By Lea Pachta

A Harvard study found that only 10% of Twitter users create 90% of the content.

The recently published survey looked at the behaviour of 300,000 Twitter users in May 2009. In total, Twitter is estimated to have over 10 million users and the quickest growing social networking site at the moment.

However, interestingly the study found that over half of all users only update their Twitter every 74 days and most users only ‘tweet’ once in their life.

Bill Heil, a Harvard graduate who participated in the study wrote on the Harvard Business blog “Based on the numbers, Twitter is certainly not a service where everyone has seen it has instantly loved it.” Heil continued to explain that on a normal social networking site, the top 10% of users would usually contribute to something around 30% of all product, not 90%! “This implies that Twitter’s resembles more of a one-way, one-to-many publishing service more than a two-way, peer-to-peer communication network.”

One could argue that there are two groups of Twitter users: ones who use it only for their personal life and tweet to their friends about going to the gym and the other group, who use it to promote their business. If the study would leave out company and other ‘power-users’, the results would probably mirror an ordinary social networking site more closely.

Twitter has been described by many as having “explosive” growth. Nielsen Online found that traffic to the website has increased by 1,382%, from 475,000 to seven million, between February 2008 and February 2009. In the same period, Facebook, the most popular social networking site grew only by 228%. Similarly to the Harvard study, Nielsen Online found that the majority of users tweet only once and then abandon the site.

Bill Heil told BBC News: “The Harvard data says very, very few people tweet and the Nielsen data says very, very few people listen consistently,” Mr Heil told BBC News.”
Another interesting finding from the Harvard data is the gender difference. Even though there are slightly more female users on Twitter than males, males have on average 15% more followers than female. On other social networking sites the average female is almost twice as likely to be followed by a man, than by another woman. Heil believes this is because “the sort of content that drives men to look at women on other social networks does not exist on Twitter. By that I mean pictures, extended articles and biographical information.”

The most striking result of the Harvard survey Heil explained was that so few people used the service to publish information, preferring instead to be passive consumers. And added that it is up to Twitter, to decide whether they see this as a problem or not.

Currently the most popular Twitter user is the actor Ashton Kutcher, with over two million followers.

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