Twitter Screen Shot

Has Twitter Peaked? A New Study Questions The Relevance Of The Social Media Form

I love year end lists. ‘The 10 This …’ and ‘The Top 15 That …’ This year, one that I enjoyed was on CNN.com, in the business section, about “The Five Most Underreported Stories of 2010.” There’s some great stuff there about Apple’s “slow and clumsy move into the cloud” and “How Amazon saved the Kindle.” There’s even a mildly reassuring piece that argues there isn’t actually another tech bubble going on — though I’m going to take a wait-and-see approach to that.

But the one that really caught my eye was, “Hype aside, Twitter isn’t mainstream.” Like all of the items it was brief, but it pointed to a Pew study that’s fascinating. Some of the most interesting facts:

  • Only 8 percent of American adults use Twitter.
  • Less than a quarter of these, or 2 percent, are heavy users.
  • Half never listen to what anyone else tweets

There are a number of other interesting stats in there, but those were the big ones for me. Interestingly, while the article’s attitude toward the percentage of adult American users was negative — only 8 percent — I actually thought that seemed reasonable. I know we hear more and more mainstream references to Twitter, but it’s never felt even close to the type of critical mass that Facebook ultimately hit.

Out of curiosity, I decided to compare it to Facebook. That turned out to be harder than I thought. But I did learn that 27 percent of Americans use Facebook in the bathroom! Now, we’re somewhat comparing apples (American adults) to oranges (all Facebook users), but it’s still somewhat startling. Roughly three times as many people are using Facebook in the bathroom as are using Twitter at all. I’m not certain what that tells us, but it certainly seems like it tells us something! I’ll leave it for the social historians to figure out what.

The real question, though, is “has Twitter peaked?” I have had a Twitter account for a couple of years, but I never use it because to me it just feels so narcissistic. I feel odd broadcasting personal observations in 140 characters or less.  And as for reading tweets, the types of things I’m interested in hearing, from the types of people I’m interested in listening to, most often can’t be communicated in such limited form. The statistics seem to indicate that Twitter is most popular with people who are eager to share their thoughts with others, but have no interest in what others are saying. That just doesn’t seem to me like a formula for lasting relevance.

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Don Pierson

About Don Pierson

Don Pierson is the founder and president of Flypaper, where he is responsible for delivering interactive e-learning, digital signage, and marketing content to corporate clients. Pierson has two decades of experience in the interactive communications industry. In 2003, he founded Interactive Alchemy, and as CEO drove a successful services business that fulfilled the communication and training needs of marquee clients including MetLife and United Airlines. Using the proceeds from the success of Interactive Alchemy, Pierson created a collaborative development tool called Catalyst. By 2006, Pierson identified a broader applicability for the Catalyst solution, and set out to develop what is now Flypaper. He holds a BA in management from Arizona State University, with honors.