Do you remember your first tweet? Six years is a near eternity in the social media world -- and that's the age of Twitter. People across the Internet are giving Twitter a hearty Happy Birthday.

Twitter counts more than 140 million active users and a whopping 340 million tweets a day. Twitter did the math, and that equals more than 1 billion tweets every three days. And Twitter shows no signs of slowing down -- at least not anytime soon.

Microsoft Windows announced, "Happy Birthday #Twitter!" while MTV turned the event into an occasion to dialog with its followers: "The first tweet was sent 6 years ago. How long have you been tweeting?" And Latoya Jackson got in on the celebration, tweeting "RT if you love #Twitter! I've met so many people I thought I'd never meet! Thanks Twitter!!!

Twitter's Disintermediation

Twitter has gone from a sheer microblogging tool to a cultural stethoscope. On Super Tuesday, for example, Twitter produced chart maps of conversations about each Republican presidential candidate over the course of the day, including volumes of tweets.

Brad Shimmin, an analyst at Current Analysis, said some conventions, like CompuServe in the early days of the Internet and more recently MySpace and Facebook, have become part of mainstream popular culture. Social networking sites have left an indelible mark on society in terms of how consumers think about collaborating and working with one another, he said, but Twitter has done more than that.

"Twitter hasn't just left a mark. Twitter has changed the way we view virtual life and what we think of traditional means of interacting with one another," Shimmin said. "Before Twitter there was a large distance between someone writing news and someone reading news. The people who are being interviewed and were making the news were separated from the consumer by the media."

In the past, the only way consumers had access to celebrities or prominent businessmen, government officials and athletes was through the media stories published about them. Twitter has made it possible to bypass the traditional media to learn even more about high-profile public figures.

"Twitter has come along and disintermediated the situation so you don't have to really look at media outlets as your only source of contact with the people making news," Shimmin said. "The accessibility you have to the movers and shakers in popular culture -- it's remarkable.

"They have sort of taken the whole six degrees of separation and turned it into one degree -- and that one degree is Twitter."

Marketing Impact

Of course, Twitter has also made an impact on marketing. Twitter has changed the way consumers interact with brands. Shimmin noted that companies that are active on Twitter use the microblog not just as a broadcast marketing tool but also as a way of generating business by rewarding affiliation.

"Companies that are using social media monitoring to cruise the wires for marketing opportunities are rewarding their customers for their affinity and affiliation and support, making it in the best interest of consumers to be an active participant in the process of marketing and selling the products," Shimmin said. "I don't think that existed before Facebook and Twitter."