Twitter, Schmitter


September 23, 2011

In doing some research for a social media presentation to a group of local real estate agents, I came across a thought-provoking blog post from 829 Studios – a digital consulting firm out of Brookline, Massachusetts. The post was a commentary on a recent study of Twitter usage trends published by Edison Research. Most astounding to me, was the indication that, while most Americans know what Twitter is, very few of them actually use it. And a large portion of those who do use it, don’t use it for its original, intended purpose.

According to the study by Edison Research, 87% of Americans are aware of Twitter, but only 7% actually use it. And the majority of those who use it (53%) are referred to as “lurkers,” or users who passively follow the “tweets” of others, while rarely making contributions of their own. Even more interesting is that 70% of Twitter users do post updates on other social networks such as Facebook or LinkedIN.

So why are users only passively engaging in the Twitter concept? Is it too one-dimensional? In business school they often preach the value of niche services. Could it be, when it comes to social media, that niche services are inconvenient and counter to user demand? If so, then I submit the prediction that Twitter is dying.

While “facebooking” has officially become established as a mainstream behavior in the United States (50% of Americans over age 12 maintain a profile on at least one social networking website), Twitter is clearly struggling to establish sustainable value.

Twitter presents significant value to businesses seeking to gain market intelligence, or who might benefit from “listening” for geo-specific mentions of company names and key phrases. However, even this value will quickly fade if usage penetration fades, and if usage percentages begin to represent a smaller and smaller sampling of the general populous. Perhaps this is why online tools such as Hootsuite and Tweetdeck have developed methods for ‘listening’ to the more widely used social networking websites – See Andrew’s recent post on this.