Twitter At 5: Powerful Social Force

From modest beginnings, social networking site now respected, used by many - from from No. 1 tweeter Lady Gaga to President Obama
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(CBS)

(CBS)

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS News) - The San Francisco based, social media giant, Twitter is 5 years old today. The social network sent its first “tweet” on March 21, 2006. Since that day, Twitter has gone from an application for benign messaging to helping revolutionaries topple political regimes. As CBS News Correspondent Susan McGinnis reported on “The Early Show” Monday, it’s an anniversary many people today will be celebrating.

VIDEO: Happy Birthday Twitter!
Twitter, the popular social networking site, is now five-years-old. CBS News correspondent Susan McGinnis takes a look at Twitter’s meteoric rise.

But what was the first tweet? McGinnis reported five years ago, the social networking site Twitter launched with this humble phrase from its founder Jack Dorsey: “just setting up my twttr.”

KCBS Technology Analyst Larry Magid:

Karen North, director of online communities at the University of Southern California said, “A couple years ago nobody had heard of Twitter and now all we talk about is Twitter and social media.”

Using a computer or smart phone, users, McGinnis explained, can send text messages of 140 characters or less to a group of friends, also known as followers.

Entertainers like Lady Gaga – Twitter’s most popular user with an audience of nearly nine million – uses the site to talk directly to fans in real time. And it’s not just pop stars and the Hollywood elite using the site: President Obama is Twitter’s fourth most popular person with seven million followers. McGinnis noted, “Compare that to when President Clinton was in office: He claimed to have only sent two emails his entire time in the White House.”

North said of his account, “President Obama can use this both to say ‘Support me on this,’ or he can use it to create a sense of personal connection.”

At first, Twitter was written off by many as mundane musings on ordinary events. But today, McGinnis said, with more than 200 million users sending 140 million tweets per day, Twitter has become more powerful than anyone could have imagined.

Earlier this year, for instance, protestors in Egypt demanded the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak and used Twitter to organize their revolution.

“People can find out about an issue and take action immediately, and that’s really empowering,” North said.

McGinnis concluded, with its real-time updates and clear channel to the masses, Twitter has moved beyond its humble instant messaging past and allows its followers to document and even change history.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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