Twitter Virus Gripping Media, But For How Long?

imageWe may still be waiting for the media’s feared swine flu pandemic to materialise, but there’s one awful virus that’s truly spreading in to the mainstream. Catapulted by attention brought from users like Philip Schofield and Jonathan Ross, Twitter, which once appealed only to early-adopter geeks, is now beginning to gain acceptance as a populist platform for mass media engagement.

It’s not just that you can barely move on Twitter recently without Beverley Knight telling you she’s on her period or Gail Porter talking about her ex. With Twitter’s mainstreaming, there are signs it’s becoming a real media participation channel, just like SMS itself.

Increasingly, it’s not just forward-thinking brands like Current that are integrating microblogging with their programming; nor just ITV (LSE: ITV), which is courting tweeting Primeval fans. In the latest examples…

— The English rugby fraternity is trying to create a community from the service, letting fans at this Saturday’s Guinness Premiership Final tweet messages to Twickenham’s big screens before kick-off and at half-time.
Channel 4 is encouraging viewers to tweet questions to surgeons as they perform operations on live TV (err, risky?).
— The government, hiring a new tsar to better connect with citizens through all kinds of digital media, has been quickly lambasted for appointing a “Twittercrat”.

But how much are such experiments just attempts at getting attention simply by allying oneself with the zeitgeist, the “T” word? And how likely is it that the service will become part of our shared engagement infrastructure? Twitter’s adoption curve right now is currently at that sweet spot where there is only momentum and the future is looking only brighter. But that’s happened before with blogs and social networks more generally. How long before the media move on to the next hot thing… ?

(Disclosure: I compiled a National Consumer Council report, Advocacy 2.0, that helped inform the Power Of Information paper which led to the government’s director of digital engagement appointment)