I recently attended the Inbound Marketing Summit in San Francisco, where I got to meet folks like Chris Brogan, Justin Levy and other frequent contributors to the topic of social media. I was there to present Edison's latest research on social media, excerpts from The New Media Consumer 2009. Though I was given little time to cram everything in, I did manage to include this little data point on Twitter:
These data points were taken at the very end of January 2008 and 2009, so this most recent stat is "B.O." (Before Oprah, though it remains to be seen if Oprah's recent Twitter adoption actually drove new users or just increased traffic). Now, estimating Twitter usage right now is about like throwing a dart at Dale Earnhardt...in the dark. Twitter is an upward speeding curve at the moment; still, we feel pretty secure about planting a flag here in showing January to January growth and estimating monthly users at around 5 million. This of course excludes users who are more 'casual' in their usage (though we argue that if you haven't used it in a month, you don't use it.) In 2008, by the way, we recorded '1' monthly user out of a methodologically sound, nationally representative survey of about 2000 Americans 12+.
The message of both the 2008 stats (when many of you reading this probably adopted Twitter) and the 2009 stats is clear--Twitter is a growing platform; indeed, a speeding bullet train at the moment, but it still represents a very small minority of the population. I see Twitter users all the time proudly proclaiming that they get all their news, views, market research, etc from Twitter now--and when you see hundreds of tweets roll by every few minutes, it is tempting to think of it as 'information overload.' But, even with the likely growth since the end of January, at least 95% of America is NOT on Twitter...yet. So beware the potential non-response bias of living on Twitter. You're likely to veer significantly off course, especially if you 'live' in Twitter to get your information. Of course, you can always follow me--I won't steer you wrong!