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Hubspot has released their 2009 “State of the Twittersphere” report, with findings from 4.5 million users that, at first glance, sound a bit dismal:

  • 79.79% failed to provide a homepage URL
  • 75.86% have not entered a bio in their profile
  • 68.68% have not specified a location
  • 55.50% are not following anyone
  • 54.88% have never tweeted
  • 52.71% have no followers

Some are citing these stats as proof that Twitter is weaker or less social than it’s been made out to be, especially because these stats diverge from prior year’s. Even in the face of Twitter’s role in Iran, these data cast some doubts about the hype.

But once you peer under the stats, some explanations emerge.

The first three data points in the list above are about the registration process. Just for kicks, I went through it again, and my suspicion was confirmed — there’s no requirement or even, dare I say, opportunity to fill in your homepage URL, your bio, or your location. In fact, these three things aren’t even part of your Profile. To get to them, you have to go into Settings (a non-intuitive menu on the Twitter interface) and fill them in. High utilization of these in the past probably stemmed from early adopters who were more thorough in filling out their profiles or differences in the registration flow.

I’ve been using Twitter for what seems like forever now, and I hadn’t filled any of these in. Even when this report highlighted their existence to me, I only filled in 2/3 (homepage and location).

That leaves the bottom three for immediate analysis. Given the growth rate of Twitter and the peer pressure to “get it,” I’m not surprised that a lot of accounts might have been created recently by people who still don’t “get it.” People who probably don’t network naturally in their professional or personal lives have been trying it out, and finding that Twitter alone isn’t going to make them networking mavens. It’s like all those abandoned personal homepages in the 1990s. It’s just a sign of the tool not matching the artisan.

But Twitter is active. When Hubspot tried to quantify inactive users (defined as having fewer than 10 followers and fewer than 10 friends and fewer than 10 updates), only 9.06% of users fell into this category.

The Hubspot report is worth downloading. It’s a quick 9-page read with interesting stats, including growth rates (phenomenal), averages (tweets per day, etc.), and a number of other interesting dimensions.

When facing the question of whether Twitter is a social power or social poser, I can only note that I found out about this report via a friend’s Twitter feed.

I vote, “Power.”

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Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson is the CEO of RedLink and RedLink Network, a past-President of SSP, and the founder of the Scholarly Kitchen. He has worked as Publisher at AAAS/Science, CEO/Publisher of JBJS, Inc., a publishing executive at the Massachusetts Medical Society, Publishing Director of the New England Journal of Medicine, and Director of Medical Journals at the American Academy of Pediatrics. Opinions on social media or blogs are his own.


1 Thought on "Twitter: Power or Poser?"

I think the low usage is due to the fact that a lot of people registered their Twitter name in order to prevent it from being registered by someone else. I would guess there are an equal number of domain names that are held but not in use as well.

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