Just how big (and valuable) is Twitter anyway?

June 2, 2009

While Twitter is the latest in a string of social media crazes to seriously impact public relations and crisis communication, some new studies provide helpful perspective on its reach, use and impact.

This report from mashable quoting a Harvard Business Review study shows that most tweets come from a relatively small number of very active users. They say in this way Twitter is more like Wikipedia than Facebook. (Thanks, Bill B for that one.)

Several other outlets including Wall Street Journal and Daily Dog are reporting on  study by Participatory Marketing Network (or is it Media Network–the articles don’t seem to agree)  that the penetration  by younger (18-24) Twitter users is only 22%. That compares with 99% of that group who have profiles on social media networks.

It’s also interesting to see what people are using Twitter for. The study: Of those who did use Twitter, 85% said they follow friends, 54% follow celebrities, 29% follow family members and 29% follow companies.

Twitter’s response is to say that they are coming up with innovative new features. I don’t think that will change the fundamental dynamics at play here. The fact is most people simply don’t have the time needed to spend communicating with anybody and everybody in this way. Some of these social network tools might be wonderful for expanding your social or even your business network, but I suspect the vast majority of people are more like me where other demands are such that I have continual guilt about not spending more quality time with the very important relationships who mean the most to me. The last thing I need is to spend time connecting with strangers. And frankly, the language, attitudes and hijacking of these forms for those with the most disgusting purposes turns me off.

Twitter is vitally important for crisis communication purposes a H1N1 and the CDC made clear recently. And if people want to use it for a complete waste of time in following the life of Ashton Kutcher for example, that’s their problem. It’s just not surprising that people have better things to do with their time than being in constant communication with others whose idea of “What are you doing right now” is sitting in Starbucks or providing unnecessary information about bodily functions.

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