Fascinating study in the Harvard Business Review about twitter. It looks at 300,000 users and covers differences in behavior between men and women, # of followers and # following. But most interestingly, it looks at usage:
Twitter’s usage patterns are also very different from a typical on-line social network. A typical Twitter user contributes very rarely. Among Twitter users, the median number of lifetime tweets per user is one. This translates into over half of Twitter users tweeting less than once every 74 days.
At the same time there is a small contingent of users who are very active. Specifically, the top 10% of prolific Twitter users accounted for over 90% of tweets. On a typical online social network, the top 10% of users account for 30% of all production… This implies that Twitter’s resembles more of a one-way, one-to-many publishing service more than a two-way, peer-to-peer communication network.
The fact that half of twitterers have tweeted once or less, and that 75% of twitterers have tweeted four times or less is quite astonishing. It is consistent with Nielsen’s finding that 60% of Twitter users don’t come back the next month.
With Facebook apps we have sometimes seen amazing growth driven by virality, followed by a dip towards a more sustainable level of usage. When you are viral, a good portion of unique users are going to the site to sign up for the first time. But if they don’t stick, then you can see a “shark fin” shaped curve, as Andrew Chen has posted about in the past.
Twitter is not just another Facebook app. Unlike many of the “flash in the pan” apps, Twitter is a verb, and has entered the popular consciousness. The very high usage of the top users (90% of tweets from 10% of users) also suggests a different model. But it will be interesting to see how twitter usage continues to grow over the next few months