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Study: Twitter Has 'Yet To Articulate Its Value' For Most

April 29, 2010: In a webinar on the Arbitron/Edison Research study "Twitter Usage in America: 2010," part of the companies' ongoing "Internet and Multimedia" series, Edison VP/Strategy & Marketing Tom Webster said awareness of Twitter has soared over a very short period.

Eighty-seven percent of Americans are now aware of Twitter, up from 24 percent in 2009 and just 5 percent when the question was first asked, in 2008. Webster said, "This kind of awareness in three short years, really two years on this data, is really staggering."

But in looking at how many Americans are active users of Twitter -- defined as using the service at least once a month -- that figure came in at 7 percent, or about 17 million people, up from 2 percent in 2009. In the 2008 study, just one respondent reported using Twitter; Webster said, "Not 1 percent, one respondent."

Webster compared Twitter usage to that of Facebook, the "10-ton gorilla" of social networking, with about six times as many users as Twitter although awareness of the services is roughly equal, and said, "Given that awareness per se is not a constraint, I think the smartest thing you can say about this particular graph is that Twitter has yet to articulate its value to mainstream Americans."

Eighteen percent of active Twitter users access the service several times a day and 15 percent report they use it at least once a day, while 22 percent say they're on Twitter at least once a month. But more than half -- 53 percent -- of active Twitter users don't post tweets themselves and are instead, Webster said, "driven to go there as consumers of broadcast content."

Who's Tweeting?

Twitterers tend to be better educated than the population as a whole, with about 63 percent holding a four-year college degree compared to 40 percent of the general population, and they also tend to live in higher-income households.

About 51 percent of active Twitter users are white, 24 percent are African American -- about twice the percentage of African Americans in the general population. The study speculated that African Americans may use Twitter more "conversationally" than other users, but Webster said the area deserves further study. Hispanics represent 17 percent of active Twitter users, 3 percent are Asian, and 5 percent are "other."

The active Twitter users, not surprisingly, also tend to be early technology adopters, with 19 percent saying they're "among the first" to buy or try new products, compared to 10 percent of the population as a whole. Twenty-five percent say they buy or try products before others, but not first.

They're also inclined to access the Internet from several locations, and 63 percent access social networking from a mobile phone, compared to 35 percent of all social-network users. And for Twitter users, Webster said, SMS is "pretty much like oxygen": 92 percent use SMS, and 73 percent text multiple times a day.

Status updates on any social network, Webster said, has "really transcended from habit to addiction" among active Twitters users, with 70 percent updating their status, compared to only 55 percent of other social networkers. Particularly on Facebook, Webster said, "There is a lot of consumption going on, but not necessarily ubiquitous creation of content."

Looking at usage of other media among the active Twitter users, they report spending four hours a day online, compared to about two hours for the general population. But, Webster noted, "the other media here aren't proportionately lower." Twitterers spend two hours, 41 minutes a day with radio, compared to two hours, five minutes for the general population, and they spend three hours, 22 minutes with TV, compared to three hours, 25 minutes.

Active Twitter users are also prone to go to the Internet first for breaking news, with 46 percent making the 'Net their first choice, compared to 42 percent for TV and 7 percent for radio.

Forty-two percent of monthly Twitter users say they use the service to learn about products and services, and 41 percent use it to post their own opinions about products, while 31 percent seek others' opinions.

Moving into the implications of the study findings, the study says Twitter may be able to drive adoption by emphasizing the parallels between status updates and SMS, and by focusing more on its capability to provide closed networks and protected pages, so it will seem like less of a "broadcast medium."


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