What could Alyssa Milano teach Michelle Obama? A lot when it comes to Twitter.
The 'Who's the Boss' child-star has over 1.8 million followers making her one of the most powerful women on Twitter. The first lady, who just joined the 140 character universe this week, has some catching up to do.
Four years after the social networking site took hold of the internet, Mrs. O made her Twitter debut on the account run by her military families initiative @joiningforces. Video of the event was retweeted by her staff @michellenews, which boasts a paltry 73,000 followers, compared to Milano.
Here's what the first lady wrote: "Military Families serve our nation too. Let's all show our appreciation by #JoiningForces with them. Get involved: JoiningForces.gov-mo." At least three staffers assisted her in the process, as she asked questions like "So now I just press tweet?"
There seems to be a disconnect between the world's most powerful women in real life-the policy makers, media moguls, philanthropists and C.E.O's- and those leading ladies who dominate Twitter. Some of the most powerful women in the world according to Forbes? Michelle Obama, Oprah, Hillary Clinton, Sheryl Sandberg, Melinda Gates. Compare those names to the the ones that top Twitter's most powerful list: think Milano, Kim Kardashian and VH1 celebreality star Adrienne Curry.
"I wouldn't know a Twitter from a tweeter," Hillary Clinton said in 2009. Though she does have an account, it's never been her strong suit. When she first joined, she was chided for following a sum total of zero people (a major Twitter faux-pas).
But Clinton and even newbie, Michelle Obama, are ahead of the game compared to some of their fellow Forbes list-makers. Kraft CEO Irene Rosenfeld and Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi, don't appear to even have active accounts at the moment.
And the two women who do have strong links to new media, Melinda Gates and Facebook C.O.O Sheryl Sandberg aren't nearly as active as, say, Lady Gaga. Gates just joined in September and Sandberg joined in 2009 but she's only updated five times since her first tweet.
Oprah, once pegged the 'queen of all media', fumbled when she joined the site in late 2009. By then, there was already an established celebrity etiquette that the talk show queen didn't understand. "Oprah blasted out a well-intended message to everyone but wasn't really listening back," the New York Times' Nick Bilton wrote of her early foray which involved little interaction with users. Almost three years later, she's figured out how to work the operation, increasing her engagement and updates considerably.
Tweeting is a skill that takes time. While the women who were running the world were running the world, the women who weren't were exploring the site's potential. Now there's a clumsy catch-up period, something we're not used to witnessing from the world's leading influencers.
All of the women on the Forbes list are over 40, which may point to a generation gap. But it's more cultural, than technological. To be a Twitter star: you need to update constantly like it's your job because, for many competitors on the site, it is. You also need to engage in arguments, expose personal insights (particularly about your love life) and occasionally write things that infuriate the general public.
It's not a strategy tailor-made for powerful women raised on the principal that too much vulnerability shows weakness. Poise in the face of pressure and a certain level of guardedness are important attributes for those who broke the glass ceiling before the advent of Twitter.
But in the 140 character universe, it's just the opposite. Outrageous and unhinged behavior rises to the top of the Twitter heap. It doesn't matter if you're down-and-out, young or old, as long as you bare your soul (especially when you've had too much to drink.)
Take for example 57-year-old Twitter newcomer Ellen Barkin. She just joined this month, only days before Mrs. O, but she's already collecting followers by the truckload. Between her obsessive updates, her constant cursing and her tweets to fellow famous people, she's just jumped to the head of the adult Tw-education class.
Is that a good thing? Maybe for her, but it wouldn't work for everyone. Imagine if the first lady pulled a Barkin and tweeted : "G'morn frenz, noticed sum if u tweeted @ me this morn...DO I F----- SOUND LIKE SUMONE WHO WAKES UP AT 8:30??? Shut the f--- up!!!"
For that reason alone, Michelle O may never be as popular as Barkin in the Twitter-verse, and that's okay. For the most powerful women in the real world, those pre-internet rules about over-sharing still apply...at least for now.