Posted May 11, 2010 3:18 pm by with 8 comments

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What do you find when you look at 41 million Twitter users and 1.87 billion follower/followee relationship? (Aside from a lot of minutiae.) Well, Korea’s Advanced Institute of Science & Technology found that when it comes to Twitter, people really aren’t that interested in being social. More than 3 in 4 —78%—of all Twitter connections are not reciprocated.

By contrast, says KAIST, Yahoo 360 has an 84% reciprocation rate (that is, only 16% of relationships aren’t reciprocated). Even Flickr has more than three times the reciprocation rate of Twitter—68%. Twitter, then, appears to be less of a social interaction sphere and more of a news broadcasting medium.

For a place renowned for its social capabilities, you’d expect Twitter to be more . . . you know, social. But in fact, more than two-thirds of Twitter users (68% again) are not followed by a single person they follow. That sounds like an anti-social network!

Of course, Twitter relationships may operate differently than traditional relationships. Do you have to reciprocate on Twitter for it to count? Of course not. You can still exchange @ messages with people you don’t follow (though you can’t send them a private direct message). It’s easier (and more probable) to converse with someone you’re following, but not necessary.

This might have more real-world analogies as well. We talk with people we see all the time—the person in line in front of us discussing a favorite movie, book recommendations in the library, etc. We don’t even know all these people’s names—but does that make it less of a social interaction?

KAIST’s full presentation:

What do you think? Would you expect the number of reciprocal relationships to be higher on Twitter? Does a lack of reciprocation make it less social?

  • This is very interesting and I think because of its news feed format it lacks long lasting interactions. This doesn’t mean people are not social, I think it just means conversations are shorter. I don’t think less reciprocation makes Twitter any less social. Even if people are not having conversations directly on Twitter they are sometimes directed to somewhere else like a blog were the conversations are happening. Very interesting presentation, I didn’t think of Twitter like that before (a news outlet). Enjoyed the read and the slides.

    • Ralph very good points. The numbers do tell the story though, it is just hard to believe
      .-= Impulse Magazine´s last blog ..Mint Julep =-.

  • Thanks for sharing this. I agree,Twitter is still a social media tool but it allows people to be less social and more advertorial. I get so sick of connecting to people only to get a DM with a link to a site, blog, offer, etc. What ever happened to good old fashion communication? “Thank you for the follow. Let’s chat some time”. I don’t click on links I don’t know and I am especially put off by the sales pitch. I genuinely would like to get to know the folks I connect with without the intent of selling something. Some “gurus” (I hate that word) has told people it’s ok to bombard people with links and marketing using social media, but are forgetting the social aspect of it. I don’t propose in regulating how people use social media, but people need to understand the appropriate ways of using it for maximum effect.

    • Amen! It used to be so different, and I was one to sing huge praises of Twitter. I went from having the majority of my communication in direct messages and subsequent telephone conversations to being afraid to see the latest pitch for how to get more followers when I look at my direct messages. It is as if every last spammer trying to shove some “marketing guru” plan for more followers or to sell more sex pills got wind of the big Twitter boom and told all their buddies how much money there is to make by sending junk Twitter messages.

  • This is not that surprising to me. I have a few accounts and the bigger the follower list gets, the less social it gets. My personal list of 20 followers is very social. The big lists are full of self promoters who just want you to follow them and never interact with.

  • I have criticized Twitter pretty hard for quite some time. It is shocking how much it changed over the past couple years. I remember when there was a huge social interaction every day. I took a short time away to follow many Twitter users’ requests urging for me to write a book to help people understand Twitter’s usefulness. I was pretty savvy on using Twitter, and a great advocate of its relationship building potential. By the time the book was finished and on the shelf (under a month later), I wanted to scream. It was when Twitter made some big changes and just after the big Oprah revolution. I went from seeing every tweet having 500-1500 unique clicks to having 10-30 on a good day. All interaction fell off in a big wave.

    I still like Twitter for the many personal and business relationships I have developed there, but I am always sure to have their email and phone number handy. You never know when even the most dedicated user will disappear and stop using the service.

    .-= Mark Aaron Murnahan´s last blog ..SEO Meta Tags: Oh, You Must Be Another SEO Expert! =-.

  • Twitter for me is more about news. I follow people who talk about things I want to know about.

  • People on twitter do not need follow everyone they need to talk with. You still can get “@” reply from people you never talked before if the option setup correctly. If you want, follow them. If people abuse this, just block. So in fact, the relationship in twitter is much more flexible than many other social networks.