Nearly one in five (19%) online Americans now uses Twitter or a similar service to post and share updates about themselves, or to see updates about others, according to the latest survey data from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
This figure represents a significant increase over previous surveys that reported on Twitter use. Research in in December 2008 and April 2009 from Pew found that only 11% of internet users preported using a status-update service, while a similar study by Harris Interactive in March/April of 2009 found that number to be even lower, at 5%.
Key demographics of Twitter users:
SocNet, Mobile Users, Younger Demos Drive Growth
In addition to outlining the basic demographics of Twitter users, Pew also reported that there are three groups of online Americans who are primarily responsible for driving the growth of status-updating activities: social network website users, those who connect to the internet via mobile devices, and younger internet users (which Pew defines as those under age 44).
- Social Network Users: The study found that internet users who already use social network sites such as MySpace, Facebook or LinkedIn are also likely to tweet (35%), compared with just 6% of internet users who do not use such social network sites.
Statistical analysis of the Pew Internet Project’s September 2009 survey data also reveals that internet users who use social networking sites are more likely to use Twitter or another status updating service, independent of other factors such as that group’s relative youth or propensity to go online via mobile devices.
- Mobile Internet Users: As of September 2009, 54% of internet users have a wireless connection to the internet via a laptop, cell phone, game console or other mobile device, Pew said. Of those, 25% use Twitter or another similar service, up from 14% of wireless users in December 2008. By comparison, 8% of internet users who rely exclusively on tethered access use Twitter or another service, up from 6% in December 2008.
Statistical analysis in this case also shows that wireless access is an independent factor in predicting whether someone uses Twitter or another status update service. It is not simply because this group is likely to be young or tech-savvy, Pew said. Owning and using a wireless internet device makes an internet user significantly more likely to tweet.
Moreover, the more the more devices someone owns, the more likely he or she is to use Twitter or another service to provide status updates. Fully 39% of internet users with four or more internet-connected devices (such as a laptop, cell phone, game console or Kindle) use Twitter, compared with 28% of internet users with three devices, 19% of internet users with two devices and 10% of internet users with only one device.
- Younger Internet Users: Age is another strong, independent predictor for use of Twitter and other status-updating services, the study found. Despite the fact that comScore reported in the spring of 2009 that younger users – those defined in that study as those under 35 – are less likely to tweet than those in the older demographics, the latest Pew numbers reveal that ages 18-44 year-olds report rapid uptake of Twitter over the last nine months, whereas internet users ages 45+ report slower adoption rates. Some 37% of internet users ages 18-24 now use Twitter or another service, up from 19% in December 2008.
The median age of a Twitter user is 31, which has remained stable over the past year. The median age for a MySpace user is now 26, down from 27 in May 2008, and the median age for LinkedIn is now 39, down from 40. Facebook, however, is graying a bit: the median age for this social network site is now 33, up from 26 in May 2008.
Independent Activity Harder to Track
Despite the specific Twitter data that was captured for this study, the Pew Center did note that it will likely become more difficult to track status updating as an independent activity as more social network updates feed into Twitter and vice versa.
For now, it is clear that a “social segment” of internet users is flocking to both social network sites and status-update services. However, this segment is likely to grow as ever more internet users adopt mobile devices as a primary means of going online.
What Does it Mean?
Despite a growing percentage of online Americans apparently flocking to Twitter, a study by Pear Analytics recently found that 40.5% of messages published on Twitter are “pointless babble.”
Twitter’s use in marketing gets similarly mixed reviews. While an apparently increasing number of active-online small and mid-sized businesses are taking to Twitter to promote their products and services, only 8% of businesses in a Harris Interactive study said they thought Twitter was useful for marketing.
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