By Margarita Nahapetyan
According to the results of the first extensive sociological studies on Twitter, conducted by Harvard Business School, more than 90 per cent of the content on Twitter is generated just by 10 per cent of the prolific users of the frenetically popular social network site. And what is even more surprising, 75 per cent of site users have tweeted just 4 times or less in the lifetime of their Twitter accounts.
Twitter Inc. is a social networking website in which users post messages of 140 characters or less -- known as "tweets" -- that can be viewed by other users of the micro-blogging site, who choose to be their followers. "Twitter has attracted tremendous attention from the media and celebrities, but there is much uncertainty about Twitter's purpose," wrote a co-author of the research, Mikolaj Jan Piskorski, an assistant professor of strategy at Harvard Business School, on the Harvard Business Publishing site. "Is Twitter a communications service for friends and groups, a means of expressing yourself freely, or simply a marketing tool?"
The investigators from Harvard decided to follow a random sample of more than 300,000 Twitter users in May 2009, in order to find out how individuals are using the service. They discovered that the typical Twitter user contributes to the site on rare occasions, with the median number of lifetime tweets working out to one. This means that more than 50 per cent of Twitter users are posting tweets less than once in every two and a half months. This is certainly not the case on Facebook, for example, where time spent on the site is spread more evenly among users.
In addition, the study also focused on who usually typical users follow on the network. The findings demonstrated that the average man was almost twice as likely to follow another man, rather than a woman, and that men are 40 per cent more likely to be followed by other men than women. At the same time, women are 25 per cent more likely to follow men, than other women. In other words, both male and female prefer to follow men.
"These results are stunning," wrote two principal investigators of the study, Bill Heil and Mikolaj Piskorski. "On a typical online social network, most of the activity is focused around women - men follow content produced by women they do and do not know, and women follow content produced by women they know." So what is happening on Twitter?
The study also identified a "follower split between the two genders," which means that in spite of the fact that women and men follow a similar amount of users, men appear to have more followers. According to the findings, overall, men have 15 per cent more followers than do women. And what is even more, men are more likely to engage themselves in reciprocal Twitter relationships with other men - "reciprocal" here is defined as a situation where each user is following the other one.
This 'follower split' implies that ladies are driven less by followers than are men, or appear to be more picky when it comes to reciprocating relationships. This is very surprising and interesting, the authors said, especially given that women represent a slight majority on Twitter. The experts found that men comprise 45 per cent of Twitter users, while women represent 55 per cent.