5 ways Twitter changed how we communicate: 1: Made a fast flow of information faster. 2:Removed the celebrity filter 3: Created “thought leaders” 4: Strengthened the “second screen” 5: (Over)simplified the conversation via CNN.com.
This leaves me wondering who the “we” they refer to really is. As we celebrate Twitter’s 5th birthday, and I approach my fourth year on the service, it’s time to start asking the hard questions. And the hard questions start with a closer look at some numbers.
Twitter is trotting out the 200 million user number today. That’s a big number. And I believe it’s a real number. But here are a few more numbers about who tweets from the Pew Research Center that we should be considering as well.
- 72% of Twitter users in our sample say that they post updates related to their personal life, activities or interests. A total of one-in-five Twitter users (19%) say they post personal updates once a day or more.
- 55% of these Twitter users share links to news stories. But only one in ten (12%) do this at least once a day.
- 53% of these Twitter users use Twitter to retweet material posted by others, with 18% doing so on a daily basis.
- 28% use Twitter to share videos with others. Fewer than one-in-ten Twitter users (8%) do this once a day or more.
- 24% use the service to tweet their location, with 7% of users doing so on a daily basis.
The vast, vast majority of users, upwards of 80% are not posting anything to Twitter on a daily basis. What’s more is that they’re not lurking either. Only 50% of Twitter users look at other peoples information on a consistent basis. 21% NEVER check for information posted by other people. That’s a lot of monologue going on. Is this how Twitter has changed how we communicate?
Those numbers help solidify the value of listening as strategy, especially listening to help. Consider this, “The majority of Twitter users, the 59% with less than 100 followers, rarely ask questions because they only receive answers about 8% of the time,” says Joe Fahrner, Co-Founder and CEO of inboxQ. “Given that most Twitter users don’t get answers most of the time, there is a massive opportunity for those who are listening to engage and unexpectedly delight potential customers who otherwise would not receive responses to their questions. There is no better engagement opportunity for your business on Twitter than if an individual expresses a need or issue for which your product, service or general knowledge is the solution.”
The numbers collected by the folks at inboxQ are damning. “What we’ve learned is that there is a direct correlation between the number of followers that a Twitter user has and how likely they are to ask questions or receive answers,” adds Farhner. “The top 6% of Twitter users (those with more than 1000 followers) ask a disproportionately large number of questions because they get answers more than half the time.”
Has Twitter really changed the how we communicate? Not in regards to listening. Most of us aren’t good listeners offline and it appears we’re bringing our bad habits online.
Bob Carney says
I have been listening to you for more than 5 years. 🙂 I think we got on Twitter about the same time scratching our heads on how this was really going to work. I still think the experience was much better before it got popular. That’s why after 7,000 tweets, I moved on to facebook and meeting people IRL.
Jeff Turner says
Thanks, Bob. Listening is easier on Facebook, no question, but I also think Facebook and it’s EdgeRank algo are creating very passive listeners. Data shows that 95% of people never leave their “top news” stream. So, the vast majority of “stuff” is missing them. I’m advocating more active listening skills in all of these spaces.
Matt Stigliano says
Jeff – The problem I find is that when I do ask a question, the only people that answer are pushing the hard sell or spam of some sort. (Ok, maybe the word “only” is a bit much – I do get responses from friends and followers, but I’m sure you get the picture.)
Trying to ask a question about WordPress or an iPhone will just about guarantee a response, typically containing a shortened URL to somewhere I’m not heading.
Jeff Turner says
We’ve been using inboxQ at @ZeekInteractive to specifically answer WordPress questions… with no links. We’re seeing rapid engagement and good responses. I was about to head to my inboxQ panel right now. If you watch that stream you’ll probably see what I mean.
Jeff Turner says
Examples, Matt: https://skitch.com/reshows/ri55e/zeek-inboxq
Valasie August says
Regardless of the advancement in methods of communication, in all my life:) I just don’t know that many people who listen well and that is when there is only ONE person doing the talking. I find that if I take my eyes off of the twitter feed for a few minutes I have missed enough tweets that in order to catch up I feel like Ethel and Lucy inhaling the chocolate on the assembly line in a desperate attempt to get caught up. And then I wonder what I am doing and why? I am feeling the connection more valuable these days for me in reading relevant blogs and commenting there; posting the link to my twitter Facebook feed. I believe there is more opportunity and motivation to listen actively and contribute to the conversation.
Hal Lublin says
Here’s my question, though – to what extent are these numbers skewed by the Oprah effect? People see Oprah is on Twitter, they join, then abandon their account because they get confused, overwhelmed, etc. I agree with the idea that actually listening and engaging is the art of Twitter. I’ve met people whose idea of engagement with a large (100K plus) following is to ask questions, and it feels more like gaming the system than anything else.
The bottom line in my mind is that the way we communicate hasn’t ever been changed. The means through which we execute our communication has evolved. If you suck at conversing, Twitter and Facebook and whatever new thing comes along isn’t going to help. It’s just going to make that shortcoming more glaringly obvious.
Jeff Turner says
I can’t, and won’t argue with that, Hal. My point is that the numbers, skewed or otherwise, clearly point out that we have a whole bunch of people not listening in this space. There will be rewards for those who listen without the motivation to game. And there will be rewards for those companies who help us do that better.
Byron Van Arsdale says
Thanks Jeff for the hitting the nail on the head.
On Twitter, there has been a 6th change in how we communicate: we can now spam in 140 characters or less! 😉
In the absence of discomfort, we carry our habits from one area to another (read: we see no need to change our existing behavior). This is an unconscious application of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. I would expect people to show up IRL just as they do on Twitter. People who don’t “listen to help” IRL would naturally do the same thing regardless of the method of communication.
Example with a twist: In the conference call world business people apply “face-to-face skill set (with said lack of listening)” to the auditory world. Applying wrong skill set AND not listening creates a huge problem. It is clear there is a skill set for the social media world yet not sure how well it has been articulated. Where is that 100th monkey when you need him? With 200 million users, it would seem the 100th monkey would have come and gone ages ago!
Perhaps we need to look underneath “listening” and discuss “intention” as a strategy when talking about communication modes like Twitter. Intention gets at “listening for help” vs “listening to sell”. I’m starting to ask myself more and more: WAIP? (why am I posting?) as a way to understand what my own strategy and intentions are for interacting on the social media. IRL I ask: WAIT? (why am I talking?). Oddly, I rarely enjoy the internal discussion that follows yet it is helping me to grow.
Jeff Turner says
I think you’ve nailed it. Intention. I’m thinking alot about that lately.
Matt Stigliano says
Jeff – I think your responses are exactly what we should all be doing. Not to play the “you need to do it right” card, but there is a certain bit of right and wrong to all of this. Of course, going back to what Hal said, “If you suck at conversing, Twitter and Facebook and whatever new thing comes along isn’t going to help.”
I think too many people forgot what they would do in a “real” conversation, threw that out the window, but somehow expect to get everyone listening and engaging when they’re not either.
Conversation is a two street, even when the conversation seems to be on a one way street (ie, sending out a tweet).
PS I’ll be checking out inboxQ – I’ve heard you mention it before, but never investigated. Thanks for always telling me about something I don’t know about!