Harvard’s New Twitter Research

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harvard_shield-businessBill Heil, a graduating MBA student at Harvard, and Professor Mikolaj Jan Pikorski have published results from their research on Twitter user behavior.  Through a random sampling of 300,000 Twitter users in May, they compiled data to see how people use Twitter and to gain statistics on user activity.

Men and women tend to follow a similar number of other Twitter users, but men tend to have about 15% more followers than women do.  This is due to the fact that men tend to have more reciprocated relationships (followed/following) than do women.  Women, by contrast, make up about 55% of Twitter’s userbase.

Despite the fact that both men and women tweet at about the same activity level (number of tweets per day), both men and women are more likely to follow men than they are women.  Strange results there.  I would guess that the social stereotype that women are more likely to use social networks like Twitter for banalities is at play here.

twitter-usersOddly, this is anathema to most social networks like Facebook, where the opposite is generally true: women are more likely to have more followers than men, on average.  Over half of all Twitter users don’t send a tweet more than once every 74 days.

In fact, the top 10% of the prolific Twitter users account for over 90% of the system’s total tweets.  That’s compared to other social networking sites where in the top users account for only 30% of the total.  This fits the Twitter paradigm of being a one-to-many service rather than a one-to-one network.

Twitter is surely a strange phenomenon.  This latest survey only highlights that.  It does make it clear that not only do most Twitter users at least understand Twitter’s purpose, but that the service itself is unique amongst social networking sites.


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