Internet trends: marketing research & predictions

Twitter is a Masculine and Centralized SN: HBS Comparative Study

June 2nd, 2009 by

Following academic research conducted on Twitter users behaviors (see HP’s research on Twitter’s saturation and reciprocation patterns) TrendsSpotting presents more interesting findings derived from a research report published by Harvard Business School. Researchers Bill Heil and Mikolaj Jan Piskorski examined the activity of a random sample of 300,000 Twitter users in May 2009 and compared it to users activity on other social networks and online content distributions.

Out of the HBS study we wish to highlight two main findings concerning  Twitter users’ behavioral patterns:

1.  Twitter yields unique contribution patterns:

  • A typical Twitter user contributes very rarely (the median number of lifetime tweets per user is 1.0).
  • The top 10% of prolific Twitter users accounted for over 90% of tweets. Compare that to a typical online social network, where top 10% of users account for 30% of all production.

2. Men are more popular than women on Twitter:

Men on Twitter have 15% more followers than women and conduct a more reciprocated relationships. While on a typical online social network, most of the activity is focused around women, in Twitter both men and women find the content produced by other men more compelling.

Continue to full research review:

1. Twitter as a social Social Network:

According to the research report – 80% of May twitter users sample are followed by or follow at least one user. By comparison, only 60 to 65% of other online social networks’ members had at least one friend.

2. Men are more popular than women on Twitter:

Significant gender differences can be outlined:

  • Although men and women follow a similar number of Twitter users, men have 15% more followers than women.
  • Men also have more reciprocated relationships, in which two users follow each other.

The researchers explain this “follower split”: “women are driven less by followers than men, or have more stringent thresholds for reciprocating relationships. This is intriguing, especially given that females hold a slight majority on Twitter: men comprise 45% of Twitter users, while women represent 55%”.

  • An average man is almost twice more likely to follow another man than a woman. Similarly, an average woman is 25% more likely to follow a man than a woman. Finally, an average man is 40% more likely to be followed by another man than by a woman. These results cannot be explained by different tweeting activity – both men and women tweet at the same rate.

twitter%20research%203 Twitter is a Masculine and Centralized SN: HBS Comparative Study

The researchers compared the results to previous research on online social networks: “On a typical online social network, most of the activity is focused around women – men follow content produced by women they do and do not know, and women follow content produced by women they know. Generally, men receive comparatively little attention from other men or from women”.

Contribution Patterns:

  • Twitter’s usage patterns were found to be very different from a typical on-line social network. A typical Twitter user contributes very rarely. Among Twitter users, the median number of lifetime tweets per user is one. This translates into over half of Twitter users tweeting less than once every 74 days.

twitter%20research%202 Twitter is a Masculine and Centralized SN: HBS Comparative Study

  • At the same time there is a small contingent of users who are very active. Specifically, the top 10% of prolific Twitter users accounted for over 90% of tweets. On a typical online social network, the top 10% of users account for 30% of all production. that implies that the pattern of contributions on Twitter resembles more of a one-way, one-to-many publishing service more than a two-way, peer-to-peer communication network.

twitter%20research%201 Twitter is a Masculine and Centralized SN: HBS Comparative Study


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7 Responses

  1. Archana Says:

    good read!

    Twitter is everywhere nowadays.

  2. LaSara (aka @Yoga_Mama) Says:

    I’m kind of sad to say that I see this as part of the reflection of the American predicament; white women still make about .76 cents on the white male dollar, and the gap gets larger the higher the position.

    So, while the glass ceiling may have been cracked, it’s still holding strong in some places.

    When you bring in the ethnicity piece of the puzzle, it gets even more complicated, with the gender-wage-gap being lowest between Latinos/Chicanos/Mexican Americans. That is likely due to the low wage that male Mexican American get, though, more than any other factor.

    It seems that the truth is that the male voice still holds more gravitas. Even in the paradise of Twitterville.

    I have no idea what the male/female ratio of my 6600+ Twitter friends are, but I will say that one of the things that drew me to Twitter in the beginning was an amazing community of moms, which has, unfortunately, disappeared into the stadium din of the new Twitter pop.

    And when I actually seek out new follows, it’s interest based – yoga, family, values, spirituality, wholism/holism, life experience.

    Most of my picks end up being women, because that’s the Twitter experience I’m looking for.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking article, and the opportunity to spout.

    Let me know if it’s okay for my post a link to some Twitter events I host. They’re fun, and very weighted to the woman-side of the Twitter pop.

    peace, n gratitude,
    -LaSara

  3. Taly Weiss Says:

    Thanks Archana and Lasara for your comments.
    Lasara – I thank you for sharing your Twitter experiences. I believe we have just started to shake this glass ceiling and we still have a long way to go. Twitter gender bias proves that well.
    Taly.

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  6. Bernardo Ridges Says:

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