How Twitter Use Has Changed, From 2009 to 2010

It’s been a good year for Twitter, and not merely because the company announced yesterday it has secured another huge round of funding. The microblogging platform has grown by over 100 million users this year and expanded its staff from 130 to 350 people. And it’s rolled out major redesigns and improvements to its site, mobile apps and APIs.

People who created a Twitter profile before January 2009 now account for just 4.7% of the total Twitter population. That’s one of the findings in a new study by the social media analytics and monitoring service Sysomos that examines over 1 billion tweets from 2010 and compares the data with Twitter usage in 2009. So how has the influx of new users changed the ways in which Twitter is used?

The results of the study suggest we may be disclosing more personal information in our profiles and following more people, but even as more people have joined, most Twitter activity still comes from a very small number of users.

Twitter Users Disclose More Information in Their Profiles

The number of Twitter users who provide personal information in their bios has more than doubled since last year; 82% of Twitter users now provide a name, compared with only 33% in 2009. And 73% provide location information, compared to 44% in 2009. Forty five percent give a website address, up from 22% a year ago. This seems to indicate that Twitter users are becoming more comfortable disclosing personal information on the site, but more importantly perhaps, that having a profile on Twitter is becoming increasingly important.

Of course, one of the most popular two-word phrases in personal profiles is “Justin Bieber,” so I’m not sure we can argue that this is all about professional networking.

More Followers and Following

The vast majority of Twitter users – 95.8% – follow less than 500 people. Only 0.05% follow more than 10,000. The number of users who follow less than five people has decreased considerably from last year, from 37% to 21%, while the number who follow more than 100 people has increased three-fold to 21%.

Only 0.06% of Twitter users have more than 20,000 followers, and only 2.12% have more than 1,000 followers. Again, the vast majority of Twitter users – 95.9% – have less than 500 followers. But users with less than five followers decreased from 46% to 32% between 2010 and 2009, and users with more than 100 followers has more than doubled, up from 7% to 16%.

Who’s Doing All the Tweeting?

Of all Twitter users, only 0.18% have made more than 25,000 tweets, and 2.7% have made more than 5,000 tweets. More than three-quarters of Twitters users – 80.6% – have tweeted fewer than 500 times. What Sysomos calls “a small hard-core group” – 2.2% of Twitter users – have accounted for 58.3% of all tweets, while 22.5% of Twitter users have accounted for about 90% of all activity in 2010.

In 2009, Sysomos reported that 5% of users accounted for 75% of all activity, 10% account for 86% of activity, and the top 30% account for 97.4%.

Although the figures have changed someone, the shape of the graphic is still the same, with a few users dominating Twitter activity. According to Sysomos, many of those top tweeters are automatic feed generators.

As Twitter continues to become more mainstream, will we see more people tweeting? Or simply, as the change from last year to this year suggests, more people just following along?

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