What a difference a few years can make in the demographics of Twitter use.
While researching my Using Twitter for career networking article in June of 2009, I came across many misconceptions being tossed around about Twitter. As reported on the nightly news, and various media outlet articles, Twitter was the favorite of the younger set, and used mainly to tweet about mundane daily activities — “having hot dogs for lunch”, was a common example of how Twitter is used to share information of little value.
An internet survey during that time frame did not support the asssertion that Twitter was mainly used by a younger set, but indeed, a more mature age group were the dominant users for Twitter: over 25 yrs. old, most often used by the 45-54 yr. old segment.
The technology industry, along with many professional types – authors, bloggers, career, branding, marketing, and business owners were the early advocates and primary users of Twitter.
Flash forward a few years, and we find that more teens are now embracing Twitter, but for different reasons than earlier generations. The migration appears to be on, as more teens are turning to Twitter, sometimes for privacy, other times to escape the crowds on Facebook.
Many teens found a early home on Facebook, a place where they could keep up with friends – and share photos, stories, and just generally “hang out” together. But Facebook may have lost some of its appeal when more adults – specifically parents, begin to join in and some teens felt a loss of privacy.
“Twitter adoption among teens pales in comparison to their use of social network sites as a whole. Yet, the number of teen Twitter users has doubled over the last two years; 16% of online teens now use Twitter, up from 8% the first time we asked this question in late 2009.” Pew Internet article – Teens and Social Networks
Not too many years ago, few teens could be seen anywhere without a cell phone glued to their ear. It was their constant travel companion, and still is — but for a slightly different reason. Teens discovered texting as a way to engage, keep in touch, and chat back and forth with each other, but the cell phone has now shifted from their ear to their hands, as they “let their fingers do the walking” over the text keyboard.
The 140 character limit and short message format of Twitter is very similar to a instant message dialog. Twitter can be used as a headline to point to other places and share content with followers, or may be viewed as texting tool to connect friends — an easy transition for teens, many of whom are already texting.
Twitter benefits for teens -
- Ease of use to engage a circle of friends by sending the equivalent of a text message
- Easy profile setup makes Twitter quicker to get up and running
- Better privacy – tweets don’t have to be public; teens can have private accounts
- Pseudonyms can be used to mask a real name, so only friends know who they are – again, better privacy for teens
- Unlike Facebook, where their space became inhabited by adults – parents, grandparents, siblings, relatives, friends of parents, and others, Twitter became an answer for teens seeking a refuge from the crowd
It’s probably safe to say, many teens started out on Facebook, but Twitter is catching on, and the trend will likely continue, as more teens embrace Twitter as a more private space to engage and interact, without having to be part of the larger crowd that Facebook attracts.
- Daulton West, Jr., aka “DWestJr” on Twitter
Other articles that may be of interest:
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Companies use social media to boost e-Commerce sales
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Richmond Social Media Examiner