Harvard Study ‘Punctures Twitter Hype’


That’s the claim of a BBC News article which quotes the study’s lead researcher, Bill Heil, as follows: “Twitter is a broadcast medium rather than an intimate conversation with friends,” and “it looks like a few people are creating content for a few people to read and share.” That’s no great surprise, but there are a couple interesting items in the data. For example, men are much more likely to follow other men on Twitter than on other networking sites, where they tend to follow women instead. Heil has a hypothesis about that. He thinks that “the sort of content that drives men to look at women on other social networks does not exist on Twitter,” clarifying: “by that I mean pictures, extended articles and biographical information.” (Obviously he means the pictures.)

The Harvard Business School study also found that 90% of Twitter’s content is generated by 10% of all users, and more than half of all users update their status less than once every 74 days. But this finding really blew me away: the median number of lifetime tweets per user is one. In plain English: most people sign up in order to passively read the tweets of others.

Although the study was based on a sample of only about 300,000 users and not the entire 10 million, these findings seem pretty true to my own experience. I’m following 71 people, and only about 25 of them update with any regularity. To me, Twitter basically feels like a 24/7 cocktail party with a dozen acquaintances and friends right in my Gmail account, along with some interesting links and PR going in the background. What about you?

By the way, we interviewed Twitter co-founder Biz Stone back in April.

Original article here; the Delicious showed me it.

Jeremy Hatch is a writer, musician, and professional bookseller leading a cheerful, aimless life in San Francisco. He is the Junior Literary Editor of the Rumpus and has a blog which he updates once in a while. More from this author →