Twitter turns five: will it rule?

Twitter turns five: will it rule?

Summary: Work on the social-messaging service Twitter began exactly five years ago today. Now it has some 200 million registered user accounts, but that's only about 10 per cent of internet users, and even less if you take out the spam bots and inactive accounts. Will Twitter ever become a universal service?


Work on the social-messaging service Twitter began exactly five years ago today. Now it has some 200 million registered user accounts, but that's only about 10 per cent of internet users, and even less if you take out the spam bots and inactive accounts. Will Twitter ever become a universal service?

I'm already one of the heaviest users of Twitter in Australia, and on Patch Monday this week I'm joined by three more.

Kate Carruthers (Twitter handle @kcarruthers) works on many aspects of social computing and the future of technology and business. Twitter has become her standard way of "connecting to the matrix".

Open-source software advocate and developer Jeff Waugh (@jdub) is developing a web-based Twitter client called Denby, and has some thoughts on Twitter's recent announcement that it was changing the rules for accessing its API.

And James Purser (@purserj) is from Collaborynth, a consultancy that develops collaboration tools for business, government and not-for-profits. For him, Twitter has become a standard part of communicating with his clients and peers.

There's also my usual look at some of last week's news headlines.

To leave an audio comment on the program, Skype to stilgherrian, or phone Sydney 02 8011 3733.

Running time: 34 minutes, 06 seconds

Topic: Social Enterprise


Stilgherrian is a freelance journalist, commentator and podcaster interested in big-picture internet issues, especially security, cybercrime and hoovering up bulldust.

He studied computing science and linguistics before a wide-ranging media career and a stint at running an IT business. He can write iptables firewall rules, set a rabbit trap, clear a jam in an IBM model 026 card punch and mix a mean whiskey sour.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • What about the perspective of someone who doesn't use twitter?
    • So, like commissioning a travel review of Tahiti from someone who's never been there?
  • I'v got Facebook to talk to my friends and news sites (and zdnet) to get news with nice pictures and information. As the few friends of mine who did use twitter have stopped i cant really see any need. one thing that bothers me tho. places twitter forwards into its main comment area, this means that popular stories are just full of "hey look at this "mini url here". It's not constructive for reading comments. (i have seen a few other news sites do this as well)
  • I put up a comment on Mumbrella about the significant problems I have with the misunderstandings of and poor advice being given around Social Media Marketing "Social Media - Crack Cocaine For Marketers" and I posted a link to my full Social Media Marketing Framework which I've now put up on SlideShare to help correct the bad advice out there.

    Social Media Marketing is not about the tools and technology and this continued focus and hyped up commentary on the latest bright shiny object (ie. raw Twitter registration numbers) is one of the primary reasons 83% of Social Media Marketing (SMM) efforts have failed over the past few years. This and the fact that only 10.5% of organisations have properly integrated SMM with the rest of their marketing and the fact that 81% of companies do not have a Social Marketing strategy!

    So, here are some statistics to put Twitter into a real perspective vs the hype:

    - 21% of the 200m registered accounts have never Tweeted
    - 85.3% of all Twitter users post less than one update per day
    - 5% of all Twitter users account for 75% of all activity
    - 10% of users account for 90% of all activity
    - 93.6% of users have less than 100 followers
    - 92.4% of users follow less than 100 people
    - Only 0.94% of users follow more than 1,000 people
    - fully half of Twitter users basically never listen to a word anyone else says. In other words, half of Twitter users use Twitter as a sort of digital closet that they go into once in a while to mutter to themselves, with no one else listening (because 93.6% have less than 100 followers).
    - popularity (ie. large numbers of followers) does not equal influence.

    Read more:

    The irony of this data is that it is freely available and has been every year for the past 4 years. There have been at least 12 major studies produced to date from various companies and organisations from Hubspot, PEW, Sysomos, CrowdScience and Webber Shandwick to name a few going into a deep analysis of Twitter and its users.

    The demographics and psychographics of those people using Twitter differ significantly but once again this is ignored.

    A fundamental tenant of successful marketing is knowing who and where your intended audience is and how they use and participate in the mediums / channels. This has not changed and the companies who execute well have not ignored this discipline.

    Social Networking is also NOT Social Media Marketing. Social Media tools are not limited to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. It comprises blogs, RSS, widgets, video & audio, product reviews & ratings, forums, Q&A and on and on. The social technology you use in your strategy must be based on the underlying social behavioural attributes of your intended audience / customers, the social attributes of the specific social technologies and of course your business / marketing objectives.

    Now I'm not saying marketers should not use Twitter, I'm saying they first have to understand the medium in more detail, look at their social and marketing strategy and determine whether Twitter is the right tool to help them achieve their goals / objectives. There is no such mandatory checklist of establishing a Facebook page or Twitter profile for your organisation or campaign.
    Martin Walsh-18a98
    • Most useful stuff, Martin, thank you. Now that you've mentioned marketing there's another factoid to remember. If you tweet to 1000 followers it doesn't mean 1000 people have seen the tweet, because people don't pay attention to everything. I gather that it's more like 4 or 5 per cent of followers see a specific tweet.