Twitter celebrates ‘top tweeters’ at #TwitterDinner, but what places a tweeter on top?

Celebrated: top tweeters

Last night, as I skimmed through my feed, a nightly ritual before drifting off to Bedfordshire, I noticed a handful of celebrities were waxing lyrical about the ‘top tweeters’ #TwitterDinner they had just attended, hosted by Twitter CEO, Dick Costolo, and General Manager, Tony Wang.

‘Top tweeters’ (TTs) I thought, what does this actually mean?

So, I had a wee skim through the profiles of the chosen few who were invited to the event to try and understand the rationale of what the organisers at Twitter deem to be a TT.

I have to say, I’m disappointed. One of the first things I noticed was that TT Jimmy Carr, so far as I could tell, hasn’t actually tweeted anyone with an ‘@ reply’, instead broadcasting endless, self-promoting tweets. <yawns>

As we all know, the social networking platform is anything but being about the numbers so he surely wasn’t just invited solely for his 1.5 million followers, was he Twitter? Not a TT in my view.

Then there is Mr Stephen Fry, the national treasure and linguistics expert/export who, along with Jonathan Ross, put the site on the map for the rest of the celebrity world to find and plunder for what it could get – not intentionally, of course, but there you go.

However, his has been a volatile relationship with Twitter, extricating himself when somebody says something he dislikes, temporarily playing with his ball elsewhere and, when he misses the success it has brought him, reclaiming his place at the top of the premiership.

Again, for me, not a great example of a TT, despite his staggering, near 3.5 million followers.

As regards those remaining; Philip Schofield, Sarah Brown, Richard Bacon, Davina McCall, Charlie Brooker et al, there is nothing noteworthy about the way they use Twitter. They might not limit themselves to 140-character, self-promotional ads, as other celebs do, but they don’t really do anything out of the ordinary either.

This isn’t a criticism of these individuals, merely an observation that makes me question their TT monicker, as bestowed on them by Twitter.

However, there is one person who, for me, does live up to his TT status. In fact, I might go as far as to say that he was my top tweeter of this year – and he has the lowest follower count of those on the guest list.

Paul Lewis, the Guardian’s Special Projects Reporter, provided an actual public service, greater than many of those expected to provide public services, in terms of communication, during the UK riots this year.

Whilst news channels, such as BBC News 24 and Sky News, were broadcasting repetitious reports on the violence and vandalism that shook the major cities across the UK, he was at the heart of it, using Twitter as his main channel to communicate real-time, breaking news, helping those in the areas avoid any trouble.

My bet is that many of those in attendance last night had no idea who he was when they arrived at the swanky dinner, he is Davina McCall’s most recent follow, but his use of the communication channel has been for a greater good.

That, in my mind, makes a top tweeter and more people like Paul Lewis should be celebrated at events like the #TwitterDinner to demonstrate what the platform can achieve, rather than continuing to base the site’s success on a popularity contest and the glitterati who, let’s face it, have enough channels to promote themselves and their wares.

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4 Responses to Twitter celebrates ‘top tweeters’ at #TwitterDinner, but what places a tweeter on top?

  1. Nice Article – good read! I agree with you here, it would be good to see less celeb and more impactful/meaningful tweeters celebrated. Perhaps the TTs were decided by vote? I know one of my friend’s love Jimmy Carr’s twitter feed & is one of the reason’s he recently joined so perhaps despite his shortcomings on twitter, simply being entertaining counts?

  2. Peter Hay says:

    Thank you for the retweet and feedback, Toby, much appreciated.

    I completely agree that Twitter can, and should, be about entertainment, but I also feel engagement plays a major part in how online communities on Twitter thrive. People can, of course, tweet as they want – who am I to dictate that? – but ‘top tweeters’, in my view, should also respond to those who are communicating with them.

    Clearly, for many, Jimmy Carr is entertaining, his follower count certainly demonstrated that, but for me, Twitter requires more than that.

    As regards how the ‘top tweeters’ were selected, I doubt very much that Twitter will ever disclose its rationale as I doubt there was one. Who knows though, I might be surprised…

  3. Great article.. It really annoys me when i hear about these sorts of events for so called top tweeters… They are not top tweeters in any sense of the word other than for the majority of them having a large following..so call them the most followed in the UK….

    But its the impression that it gives everyone else that upsets me..these sorts of things perpetuate the myth that twitter is all about celebrities broadcasting all day about banal bits of information… and this sort of event just cememts that idea even further..

    Lets get the people that are really usiing twitter to listen, engage, gain more clients, more business, create excellent customer care, answer questions, provide excellent breaking news items and so on… Then the public will start to open their eyes as to the true value of twitter…

    a massive opportunnity sadly missed….

    Mark Shaw
    @markshaw

  4. Peter Hay says:

    Thanks for your comment, Mark.

    For the most part, it definitely felt like a game of numbers, having gone through the profiles of those who attended.

    Hopefully Twitter will catch up with its own product and start learning who are using the platform in new and interesting ways. It will, as you say, be of more educational value to see people like Paul Lewis highlighted as ‘top tweeters’ and will benefit Twitter as well.

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