Profile of Twitter Users

The Pew Internet and American Life Project just released a study “Twitter and Status Updating, Fall 2009” two days ago (October 21, 2009).  The report provides interesting information about social network users.  Twitter traffic exploded over the last year, going from about 2 million unique visitors per month in December 2008 to over 17 million in May 2009.  According to the study, 19% of internet users use Twitter or another service to share updates about themselves, or to see updates about others.  This represents a significant increase in its earlier finding in April 2009 when just 11% of internet users were using a status-update service.  Additionally, the study points out that the growth of Twitter is being driven by three groups of internet users:  “social network Web site users, those who connect to the Internet via mobile devices, and younger Internet users–those under age 44.”

It is interesting to learn that whether or not a user is on other social networks determines their willingness to use a service like Twitter.  The Pew study found that internet users who use social network sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, or MySpace are more likely to use Twitter or another status updating service.  Thirty-five percent of internet users who have profiles on MySpace, Facebook, or LinkedIn also have profiles on Twitter. The study also found that just 6% of internet users who do not use these social networks are on Twitter.

According to the Pew study, wireless access is an independent factor in predicting whether someone uses Twitter or another status update service.  Fifty-four percent of internet users have a wireless connection to the Web in September 2009. Of this group, 25% use Twitter or another status-update service, up from 14% wireless users in December 2009. However, only 8% of internet users who rely exclusively on tethered access use Twitter or another service, up from 6% in December 2008.  Perhaps, the mobile Web users are more likely to tweet since they have wireless access.

In addition, the study indicated that the more Web-connected devices a user has, the more likely they are to tweet.  Thirty-nine percent of Internet users with four or more Internet-connected devices (such as a laptop, cell phone, game console, or Kindle) use Twitter, compared to 28% of Internet users with three devices, 19 percent of Internet users with two devices, and 10 percent of Internet users with one device.

The Pew study showed that young people flock to Twitter.  Internet users in age between 18 and 44 are more likely than older users to use Twitter or another status update service.  According to the study, the median age of a Twitter user is 31 and has remained stable over the past year.  Both MySpace and LinkedIn have gotten younger users.  The median age for MySpace is now 26, down from 27 in May 2008 and the median age for LinkedIn is now 39, down from 40.  However, Facebook users are getting older, upping its median age to 33, from 26 in May 2008.

Do you use any social networks?  Do you own any mobile Web-connected devices?  How do you fit into the Pew study?  Do you agree with the results mentioned in this report?  Please feel free to share your comments here.

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About Steve Yuen

I am a Professor Emeritus of Instructional Technology and Design at The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, United States.
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2 Responses to Profile of Twitter Users

  1. itjil says:

    I will be the first to admit that I thought Twitter was a completely stupid idea. I thought people just talked about themselves all day. Now that I use twitter, I am not sure how I did without it. I mainly use it for professional development and for design inspiration.

    I use tweetdeck so I can search several keywords in different columns and keep up with people I follow closely with lists.

    As far as the study goes, I find the results quite interesting. I do not see many kids on twitter. Most of the people I follow are my age (old enough to know better) or older.

    I rarely if ever tweet using my phone. I tweet from my desktop or netbook most of the time.

    I am on several different social networking sites, and I think I own at least 4 portable devices with internet connectivity (netbook, laptop, blackberry, iPod).

    In my opinion, Twitter is much like an information overload one stop shop open 24 hour a day, 7 days a week. Once you have a network of people you follow and people who follow you, answers to any questions you may have can appear in seconds. If you need resources for research, just tweet and the information pours in.

    In any case, I think Twitter is only useful when used this way and for keeping up with an event in the news or a conference recap. The people I follow aren’t telling me that they are eating a pickle in front of Wal-mart or anything like that. They are providing good information about their expertise and I try to do the same.

  2. davidsmora says:

    I found the Pew study “Twitter and Status Updating, Fall 2009” to be very interesting and informative. As an avid user of several social networks (including Facebook, Geni, LinkedIn, MySpace, Ning and Twitter), I’m not surprised that young Internet users and social networking Web site users make up a significant part of Twitter’s community. In my experience, joining Twitter has given me several unique opportunities. For example, I can “follow” numerous prominent musicians, actors and famous people and read what they’re working on. It is also common for these celebrities to ask fans for their input (e.g. what single should my band release next or what did you think of this week’s episode of my show). As a result, fans have a new, interactive way to communicate with people they may never meet. I also use Twitter for catch up on the news. Since I’m not a big fan of reading a traditional newspaper, I enjoy be able to choose which stories I want to read. Specifically, I follow Nolanews (who partners with The Times Picayune, a New Orleans area newspaper) and can receive updates via my computer or cell phone. As I stated earlier, it’s not very surprising that young people are communicating in this new and innovative way.

    The Pew study brought up some really intriguing findings. For example, I thought it was interesting that wireless access has such a significant effect in predicting which users would join Twitter. Since Twitter isn’t terribly complex (content wise), I would think people with dial-up Internet access would be just as likely to join the site. However, as Dr. Yuen stated, the popularity of wireless Internet-enabled mobile devices could be the swing factor in this finding. Personally, I usually tweet via my T-Mobile MyTouch Android phone; it’s an easy way to tell the world what I’m doing at the moment. Additionally, I believe tweeting by mobile phone is very convenient especially for people who have a busy lifestyle. Another interesting finding was that users that had more Internet-connected devices were more likely to tweet. Again, the large availability of web connected cell phones could be a big factor in this conclusion.

    Overall, I think future research will indicate that Twitter will continue to grow. I believe more young people will join this site as it becomes a staple in world culture. As social networking sites become compatible with each other (e.g. Facebook and Twitter, etc.), existing users will “cross over” to other social networking sites. It certainly will be interesting to watch what happens with Twitter in the near future.

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