Most active Twitter users are bots

Ronny Kerr · August 7, 2009 · Short URL:

Though a quarter of tweets are automated, they’re legitimate, not just spam

Twitter botsAfter taking “An In-Depth Look Inside the Twitter World” last June, Sysomos Inc. has returned with a report called “An In-Depth Look at the 5% of Most Active Users.”

In its original report, Sysomos crunched the numbers on pretty much every possible statistic related to Twitter: join dates, post frequencies, posters per city, and so on. One statistic—5% of Twitter users account for 75% of all activity—particularly struck the researchers, sparking the latest report, which zooms into that 5% to figure out who this small group is made of and what they’re posting about.

The biggest discovery of the new report is that 32% of tweets by the most active users actually come from Twitter bots, accounts set up to automatically post new updates. Sysomos says that percentage is probably higher for the most active users, since that statistic just looks at bots posting over 150 times per day.

Do not, however, be so quick to use this data to write Twitter off as useless noise and spam.

Though these bots are posting a quarter of all tweets on Twitter, they are actually potentially useful and interesting posts rolling out of accounts like “hotels offering deals, regional and national news services, regional weather services, the top news within Digg, games, anim services, tags within and financial aggregators.”

The top three posters are @foxnews with 135.83 tweets/day, @moooris (posts only in Japanese) with 108.64 tweets/day, and @alohaarleen with 101.09 tweets/day.

Besides statistics concerning the very top tweeters, Sysomos also included a bunch of data and graphs covering the kinds of topics being tweeted the most about. Personally, as a technology industry journalist, these two facts stuck out to me as incredibly interesting:

For active Twitter user with more than 1000 followers, the leading keywords are "Internet marketer", "Internet marketing", "business marketing" and "entrepreneur."

For active Twitters users with less than 1000 followers, the leading keywords are "Web designer", "graphic designer", "love", and "Web developer."

Twitter topics
Ignoring the inclusion of “love,” which seems to pop up just about everywhere in all kinds of human communities, every single phrase of the top leading keywords applies to information technology, business, and/or the Internet. Is Twitter really as cool as the media thought it was, or is it simply a love-fest for entrepreneurs and startups to network and discuss their new Internet ideas with each other endlessly?

We may not know now, but Sysomos appears to be onto something.

(image source: Martin Ruiz)

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What is Twitter?

Twitter is an online information network that allows anyone with an account to post 140 character messages, called tweets. It is free to sign up. Users then follow other accounts which they are interested in, and view the tweets of everyone they follow in their "timeline." Most Twitter accounts are public, where one does not need to approve a request to follow, or need to follow back. This makes Twitter a powerful "one to many" broadcast platform where individuals, companies or organizations can reach millions of followers with a single message. Twitter is accessible from, our mobile website, SMS, our mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, our iPad application, or 3rd party clients built by outside developers using our API. Twitter accounts can also be private, where the owner must approve follower requests. 

Where did the idea for Twitter come from?

Twitter started as an internal project within the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey, and engineer, had long been interested in status updates. Jack developed the idea, along with Biz Stone, and the first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Odea. In May 2007, Twitter Inc was founded.

How is Twitter built?

Our engineering team works with a web application framework called Ruby on Rails. We all work on Apple computers except for testing purposes. 

We built Twitter using Ruby on Rails because it allows us to work quickly and easily--our team likes to deploy features and changes multiple times per day. Rails provides skeleton code frameworks so we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to add something simple like a sign in form or a picture upload feature.

How do you make money from Twitter?

There are a few ways that Twitter makes money. We have licensing deals in place with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Bing to give them access to the "firehose" - a stream of tweets so that they can more easily incorporate those tweets into their search results.

In Summer 2010, we launched our Promoted Tweets product. Promoted Tweets are a special kind of tweet which appear at the top of search results within, if a company has bid on that keyword. Unlike search results in search engines, Promoted Tweets are normal tweets from a business, so they are as interactive as any other tweet - you can @reply, favorite or retweet a Promoted Tweet. 

At the same time, we launched Promoted Trends, where companies can place a trend (clearly marked Promoted) within Twitter's Trending Topics. These are especially effective for upcoming launches, like a movie or album release.

Lastly, we started a Twitter account called @earlybird where we partner with other companies to provide users with a special, short-term deal. For example, we partnered with Virgin America for a special day of fares on that were only accessible through the link in the @earlybird tweet.


What's next for Twitter?

We continue to focus on building a product that provides value for users. 

We're building Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.