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Finally, a look at the people who use Twitter

The days of “I don’t get Twitter” may soon pass. Tweets are now a form of self-expression among connected consumers and it is this connected generation that continues to grow in size and influence year over year. Much in the same way that TXTing is a natural form of common conversation, even if it’s a norm that’s outside of the world as you know it—Twitter is reflective of how millions of people are connecting and communicating.

Over the years, Twitter has become a human seismograph measuring world events, popular culture, everyday sentiment,while providing a lens into every nuance that captivates our attention. What was once a Twitter paradox is now part of our digital culture. Everyday people who are connected to Twitter become the  nodes and their shared experiences form one of the most efficient information networks in the world.

At the end of 2011, we learned that over 100 million people were active on Twitter and that top top three counties, U.S., Brazil and Japan alone accounted for over 175 million daily Tweets.

But to what extent is Twitter serving as an extension of real world self-expression? How has Twitter truly permeated our society? To answer these questions and more, Pew released a new internet study focused solely on Twitter.

Twitter is literally soaring. Adoption among internet users more than doubled between November 2010 and February 2012. Now more than 15% of all people in the U.S. who use the internet also Tweet or at least roam the Twitterverse. Additionally, 8% of all U.S. internet users are active on Twitter every day.

Pew’s study also explored who uses Twitter to give us a better idea of the people behind the Tweets.

As you can see, Twitter usage according to Pew is almost even among men and women, with women edging slightly ahead. Just over one quarter (26%) of internet users ages 18-29 use Twitter. Most notably, those 18-29  represents nearly double the usage rate for those ages 30-49. Pew also found that among the youngest internet users, those ages 18-24, 31% are active Twitter users.

Pew learned that black internet users continue to use Twitter at remarkably high rates. More than one quarter of online African-Americans (28%) use Twitter with 13% doing so on a typical day. Hispanic users ranked as the second most active race on Twitter at 14%. Interestingly, residents of urban and suburban areas are far more likely to use Twitter than those in rural America.

Pew discovered that Twitter use among those 18-24 year old increased dramatically between May 2011 and February 2012, both overall and on an everyday basis. Usage among slightly older adults, those between the age of25-34, also doubled—from 5% in May 2011 to 11% in February 2012.

Generation-C  is not bound by age, but by connectedness. Either in or within grasp, Twitter users and those who use smart phones are eventually becoming one. As of this survey, Pew discovered that one in five smartphone owners (20%) are Twitter users, with 13% using the service on a typical day.

Millennials are born with digital DNA and smart phones are a physical extension of their being. 18-24 are not only the fastest growing group of Twitter adopters over the last year, they also represent the largest increase in smartphone usage of any demographic group over the same time period.

Additionally, mobile users between 18-24 are more likely than older generations of cell owners to use Twitter. One in five 18-24 year old cell owners (22%) use Twitter on their phones, and 15% do so on a typical day. Following true to typical internet usage, African Americans and Latinos also stand out as heavy mobile Twitter users. Pew also noted that these two demographic groups have high rates of smartphone ownership.

As Twitter becomes part of our digital  lifestyle, we become increasingly elusive. Twitter is a reflection of our society and what captivates online and offline. With everything we share, we contribute to a searchable human index that forms a repository of collective experiences and expressions. We are both patrons of Twitter as well as its architects and librarians. We can learn anything and everything we wish about today’s connected consumer, but everything begins with the desire to learn. Once we do, Twitter’s role in our digital society will help us learn how behavior is evolving. And for those who choose to not just listen, but also analyze Tweets, demographics and psychographics, the ability to compete for relevance will be a proactive rather than a reactive venture.

Connect with me: Twitter | LinkedIn | Facebook | Google+

The End of Business as Usual is officially here…

Note: two variations of smart phone and smartphone are used for keyword purposes

69 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Finally, a look at the people who use Twitter”

  1. Victor says:

    Twitter is reflective of how millions of people are connecting and communicating.

