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by Paul Kiser

Paul Kiser - CEO of Enterprise Technologies, inc.

People will often to say to me, “I just don’t get Twitter.” What people have to understand is that Twitter functions like a thunderstorm in the world of ideas. In the summer, air (including water vapor) heats and rises. The water vapor in the air is wrung out of the rising air (water vapor condenses to water droplets) and clouds form. For reasons not exactly understood, a discharge of electricity leaps between the positive and negative regions. FLASH! BAM! A thunderstorm is born.

Like a summer thunderstorm, 40404* provides the environment for ideas to flash across the Internet. Jack Dorsey, the Chairman and one of the creators of Twitter eludes to this ‘electricity’ when explaining how they arrived at the name:

Ideas: Lightning on the grassy plains of Twitter

“…we wanted to capture that feeling: the physical sensation that you’re buzzing your friend’s pocket. It’s like buzzing all over the world. So we did a bunch of name-storming, and we came up with the word “twitch,” because the phone kind of vibrates when it moves. But “twitch” is not a good product name because it doesn’t bring up the right imagery. So we looked in the dictionary for words around it, and we came across the word “twitter,” and it was just perfect.

(*40404 is the SMS Code for Twitter – Read more here)

I was re-reading The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell and he compares mass social events/phenomenons to epidemics.  He offers three factors that are common to all mass social behaviors.

  1. The Law of the Few
  2. The Stickiness Factor
  3. The Power of Context

Note that Gladwell’s book was first published in 2000, six years before Twitter was launched, but his three factors perfectly describe the workings of Twitter. The Law of the Few suggests that a few ‘extraordinary’ people tend to trigger mass social events. In the case of Twitter, we have users who the ability to attract masses of followers that fan out information to their followers, who continue the ‘retweets’ to their followers. A few people who have a large impact and influence throughout the world.

Not every tweet or URL of a blog, becomes a ‘Viral Tweet’ but those that do have a Stickiness Factor. They hit upon an idea or thought that causes an emotional reaction among other users, which leads to the final factor of The Power of Context. A Tweet that races across the Twitter world like lightning manages to ignite something that has been brewing in a person’s mind…more specifically brewing in the minds of many people, but somehow the Tweet or blog is the perfect polarity to cause a reaction in mass.

That is why Twitter is like a thunderstorm in the world of ideas. It provides the conditions and media for ideas and thoughts to leap out of one mind and into millions…in the flash of …well, enough with the analogy.

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