A tiny proportion of Twitter users generate the bulk of new content, and users tend to ignore most tweets that fall outside their field of interest, a new study has found.
Dividing tweeters into four categories – celebrities, media, organizations and bloggers – the research team followed the cascade of information and realized that the majority of re-tweets remain within the same category.“Celebrities overwhelmingly pay attention to other celebrities,” the report states.
Twitter has claimed as many as 175 million registered users, but numbers leaked to the online news site Business Insider in March put the number of actual people using it closer to 50 million, correcting for dead and duplicate accounts, automated “bots” and spam.“There’s this big gap, no doubt about it, between awareness of Twitter and engaged on Twitter,” says Dick Costolo, Twitter’s CEO, a former improv comedian whose bald head and square-framed glasses give him the look of a walking exclamation point.
The problem starts, he says, with an empty box. The box is on a user’s Twitter home page, where the company’s signature timeline is supposed to crawl down, overflowing with 140-character bon mots, witty and interesting and profound. But when you sign up, there’s nothing in it. It’s like turning on the TV and being confronted with a test signal.“You sign up for Twitter, you see the empty timeline and a big ‘What’s happening?’ at the top,” Costolo tells me. “We need to bridge that gap between you sign up for Twitter and you’re staring at the white space and what do I do now?”
Add a quantum leap in loquacious tweeters, and what you have is an unmanageable flow of tweets, only a few of which are of any interest—the rest of them so much cultural detritus floating by in the flood.
And Twitter is still recovering from self-inflicted wounds: The founders and early funders fought a pitched battle for months over what the company should be and who should run it. As one venture capitalist in Silicon Valley observes, it looked like the founders “drove their clown car into a gold mine and fell in.”
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