  2. Stephan says:

    Images not loading….., can someone fix it??

    ps. gr8 article!

  3. Excellent data and very helpful to businesses who want to use Twitter to market their products or services. Keep it coming.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I found this fascinating – I’m quite a geek at heart so I just love a bit of number crunching.  Do you think there is any relatively easy way for us average Joe media managers to get a feel for who our Twitter audience is?  The account I manage is aimed at teachers, and I have done analysis of the make up of teachers worldwide but I think that my Twitter followers are unrepresentative.  But that is just a gut feeling.  How would I go about find out otherwise?  

  5. This data is very interesting.  It’s been intriguing to see how Twitter changes the way people receive news.  WSJ just ran an article today about how social media has completely turned the Olympics on its head — and how NBC is helpless to stop the spoiler alerts from posting all over Twitter (and this is only adding fuel to the “NBC-won’t-show-the-Olympics-live”-fire).  It will be interesting to see what studies will show about how people are receiving news, and maybe how the news media can better utilize social media to their advantage.

    WSJ Article: Olympic Hurdle: Using Social Media

  6. I STILL marvel at the level of Black Twitter usage as compared to White & Hispanic. This is the third time Ive seen these types of differences, and the third time I’ve wondered about the true cause. Speaking about it with friends in the industry, I’ve heard some very good hypotheses, but I’m not aware of any study that sought to identify the cause of the higher adoption rate among Blacks. Comments? Ideas? Theories? Data?

  7. teedubya says:

    I’m in the 9% of 34-44 and in the 7% white and I’m male… I’m rare! Like some twitter unicorn!

    Great article, Brian. I agree with being proactive, I use tools like SimplyMeasured, SocialBro and others to really dive into twitter export data. It’s fascinating stuff.

  8. Brian,

    Thanks for the very interesting look inside Twitter. I fall within the 45-54 category and found the “Twitter Adoption by Age 2011-2012” most compelling. My age bracket flat lined between ’11-’12 at 9%. Most compelling was the fact that there seemed to be very little growth, and some attrition, across all categories between 2011-2012. Any ideas why the slowed growth from ’11 to ’12?

  9. Great summary and observations of the PEW Twitter study, Brian! Twitter is my first and true love when it comes to social media. It’s evolved from a microblogging platform to a now engine with a heart and pulse, too. When I whip out my smartphone and tap on my mobile Twitter app, I plug into my part of humanity – the connected, the eye witnesses who Tweet history as it’s happening, the reporters who find the Tweets and then start reporting to the rest of the world, the curators who weave the Web more tightly than ever before, the have’s and have not’s, women, men and all points of views. Twitter is the brain of humanity. Sometimes not so smart but sometimes brilliant, never asleep and always, always thinking, er, Tweeting.

  10. Maria says:

    Excellent data that you have provided, I will sure do alot of re evaluating as far as my twitter usage goes about. Great Post!

  11. What about other countries? What about Europe? All these numbers are always U.S internet users U.S this and that. It would be interesting to see how many users are in Europe, what is the biggest “Twitter country” in Europe?

  12. Interesting data. Thanks for sharing

  13. Stanley Rao says:

    Thank you for providing a deep look inside twitter.. enjoyed reading the post

  14. @CarlyAmbition says:

    Fantastic insight Brian! would love to see some number crunching re: global Twitter use, particularly Europe. we’re based in the UK, so I look forward to reading your next post on this subject…

  15. Gramma says:

    Thx for the data – from a rare, almost 65 yr old, tweeting on my cell phone.

  16. rmsorg says:

    Such great data shared here that can help so many brands to gage trends, likes and dislikes of those desired consumers!

    I have noticed more of my daughters (18 years old) friends active on twitter, so this data just re-affirms what I am witnessing on a daily basis. Thanks for sharing Brian!


