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Who is Using Twitter?

Twitter is the mysterious online cousin to the mobile text message and has always been branded with strange names.Who is using Twitter

Twitter users have often been associated with  terms such as  Twits, Tweeps and Twerps and have hidden their tweeting idiosyncrasies from friends and family. Like an alcoholic hides their bottles.

The 140 character limit has been cast as not necessary in a world of “Big Data”, where saying a lot is valued more than saying less.

I have often been asked to explain what Twitter means at dinner parties and one of my favorite phrases has been

It is like a SMS on Steroids

Its brevity is its charm and strength.

Is the Younger Generation Using Twitter?

In 2010 I was lecturing at the International College of Management to a class of 18 to 24 year old students.

I asked who was on Twitter and only one had the courage to own up in front of their peers.

Fast forward 18 months and a different class but with the same demographics, I asked the same question, instead of one hand I saw five.

It appears that Twitter is gaining acceptance amongst the millennial generation.

Is my “very” scientific research supported?

According to the Pew Research Center’s Study it is and here are some of the facts and figures.

Is Twitter Growing?

The Pew Research Center Study revealed the following

  • Some 15% of online adults use Twitter as of February 2012
  • 8% do so on a typical day.
  • Overall Twitter usage has nearly doubled since  November 2010.
  • The percentage  of online adults who use Twitter on a typical day has doubled since May 2011
  • The proportion of of adults using Twitter on a typical day has quadrupled (now 8%) since late 2010 where it stood at 2%.

Twitters growth since 2010

The rise of smartphones might account for some of the uptick in usage because smartphone users are particularly likely to be using Twitter. This is in part because Twitter is now embedded in the Apple iOS5 mobile operating system and can be used as easily as sending a text message.

Who Uses Twitter?

Several demographic groups stand out as having high rates of Twitter usage relative to their peers.

Who is using Twitter

  • African-American internet users continue to use Twitter at high rates. More than one quarter of online African-Americans (28%) use Twitter, with 13% doing so on a typical day (this is nearly double the overall average)
  • Young adults — One quarter (26%) of internet users ages 18-29 use Twitter, nearly double the rate for those ages 30-49.
  • City residents — Residents of urban areas are significantly more likely to use Twitter than their rural counterparts.

Among the youngest internet users (those ages 18-24), fully 31% are Twitter users. These numbers on the 18-24 demographic reveal that the heavy use of texting is also moving to Twitter which will have some implications for advertising on Twitter by marketers and brands over time

How Old are They?

Twitter use within the overall population remained steady over the last year, and usage rates within most major demographic groups changed little over the same time period.

There are some standouts.

  • Twitter use among 18-24 year olds increased dramatically between May 2011 and February 2012, both overall and on a “typical day” basis.
  • Nearly one third of internet users in this age group now use Twitter, up from 18% in May of 2011 and 16% in late 2010

Twitter adoption by age

What hasn’t changed much is the  Twitter use by those in their mid-20s to mid-40s which largely leveled off in the last year after roughly doubling between late 2010 and mid 2011.

What is a Typical day of Twitter Usage?

In addition to increasing on an overall basis, the proportion of young internet users who use Twitter on a typical day also doubled over the last year. Fully one in five internet users ages 18-24 (20%) now use Twitter on a typical day, up from 9% in May 2011.

Typical day of Twitter usage

Notably, “typical day” usage among slightly older adults (those ages 25-34) also doubled—from 5% of such internet users in May 2011 to 11% in February 2012—even as overall usage levels within this group remained stable over that time period.

Who Uses Twitter on Mobiles?

Twitter and the “Mobile Difference”

There is a strong relationship between youth, mobility and Twitter use when looking specifically at Twitter use on mobile phones. Twitter usage is highly correlated with the use of mobile technologies, especially smartphones.

  • One in five smartphone owners (20%) are Twitter users
  • 13% using the service on a typical day

By contrast, internet users who own more basic mobile phones are

  • Roughly half as likely to use Twitter overall (9% do so)
  • Just 3% of these more basic phone owners are “typical day” users.

Indeed, this correlation between Twitter adoption and smartphone ownership may help to explain the recent growth in Twitter usage among young adults. Those ages 18-24 are not just the fastest growing group when it comes to Twitter adoption over the last year—they also experienced the largest increase in smartphone ownership of any demographic group over the same time period.

Who uses Twitter on a mobile phone

As with general Twitter usage, smartphone owners are much more likely than average to use Twitter on their phones (overall 16% of smartphone owners use Twitter on their phones, and 10% do so on a typical day).

As with our general Twitter usage findings, cell owners ages 18-24 are more likely than older cell owners to use Twitter within the context of their mobile devices—fully one in five 18-24 year old cell owners (22%) use Twitter on their phones, and 15% do so on a typical day.

