Let’s face it: Stephen Fry‘s numbers on Twitter are insane.
Sure, Twittercounter will tell you he’s the #3 most followed user on the network, but the reality is that the two accounts above him – Barack Obama and CNN Breaking News – are not run by a single person. Obama’s account is in the hands of his PR team, and CNN have God knows how many people working on their Internet output.
The reality is that of all the people that do their own updates on Twitter, Fry is #1. This also, by default, makes him the #1 celebrity, as he’s, you know, famous.
Twitter has gone through enormous growth in the last 2-3 months, thanks predominately to the endorsement provided to the masses by the likes of Fry et al, but even then Stephen’s stats are pretty unbelievable. Check it out:
This is just in the last month. On January 20, Fry had 51,881 followers. As of the time of writing this post, he has 208,750. That’s a four-fold increase. In a month.
Twitter itself has around 177,756 followers. Britney Spears, who is clearly far more famous globally than Fry, and who appears to occasionally contribute to her account, is the #2 celebrity with 156,596. Lance Armstrong, at #7 overall on Twitter, has 140,332. Al Gore has 123,989, despite only getting his team to update about once per month.
(I’m gonna throw a bone to Wil Wheaton here, who, as one of the first truly famous people to use Twitter – way back on June 14, 2008 – has 109,406 followers, and ranks #13 overall.)
But why? What is it about Fry that has made him of such appeal to the Twittersphere? And what manner of celebrity would it take to catch, and dare we say, pass him?
First, we need to consider the resources at Stephen’s disposal. Why exactly is he famous? It’s because of his brain. Fry is considered, one could possibly argue, one of the true great British brains. This, plus his weekly appearances on QI, as well as his comedic history in such celebrated shows as Blackadder, and his well-documented and quite public battles with depression, has made him a much-loved British icon.
Which got me thinking: is it therefore, then, safe to assume that Fry’s phenomenal growth on Twitter in the last month mostly down to an influx of British members of the site? According to Twittergrader.com, London is now the number one city cited by users as their location on the site.
It’s probably fair to say that a lot of Stephen’s recent boost in follow count is from British users either coming to Twitter for the first time – on the back of the huge push by most of the British press – or from established users looking to get on the bandwagon a bit. There’s been a bit of a backlash of late, which was always going to happen (and will continue to do so – hence the point of this web site), but while Fry’s follow count only reflects about 3.5 per cent of the estimated Twitter user base, it’s a fair bet that most of the prominent ones follow him.
Fry has made the most of this relatively new phenomenon, Tweeting with great regularity and connecting and engaging with many of his followers. To his credit, he has followed some 54,377 people himself, and really up until things started going completely mental had a following/followers ratio of not much less than 1:1. And because he chose to actively take part, and not just sit back and soak up the attention (like so many celebrities on Twitter), he no doubt has played a great part himself in his own success.
So: what do we have? A popular, already well-liked and intelligent comic who not only placed himself on Twitter, but engaged fully in the network and gave quite a lot back to the little people. Obviously Stephen writes well, and this goes a long way. Compare his average Tweet with somebody like Britney Spears or Mike Skinner. I mean, Twitter as a concept endorses the idea of the mundane update, but there’s a limit, you know? (In many ways, it’s become a great leveller of the celebrity; humanising them as we become shockingly aware how many of them cannot separate ‘your’ from ‘you’re’ and ‘their’ from ‘there’).
So, to at last get to the point: if one assumes that all the celebrities currently active on Twitter are not going to catch Fry, is there anybody out there in the big, bad world of fame that could?
Here’s five we think have half a chance, in reverse order:
5. Angelina Jolie
We’ll start off with a bit of a long-shot. Chances are that Jolie can’t write worth a damn, but… she’s so pretty. Plus, she’s arguably the most closely-tracked celebrity on the planet. You can’t really see it happening, but if she signed on to Twitter, and was, you know, a winning combination of smart and sassy, she’d be beating ’em all off with a stick.
4. James Cameron
Why the King of the World and not fellow super-directors, George Lucas or Steven Spielberg? Simple: Cameron hasn’t yet really fucked up. As much as we all hated Titanic, it still scooped eleven Oscars and enough money to hold off the global economic meltdown for eleven years. Cameron’s upcoming Avatar is earning major geek heat. The only other director who might be able to rival Cameron’s follow count is Peter Jackson.
3. JK Rowling
The Harry Potter books have sold more than 400 million copies. If Rowling could translate just 0.1 per cent of that into a Twitter following, she’d go straight to the #1 spot. Don’t laugh: you know it’s a distinct possibility.
2. Stephen King
About the only person in the world who sells as many books as Rowling and who has arguably a more devoted fan-base is the King of horror himself. King has been resistant to all forms of social networking in the past – according to his official site, he doesn’t even have a Facebook account – but, you know, times change. If Twitter becomes as mainstream as it appears it may well do, he’d be a fool to ignore it.
1. Jon Stewart
There’s a long-established Fake Jon Stewart account on Twitter but, as far as we know, the real deal himself is an absentee. Stewart is aware of the network, as he’s joked about it in the past, and if there was anyone who was for all intents and purposes the American equivalent of Fry, it’s him. He’s adored in the USA – heck, he’s adored worldwide – and possesses the right mixture of wit and charm. Of course, if it turns out he writes like a moron, or has a team do all of his updates for him, all bets are off.
We’ll come back in a year or so and see if we got it right. Meantime, who do you think has a chance to leap-frog Stephen Fry and hit that coveted #1 slebspot?