Oprah and Ashton tweeted on Friday (that’s my attempt at false glee)! I know, it’s everywhere- but for those of you who haven’t heard, it’s official, Oprah Winfrey sent out her first tweet last week. After that she and Ashton had a brief Skype chat about his CNN/Ashton-off of who could get more followers. Then we heard all about his efforts to raise money for Malaria nets in Africa. Whatever you think about the discussion, there can be no mistaking the fact that Oprah can single handedly move mountains. Mountains of viewers, supporters, fans, worshipers into most anything or idea she endorses.
It bears examination of how Oprah’s foray into the Twitterverse might actually, positively confer a halo effect over the entire social media continuum. In other words, it might bring us a bigger, newer audience. Look at Oprah’s sphere of influence. According to a May, 2007 issue of TIME magazine, presidential hopeful Barack Obama appeared on Oprah on October 18, 2006 and as a result, Internet searches on the Illinois senator vaulted 358% the week following his appearance.
BUT, does technology improve with volume? What happens to the “cool factor” and how important is form over function? Remember all the hype around Second Life last year? What about MySpace? To be sure these companies are thriving businesses, but they also share the distinction of having seen a ton of hype and then a dramatic fall-off in the months and years following. Considerations to be sure, but from my point of view and a lot of people who work in branding, bringing more people to the well is a good thing. There’s no question that Oprah can and will encourage the luddites among us to peek under the veil of Twitter and see what it’s all about.
The Naysayers among you may say, yes, but look at all the hype surrounding Oprah’s somewhat legendary endorsement of Amazon’s Kindle: Will Kindle Sales Spike Because of Oprah? – and the many inconclusive articles that ran a year latter suggesting that Oprah’s stamp of approval certainly helped move the needle but didn’t necessarily turn Kindle sales into the iPhone-like stratosphere. To you I say, “you’re right.” But Twitter is different. Aside from asking people to try a new way of communicating, she’s not asking fans to buy anything or even modify their behavior. In fact along similar lines, the January 14th issue of the National Journal reported on Skype’s performance and substantial growth in the last year after Oprah began consistently using the service to bring guests in for remote chat.
“…one of the biggest weapons in its PR arsenal recently has been Oprah Winfrey. The company's CEO Josh Silverman told the Congressional Internet Caucus's State of the Net conference on Wednesday that the talk show queen is passionate about his product and uses Skype regularly on her television program.”
My point is this: the jury is certainly out on how much impact Oprah will have on the growth of Twitter; but dedicated fans who watch her, read about her, and subscribe to her online seminars are potentially ripe neophytes into the world of SMS and mobile, social media applications. For the tens of thousands of us who have ad networks, publishing sites, are brand stewards or are just tech nerds, the masses are coming and they’ll probably require some patience, clear instruction, and meaningful content. Who knows, with a few of these simple principles we may be able to keep this new wave of tech neophytes engaged and interested long enough to sell ‘em a Kindle or two…