In its first ever report on a specific company, the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life project took to the streets to ask people specifically about Twitter.
The actual reason for this is because in the past, Pew researchers have phrased the question in such a way that answers could be interpreted differently. For example, between 2008 and 2010, Pew researchers' standard question was: "Do you ever use the Internet to use Twitter or another service to share updates about yourself and to see updates about other people?"
In August 2008, 6% of people answered yes to this question, while in September 2010, 24% of respondents said yes. The sudden disparity caused many who read the study to believe that Twitter alone had seen a massive influx of new users. But upon posing a more specific question to Web users-- "Do you use Twitter?" This time, 8% of respondents answered yes--which is up from 2008, but significantly less than 24%. 2% of respondents said they use Twitter every day. The new study notes that as 74% of American adults are Internet users, that means that 6% of the adult population uses Twitter.
"We are constantly evaluating our questions to make sure that they measure interesting activities, make sense to our respondents, and allow us to track meaningful changes over time," said Aaron Smith, senior research specialist and co-author of the study, in an email.
Predictably, younger Internet users make up the bulk of respondents who said they use Twitter. Some 14% of respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 said they used Twitter, compared to 7% of those aged 30-49, and 6% of respondents aged 50-65.
Also, slightly more women than men use Twitter, with 10% of female respondents saying they use the microblogging service compared to 7% of men.
Unsurprisingly, urban users are significantly more likely to use the service than suburban or rural users. In terms of ethnic breakdown, Hispanic users are much more likely to use Twitter than black or white users--18% compared to 13% and 5%, respectively. This may be due to the fact that Latin America accounted for the most dramatic growth in Twitter usage than any other part of the world this year, seeing a 300% increase in Twitter usage compared to last year. In the rest of the world, Twitter usage doubled.
The updated study also found that one-quarter of Twitter users check the site multiple times a day to get status updates, while one in five don't check the site at all.
So what are people tweeting? The study found that Twitter users post a wide variety of content on Twitter, with the average user posting four of the nine different categories of content that Pew researchers asked about. 72% of users said they use the service to post observations related to their personal lives, and 19% said they post content related to their personal lives at least once a day or more. 62% said they post updates related to their professional life, with 12% doing so on a daily basis. And 55% of users say they post links to other stories.
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