  17. Other day I read that G+ was already at 250 million.. surprising that Twitter isn’t higher than what you’re showing here. The demographic breakdowns are always interesting – who’s using mobile, ages, income – but I want a more rounded profile of people.

    Who’s following whom, how many? What does the typical – aka non-marketing/PR/SM type – user look like? How many ‘typical’ user-profiles are there? What % of their follows are brands, news, other people? What/why are they tweeting? I want to know more of the day-in-the-life of the user; i.e. I know a lot of younger people have jumped to Twitter to talk w/ friends – b/c they can do so anonymously, which is to say their parents aren’t following them there. This is the kind of intel that yes will help us compete for relevance. FWIW.

  18. Count me as one of the ones who doesn’t “get twitter”. It strikes me as a tremendously boring, useless, and pointless waste of time.

  19. Kelly P King says:

    I think it is the efficiency of Twitter that makes it so attractive and useful. Personally and professionally one can make fast connections with key content.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Nice post.

  21. I find Twitter to be a fantastic “what’s going on” source. During the Bastrop fires here in Texas last year I was able to “follow” the tweets of individuals who were emergency responders. Those there in the action were giving immediate information about where the fires were spreading, which roads were being closed off, etc. That’s when I realized that Twitter can be very useful to the attentive insurance agent. We were able to warn particular clients we knew that were in the area with the info. The news stations’ broadcasts giving the same info was at least 20 minutes behind Twitter posts. 20 minutes is very valuable if you’re quickly packing up your family to evacuate. My suggestion: forget what is trending- find dependable Twitter accounts and follow them, same with Lists.

  22. onboard says:

    Team USA basketball (men) many NBA/NFL/MLB players tweet. a lot!
    these guys have big followings…
    jus sayin

  23. I’m a tad confused. Your copy says “20% of all people in the U.S. who use the internet also Tweet” but the actual data says 15%. Can you clarify which one is correct, or if I’m misunderstanding something altogether.

  24. jenniferp says:

    I love this line: “Interestingly, residents of urban and suburban areas are far more likely to use Twitter than those in rural America.”

    I’m from a small town (a couple hundred people with no traffic light) and it’s not surprising (or interesting) at all, from my experience. A number of people back home still aren’t using smart phones, to say nothing of the high percentage who aren’t even on Facebook. On one side of my family – about 50 people, including aunts/uncles, cousins, siblings – about 65 percent still live within that same small town. All together, it’s a split of about 60/40, those on Facebook versus those not. I’m the only one on Twitter.

    This is anecdotal but my thought is that in much the same way that small towns tend to be behind most trends, we’ll continue to seem them lacking the areas of social media. This is due to both access and purpose – for example, how does Yelp help you decide where to eat with the next town over only has chain restaurants and you can ask your friends about their experience?

    In many measurements of ‘success’ – school performance, earning potential, abuse, access to healthy food – rural communities match urban cores. When using the definition of ‘urban’ above, are we talking about the trend of 20/30-somethings who live in the city, or the urban core who lack access?

    • Jennifer, lack of Twittering in rural markets is probably tied 70-80% to 3G coverage issues; 2G being too slow for robust and ubiquitous data consumption. Here’s the FCC mapping data (pretty pathetic): I believe that the all you can eat voice plans of the late 1990s and last decade played a major role in disincentivizing carriers to invest in broadband. With data caps and the retail price of data priced at $10-$30 per gig on average, I think that will change. No one is talking about this at present. The economics for broadband wireless coverage in rural markets look a lot more promising in the coming decade.

  25. I am not getting the percentage of the stats. Care to explain. I am referring to the table “Who uses Twitter”.. looking for your feedback. I can’t get the numbers to add..

  26. I agree with your blog 100%. Twitter is becoming more and more popular than ever. You can search for athletes, actors, and artists, all will most likely have a twitter account. Although there are many people on Facebook i believe twitter is slowly but surely going to take the number one spot for social media sites.

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