In the South Bend Twitterverse, Notre Dame basketball standout Skylar Diggins leads the city's mayor in followers by the thousands, but Mayor Pete Buttigieg has a steady following, at least outnumbering a mysterious fake mayoral account with its own take on the news.
With millions of registered Twitter users worldwide, the social media site allows participants to share thoughts with those who choose to follow their account. Such messages -- a maximum of 140 characters -- are called tweets and are picked up on smart phones and computers.
It is a medium where an account can explode in an instant -- such as the case of Katherine Webb, girlfriend of Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron, whose account gained nearly 100,000 followers in the immediate hours after ESPN's Brent Musburger made highly criticized comments about her attractiveness during the BCS National Championship game this month.
Thoughtless tweets can cause a national stir, like when backup Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones tweeted in October: "Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain't come to play SCHOOL classes are POINTLESS."
He did not dress for the following football game.
Former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o was trending on Twitter -- meaning he was one of the most tweeted about topics at the time -- almost immediately Jan. 16 following the breaking news of the girlfriend hoax.
Twitter is widely used by news organizations, politicians, athletes and other celebrities, and also has engendered many fake accounts meant for parody.
South Bend is no exception to this, offering a microcosm of local officials, news sites and athletes amassing followers and transmitting information, while also inspiring fake accounts.
On a routine afternoon this month, Buttigieg tweeted from his desktop computer a congratulations to the South Bend Fire Department for a year free of fire fatalities.
With a little more than 1,500 followers, Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) said he uses the medium (one that he said took awhile to warm up to) to communicate with city residents and tell the rest of the world about South Bend, while adding followers nearly every day.
"Skylar Diggins has me beat," he said jokingly, referring to her more than 289,000 followers.
Buttigieg said his account is a blend of personal and official. He tweets news items, information about city events and developments, and tries to respond to residents who reach out via Twitter.
It's also a way to see what others are saying about South Bend, he said.
He tracks the hashtag #SouthBend to get a feel for what's going on in the city -- a method of learning about incidents like power outages and local events. (The pound sign, called a hashtag on Twitter, groups topics.)
"Every day I'll hit the little connect button to see who is tweeting about us," Buttigieg said.
Another Twitter-savvy local official is Jeff Rea (@Jeff_Rea), president and CEO of the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce and former mayor of Mishawaka.
"It's kind of interesting. Being an old guy, I can remember migrating into e-mail and migrating into text messages, for example, and migrating into using Facebook and migrating into Twitter," the 43-year-old said.
He talked enthusiastically about adopting Twitter to communicate with the community about the community, saying he prefers Twitter over Facebook.