In 2009, a funny thing happened: Twitter exploded on the Internet.
Blame it on the 2008 Presidential election or MySpace/Facebook burnout. But 2009 was the year that television was hit over the head by social media in the form of one little word: "tweet."
From celebrities and politicians to the average couch potato, Twitter became a phenomenon that equalized the playing field on the Internet. Not constrained by the usual gatekeeper methods employed by other social networks -- which often limit interaction to only those who are friended or permitted into ones Internet domain -- Twitter invited anyone and everyone to join in the World Wide Web conversation.
While tentative at first, those who dipped their toes into the Twitter world were soon addicted. It began dominating the mainstream as a way of finding out what was happening in the world. News and celebrity scandals broke faster on Twitter than anywhere else.
In the era where information is power, it was the drug of choice for news hounds and celeb Internet-junkies. It was literally where the news was happening.
For entertainment bloggers, it became a world unto itself. Suddenly it was not just entertainment magazines, such as TV Guide, Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, that were posting immediate updates. PR firms, publicists and online television bloggers jumped in to corner a piece of the unfolding Twitter landscape.
Then televison producers, showrunners, writers and a whole array of entertainment talent ranging from actors, makeup artists, wardrobe personnel, and composers were suddenly tweeting insider tidbits about the films and television shows they worked on. For fans and entertainment bloggers alike, it was heaven.
Free of the typical boundaries, the online interaction was unprecedented. If you had a quick question for your favorite actor or wanted to find out who designed the dress they wore in the most recent episode, the information was now at your fingertips. It was not only direct access, it was immediate and virtually unfiltered.
And, perhaps most importantly, it was free. No longer did studios and networks have to buy precious advertising space in print media, such as newspapers and magazines, nor ad spots on television. All they needed was to get a buzz going about their film or television show and the viral campaign took off like a firestorm.
For shows like Glee, Vampire Diaries, Castle, Modern Family and Stargate: Universe nearly all the actors were suddenly on Twitter posting updates and churning the fans into a frenzy for more information about the shows and everyone involved with them.
Vampire Diaries raised the bar by having tweet-a-thons nearly every week, wherein producers and writers would live-tweet during the show to get the fans more excited and involved. Soon other shows were jumping on board and creating exclusive opportunities for fans to talk to producers, writers and actors. Suddenly, Twitter was an online hot spot and the place to be.
The next thing you knew, television bloggers were soliciting questions from the fans before interviews, and this soon escalated to live tweets during press calls with the talent. The ability to be plugged into any television show you desired was right there. Twitter had opened the doors to communication and raised the veil on what was going on.
In addition, no longer did fans have to visit multiple fan sites each day. They could simply follow their favorite celebrities and all the information about the celebs upcoming appearances, cause du Jour, daily routines, and favorite restaurants was posted right into the persons Twitter feed.
As I tried to convince friends and family to join Twitter and see how the Internet revolution had expanded into social media, I kept describing Twitter as if it was your own personal newspaper. Each person decides how to customize the information they receive, and that is all they see.
If you are a sports fiend, then just follow all the sports reporting sites, bloggers and sports figures. If you are a politico, then follow all the political sites and politicians.
And if you love entertainment, then it was easy for everyone who was anyone in Hollywood to suddenly be blogging about his or her work. It was the ultimate promotion machine. The ability to selectively choose which information sources to get updates from made Twitter the Internet worlds newspaper.
For an entertainment writer such as myself, I found I could follow hundreds of other columnists, writers, bloggers, entertainment sources and direct talent. To find out if a television show had been picked up or canceled, all I had to do was read my Twitter feed. Before Variety could put its spin on a story, I would have received a tweet from someone I was following that broke the news hours before.
The instantaneousness of it all was not only addictive, it was invaluable. It allowed entertainment commentators to pick and choose stories they needed to break and not have to rely on an e-mailed press release or competing site to break the story ahead of them.
It also gave one a sense of what was hot in the entertainment world. I could tell by reviewing my Twitter feed what actors, television shows and entertainment topics were the subjects everyone was discussing and it allowed me to tailor my articles to more current and timely television issues.
So, on a personal level, Twitter made access to people and information more immediate. It also made it easier for publicists, studios and showrunners to get immediate feedback on the success of a particular show or to assess the popularity of a certain actor or storyline. The communication door opened both ways.
Like DVRs have made Nielsen ratings somewhat obsolete, Twitter has made print media and even the news obsolete. By the time an article can be published in a newspaper or a breaking story run on the nightly news, Twitter announced it hours earlier or, in some cases, even days and weeks ahead.
With that kind of open and immediate access, the power of Twitter is unparalleled. For every celebrity abandoning Twitter because of the pressure and scrutiny it brings into their lives, a dozen more are joining the site to have more direct access to their fans, to promote their shows and products, and to join in on what is happening in the world.
As aptly described in "10 Reasons Every TV Exec Needs to Start Tweeting. Twitter is a resource that more and more television executives should be exploiting. If they are not, then they are failing to use the most influential tool on the Internet today -- for Twitter is an invitation to promote oneself, ones work or even a product. In fact, it is the one type of advertising that consumers are embracing and eagerly encouraging.
Thus, it is time to jump into the 21st century and find out what everyone is talking about. This is your chance to pull back the curtain and see if there is an all-powerful Oz pulling the levers or if it is all just as magical as it seems. Twitter has changed how we communicate and its influence only continues to grow.
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