September 29, 2022

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

The Oprah Experiment

The Oprah Experiment

Congratulations. You’ve survived to read this, the 38th Social Media Blog Entry regarding Oprah’s (now impending) first Tweet.

That is, if you expect it will actually happen at her fingertips. Recently, Stephen Colbert had Twitter founder Biz Stone on the show, and sent out Tweets during the interview. Actually, he pretended to do so, and the actual tweets were sent by a staffer a few hours later, to coincide with the initial airing of the episode.

See, even when TV “gets real,” it’s still all show business.

As for me, I secretly hope Ashton Kutcher takes Oprah’s Blackberry, hijacks the password, and the first Tweet is this:

But I digress.

Yes, the onrush of celebrities to Twitter will change the network, and to a degree we’ve not yet experienced. And that will be the interesting shift that no one else is really talking about. The Grand Oprah Experiment.

We’re talking about a woman who has her own magazine. She has a book club with over two-million members. And she did it through traditional mass-media broadcast channels. No social networking, no bottom-up grassroots to it. Just a fan base.

When she splashes into Twitter, the 7-and-a-half million current users won’t feel it initially. But how will the demographic shift and sudden shift in interests change the culture? The expectations?

Personally, I don’t care. As many others will rightly point out, I get to choose who I follow based on interests, geography, and personal relevance. If a teeming horde of celebrity fans suddenly flock to the service, server strain might be my only effect.

The Grand Experiment is something bigger.

My Twitter network is one I built organically. Meet someone, converse, eavesdrop, meet new people, repeat. It’s a great way to truly network with people. As a result, my Twitter network is very thick with crossed connections. It is a web, with many of the people I chat with also chatting with others.

Oprah’s network will look like a wheel. She’s at the hub, and hundreds of thousands of freshly-minted users connected just to her. The Grand Experiment will be mining the data that develops over time, as we watch our first statistically-significant and identifiable sample of brand-new Social Media users leap into the same initial starting conditions, and watching what they do. If Oprah adds a half-million people to Twitter within a month, that will still be over six percent of the userbase.

Were you listening? Six percent of the userbase, and that’s not considering the number of inactive accounts. And they will be dropping into a pool of data with an established control group.

I laugh when people wonder about Twitter’s monetization. Ev and Biz and Jack are sitting on a goldmine of data, just waiting to be tapped. The real-time search piece is interesting to even the mighty Google, which might or might not be interested in buying again.

The deep data is coming, and it’s part of the Oprah Grand Experiment. It will be studied and dissected, and it will tell us more about the intrinsic nature of human networking than we’ve ever known. We’ll finally know the true Dunbar number, or if such a value is really applicable to Social Media. We’ll finally get a picture about how an individual’s networks evolve, because so many will come in with the same starting point. We’ll get to see where those new connections blossom, as they cross over into other social networks. And all of these findings will inform the next generation of social networks, making them smarter and more relevant to how we really use and grow.

Or maybe Oprah just breaks Twitter.

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About The Author

Jennifer Zingsheim Phillips is the Director of Marketing Communications for CARMA. She is also the founder of 4L Strategies, and has worked in communications and public affairs for more than 20 years. Her background includes work in politics, government, lobbying, public affairs PR, content creation, and digital and social communications and media analysis.

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1 Comment

    Magali Justo

    Hey – nice write-up. The thing is, Oprah and these media people haven’t tried a REAL diet. I have typically been more into the Warrior Diet. It’s natural and how we evolved to eat. Read up on it sometime and let me know what you think. Anyway… nice blog… I’m subscribed to your RSS feed now so I’ll be checking in regularly!

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