Is Everyone Really Tweeting?

Online social networking site Twitter is all the hype in the media, but a Harvard study made some interesting findings about who’s actually tweeting.

Actually, the most active Twitter users are doing all the tweeting, according to the study by the Harvard Business School. The study examined the activity of a random sample of 300,542 Twitter users in May to find out how people are using the service, and then compared the findings to activity on other social networks and online content production venues.

Twitter allows users to microblog, or essentially send a message to their Twitter “followers” in 140 characters or less. Some companies, including financial firms, have picked up on the phenomenon for marketing purposes (see “From Wall Street to Tweet Street” and “IMHO: Tweet Spot).

The study found that 80% of Twitter users are followed by or follow at least one user. Yet there is a small contingent of users who are active. In fact, the top 10% of prolific Twitter users account for 90% of all tweeting, according to the research published on the Harvard Business Publishing Web site.

More than half of Twitter users tweet less than once every 74 days, and the median number of lifetime tweets per user is one.

A Man’s Social Network?

Although men and women tweet at the same rate, there are some gender differences in following. The study found:

  • While men have and women follow a similar number of Twitter users, men have 15% more followers than women.
  • Men have more reciprocated relationships, meaning that two users are following each other.
  • Women make up a majority of Twitter users (55% verse 45% of men).
  • An average man is almost twice as likely to follow another man than a woman; an average woman is 25% more likely to follow a man than a woman.

The Harvard researchers note that those gender findings are unusual; on a typical social network, most of the activity is focused around women. The researchers write: “We wonder to what extent this pattern of results arises because men and women find the content produced by other men on Twitter more compelling than on a typical social network, and men find the content produced by women less compelling (because of a lack of photo-sharing, detailed biographies, etc.).”

To put it into 140 characters or less, perhaps men have found a social-networking venue that works for them.