Twitter: A Human Seismograph Measuring the World

Twitter is quickly becoming the lens into all that moves us as individuals and also as a global society. Twitter users reveal the state of all things captivating attention and inspiring action, all in real-time. A study recently captured and articulated that State of Twitter in the United States.


Twitter is quickly becoming the lens into all that moves us as individuals and also as a global society. Twitter has become a human seismograph, measuring and broadcasting the pulse of not just the Web, but also world and local events. News no longer breaks, it tweets. In many ways, Twitter’s openness creates a new genre of digital anthropologists, sociologists, and ethnographers. Twitter users reveal the state of all things captivating attention and inspiring action, all in real-time. As new found social scientists, we learn everything.


One such study recently captured and articulated that State of Twitter in the United States. Edison Research and Arbitron Internet recently surveyed 1,753 Americans age 12 and over to peel back the layers of fervor and hype to reveal the very people using Twitter and defining a new era of communication.


According to Edison, Twitter’s awareness exploded from 5% in 2008 to 26% in 2009 to near ubiquity at 87% in 2010. Of course this is due in large part to our near rabid obsession with the service mainstream media, businesses, even local shops and services, incessant advertising of Twitter through front-facing pleas, “follow us on Twitter!”

If metrics provide a baseline for appreciating Twitter’s rapid journey to recognition, the study compared Twitter’s stature to one of the largest social networks in the world. Off by a sliver of 1%.


Twitter is becoming a household brand, it just now has to work toward earning a position as a household service, something Facebook is currently reveling. At almost equal recognition levels, Twitter trails Facebook in actual usage by a staggering 34%.

Twitter Usage

Twitter recently hosted Chirp, its first conference where it revealed that it hosted over 105 million registered users. According to Arbitron and Edison, Twitter usage currently stands at an estimated 17 million Americans.

Twitter Activity Secrets Revealed

Twitter recently announced users were tweeting upwards of 50 million times per day at an average rate of 600 tweets per second.


Previous studies have shown that a small percentage of the overall user base is responsible for the greater volume of total tweets. In the new Arbitron and Edison report, we’re introduced to five specific segments of “Tweeters” (I’ll name them to make it easier for future reference:

  • Broadcasters (Several times per day)
  • Commentators (At least 1x per day)
  • Contributor (at least 1x per week)
  • Neutral (At least 1x per month)
  • Inactives (Less than 1x per month)

Twitter Demographics

While the following demographics reveal the segments of people using Twitter, as marketers, business professionals, and brand managers, pay closer attention to the “interest graphs” interwoven within the network. It’s how Twitter is basing its advertising architecture and its focus on psychographics over demographics is aligned with the dynamics of social media in general.

In the “Age of Social Networks,” the average age of a Twitter user was revealed as 39. Now we learn that 38% of Twitter users are age 35 and older with the greatest concentration of users falling between 25 to 34. And, as we already know, in Twitter, Social Media, and now mobile social networking, women rule.


Examining the composition of ethnicity in Twitter brings to life the richness of diversity, but also its assemblage of core groups, mainly White, African American, and Hispanic.

Twitter Users are $chooled

Education and income levels naturally factor into the focus and segmentation of how businesses connect with distinct markets. For some, the desire to reach educated individuals with greater levels of discretionary income is paramount. It seems that Twitter is a network that caters to the well-educated as well as those with higher household incomes.


Twitter is a Mobile Experience

One in four users actively access Facebook from mobile devices. That equates to roughly 100 million users, which is for the time being, far greater than the total number of all Twitter inhabitants. Perhaps it’s part of the engineered simplicity. Whereas 25% of Facebook users are mobile, almost two-thirds of Twitter users are comfortable accessing the service via their mobile phone — thanks in large part to the brilliant array of third-party applications available by popular developers.

Twitter is an Exchange for Products and Services

For companies seeking to engage prospects, customers, and influencers in Social Media, Twitter is a goldmine. 42% stated they wish to learn about products and services and 41% already provide opinions about them. Many updates in Twitter related to products/services are indeed questions about experiences. 31% of those polled admit to asking for user opinions. Here’s where businesses also need to pay attention. 28% of users polled are seeking discounts and offers. 21% claim to purchase products and at the moment, 19% are taking to Twitter to seek support.


If You Tweet Away, I Will Follow…

For businesses looking to engage in the conversation, Twitter is proving to be a means to connect the dots. For those brands that can effectively listen, respond, and also spark clicks to action, they will weave a rich network of invaluable touchpoints for customer acquisition and retention. According to the survey, Twitters users are more than likely to follow brands in companies at profound levels when compared to other social networks. In Twitter, 51% responded yes whereas 84% responded no when compared to all social network users.

And So It Continues…

To leave you with one last point intended to convey the preponderance of social networks. The adoption of social networks is soaring across every demographic at a minimum of 10% with some as high as over 20% between 2009 and 2010 alone. Don’t expect that steep incline to taper any time soon.

Brian Solis is the author of Engage and is recognized as one of most provocative thought leaders and published authors in new media. A digital analyst, sociologist, and futurist, Solis’ research and ideas have influenced the effects of emerging media on the convergence of marketing, communications, and publishing over the years. Follow him on Twitter @BrianSolis and follow his work at

About the author

Brian Solis is global innovation evangelist at Salesforce. He’s also a digital anthropologist, best-selling author, and keynote speaker