10 Top Twitter Users From Barack to Bieber

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Twitter didn't have a big IPO like Facebook (FB) did earlier year and didn't have an Oscar-nominated movie made about it, but at least it's a whole lot less quiet than its status-updating competitor.

Compared with Facebook, Twitter's still a little niche service. It didn't go buy Instagram earlier this year, it didn't throw Zynga ( ZNGA) and its FarmVille games under the bus last month over quarterly losses and it doesn't have a whole lot of great, extraneous features that keep changing just as users get used to them. It is, however, growing much faster than Facebook while adapting far better to the mobile world.

According to ComScore ( SCOR), Facebook's unique visitor numbers worldwide are still five times that of Twitter. Last month, Twitter ranked behind both Facebook and LinkedIn ( LNKD) in the unique visitor rankings and, back in August, was surpassed by Instagram for usage among smartphone users. Twitter's 58% growth in the last year dwarfed Facebook's 4% uptick, though, and may have had a little to do with Facebook picking up the photo and social networking services back in April.

Traffic for Twitter's top users is on the grow as well. In May 2011, Lady Gaga became the first Twitter user to reach 10 million followers Since then, 29 other brands and people joined her ranks. Since August, Instagram, Twitter en español, Adele, Snoop Dogg, Demetria Lovato and Miley Cyrus all eclipsed the 10-million-follower mark. Women dominate the list, accounting for 16 of the Top 30 seven of the top 10. Only four brands -- YouTube, Twitter, Twitter en español and Instagram -- have more than 10 million followers.

To give you some idea of just how large Twitter's Top 1% are living these days, here are the Top 10 Twitter users according to follower numbers compiled by MediaBistro:

10. Kim Kardashian
Twitter handle: @kimkardashian
Joined Twitter: March 19, 2009
Followers: 16,534,130
First tweet: March 21, 2009. "Hey guys it's Kim Kardashian! I finally signed up for Twitter! There are a few fakes so just know this is the real me!!!"

From what we can discern, this is the only entry on the list that isn't tied to any particular occupation. The most famous of the Kardashian clan has no title. She's not an actress, a singer, a talk show host, a politician. In many ways, she's more like Instagram, YouTube or the other businesses on this list and is a product of many parts and people. She's a series of reality television shows, she's a leaked sex tape with Ray J, she's a line of clothing, a name attached to credit cards, Kanye West's girlfriend. She's here not because of any particular thing Kim Kardashian has produced, but because she simply is Kim Kardashian and all the ample proportions attached to that name. Nobody else here can claim the same.

9. Shakira
Twitter handle: @shakira
Joined Twitter: June 3, 2009
Followers: 18,609,132
First tweet: June 12, 2009. "Hi guys! A little late in the game but I'm starting to figure out this whole twitter thing. Finally out of the studio for a week"

Shakira hasn't had a studio album go platinum in the U.S. since 2005. She hasn't had a single go platinum here since 2010 or chart in the Top 10 since 2007.

It doesn't matter. In the rest of the world, the Colombian pop star is still as massive as she was in her Hips Don't Lie U.S. heyday. Her last studio album, 2010's Sale el Sol, sold only 300,000 copies here. It sold 4 million worldwide. It was a similar story with 2009's She Wolf, which sold fewer than 400,000 copies here but more than 2 million around the globe. U.S. audiences will get another look at her as a judge and coach on NBC's The Voice next season, but the rest of the world has never really turned away.

8. YouTube
Twitter handle: @youtube
Joined Twitter: Nov. 13, 2007
Followers: 19,063,039
First tweet: August 28, 2008. "Follow Obama's nomination week at http://www.youtube.com/user/2008conventions"

Google's video service is the only brand in Twitter's Top 10, but that's not really surprising on a site so focused on mobile users. All of that video content reaches roughly 56% of the U.S. Internet audience, according to ComScore. That rivals Facebook's reach and outpaces heavy hitters such as Wikipedia, Amazon ( AMZN) and AOL ( AOL).

Also, take a look at that first tweet. In four years, YouTube has become a hub for U.S. political coverage as well as the site your great aunt uses to watch her cute cat videos. When you become as important to protestors in embattled countries as you are to office workers just getting around to watching Gangam Style, that's about as close to indispensable as you can get.

7. Taylor Swift
Twitter handle: @taylorswift13
Joined Twitter: Dec. 6, 2008
Followers: 20,399,623
First tweet: Dec. 6, 2008. "apologizing to a very needy cat for being gone so long."

If only that poor cat knew what was to come. Swift's time on Twitter has been like a personal timeline. She's sold close to 16 million records in that span, had seven Top 10 singles, won six Grammy Awards and one particularly memorable MTV Video Music Award that introduced "I'ma let you finish" into the American lexicon.

Even without her onstage run-in with Kanye West, Swift's given her Twitter followers quite a bit to talk about. She dated Joe Jonas of bygone pop act The Jonas Brothers from July to October 2008, Twilight actor Taylor Lautner from October to December 2009, breakup song muse John Mayer from late 2009 until early 2010, actor Jake Gyllenhaal from October 2010 to February 2011 and Kennedy Family scion Conor Kennedy from July to October of this year.

6. Britney Spears
Twitter handle: @britneyspears
Joined Twitter: Sept. 22, 2008
Followers: 21,614,348
First tweet: Oct. 10, 2008. "Welcome to Britney Spears' Twitter! Follow the latest in Britney news and get updates straight from Britney and her entourage."

