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One out of Five Americans Use Twitter?

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From Twitter itself (h/t: @mathurrell) comes this amazing piece of news:

Nearly one in five (19%) online Americans now uses Twitter or a similar service to post and share updates about themselves, or to see updates about others, according to the latest survey data from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

This figure represents a significant increase over previous surveys that reported on Twitter use. Research in in December 2008 and April 2009 from Pew found that only 11% of internet users preported using a status-update service, while a similar study by Harris Interactive in March/April of 2009 found that number to be even lower, at 5%.

Let’s assume that the research is valid and accurate.  1 out of 5 is an amazing figure in and of itself.

There are, however, two other even more amazing observations that can be made if we take the 20% figure as valid.

First, we may be heading towards a self-balkanized America with no common shared cultural touchpoint.

If 19% of online Americans are on Twitter, and some 73% of all American adults are online (this is from 2006, by the way, so the actual number might be higher), and there are 304 million Americans of which 227.4 million are 18 years of age and older, what we get is that there are some 31.5 million Americans on Twitter.

Well, the #1 highest ranked Twitter user in terms of number of followers is one Ashton Kutcher, with 3.88 million followers or 12.3% of the total Twittering Americans.  That’s it.  in terms of news or information sources, CNN tops the list with 2.79 million followers, or 8.8%.

The implication is that Americans have formed a bunch of small cells of their friends, colleagues, people they know on Twitter — there is no Twitter user/company/whatever that commands the majority of the Americans using Twitter for whatever it is that they use it for.

If social networks is the future of information distribution and communication, then we’re likely headed into a society without a defining common shared source of information or culture.  We’re going to make references, allusions, and jokes that will become increasingly “insider info”.  Gamers will instantly know what other gamers are talking about, while art fans will be speaking mostly with other art fans.  Micro-fragmentation appears to be something we need to think about.

Second, maybe none of that micro-fragmentation stuff will matter because Americans are just plain too dumb to survive in a challenging world.

Here’s the top ten most popular (in terms of number of followers) users on Twitter:

1.  Ashton Kutcher (aplusk)
2.  Britney Spears (britneyspears)
3.  Ellen DeGeneres (TheEllenShow)
4.  CNN Breaking News (cnnbrk)
5.  Twitter (twitter)
6.  Kim Kardashian (KimKardashian)
7.  Ryan Seacrest (RyanSeacrest)
8.  Barack Obama (BarackObama)
9.  John Mayer (johncmayer)
10.  Oprah Winfrey (Oprah)

Seven of the Top Ten (eight if you include Barack Obama, Celebrity President) is an entertainer/celebrity.  Some are celebrities that are famous for being famous — Kim Kardashian for example.

If this is what Americans want, then that’s what Americans want.  Just don’t ask me to think the future is rosy and wonderful on this evidence.

-rsh

PS: Note that adult Twitter users are computer-literate, tech-savvy people over 18.  The supposed creme de la creme of our society, who “get it”.  Oh #*@(%@!

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Rob Hahn
Managing Partner of 7DS Associates, and the grand poobah of this here blog. Once called "a revolutionary in a really nice suit", people often wonder what I do for a living because I have the temerity to not talk about my clients and my work for clients. Suffice to say that I do strategy work for some of the largest organizations and companies in real estate, as well as some of the smallest startups and agent teams, but usually only on projects that interest me with big implications for reforming this wonderful, crazy, lovable yet frustrating real estate industry of ours.

4 COMMENTS

  1. While I understand the gist of your argument, I think you’ve strayed from the purpose of the survey and, especially, the question. The original question without word-of-mouth editorializing:

    “Do you ever use Twitter or another service to share updates about yourself or to see updates about others?”

    Note that “or another service” is very clear and serves to include Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn… or any one of the jillion other services that serve “microblog” posts.

    While I applaud your effort to relate the two, the question and survey focus on personal contribution (and exposure) to the Internet not on the distribution of “news”.

    -Matt

  2. While I understand the gist of your argument, I think you’ve strayed from the purpose of the survey and, especially, the question. The original question without word-of-mouth editorializing:

    “Do you ever use Twitter or another service to share updates about yourself or to see updates about others?”

    Note that “or another service” is very clear and serves to include Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn… or any one of the jillion other services that serve “microblog” posts.

    While I applaud your effort to relate the two, the question and survey focus on personal contribution (and exposure) to the Internet not on the distribution of “news”.

    -Matt

  3. Actually I believe twitter to be a force against the “Balkanization,” of -America? . . . wait, did you actually say America? You must mean the U.S. I get it that “United States Citizens” is cumbersome, but at least use the US when you are talking about it. OK off the rant.

    The simple reasons Twitter will unite more than divide are three:
    1) There are no geographical boundaries to tweeting. I tweet with people on every continent but Antactica, even people from island nations and those under totalitarian regimes…gee, I have even tweeted with an astronaut in orbit!
    2) I read exchanges between my followers and their followers, and then I often comment on them and find new connections. Many people find new connections this way.
    3) The real power of twitter is in Search, where anyone can see what everyone is saying about anything at this moment and then engage them in conversation wherever and whomever they are. This feature alone assures that Americans (North and South), Africans, Asians, Europeans and Micronesians will find more connectivity, not less.

  4. Actually I believe twitter to be a force against the “Balkanization,” of -America? . . . wait, did you actually say America? You must mean the U.S. I get it that “United States Citizens” is cumbersome, but at least use the US when you are talking about it. OK off the rant.

    The simple reasons Twitter will unite more than divide are three:
    1) There are no geographical boundaries to tweeting. I tweet with people on every continent but Antactica, even people from island nations and those under totalitarian regimes…gee, I have even tweeted with an astronaut in orbit!
    2) I read exchanges between my followers and their followers, and then I often comment on them and find new connections. Many people find new connections this way.
    3) The real power of twitter is in Search, where anyone can see what everyone is saying about anything at this moment and then engage them in conversation wherever and whomever they are. This feature alone assures that Americans (North and South), Africans, Asians, Europeans and Micronesians will find more connectivity, not less.

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