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March 11, 2010

Are you a Twitter user or just a follower?

Question for all of you who have Twitter accounts.  Do you actually use the damned things?

Having single-handedly been responsible for at least a couple of people picking up Twitter, I'm actually kind of interested in this story from a personal standpoint as well.  CNN/Money has a story today that says only 27% of Twitter users are actually active.  The article cites a study from Barracuda Networks, a security company, that states the other 73% of Twitter accounts actually do nothing but follow other people.  They don't interact at all.  I think it could possibly be said that included in that number are those who tried it and gave it up quickly, like Ricky Gervais, as it determines an "active" user as following at least 10 people, being followed by at least 10 people, and having at least 10 tweets.  Gervais certainly didn't tweet more than ten times, stopping at six.

Help me out here a bit. I can understand trying it and giving it up. I can understand not being a regular user like I am (3413 tweets and counting!). I can understand just using it to mainly follow people but still occasionally contribute your own thoughts, even if it is just to retweet somebody else's post or to reply to them when you like something they said.

But I have trouble understanding the mindset of those who would truly fit into that 73% figure. Those people who follow bunches of people but never contribute anything. Why would you do that? I can't imagine Twitter being of that much interest to somebody that they would follow bunches of people, get their news from it, but not actually use it.

How many people actually do this? Or is the Barracuda Networks report missing the point? Is that 73% figure all about those who have given it up, and not about those who just follow without contributing?

It seems that this phenomenon was started with the great Twitter celebrity migration of 2008-09, when people like Ashton Kutcher and Oprah came on and encouraged people to join and follow them. Personally, I think that those who came on to follow them and who are not currently active Twitter users aren't even following the celebrities that they created their accounts to follow. How many of Kutcher's 4.6 million followers actually read his tweets? My guess (and this is not an educated one, but just my feeling) is probably way less than half that, especially given this 73% figure.

So what are your thoughts on this, my Twitter-brethren? Oh, and those non-Twitter users are welcome to comment to, of course.

Here are some of my other Twitter posts. They've already sucked a couple people into the gaping maw of the Twitter-verse!

What is this Twitter thing?
What is this Twitter thing? Part 2
What is this Twitter thing? Part 3
Just Getting Started on Twitter?


  1. Active Twitter user here. I connect with poetry, humor and coffee lovers as well as friends.

    I think a huge crowd joined but has no idea what to do. It is not for the passive.

  2. I think you're right, Brock (and I'm a religious follower of yours too :P). People don't always get what to do, but they don't take a look *before* they sign up.

    Or at least get some pointers from somebody before signing up.

  3. You know I am active, I RT our blog groups posts, and posts I think are funny or informative. Naturally, I tweet my own blog posts...but I have more in common with those who just follow than you might think.

    I follow some people just to get to know how they think, and what may or may not be a buzz in the writing profession. Only occasionally do I try and interact with them, and that is usually to see reaction if any to a potentially opposing view. You can really get a feel for how people think, and who they are if you watch them 140 characters at a time. Why? Well, blogging is sometimes santized. People have time to think about what they are going to say, edit it, and make it pretty. I've noted, especially among writers, editors, and agents, (who you might think would think before they tweet) they really wear themselves on their tweet sleeves. You see who likes to stir up things, almost tell if they are happy or bitter. So that is my 2 cents on the people who strictly follow others. In our celeb obsessed culture, I think twitter makes them feel closer to those people they admire. Or they are like me, watchers of people.

    *hugs and poke*

  4. Oh, don't get me wrong. There are plenty of people who I follow without ever communicating with. However, I also put my own stuff out there, just like you do. It's the people who *just* follow, without ever actually doing anything themselves, that I don't get.

    *hugs and poke back*

  5. Hi Dave,

    I'm a very active twitter user. I currently have nearly 34,000 tweets & 5,100 followers. I have come across people that pretty much just RT stuff & rarely add their own thoughts. I personally love to discuss things with anyone. My twitter name is @timberwolf123 ....join me for the fun!



  6. I love Twitter. However, I have had people follow me, and when I go look at their profile, I will see 0 tweets.

    On occassion, I've even struck up a conversation with them on Twitter, just so they are forced to change that 0 to a 1. But they don't reply.

    Those little 0's are buggy, all right. I don't understand the mindset of them either.

  7. I started a twitter account recently and try to use it at least to get my blog out there but if you only have 9 followers it doesn't go far:) I guess I haven't quite figured out how to get people to follow me. Apparently I've never been a leader. In case you feel sorry for me, you can follow my few and far between tweets at: BarbaraEBrink or click on it at my blog:

  8. When I first joined, after months of avoiding it, I wasn't all that active. Think it took me a few months to get to 100 tweets, which for some can take a week or two, maybe even days lol. I've tried to become more active over the past few months.

    I'm a huge Conan O'Brien fan & from his FB fan page, I know that the day he signed up for Twitter, a lot of the people from that fan page made Twitter accounts for the first time just to follow Conan. I've been following some of them but a lot of them are really new to all this Twitter stuff & don't really have many followers or tweets.

    It is rather pointless to join & not be active but I have some friends who are just on it to follow people. Doesn't make sense to me either but oh well.


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