Note how Swift gives fans a little glimpse into her life with her first post while Spears keeps them at arm's length behind several layers of security. This is what a decade of pop stardom, paparazzi stalkers, publicized breakdowns and breakups and parenthood can do to a person. Get ready, Taylor.

Britney's released two albums since -- with 2008's Circus going platinum and last year's Femme Fatale selling 1 million copies in the U.S. -- and has had three No. 1 singles with Womanizer, 3 and Hold It Against Me. Like her fellow blonde 2000s Disney pop contemporary Christina Aguilera, though, Spears has settled in to life as a talent judge. Fox's X Factor seems to agree with her and her Twitter numbers, even if her life isn't quite the tabloid fodder it was five years ago.

5. Barack Obama
Twitter handle: @barackobama
Joined Twitter: March 5, 2007
Followers: 21,718,786
First tweet: April 29, 2007. "Thinking we're only one signature away from ending the war in Iraq. Learn more at http://www.barackobama.com"

This handle followed the president through his first presidential nomination, his first Democratic National Convention, his first election win, his health care push, the ensuing GOP takeover of the House of Representatives, his repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and yet another successful election cycle.

The president's biggest Twitter moment didn't come until this last election night, though. His simple tweet of three words ("Four more years.") and a picture of he and his wife embracing was retweeted more than 600,000 times and was easily the most popular tweet of all time, beating a tweet sent back in September by Justin Bieber that was retweeted more than 223,000 times. There are no other politicians in Twitter's Top 30, which makes Obama somewhat of an online pop icon for trouncing the Canadian teen idol.

4. Rihanna
Twitter handle: @rihanna
Joined Twitter: Oct. 2, 2009
Followers: 26,536,437
First tweet: Oct. 13, 2009. "The Wait Is Ova. Nov 23 09"

That date's not quite as trite and meaningless as the "ova" preceding it would have you believe. That was the release date for Rihanna's album Rated R, her first since canceling a performance at the 2009 Grammy Awards after being beaten by then-boyfriend Chris Brown.

Rihanna's released a studio album each November since and has sold more than 11 million copies in that span. She had 10 singles in the Top 10 during that same period and dropped guest vocals on three other Top 10 hits. Her next release, Unapologetic, is slated for release Nov. 19, continuing a comeback that's been nothing shy of impressive considering the extremely painful and public circumstances that led to it.

3. Katy Perry
Twitter handle: @katyperry
Joined Twitter: Feb. 20, 2009
Followers: 28,605,670
First tweet: Feb. 21, 2009. "Just got into Berlin... feeling better thank you, have my vicks inhaler by my bedside... and P.S. I TWITTTTER! GAH. Such a follower!"

No, the marriage to Russell Brand didn't work out, but the rest of her career after this tweet sure did. The album she'd released a year before, One Of The Boys, went on to sell more than 3 million copies. The follow-up a year later, Teenage Dream, has sold nearly 6 million to date.

Her songs spent more than a full year in Billboard's Top 100, she's had six No. 1 singles during that span, voiced Smurfette in The Smurfs and just had her concert film Katy Perry: Part Of Me land in theaters this summer. Forget about the guy from Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Perry has a lot more to tweet about.

2. Justin Bieber
Twitter handle: @justinbieber
Joined Twitter: March 28, 2009
Followers: 29,804,326
First tweet: May 12, 2009. "Check out my single 'ONE TIME' on my myspace and spread the word for me. Thanks www.myspace.com/justinbieber"

Nope, not going to go into this Canadian pop fameball's career.

Why? Because this is a Twitter story and few people have meant as much to Twitter as Justin Bieber. He once accounted for 3% of all Twitter traffic. Twitter tweaked its trending algorithm just so non-Bieber breaking news topics would have a chance.

It's not that an 18-year-old with three albums to his credit has influenced the direction of an entire social networking site. His millions of fans have, and it made Twitter and marketers alike take notice. Don't underestimate the power of a teen pop icon.

1. Lady Gaga
Twitter handle: @ladygaga
Joined Twitter: March 26, 2008
Followers: 30,925,867
First tweet: March 27, 2008. "op rehearsing for my video just dance and am now at wmc to perform at the Armani and nervous records party. But I am no nervous record!"

Is it possible for a Twitter page to be more popular than the person it belongs to? Don't get us wrong, the life of this page covers Gaga's entire ascent: The more than 20 million albums sold, the 10 singles in the Top 10, the collaboration with Beyonce.

It's just that after the release of Born This Way last year, the $1 album debacle with Amazon, the declining sales from The Fame and The Fame Monster and the emergence of Nicki Minaj as a somewhat amped-up version of the Lady Gaga template, is Gaga really 31 million-followers big anymore? The folks attending the Born This Way Ball shows this year and next certainly seem to think so, but there are stars further down this list that appear to be shining brighter.

-- Written by Jason Notte in Boston.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Jason Notte.

>To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/notteham.

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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, the Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent. He previously served as the political and global affairs editor for Metro U.S., layout editor for Boston Now, assistant news editor for the Herald News of West Paterson, N.J., editor of Go Out! Magazine in Hoboken, N.J., and copy editor and lifestyle editor at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N.J.

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