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Twitter Celebrities: Power vs Noise

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"I just think its amazing that 1 voice can now be as powerful at [sic] an entire media network. thank you twitter!" -Ashton Kutcher on Twitter, April 13, 2009.

After only 3 months, actor Ashton Kutcher is nearing his goal of amassing 1 million Twitter followers. Of the 14 million Twitter user accounts, Britney Spears and her team of microbloggers sit at #2 in popularity with over 880,000 followers. Over half of the top 20 most-followed Twitterers are actors, athletes, or musicians.

Impressive growth for these celebs, but are they really as powerful as an entire media network? A quick read of Kutcher's Twitter page shows posts on his goal of beating CNN to be #1 in the follower race, his promise to "ding dong ditch" Ted Turner's house if he does, and a few interesting links and random thoughts. There's limited dialogue and of the 850,000 people following him he's following only 69 in return. As with many celebs on Twitter, Kutcher is missing the mark.

Power and influence are measured by who's listening. It has nothing to do with the number of people in shouting distance. With Twitter it's easy to click "follow" and if you're like most users you'll end up with many people, including complete strangers, following you. But who's actually reading your updates? That's the true measure. There's no Twitter tool to address this yet but there are 3 clear steps on how to boost that number.

1. Add Value. Every tweet doesn't have to be as newsworthy as Charlie Villaneuva's inside basketball scoop or Janis Krums' famous "there's a plane in the Hudson" TwitPic, but a quick glimpse of your twitstream should add some value to the reader's day. Even in our celeb-crazed culture, the novelty of seeing a famous person's random thoughts eventually fades.

2. Follow your Followers. Whole Foods, Zappos, and Starbucks get it. Guy Kawasaki and Robert Scoble get it. And of course, the Obama team gets it. They all follow their followers, opening up an immediate 2-way channel. Remember the thrill of having the Obama campaign following you on Twitter?

3. Reply. Twitter is a 2-way communication tool, not a soapbox. Reply, retweet, and link valuable or interesting posts.

Twitter represents the easiest and fastest celebrity platform on the web today. As more and more people recognize its potential, the ones that follow these guidelines will ultimately attract, entertain and inform the largest audiences.