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Prolific Tweeters and Twitter Quitters Revealed in Recent Research
A recent Harvard Business study about how Twitter is being used reveals that 10% of its user base is responsible for 90% of tweets. It surprised me that, for all its popularity and apparent ubiquity, Twitter is largely made up of a community of observers. While the prolific few are making their impact felt through their mini-blogs (otherwise known as “tweets”), the rest are resigned to be “followers." For an emerging social network, this struck me as odd. Wouldn’t all the early adopters be using the network to connect with others… and connect often? This study suggests that’s not the case. It does, however, point to a receptive community of information consumers on Twitter.
Tweet it, and they will come? Could it really be that simple to tweet your way to a loyal following? Probably not. No one said it would be easy, but it is more than possible. Building a network of followers in Twitter takes time. First, it requires a consistent stream of tweets to build your twitter persona, brand, or company presence. More importantly, it requires content. Interesting, informative, educational and relevant content. The only way to attract new followers (and keep the ones you already have) is to post interesting content that will motivate followers to sign in and read your latest tweet.
Other research, conducted earlier this year by Nielsen, points to retention problems among Twitter’s user base. In any given month, the percentage of users who come back to their Twitter accounts is a meager 40 percent. Nielsen compared these retention rates with data from other social networking giants while they were emerging networks (as Twitter is now). What they found was that both Facebook and MySpace had much larger retention rates during their early adoption years. Even today, both Facebook and MySpace remain at 70 percent in terms of monthly user retention.
Combined, the two studies suggest the following:
- Twitter has become a 140-character (or less) editorial outlet, with 10 percent of its users authoring content while the remainder sign in to consume that content. Short and to the point, its content is best suited for the techno-savvy set, who use the Internet professionally and as their primary source for news.
- Because it has evolved into more of a one-to-many publishing service, Twitter is experiencing user retention issues. Those who signed up to find out what all the tweeting was about were disappointed when it didn’t feel as much like the peer-to-peer portal they’d thought it was. These users see the premise of the platform (i.e., it’s intended for mini-blogging, and that’s about it) as a limitation.
There are some other very interesting stats about demographic data in the Harvard research (tracking gender preferences, who’s following whom, etc.) but I was struck more by the fact that Twitter seems to be evolving into an editorial platform. Iran’s recent electoral process was evidence of this. As the media coverage of the protesters was squashed by the regime, individuals used Twitter posts from their mobile phones to keep the world informed.