African Americans and Latinos (both of whom have high rates of smartphone ownership) also stand out as heavy mobile Twitter users.


There are two major takeways that have implications for marketers.

  • The growth of smart phone adoption is highly correlated  to the growth of Twitter usage.
  • The  400% growth in Twitter usage by 18-24 year olds

These two standouts will need to be considered in marketing campaign planning and how this integrates into the use of other platforms such as Facebook and mobile apps.

How About You

Are you using Twitter more? Do you prefer to tweet from your mobile rather than your laptop or desktop.

What do you tweet about. Are you using Twitter to share your Instagram photos?

Look forward to hearing your stories

More Reading:

Jeffbullas's Blog


  • Great article! I think I’m going to tweet it now…

  • Thanks Will for sharing you ideas

  • I am 64 years old and use Twitter daily to promote my book The Audubon Caper, which has a photo of me as a 28 year old Green Beret. It seems I made the right choice of using that pic as Twitter pic. The photo draws in that demographic, My True Crime Autobiography is selling because of Twitter’s Tweeters interested in same genre not the age of this Tweeter.  

  • Galpod

    Note that there is no data on high-schoolers… I wonder if they use it at all, any data out there?

    • Thanks for dropping in and adding to the conversation. Yes, it maybe worth hunting that down!

  • Hi Jeff,
    Great piece of information! It really helps understand how others use Twitter and I think I can  adjust my tweets timings better to reach & help out the intended audience. 

    I write articles on Auto Insurance, Health insurance, Life Insurance etc. & I usually tweet on weekends. That has been my approach all the time. I use a laptop so that I can tweet from wherever I go.

    I am looking forward to details on how Mobile users work with Twitter and what their ratios will be. I am more interested in knowing more about how users respond to HTML5 & CSS3 (as my website is built upon that).
    Thanks once again for the wonderful article!

    • Thanks for your comments David. It would be good to have a closer look at the use of Twitter by mobile users. There may be a new post coming up.

  • I personally don’t use Twitter nearly as much as Facebook and RSS/XML feeds because let’s face it, you can’t follow everyone. To me, Twitter is not nearly as clean and organized as it should be as simple functions seem tedious.

    I also don’t get the “I’ll follow you, if you follow me” mindset that most marketing professionals have. I understand more people are willing to follow if they’re followed, but in the end, it’s nothing more than information overload.

    • Thanks for the comment. In marketing the larger the network the bigger the audience which gives more reach which is vital.
      For a personal account then it is a different story.

  • Thanks Lisa for the information.

  • Emka

    using twitter
    few months, I started because of English. due to the fact that I’m at the beginning of  English learning, I don’t
    tweet much. but I read lots of
    news from around the world, follow interesting
    people as photographers, designers, favorite sports
    disciplines, favorite
    actors and singers… I think twitter is better
    than Facebook

  • It is always about providing content that adds value, even if it is only one insight or tip.

  • Twitter in itself will not create better SEO but people discovering your content,sharing it on other social networks and then linking to it will certainly assist in increasing your SEO. For Google it is increasingly about publishing consistent quality content.

  • kaushiki@iQeCommerce

    Jeff..The above article is as fantastic as your contents are always but just tell one thing that what should be the approximate frequency of tweets and to what extent I can tweet only my product-based tweets besides the general tweets to make my target audience keep waiting for tweets

    • There is no right or wrong but some rules of thumb that circulate around the web say that promoting 10-20% of the time is something that your readers will tolerate. So try one promotional tweet for every 4 and see how that goes. It is totally up to what you are comfortable with and also you need to see how that impacts both readership and sales,
      So publish, monitor and manage.
      Hope that helps

      • kaushiki@iQeCommerce

        Thanks Jeff…for your valuable suggestion…I’ll try to follow it

  • Ifedayo Ward

    i’ve been tweeting since 2009 and i’ve had great fun on twitter… from the latest news to the latest songs released. In Nigeria, twitter is a mecca of all sorts for youths. Not only is it the best source of the latest news and gossip, writers share links to their blogs on it. It has also been employed as an avenue of interation between organisations and their clients and even the government and the people. It is a sort of public opinion platform.

  • Sébastien Violette

    Please stop tweeting about this page if not updated (last time in 2012!!!). My only intention here is to get a valuable content as we were used (should I say taught by you 😉 so far. See my comment here: https://twitter.com/sebviolette/status/568413236846055424

  • Valentina Portnova

    I’ve been using Twitter for a few years for business and personal. I’ve found it to be the social platform to meet both customers, others in like industry and many friends. The mobile phone has definitely made a difference in keeping up with it. I use Tweetcaster to manager several accounts. I recently got Instragram with my Droid and do share them on Twitter too!