White Fire SEO recently held a poll on Twitter to find out more about how people use the service compared to other social networks. The results are interesting for the results that they show, although as White Fire don’t really share information on how many people answered the survey, I would look to the findings more as an indication of trends to be explored further, than a finite representation of Twitter users. What seemed most interesting to me, was the difference in how many updates people will tolerate before it’s deemed ‘oversharing’ and the split between different social networks. The results can be seen in full on the infographic :
35 is the magic number
As shown from the stats above, there is a magic number for sharing
too many tweets. 36 is deemed to be oversharing, which is actually
higher than I thought it would be. Given that such a small minority of
Twitter users make up the majority of content on there, is likely to be
one of the main factors for the huge discrepancy between oversharing on
Twitter and Facebook. While we can just about manage 35 updates per day
on Twitter, we can only make do with 20 per day by someone on Facebook.
I have plenty of friends on Facebook that update just as often as you
would expect someone to on Twitter, but a clear differentiator is the
size of networks we have on Facebook compared to Twitter. I have 250
friends on Facebook, but I follow 766 people on Twitter. Clearly, if one
of those Facebook friends updates more often then their updates will
appear to clog up my feed and I’m more likely to unfriend them, or hide
There is a clear split in the pyschology of users on Facebook and
Twitter. But it’s not so much that it’s across different users, but that
we have to adopt a different pysche depending on the platform that
we’re on. What we tolerate on Twitter, we might not tolerate on Facebook
even just a matter of seconds later, switching between the networks.
This is yet more evidence that as we use social media more and more, we
develop our own sophisticated methods, as a society, for getting the
most out of it and understanding what needs different platforms will
What do we actually want?
The survey above contains great insights into how people use the platform, but I don’t feel it addresses the question of what we, as users, actually want to get out of Twitter. What is it that makes us keep logging in and communicating with others? The answer might not be what you’d expect. Again, though it can’t be considered as an exact representative, a recent study has just been published, that shows 73% of active users on Twitter have a goal of growing their following to increase their influence. So it’s not so much about what we can get out of it by following interesting people, but what we can give to others. In this sense, Twitter becomes more about the content we push out to others and how many people we’re reaching, than the use it serves to us.
73% seems, to me, quite high. Or it is a searingly honest answer by
people who are willing to admit than the number on the side of their
profile actually means quite a lot. But this isn’t just about kudos.
It’s not about getting a high number so you look good to others, but how
you can put that ‘number’ into action. Growing your influence so that
when you have something important to tweet – a link to a product, a
request etc.. it gets noticed. Influence is becoming more and more
important across all social platforms, as users across the board are
recognising that social media isn’t just about what we can learn from
others and the connections that we build, but the purpose that it serves
for ourselves. Some people learned this early on, and knew how to grow a
following online that could be used to sell products (sometimes
relentlessly) and now this awareness is spreading to users in the main.
A word on Twitter rules
There is certainly no shortage of research on Twitter, because of the
uniqueness of the platform, where everything is so public and
trackable. But as I suggested above, these findings should always be
taken with a pinch of salt. You don’t want to risk analytics overload
after all. If you were to follow every single ‘finding’ published about
Twitter then you would lead yourself down an endless path. There are
rules for how many tweets, the type of tweets, time to tweet, who to
tweet, how to tweet. Twitter is an organic platform and it really comes
down to individual use and what you feel you are getting out of the
platform. If you’re a brand and you’re publishing 50 updates a day about
latest offers, but you’re getting genuine sales through this, then you
don’t necessarily need to follow the findings above. There is a line to
tread carefully as we get more and information about the psychology of
social networks, the more information and data is built up over time.
The first rule of Twitter is, and should always be… there are no rules.