If Twitter is to reach a tipping point, it will likely happen in the UK first not the U.S., according to web analytics firm Hitwise.
UK Internet visits to Twitter's website have increased by 631% over the last 12 months, with 485% of that growth coming this year. Furthermore, Twitter is more popular, in proportion to population, with Brits than Americans. "Last week the site’s share of UK Internet visits was 70% higher its share of visits in America", notes Hitwise's Robin Goad.
This comes as quite a surprise to me. I live in the UK, and have yet to come across a non-techie friend who has even heard of Twitter, let alone one who uses the service regularly. As an increasingly avid user (you can follow me on Twitter here), on a few occasions I've attempted to explain the phenomena to those outside of the Twitterverse, usually to a blank stare or two. This is in complete contrast to Facebook which clearly tipped (without my help) in the UK sometime last year
However, Hitwise provides some interesting data points that fly in the face of my own experience.
Last week Twitter entered our rankings of the top 50 Social Networking and Forums websites for the first time, and the demographics are also pointing towards more wide-spread adoption. Over the last 4 weeks, visitors were split 50/50 male/female, while only 15% were from London. 25-34 year olds are still the most over represented age group visiting the site, but 37% of visitors to the site are now 45 and over.
Digging deeper into Twitter's UK demographics, it isn't just early-adopter types who are overrepresented.
... there are a number of other over-represented types that would imply a more mainstream appeal, in particular Settled Minorities (Young families and singles of varied ethnic decent, in high density, pleasant urban terraces) and White Van Culture (Younger owners, many in good quality ex-council properties, take advantage of local economic opportunities).
Much less surprising to me is Hitwise's observation that mainstream media in the UK has picked up on the Twitter phenomenon, with the BBC, for example, sending and receiving quite a bit of traffic from the service.
The BBC has starting utilizing Twitter to promote its programming, both formally and informally - almost all of the BBC's Technology news team are hardcore Twitterers (you know who you are!) - and many of the station's shows have a dedicated Twitter account so that fans can stay up to date.
See also: Can Twitter go mainstream?As I've argued before, whether or not this is proof that Twitter will ever become mainstream on the scale that Facebook has, the service does have some very concrete reasons why it will continue to grow.
Not least is the phenomenal support from third-party developers, brilliantly executed by the company, and second to that is the media attention Twitter is getting precisely because it has become a tool for bloggers, journalists and marketeers. It’s hard to place a price on an ecosystem as well cultivated as Twitter’s.