Twitter Nation: New Study Reveals Surprising Demographics, But No Purpose for Twitter
A new study shines light on who's using Twitter, and what they're tweeting about - but most folks still can't figure out the purpose of the social network.
The Twitter Usage in America 2010 report, issued by Edison Research, details some eye-opening data on the awareness and usage of Twitter, along with information about who's using the site, how they're using it, and even a (rather premature) look at location-based social networking by users.
The poll reveals that the Twitterati are a small, but diverse and influential group. Only 7% of Americans use Twitter - coincidentally, the same percentage of Americans who believe that Elvis is still alive. That 7%, however, is a minority that the majority is quite aware of - 87% of Americans polled were aware of Twitter, up from 5% in 2008. To put that into context, the same poll also found that 88% of Americans are aware of Facebook, with 41% maintaining an active presence on the site.
One statistic uncovered by the study is of particular importance to marketers and sociologists alike: roughly 25% of Twitter users are African-American, compared to 12% of the American population at large! "If you follow the trending topics on Twitter on an average day, you'll see a lot of topics and themes that are very relevant to African Americans," explains Tom Webster, VP of strategy and marketing for Edison. "I also think there's a real conversational usage of Twitter for African-Americans that may be stronger than for other cohorts who are using the service."
Another important fact which we've discussed here on YJGM that the study reaffirmed had to do with the rise of telephones as a means of accessing social media. Statistics from Black Web indicate that 55% of Americans connect to the Internet wirelessly and, out of that 55%, 59% are Black/Non-Hispanic. "Black people and other minority groups are just generally more likely to access the Internet via some type of mobile device," muses writer Rahsheen of Black Web. "Taking that into consideration, Twitter is just about the most mobile-friendly social networking application out there." This is backed up by the Edison data: almost two-thirds of Twitter users tweet from their phones. Twitter also has SMS tweeting capabilities, which means that even folks who don't have computers can still participate on the site - a boon for communities that may not have computers or high-speed internet widely accessible.
Another factor in Twitter having such a large market share of African-American users has to do with age. Edison reports that Twitter is most frequently used by 25-to 34-year olds. "The median age for blacks or African Americans is about 31, while the median age for whites is about 40," Rahsheen mentions, citing data from the 2006 census. "This means that blacks are younger on average and also mostly fall directly in the middle of the group that has the most interest in Twitter."
For all these fascinating statistics, what is the real purpose of Twitter? Unfortunately, most folks just don't know. "Online social networking... is now a mainstream behavior in
American society," the study posits. "While sites like Facebook and LinkedIn have well-deﬁned use cases and beneﬁts, Twitter has yet to establish a clear value proposition (even as a purely entertainment service) for a majority of the current users of social networking sites and services in the United States." This assertion is all the more striking, considering the relative diversity of the site in comparison to the demographics of the US at large. Could it be that Twitter has a clearer functionality to some groups than others? Alternately, is Twitter still emerging into its own functionality? Sound off in our comments!
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