links to further coverage on its Web site, while the reporter and writer tweets include personal points of view on the news they cover.
Yes, you read that one right. In a stroke of marketing genius, NASA, beginning with the Mars Phoenix Lander (@marsphoenix), began to "ghost tweet" as if various mission robots were speaking with their followers. Not only was it a clever way to keep people interested and informed about NASA and space exploration, but it created some unusual and unexpected results. Followers became attached to the Mars Phoenix Lander and humanized it, perhaps partially due to the smash hit film "Wall-E," the Pixar computer animated film about a very emotional robot. The sad news is that the Mars Phoenix Lander's job required it to stay on the red planet forever. The 38,000-plus followers of Mars Phoenix were saddened, though the ghost tweeters tried their best to keep spirits up:
"I should stay well-preserved in this cold. I'll be humankind's monument here for centuries, eons, until future explorers come for me."
And the final message from Mars Phoenix was simply a structured series of ones and zeroes -- the binary code was translated as "triumph."
Who doesn't need a little more Martha Stewart (@marthastewart) in their lives? The business giant, TV show host, magazine publisher, author and ex-con is one of the most popular women in the world. Her followers, and not just on Twitter, are a force to be reckoned with -- if Martha endorses it, they try it out. If she says to paint it, they paint it. If she says break out the pinking shears, then something is going to get cut (in a zigzag). Followers of her Twitter feed get posts on what she's up too with her various endeavors, updates on appearances she'll be making and simple advice and recommendations on everything from a nice summer wine to what to serve at the perfect dinner party. And as you might expect, it's also delightfully free of grade-school Internet abbreviations.
Just like Martha Stewart, and perhaps even more so, media mogul Oprah Winfrey (@oprah) has a legion of fans who hang on her every word. She's created a true empire and the fate of everything from an author's career to a product's success can hang in the balance depending on her recommendation. When Oprah tweets, her nearly 750,000 (as of April 2009) followers listen. Considering the fact that Oprah just started tweeting in mid-April 2009, the sheer number of followers she has is astounding. So far, her tweets have been a mix of updates on upcoming show guests and some fun personal information, like what music she's listening to and what her dinner plans are. She also gives a little behind-the-scenes look at her show, tweeting about how she pulled an episode on the Columbine High School shooting anniversary because it "focused too much on killers." Go, Oprah, go.
NBA basketball star Shaquille O'Neal (@THE_REAL_SHAQ) is one of the most popular players in league history because of his sense of humor and gentle giant persona, so it's no surprise that his Twitter feed is also a big hit. As of April 2009, his Shaqness had acquired nearly 900,000 followers and is sure to hit the one million mark. Like with most celebrities, Shaq tweets about his day-to-day life, but through the lens of his funny personality. He also made headlines in March 2009 by twittering during halftime of a game. All he said in the message was a cryptic "Shhhhh," but it was enough to make the news. In addition to his funny posts about what he ate for breakfast and his desire to lose enough weight to have "eight pack abs" Shaq also uses Twitter to give tickets away to fans, proving that his heart is as big as his shoe size -- an astounding 23.
Yes, the President of the United States (@BarackObama) is on Twitter. President Obama twittered himself in the weeks leading up to the election, giving updates on appearances he'd be making and covering talking points of his political rallies. Since he's taken office, he's been a little busier trying to help correct an ailing U.S. economy, but the tweets live on through his staff. But he did make history on March 26, 2009, when he became the first acting American President to send a tweet. He sent a message about the struggling economy and included a video link to the White House Web site. The video was of the President himself, urging Americans to send their questions about the economic struggles for a press conference he held the following day. His staff now sends out tweets updating his million-plus followers about his upcoming speeches as well as calls for Americans to volunteer with various organizations.
Actor Wil Wheaton (@wilw) is probably best known for his role on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and when he played a young boy searching with his friends for a dead body in the 1986 film "Stand By Me." But anyone in-the-know is keen to the fact that Wheaton is a virtual God in the land of technophiles and all things geek related. Wheaton has this reputation because he's become what's known in the tech realm as an "early adopter." This means that he's first on the bandwagon when it comes to tech products, gaming and geek trends. His blog has been wildly popular for years and once he started twittering, it didn't take fans long to catch on. Aside from the usual day-to-day stuff that Twitter is known for, Wheaton recommends video games, tech products, movies, podcasts and just about anything else Web related.
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- "Neil Gaiman." Neilgaiman.com. 2009.http://www.neilgaiman.com/
- "Obama Gets Autographed Shaquille O'Neal Sneaker." Huffingtonpost.com. Feb. 17, 2009.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/02/17/obama-gets-autographed-sh_n_167767.html
- "Stardust." Boxofficemojo.com. 2009. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=stardust.htm
- "Stardust." Imdb.com. 2009.http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0486655/
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- "Top Celebrities on Twitter." Parade.com. 2009. http://www.parade.com/celebrity/slideshows/news/celebrities-who-twitter.html
- "Wil Wheaton." Imdb.com. 2009.http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000696/
- Hedley, Caroline. "Barack Obama makes first 'tweet' on Twitter since inauguration." Telegraph.co.uk. March 26, 2009. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/scienceandtechnology/technology/twitter/5051398/Barack-Obama-makes-first-tweet-on-Twitter-since-inauguration.html
- Joesph, Ben."10 Celebrity Twitters Actually Worth Following." Cracked.com. Feb. 21, 2009. http://www.cracked.com/article_17092_10-celebrity-twitters-actually-worth-following.html
- Rubel, Steve. "CNN Twitters Its Way to Direct Audience Engagement." Micropersuasion.com. Sept. 8, 2008. http://www.micropersuasion.com/2008/09/cnn-twitters-it.html
- Terdiman, Derek. "Mars Phoenix Lander completes its mission." News.cnet.com. Nov. 10, 2008. http://news.cnet.com/8301-13772_3-10092897-52.html