Ronn TorossianRonn Torossian

Twitter is the modern-day equivalent of a public square, and is so much a part of our lives it may be difficult to imagine we ever lived without it. From media personalities to politicians, public users to bots, the social network has become a go-to for real-time information and reactions to current events.

But compared with the entirety of the U.S. public, what voices are actually represented on Twitter?

The Pew Research Center conducted a nation-wide survey of nearly 3,000 adult Twitter users in the U.S. The survey was designed to give a unique insight into the characteristics and attitudes of Twitter users across the U.S., and link those characteristics to Twitter behavior, such as how often users tweet, or how many different accounts they follow.

According to the analysis, only about 22 percent of U.S adult Twitter users represent the broader U.S. population. Twitter users tend to be younger, are more likely to identify as Democrats, are more educated and enjoy higher incomes than the majority of U.S. adults. At the same time, Twitter users vary from the broader population on key social issues: they’re more likely to be supportive of immigration, for example, and see evidence of gender-based inequalities in society.

Another interesting piece of information to come out of the study was the fact that there are significant differences between Twitter users themselves. While the median Twitter user tweets twice monthly, a small cohort of active Twitter users post much more regularly.

As a result of this behavior, the bulk of content posted by Americans on Twitter reflects only a small number of users. Just 10 percent of users who are most active on Twitter are responsible for 80 percent of all tweets created by U.S. users.

Highly-active tweeters differ from the rest of the overall Twitter population in other ways, too. The median user in the top ten percent of tweeters creates 138 tweets per month, “favorites” 70 posts per month, follows about 450 accounts and has some 380 followers. In contrast, the median Twitter user in the remaining 90 percent of users makes only two tweets monthly, “favorites” one post monthly, follows 74 accounts and has 19 followers.

So, why is this information relevant to digital marketers? An effective Twitter strategy is central to every firm’s digital marketing plan, with your brand’s Twitter presence serving as both a newsroom and front door for your company as a whole. This has led to many teams measuring their success based on the number of followers they are able to attract: 3,000 followers is far better than 300, and more than 10,000 followers is the ultimate goal for many.

This latest Pew Research Center data, however, should have many marketing strategists reconfiguring their plans. Quality over quantity, in all things, is the real goal. What use are thousands of followers if none of them are active?


Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a leading PR agency.