For all of those focused on mastering the art of Twitter, thinking it an entryway into the hearts and minds of all the world's consumers -- think again: The majority of Twitter's traffic and content is created by just 10 percent of its users.
Those are the numbers gleaned from a study by the Harvard Business school. (Yeah, Harvard, we know. But, after all, it takes a preppy to catch a preppy...) The researcher, Bill Heil, a graduating MBA student, examined the activity of over 300,000 randomly selected Twitter users in May 2009 and found that over 90 percent of all Twitter activity is created by just 10 percent of the Twitter population. Per the study: "Among Twitter users, the median number of lifetime tweets per user is one. This translates into over half of Twitter users tweeting less than once every 74 days."
Typically something like: @CatLuvr Uh. What the hell is the point of this?
In other words, this research suggests that most people who test out Twitter get bored quickly and don't bother to keep up with it. This stat echoes the findings of another recent study by Nielsen, which showed that 60 percent of Twitter users drop off after the first month.
OK, so big deal. It's not unusual for a sampling of users to emerge as the most active on a social network (though the Harvard study claims that -- on typical social networks -- "the top 10 percent of users account for 30 percent of all production").
But, for Twitter, this definitely matters for two (2!) big (elephant-sized!) reasons.
For starters, consider the attention being paid to Twitter and to using the service to leverage one's business. The number of conferences, panels, reports, Webinars, awards ceremonies, and paid research dedicated to cracking the code of the Tweet is, at this point, beyond nauseating and -- if these stats are any indication -- rather pointless. Sure, on its face Twitter might seem like the prime platform to reach a boatload of consumers, but, as it turns out, it's more like a lifeboat. (And a sinking one, at that.)
Further, Twitter's executives -- as well as industry analysts and VCs -- have suggested that the company could eventually make money by charging business users for access to rich consumer data. But with only 10 percent of Twitter's users actually participating on the site, paying for such data is hardly appealing, and this revenue model won't work. Twitter might be able to claim hundreds of thousands of users and record-breaking traffic, but that's not the same thing as having a treasure trove of user data if 90 percent of the users aren't adding any value.
It's not surprising that the vast majority of people who test out Twitter grow bored and don't bother keeping an active account. But it is a huge problem for a company that plans to leverage its purportedly massive traffic and userbase to make money. Further, it's a testament to the fact that Twitter, like every other silly Web-service-turned-world-changer, is not all it's hyped up to be.
— Nicole Ferraro, Site Editor, Internet Evolution