The four stages of the average Twitter user

The four stages of the average Twitter user

Summary: Twitter can be an invaluable tool for business networking, but most new users don't get it at first. Learn why in this look at the four stages that the average Twitter user traverses on the path from newbie to devotee.

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There's a strange phenomenon that happens almost every time someone joins Twitter. They hate it. At least at first.

But many of the people who once hated Twitter -- or at least, didn't quite get it in the beginning -- are now many of its most active users and raving fans. So what's going on here?

There seems to be four natural stages that the average Twitter user goes through from the point of first trying it until the point of fully embracing it and making it a part of daily life. Obviously, not everyone sticks with it and becomes a Twitter devotee, but there's definitely a growing cadre of people who believe that there's some magic happening in the Twittosphere

You can find me on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonhiner

Because I think Twitter can be used as a valuable business tool, it's worth talking about the four Twitter stages in order to help recognize users in these stages when you're choosing who to follow and to keep new Twitter users from getting discouraged and missing the opportunities available on Twitter. So here they are:

1. Confusion and indignation

When a person first signs up for Twitter, the first challenge is figuring out who to follow. Twitter now has its "Suggested Users" feature to help people get started. I've put together a list of technology personalities worth following on Twitter to help new techies when they sign up for Twitter.

However, even when they find some people to follow, new Twitterers usually look at their Twitter stream and start wondering, "Why would I care what my colleagues are eating for lunch?" or "What's interesting about a software engineer posting that she's walking her dog?"

That experience usually leads people to shake their heads and not come back to Twitter for a few days, or even weeks or months.

2. The first "Aha!" moment

Eventually, the user comes back periodically to check Twitter out of pure curiosity. During those casual forays, the person often has a first "Aha!" moment, where they find something really interesting or timely on Twitter that wasn't available from news, RSS feeds, or word of mouth from their friends.

This could be a piece of news that someone reported on Twitter before it actually hit the wires, it could be a rumor about something that a company like Apple is doing, or even something like NFL teams announcing their picks for the draft on Twitter before they even went up to the podium to make the official selection.

3. Remembering to tweet

After the first "Aha" moment, the user typically starts checking Twitter more often, but still tends to post very infrequently. The next stage of Twitter initiation comes when the user reads something useful online or makes a mental observation about something and then thinks, "I should post that Twitter!"

At this point, the user is still relying mostly on the twitter.com homepage to access Twitter but is starting to go there at least a couple times a day to check on the latest buzz, and has typically found a good mix of friends, news feeds, industry celebrities, and thought leaders to follow.

4. Thinking in 140 characters

Once the person becomes a daily Twitter user, it's over. The person is almost always hooked, and is now on the path to becoming a power user. This is when most (though not all) users switch from using twitter.com to using a desktop Twitter client like Tweetdeck or Seesmic.

Meanwhile, the user also often has a mobile Twitter client like UberTwitter (for BlackBerry) or Tweetie (for iPhone) in order to stay connected to the Twitter stream on the go. Those that don't have smartphone often use Twitter via SMS text messages.

At this point, the person is a Twitter power user who regularly adds new people and brands to follow and also regularly unfollows people who post too many inane messages about their meals or just doesn't post enough useful stuff.

The power user also tends to regularly think about and look for things to post on Twitter throughout the day, to the point of self-editing thoughts for brevity in order to fit into Twitter's 140 character limit.

Final word

The beauty of Twitter is in its simplicity of use and the direct connection it provides to people whose activities and opinions you care about.

Apple recently wrote a case study about Twitter because Twitter uses a lot of Apple products. In the article, Apple wrote, "Twitter's meteoric rise to ubiquity is proof positive that the world, in all its complexity, is eager to embrace simplicity."

As I've written before, I think Twitter can be an very useful tool for business and technology professionals. For more, see:

And here are a couple external links worth looking at:

    If you use Twitter, which of the four stages are you in?

    Topics: Collaboration, Browser, CXO, Hardware, Mobility, Smartphones, Social Enterprise

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    Talkback

    18 comments
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    • "Average Twitter user" would have a 5th stage -- abandonment of Twitter

      Since 60% of Twitter users stop using it within a month, the "average Twitter user" is going to it a 5th stage: abandonment.
      PB_z
      • Actually, that's bad data

        It's only based on usage of Twitter.com, while most avid Twitter users tend to switch to desktop and mobile clients. So that 60% includes people that are still actually using Twitter.
        jasonhiner
    • RE: The four stages of the average Twitter user

      Fifth stage - Tweeting incessantly, addictively, neglecting work, family and real friends (not the virtual ones).
      RickyF
    • Thinking in 140 Characters

      Yeah, that will help our society. All bow to our overlord Twitter, so powerful it can edit our thoughts. Twitter Backlash (www.twitterbacklash.com) has a good story this week on The Medium is the Message with regards to Twitter.
      septa44
    • RE: The four stages of the average Twitter user

      hmm - I primarily use Twitter Search so not sure what stage you would put me.

