For the Internet community, Twitter has become the standard tool to share information about our near instantaneous industry. It is the newest app that we have taken on to beta test its potential to cross-over into the mainstream.
I can comfortably ask anyone at a tech event what their Twitter name is without having to worry if they have an account. I often use this as a yardstick for adoption. When you can make a similar assumption with normal people, like you can with E-mail, Aim, and Facebook, you have a smash hit.
This is why getting normal people to adopt Twitter will be difficult:
1. “Following” is what creepy stalkers do. Normal people don't follow, they have friends.
2. The concept of online social capital is meaningless to them. They don't care about their online presence because nobody in their industry or social-circle cares. Their only concern is that embarrassing pictures don't show up when they are Googled. A massive shift in perspective needs to occur before regular people start to adopt tools that can help them cultivate that online identity as opposed to hiding it. We have an incentive to raise our online social capital, which is someth
ing the mass-market doesn't understand or care about.
3. Normal people don't want you to know “what they're doing”. Talk to any attractive girl and she'll tell you about one or two guys that can't take a hint. They don't want that person to be able to follow them and they don't want to tell that person what they're doing.
4. Getting people a regular person to use Twitter literally requires force. If it wasn't for the web-community forcing their non-tech friends to use it, I don't think it would be growing as fast as it is. In fact, Nate Westheimer and Justine Ezarik forced me to use it at SXSW because I thought it was pointless. Honestly, I agreed because I thought Justine was cute and was shocked that an Internet app had attracted what appeared to be a normal girl to use it. (I didn't know she was a video blogger at the time). This type of evnagilism is a testimate to the service and community that Twitter built, but it's only a sustainable strategy for growth if it can cross-over to regular people, and not just from geek to geek.