Twitter – to the billion?

If the web in 2009 has been defined by one thing, it is the hype around Twitter.

This has not just been confined to the tech geek or advertising world. Mainstream media and celebrities from PDiddy to Oprah have latched onto to Twitter, adding further air to the bubble.

Recently, (and rather unethically) leaked documents on Techcrunch from internal Twitter brainstorming sessions, revealed rather lofty goals of 1 bilion users by 2013. They have targeted the goal of becoming the ‘global pulse of the web’, through real-time search and data.

Twitter is undeniably exciting as a communication technology and even more exciting as a knowledge bank. The concept of being able to track real-time thoughts and feelings around trends, products and live news is pretty revolutionary, but is it really the global pulse?

Micro-blogging: along way to go for 1 billion

However the truth of the matter is that it has some way to go until it has a genuinely mainstream impact. Today just 6.8% of the global web universe have used a Micro-blogging service in the last month and in that month just 37% of the them used Twitter. Twitter actually ranked second to the collection of ‘other services’, where new and unfamiliar services are driving usage in countries such as China and South Korea. If its ever going to reach that 1 billion users, it’s got a few years to go yet.

The other issue is the that usage of micro-blogging platforms is still driven by a minority. Just 26.3% of users post every day, while the largest segment, 48.3%, do so less often than weekly. This is a critical point,if Twitter and its contemporaries are really going evolve to become mass platforms that can truely be the pulse of the web, they need to drive much higher levels of involvement.

Twitter users are decision makers: older, senior at work and educated

Live search today is fascinating and provides incredibly rich and real–time data, however we need to be aware of who is contributing. According to our data the average Twitter user is older, with the highest indexing demographic being 45-54. This seems to fit the recent Morgan Stanley “research” report on teens and the web, which claimed that youngsters had no time for Twitter. Twitter users are also more senior in the work place and more educated. In short they are a decision maker audience. Twitter has captured the corporate world more than mainstreet.

This certainly isn’t a bad thing, particular for brands trying to drive reputation and enhance their customer experience through Twitter with key influencer audiences. They are cash rich audience with big spending power and influence over others. We should however remember this when using Twitter as a real time platform to capture opinion and insight on brands, trends and behaviour.

Next

The real-time web certainly has a future, Google no doubt has a rival in the wings and Google Wave promises a realtime experience. Add to this status updates on Facebook and you have an environment that is moving towards real time. Even more important are services such as Facebook connect that publish your behaviour online for others to see and to be indexed by real time search. There is not much public appetite for this yet, just 7.2% are definitely interested in such a concept. However this is quite a change – we still on the whole perceive our internet experience as a private occasion, but this will change and attitudes will shift.