      Also, what do you call the majority of the world which considers Twitter as one of many channels - as a reader to a recent post of mine said

      "My sources include email, RSS, surfing, print media (gasp!), conversations, conferences and dreams."

      see

      http://dealarchitect.typepad.com/deal_architect/2009/05/the-great-rss-versus-twitter-debate.html
      vmirchan
    • the 0th stage

      Sorry, I'm on stage 0 - the don't use it & don't really care to. Could there be some kind of information there that I miss, someday? Maybe. But I wonder how addictive something like Twitter is - how often do people check it, and how much time per day?
      gtvr
      • The time I used to use to check RSS, I now use for Twitter

        I try to use Twitter about once an hour for 3-5 minutes. I used to spend that time scanning for RSS and news sites. Now, almost all of the news I'm interested in shows up on Twitter, along with other interesting stuff like opinions, instant analysis of news, product feedback, events, and group intelligence from colleagues. Useful stuff.
        jasonhiner
    • Sorry Jason But I never got past

      Stage One. IMO Twitter is for self important twitts! I realy do not care how many times a day you take a dump, how much it weighs, and what ply TP you use to wipe with!! For me all it took was a hand few of those type tweets to turn me off from ever using it again. If I want to read a bunch of drivel I'll go back to Facebook.
      JustAnAboveAverageJoe
    • 5th Stage Denial Not Abandonment?

      Come on Jason, you can't chalk up the extreme abandonment figures entirely to people switching to different Twitter clients.

      That would make the 5th stage denial.

      Cheers,

      BW
      BobWarfield
    • RE: The four stages of the average Twitter user

      So true! When I first started on Twitter about a year ago, I signed up and just couldn't figure it out. Didn't understand the value and thought those people Tweeting the in's and out's of their daily lives were a bit egotistical.
      Then a few months later I signed back in, deciding I would give it a second chance. Mainly because my husband @vbsetup had become a full-out Twit-aholic by then. I discovered the value by downloading Tweetdeck so I could meaningfully manage all of the Tweets I was receiving. Suddenly, Twitter became an educational tool I couldn't live without.
      Although I only publish Tweets a few times a day, I follow my Twitter stream all day looking for valuable articles & insights from those I follow. When I'm looking for recommendations, I reach out to ask my followers their opinions. And now that I've developed some Twitter friendships, I'm even engaging in everyday casual conversations.
      I guess you could say I've converted into a Twit-aholic.

      @alissasheley
      www.jhpblog.com
      al_star_baby
    • The REAL 4 stages of Twitter users

      1. Self centered
      2. Obnoxious
      3. Pompous
      4. Lemming like following
      ddmattison
    • Twitter, the oddball messaging system

      Twitter is odd indeed. I myself, I don't entirely get it. From what I have seen the vast majority of Twitter messages are pointless. So I have to assume that what one is hoping for by following Twitter is those rare gem's of a message that actually has some importance and came at the speed of real time relevancy.

      While thats a nice thing when it happens, it still seems to me that Twitter mostly ends up as a net waste of time. It strikes me that if you have enough spare time in your life to use Twitter actively, your hardly likely to be a person who needs that real time info so badly that you have to waste time on Twitter to make sure you get it. Its kind of like a catch 22 for sure. Either your just not that important to require Twitters input, but because of that you have the excess time to waste going through what is mostly pointless messages, or you are a person of enough importance that you need that real time relevancy that Twitter can have, but you just don't have time to use it actively enough to sort through all the crap regularly to get the important stuff. Catch 22.
      Cayble
    • I Suppose So

      If you are an information junky, or someone who feels they are missing something if they aren't talking or texting on their cell phone all the time, or just a general Chatty Cathy type, I can understand using Twitter. For anyone else, it is an annoyance. Like that single fly that gets stuck in your living room in the summer and is constantly flying around and around, driving you crazy.
      jpr75_z
    • RE: The four stages of the average Twitter user

      I'm personally on the fence about Twitter. I understand how its simplicity is what makes it a functional networking tool, but at the same time it's hindering conversation in general. It's desensitizing the general public, only allowing people to see quick reactions and feelings, then moving on before the emotion can be fully registered.

      On the other hand, Twitter is a great marketing and advertising tool for products and services, a real time portal for news and information, while also allowing a person to market their own personal blogs and articles. However, what is the lasting power of this 140 character?d system of communication, especially when most people who start really don't understand the concept?

      Social networking is evolutionary, and will continue to change as our society asks for something more. I suggest checking out eZanga's new social network, www.HopOnThis.com. They reward their members with cash and prizes for their social activity on the site. Plus, it's absolutely free. Integrated rewards may be the next best thing.
      LAQuinn
    • RE: The four stages of the average Twitter user

      I doubt very much the 60% figure is off by much, if at all.

      I've read too many articles about Twitter abandonment to believe that there isn't a very significant portion of dead accounts on the system.
      alexh1111
    • RE: The four stages of the average Twitter user

      I left while at stage 1... stage 2 never happened, and
      I was tired of the broken software combined with
      mostly meaningless chatter.
      happytester
    • Twitter is the Spawn of the Devil

      And so is Facebook...
      WindowWasher
      • Amen

        While most people reading your post will think "right-wing nutter" ('cos that's the type of liberal trash that seems to make up most of the posters here), you're actually right on the money. Twitter and Facebook enhance Satan's ability to promulgate and promote his lies and deceits thru the extremely gullible and easily-led Obamamites that populate USabia and their equivalent tree-hugging friends throughout the "western world". Indeed, as George Orwell so insightfully noted "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act". And so it is. Welcome to the age of Twitter and Facebook - welcome to the age of lies and deceit (not to mention massive time-wasting and rampant hedonism...).
        naibeeru