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New Twitter Research: 10 % of Twitter Users Account for 90% of Tweets

June 03, 2009

A blog post at HarvardBusiness.org, entitled "New Twitter Research: Men Follow Men and Nobody Tweets", reveals some really very interesting and quite surprising findings of how people are using the service. Bill Heil, a graduating MBA student at Harvard Business School, along with Mikolaj Jan Piskorski, an Assistant Professor of Strategy at HBS who teaches a class on Competing with Social Networks, have examined the activity of a random sample of 300,000 Twitter users in May 2009.

Study’s highlights include:

1. Unlike the other social networks where 60 to 65% of their members had at least one friend, 80% of all Twitter users are followed by or follow at least one user.

2. Although men and women follow a similar number of Twitter users, men have 15% more followers than women.

3. Although both men and women tweet at the same rate, an average man is almost twice more likely to follow another man than a woman. On the contrary, on a typical online social network, most of the activity is focused around women.

4. Twitter's usage patterns are quite different from a typical online social network. According to the authors, a typical Twitter user contributes very rarely. Among Twitter users, the median number of lifetime tweets per user is one. In other words, over half of Twitter users tweet less than once every 74 days.

5. The top 10% of prolific Twitter users accounted for over 90% of tweets. On a typical online social network, the top 10% of users contribute only 30% of all content.

"To put Twitter in perspective, consider an unlikely analogue - Wikipedia. There, the top 15% of the most prolific editors account for 90% of Wikipedia's edits ii. In other words, the pattern of contributions on Twitter is more concentrated among the few top users than is the case on Wikipedia, even though Wikipedia is clearly not a communications tool. This implies that Twitter's resembles more of a one-way, one-to-many publishing service more than a two-way, peer-to-peer communication network.”, conclude the authors.

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