What is Twitter and why does it matter?

ONLY 2.5 YEARS OLD, TWITTER HAS BECOME A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH I was going to posts some tips for getting the most out of Twitter today...

16 Mar 2009 2455 Views


I was going to posts some tips for getting the most out of Twitter today. Then a client asked me what Twitter was. So I thought I’d write this post first.


For those of you not familiar with Twitter, it is a micro-blogging site where you can post comments limited to 140 characters. You can also choose to have the comments of people you find interesting fed into a reader so you can read them live as they post them. This is called “following” someone. After you read their comment you can also reply if you like. Likewise, if someone finds you interesting, they may choose to follow you.

Picture 30As a moderate user of Twitter (@BrandRanter), I have felt a real surge of new users entering the fray since January. A few Twitter facts to provide some perspective:

    • This week Nielsen Online  reported that Twitter grew 1,382% year-over-year in February, registering a total of over 7 million unique visitors in the US for the month.

    • In January, Twitter.com had 4.5 million unique visitors in the US, meaning the service grew by more than 50 percent month-over-month there.


    • Pew/Internet reports that 11% of all online Americans are Tweeters.


    • But Twitter is not just a US phenomenon. 60% of Twitterers reside outside the US according to Twitter’s blog.



    • Twitdir reports that as of February 21, 2009 there were 907,884 people Twittering (could not get updated numbers because their server is down today).


    • Neville Hobson has extrapolated the Twitdir number with the country breakdown above to arrive at some figures on where the Twits are:

    • USA: 363,153


    • Japan: 354,074


    • Spain: 99,867


    • UK: 90,788


    • Brazil: 63,551


    • Canada: 63,551


    • France: 54,473


    • Germany: 54,473


    • Italy: 45,394


    • Netherlands: 45,394


    • Taiwan: 36,315


In short: It seems Twitter is coming of age.

Of course, if you are a marketer, you probably want to know exactly who these Twits are. Fortunately, the folks at the Pew Internet & American Life Project have looked into that. Here is an excerpt from their report:

  • “Though Twitter users are young, their median age is 31. In comparison, the median age of a MySpace user is 27, a Facebook user is 26 and a LinkedIn user is 40.7.


  • Twitter users are slightly more racially and ethnically diverse than is the full US population, most likely because they are younger. Younger Americans are a more ethnically and racially diverse group than is the full population.


  • Twitter users are slightly more likely to live in urban areas, with 35% of Twitter users living in urban areas (compared with 29% of all internet users) and just 9% of tweeters and status updaters living in rural areas, compared with 17% of internet users.


  • Twitter users and status updaters are much more likely to be using wireless technologies – laptops, handhelds and cell phones – for internet access, or cell phones for text messaging, the research found. More than three-quarters (76%) of Twitter users use the internet wirelessly – either on a laptop with a wireless connection, or via PDA, handheld or cell phone. In comparison, 57% of those who go online but do not use Twitter, and 59% of internet users as a whole connect to the internet wirelessly.


  • Cell phone ownership among Twitter users is comparable to the online population as a whole, but Twitter users are more likely to use their cell phone to text and go online. More than four in five (82%) Twitter users have a cell phone and use it to send text messages, while 59% of those who go online but do not use Twitter (and 61% of the internet-using population at large) own a cell phone and use it to send text messages.


  • Twitter users are more likely to use their cell phones to connect to the internet; fully two in five (40%) Twitterers with cell phones use the device to connect to the internet, while one quarter (24%) of those who go online but do not use Twitter do the same.”


Relative to most mass media, the number of users are not staggering, but the growth rate is. More important, Twitter is not just growing. It is evolving rapidly into something I suspects its creators Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Biz Stone, and Evan Williams never dreamed of when they launched it in 2006. The more people who use it the more useful it becomes for all sorts of things including search, news, buzz monitoring, customer service/outreach, chatting, problem solving, networking, bookmarking and, oh yes, micro-blogging to name a few. More on that in my next post.

For now, think of Twitter as a big party line with thousands of people hooked in and a searchable  transcripts of what’s said.  The point is that Twitter seems to have tapped into an under-served online need. Whether its founders can leverage this into something sustainable is yet to be seen. But today, Twitter is a social media tool that deserves consideration by anyone developing social media campaigns or online strategies.

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What is Twitter and why does it matter?:   http://is.gd/nYSI

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Sean Duffy | @brandranter
Speaker, consultant & founder of Duffy Agency, the flipped digital agency that provides accelerated growth to aspiring international brands.