Sober Talk: Who's Really Using Twitter?

Joe D

Depending on which report you read, you might hear a number of different outcomes describing how many people are using Twitter, how often they use it and what they are using it for.  According to Twitter.com, the company states that there were over 175 million accounts created as of September 2010, with as many as 20-26 million unique visitors accessing the site each month throughout 2010.  Those numbers don't seem to match up, however, until you take into account the number of duplicate accounts, users that are located in countries outside North America and of course the infamous "Twitter Quitters" that sign up and then don't use their accounts.

Another sobering statistic is the number of visitors who are simply reading all the tweets made by friends, celebrities and corporations, but are not making tweets themselves.  Still, the company's claim of over 175 million accounts seems to be a little generous to say the least. In fact, other data contributed by other tracking services and analysts are now showing that Twitter's network of users is not as large as many marketers, the media - and perhaps Twitter itself - have estimated.

According to a report released by Paul Verna, a senior analyst at eMarketer.com, while Twitter users are a large group that is continually growing, their overall numbers are much smaller than most other reports would like you to believe.  In a newly published report entitled, "Twitter Users: A Vocal Minority," eMarketer shows that Twitter is actually comprised of "tens of millions of users, as opposed to hundreds of millions." 

Market figures show as many as 20.6 million adult users in the US will access their Twitter account on a monthly basis in 2011, a figure that is up as much as 26% from the 16.4 million users who accessed the social media outlet in 2010.  Twitter is expected to continue growing in future years; however analysts anticipate growth only to as many as 28 million regular Twitter users by 2013.  These figures are based on an analysis of comprised studies and polls revealing users' actual usage of Twitter across multiple platforms.

Marketers should also be interested in a study that was conducted by Pew Internet & American Life, which revealed as many as 7% of male Internet users in the US and 10% female Internet users in the US were currently using Twitter on a regular basis.  More young adults utilized Twitter than any other age demographic in the study.  Platforms were another area of study, with most Twitter users logging in and using the service via mobile devices.  In fact, a study released by comScore showed that 7.8 million US mobile subscribers used their devices to log-on to Twitter in January 2011, up by 66% from January 2010. 

For companies that are looking to move into the Twitter market as a means of expanding their social networking campaigns, the experts suggest keeping an eye on the usage habits and various demographic statistics in order to anticipate the response that a Twitter-based audience would have as a result of their marketing efforts.  According to Verna, marketing groups would do well to set "realistic expectations" and to base their campaigns on data analysis in order to get better results, rather than relying on hyped up market estimates.


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