Australian use of the Twitter micro-blogging service hit an all-time high for the week ending 10 January 2009, as a number of factors contributed to its growth.
"Visits to Twitter had a short-term dip between September 2008 and November 2008, but have steadily climbed again to January 2009, and were at an all-time high for the week ending 10 January 2009," Hitwise senior analyst Sandra Hanchard wrote on her blog today.
She added that Twitter had maintained its "phenomenal" yearly growth rate, increasing year-on-year in web visits by 517.9 per cent for the week ending 10 January 2009, compared with the same week in 2008.
Hanchard, who has some 130 followers on her own Twitter page, said Twitter's recent growth was due to a resurgence in referrals from Facebook, which was also doing well in Australia. She also suspected that increased visits to Twitter this week had been prompted by Australians returning to the workplace.
A number of large organisations, such as Telstra, and the Australian Broadcasting Service, have started using Twitter to communicate with their customers and audiences. Use of the service is also popular amongst the marketing and early adopter technical communities, especially technology in start-ups.
Both Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull have joined the service.
After learning of this article through a Twitter post today, a number of local users of the service contacted ZDNet.com.au to say that anecdotally they agreed usage was increasing. "I'm finding more and more Australians on twitter every day," wrote the publisher of the techAU blog. "There's also twitter groups, meet-ups etc happening all the time."
Business here and overseas seem to have realised that there is significant value in these tools
acidlabs' Stephen Collins
According to leading Australian Twitterers, it's the fundamental architecture of the service that is driving growth.
"I think Twitter's success in Australia, as elsewhere, is down to the factors which set Twitter apart," said Sydney-based new media and internet consultant Stilgherrian today.
"The short, 140-character messages make it easy to use. You don't have to think of a title and write a narrative, you just say it. That's also helped by the wide variety of ways you can connect: web, mobile phone, SMS and a whole raft of client programs."
According to the consultant, Twitter's open programming interfaces have allowed the web community to build tools around the platform.
But it's also the way the service links people together. "In a conventional chatroom or instant messaging service, your messages only go to people in the same room, or direct to one person," Stilgherrian said. "With Twitter, everyone's view is slightly different. You'll see someone message people you don't follow, but it might spark your interest — and you end up encountering someone new."
"This allows ideas to spread fast as they ripple through the interconnected networks of friends and followers," the consultant added. "That serendipity means you're constantly exposed to new ideas, new aspects of the people you follow — and that random spark is part of Twitter's enormous appeal. The overlap of people's circle of friends isn't unique."
"You can follow the degrees of separation in Facebook or whatever too. But Twitter makes it all visible in real time. It represents a new mode of human communication, and I think that's only just starting to be realised."
Another consultant, acidlabs' Stephen Collins, said Twitter allowed him to meet and form strong relationships with people he would otherwise never have had the chance to meet, and he had generated work in excess of $100,000 from leads sourced from Twitter. In addition, Twitter's ability to efficiently source expertise and information was saving him significant time per day.
"Twitter's ability to enable me (and others) to maintain both strong- and weak- tied networks facilitates a powerful community of many disparate views," he said today. "It's very much not an echo chamber. While I am connected to a wide range of people, each of them is connected to their own networks of which I'm largely unaware. It's almost the perfect virtual multicultural community — all in 140 characters at a time."
The consultant said that for businesses, the use of Twitter and other social media tools would likely be front of mind in 2009. "Business here and overseas seem to have realised that there is significant value in these tools and that used properly, with strong reasons and acceptable use policies they can improve efficiency and effectiveness, boost productivity and innovation and ultimately save money. No small consideration in current times," he said.