Digital Insights

Twitter is Not Your Average Social Network


Published: December 20, 2009

A study conducted by Harvard Business Review reveals that most Twitter users don’t actually use the service much, or even at all.  In fact, 10% of active users are responsible for over 90% of all Tweets.

According to the research, conducted on a random sample of about 300,000 Twitter (Twitter) users in May 2009, 25% of Twitter users don’t tweet at all, while 50% of users tweet less than once every 74 hours.  Active users, on the other hand, tweet a lot, which makes Twitter a lot more like Wikipedia (Wikipedia) than an average social network (see graph below, courtesy of HBR).


Although this may sound strange at first, Twitter really is more like Wikipedia than, say, Facebook (Facebook). Twitter is not so much about connecting with your friends, it’s about broadcasting information.  Although it doesn’t necessarily take much creativity to create a tweet, only the most creative users actually persist in tweeting every day over a longer time period.

However, Twitter is also similar to a instant messaging tool, which should have a very different curve, with a larger proportion of users contributing to the number of overall tweets. It seems that Twitter’s micropublishing component is winning over its chatting component.

The Harvard Business Review study reveals another interesting tidbit: men seem to follow men more than women on Twitter. There are more women than men on twitter – approximately 55% of all users are female – but an average man will follow a man in 65% of all cases, while a woman will follow a man in 56% of cases. It’s hard to pull any meaningful conclusions from this anomaly, except one: Twitter is different than other social networks. But you already knew that.


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