Tom Webster, writing and speaking

A Minor Quibble With Some Recent Twitter Statistics

Added on by Tom Webster.

The always-excellent Pew Internet & American Life Project recently came out with a memo on Twitter and Status Updating (available here) that offers up this statistic: 11% of online American adults have used Twitter or a similar status-updating service to share updates. I am a big fan of Pew's work; they, like my brethren at Edison, hold to rigorous sampling standards and best practices in reporting data, and I always look forward to their Internet memos and reports. This data point, as the report clearly states, is meant to include 'use of status messages...on a social network site.' and refers to 'those who say they update their status on social networks or elsewhere online.' Couldn't be clearer. Throughout the rest of the report, this subset of Americans is defined as "Twitter users," and a detailed profile of the "Twitter user" is provided as well as the habits of "Twitter users." I have no problem with the data--it's properly sampled and reported--and again, the constraints of this subset are clearly detailed. However, calling this subset of Americans "Twitter users" is a bit of a stretch, and I fear that these stats may be misused. By definition, this subset also could include those who update their status on Facebook--and as this graph from clearly shows, there are a few more Facebookers out there than Twitterers:


The percentage of Americans who are actually Twitter users is growing, but demonstrably well under 11%. I might have labeled the subset "Status Updaters" instead of Twitter users, though that is admittedly far clunkier. This is not meant as a criticism of the Pew report, necessarily, as, again, they have dotted all the i's and crossed all the t's on the reporting of this data. I do hope, however, that persons basing business models and social media plans upon this data take the time to read the memo thoroughly, and don't simply 'cherry-pick' the "Twitter user" stats.

And here, of course, the obligatory Follow Me On Twitter! link :)