Posted October 22, 2009 2:11 pm by with 3 comments

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Quick: if I asked you “Do you use an Internet service or site to share updates about yourself?”, how would you answer? “Yes: Facebook,” “Yes: my blog,” “Yes: Twitter,” (yes, all of the above)? Okay, let’s say I took all of those yeses, no matter which site/service you use, and declared them all to be Tweets.

Face it: someone with that little regard for the differences between the above types of sites probably shouldn’t consider himself/herself to be an Internet researcher.

19% of Internet users answered yes to the question “Do you use Twitter or another service to update your status about yourself, or to see others’ statuses?” in a Pew Internet & American Life study, up from 11% in April and last December. Naturally, Pew concludes that all 19% of them use Twitter. Brilliant. In fact, they’re so confused, I’m having a hard time figuring out these stats. They’ve mixed up the data so well that I can’t tell whether they mean “update their status” or “actually use Twitter” whenever they talk about Twitter use.

I’m pretty sure they mean “update status” instead of “Twitter” here. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure they don’t know what they mean.

Pew, of course, is a respected research firm and has never, ever run a sensationalized headline, or failed to think through their conclusions. Like, maybe, telling us that nobody on the Internet takes their product research to influence their purchase decisions and including non-Internet users in the stats, or defining a “purchase decision” as something other than deciding where and what to buy or something. Nope.

However, they have discovered why I don’t tweet very often, and that might earn back all that lost respect. The study shows that wireless Internet access, and more and more wireless devices, are both positively correlated with updating one’s status. About 25% of Internet users with a wireless device—including, interestingly, a laptop—update their status, while only 8% of those with a tethered connection do.

And, unsurprisingly, the more wireless devices you have, the more likely you are to update your status: “Fully 39% of internet users with four or more internet-connected devices (such as a laptop, cell phone, game console, or Kindle) use Twitter [they mean update their status], compared to 28% of internet users with three devices, 19% of internet users with two devices, and 10% of internet users with one device.”

There isn’t any research on whether the increased access leads to diminished quality. (“I am sitting on the porch.” “I haven’t updated my status for two hours.” “Bored in line.”)

Other stats in the study: women update more than men, and Internet users 18-44 update more than older users.

I can’t decide whether it’s just laziness or ignorance (I’m loath to put stupidity on the list) that leads to conflating Twitter use with updating status (or even just reading others’ statuses). As TechCrunch notes, Facebook was among the first to coin the term “status update,” which isn’t used by Twitter. Facebook, meanwhile, told TechCrunch they see 45 million status updates every day.

So why don’t I tweet enough? Apparently I need more wireless devices.

What do you think? Is this a good indicator of Twitter use, or just superficial research that doesn’t tell us enough to draw conclusions about Twitter?

  • I think you are dead right about this–I wrote a post on this earlier today. For a while I’ve been chalking this up to lazy reporting of the data, and not with the survey itself. But now I really question how Pew is asking this and reporting it themselves. More here:×72

    Thanks for highlighting this!
    .-= Tom Webster´s last blog ..Grabbing Headlines and Survey Reporting =-.

  • I think… i’m confused! What were Pew researching? If they got muddled up, then the data will be muddled up too and so the research is rendered void. But, I guess if we take ‘twitter’ to mean ‘update status’ and similar, then it’s still not a good indicator of twitter use – only people with social networking accounts that allow for status updates like facebook and twitter. i’m not sure that any conclusions can be drawn until Pew verifies the research and what they were asking.
    .-= Luci´s last blog ..Twitter’s New Search Deal –Social Media for your SEO =-.

  • With more and more mobile devices, surely there’ll be more tweets. Perhaps users will become ‘tweet-blind’ like they became graphic-ad blind a couple of years back?

    How much status updates can we take as readers?
    .-= Ed Fry´s last blog ..List of Best Search Engines | Voted by themselves! =-.