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Research: Understanding Twitter’s User Habits

One of my focus areas from my consumer panel research is what consumers do, not just on their devices in terms of activities, but with the software and apps as well. I run regular panels on most the major apps to understand usage trends. Twitter is interesting because it is very different than Facebook. I’m not sure how many people realize Twitter is not really a social network but a broadcast medium. This becomes quite clear when I look at the usage patterns between Facebook and Twitter (a subject for a future research report). While active accounts is the current metric to judge Twitter by, understanding the “active” part of their user base helps us find more insight into what the service is and how it is being used.

When I look at where Twitter ranked in terms of monthly visitation among the other top 75 brand websites/apps, they are 8th in our global consumer panel. This was of a panel of over 30,000 global respondents and my data lines up with Alexa’s ranking worldwide as well. Interestingly, my data shows more people visit Twitter on their PCs than their mobile devices, but by a thin margin right now.

Twitter’s heaviest users are in the United States. Their earnings announcement also points out how they monetize this region more right now. No big surprise here since Google and Facebook also monetize their US user base. While I have this data broken out by region as well, globally, Twitter’s most active users (those who say they use it more than twice a day) are males 25-35 followed by females 16-25. Followed closely by males 16-25, females 25-35, then males 35-45. After that, the age demographic usage falls off a cliff in our panels. Meaning Twitter’s sweet spot is a user of either gender between 16-35. This data is quite different than the same data I have on Facebook where nearly every age group has very high percentages indicating they visit the site/app twice a day or more.

I have access to research on Twitter users I’ve charted below. This is a global view but, keep in mind, Twitter’s heaviest users are in the US. This chart lists the results of Twitter users’ most common actions, weighted numerically. A 10 is a use case done very frequently and a 1 is a use case done very little.

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A few observations on this data. The first is how the actions users say they do most frequently are actually more in line with a social network than a media consumption tool. Despite how myself or others view the upside of Twitter as being a media consumption/real time information network, users seem to be using it like they would a social network. The way Twitter makes money depends heavily on people coming to Twitter with other interests than talking to their friends. Therefore, searching trending topics” and “reading a news story” being in the top five of use cases is a positive sign. However, contrast this with similar research I have on Facebook users where “read an article” is the second most common task done on Facebook. Facebook, while still a social network for many users, has essentially become what it seems Twitter needs to be–a destination to consume/discover media.

Where Does Twitter Go From Here?

Ultimately, I’ll be watching this data to see if habits begin to change. As more people get on Twitter and the service starts to cater to content discovery (the kind that can be monetized), we will see if user habits start to line up more with how Twitter can grow to make more money. It’s key to understand Twitter is unlikely to ever be as big as Facebook. Facebook and its assets, Instagram, WhatsApp, etc., is the kind of service that can appeal to nearly ever mobile consumer on the planet.

Twitter monetizes their heavily engaged users. Today, those are customers in the US. As Jan Dawson points out, Twitter’s monetization levers seem clear.

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Ultimately, it is the usage patterns I find fascinating to observe. As these begin to more closely align with Twitter’s monetization strategy, we will begin to see more of the upside of the service. It may also be a chicken and egg scenario, where making these adjustments makes the service more appealing to new users.

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Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio

One thought on “Research: Understanding Twitter’s User Habits”

  1. Alternatively while they could be optimizing for views, sustainable content creation requires a certain level of user growth and they’re simply crimping their own water hose.

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