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Twitter, kids and analysts: a cautionary tale

Matthew Robson ("Aged 15 yrs & 7 months") has managed to cause quite a stir in the tech community and beyond with his analysis for Morgan Stanley on teen trends, particularly with his denial of teen Twitter use.Here's the paragraph in question:… teenagers do not use Twitter.
Written by David Meyer, Contributor on

Matthew Robson ("Aged 15 yrs & 7 months") has managed to cause quite a stir in the tech community and beyond with his analysis for Morgan Stanley on teen trends, particularly with his denial of teen Twitter use.

Here's the paragraph in question:

… teenagers do not use Twitter. Most have signed up to the service, but then just leave it as they release that they are not going to update it (mostly because texting Twitter uses up credit, and they would rather text friends with that credit). In addition, they realise that no one is viewing their profile, so their 'tweets' are pointless.

It's an interesting analysis, and it is quite possibly true that the kids are not down with Twitter. However, two problems. Firstly, Robson refers only to tweeting via text, which is how Twitter started but certainly not how people use it now. Since the founders opened up the APIs, the best way to use Twitter is through a third-party client such as Twhirl or Tweetdeck, either on the desktop or on a touchscreen smartphone such as the iPhone.

(Note, however, that operators such as O2 are in the process of making tweet-texts free, so there clearly is a sector still using the service in this way.)

Secondly, and more worryingly, Robson's reference to a "profile" that no-one might be viewing does not strike me as familiar in the Twitter context. Users of the service don't view a contact's profile; they view that person's tweets via a feed, mixed up with everyone else's tweets.

There's a lot of value in talking to kids (or, as in this case, getting them in as interns) to try and gain a reality check, but firms like Morgan Stanley shouldn't take all the resulting data as gospel.

Many kids (and many adults) have trouble seeing reality beyond their immediate environment, and I don't think this lad has ever used Twitter.

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