Oprah's Midas touch gives Twitter a 43% boost

Talk show queen fires off her first Tweet and brings her audience along for the ride

It seems Oprah Winfrey's Midas touch isn't limited to a talk show, her favorite brownies and surging book sales.

She has the same effect on Twitter users, according to Heather Hopkins, senior online analyst with Hitwise, U.S., a company that measures online traffic. Last Friday, the queen of daytime TV made her first Tweet - live on her own The Oprah Show. And as fate would have it, Oprah joined Twitter just days after actor Ashton Kutcher beat CNN in a much-publicized battle to be the first Twitterer to gain 1 million followers.

It was, to put it simply, a celebrity-filled week for Twitter, which was once considered a geek's best friend.

According to Hitwise, the number of U.S. visits to Twitter jumped 24% from last Thursday to last Friday, when Winfrey posted her first Tweet and Kutcher appeared on her show to discuss Twittering. Twitter visits on the day were up a robust 43% from the week earlier, Hitwise added.

And 37% of those visiting Twitter on Friday, April 17 were new visitors, reported Hopkins.

"The search term 'oprah twitter' was the Number 35 highest search term with the word 'twitter' last week and the Number 7 with 'oprah'," wrote Hopkins. "Considering that our search data is weekly and that the show only aired on Friday, this is impressive."

Last week, the Internet was abuzz with talk of whether or not all this mainstream media attention is changing Twitter. Are the likes of singer Britney Spears, Kutcher and Oprah taking the microblogging site in a different -- and arguably frivolous, nontechnology or nonbusiness -- direction?

Some longtime Twitterers may just feel like they're being punk'd.

"The attention that the competition for followers is getting is not a great thing," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst at Technology Business Research Inc. "Anyone thinking of Twitter as something useful in business or in journalism is going to be kind of put off by this."

However, in a recent interview, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone said it's natural for people to be protective of the serious Twitter community, but he predicted that the site will grow and expand to wherever its users take it.

"People talk about the Twitter community, but I think there are a lot of Twitter communities," he said, adding that there are features they could add to the site that might help ease the growing pains. "As it grows, it breaks up into many, many sub-communities. In general, I trust folks to work things out on their own."

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