Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Future of Twitter: Is It Dying?

Twitter Head: (noun) A twitter head is a person who likes to twitter 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They will twitter about anything that comes to mind. Even twittering about twittering.

The popular social media tool, Twitter, based out of San Francisco, utilizes six languages (English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish) and has accrued a language all its own. Jargon like tweet, tweet cloud, retweet, and twitter head signify functioning verbs, adjectives, and nouns related to the 140 character status updates that keep networks informed on “what people are saying.”

Despite its wide use between languages established and newly formed, how popular is Twitter, really?

Young vs. Old
Unlike most social media applications, Twitter didn’t launch with a young user demographic. Instead, Twitter’s largest user demographic started with and continues to be around 30. According to Quantcast, an online strategy and data company whose slogan is “It’s Your Audience. We Just Find It,” 45 percent of Tweeters are between 18-34 years-old, a slight drop from 2009’s reported 47 percent.

An article in the Washington Post printed in February says that for teens, “Twitter has not caught on in nearly the same way—and experts suggest the difference is that most teens want to socialize with their friends and peers, not broadcast to the larger world.”

Samara Fantie, 17, or Gaithersburg, says that 140 characters is not enough room for teenagers to get out everything they want to say. Then she adds that Facebook “does everything Twitter offers, only it’s better. It would be like going backwards.”

So teens are using social media. In fact, 73 percent of 12-17 year-olds log on to social media sites daily. But not Twitter. Last year in 2009, 12-17 year-olds on Twitter represented only 1 percent of Twitter’s overall users.


Oh Miley
In October 2009, pop star Miley Cyrus—a teen herself—cancelled her Twitter account. An uproar followed, with the hash tag #mileycomeback and pleas to dad Billy Ray Cyrus from thousands of her 2 million followers. The article “If Teens Don’t Use Twitter, Then Why Do I Have to Read About Miley Cyrus?” brings up a good point: “maybe teens don’t use Twitter except when Miley Cyrus quits, to get her to come back to a service they don’t use? Or maybe the idea that teens don’t use Twitter is simply not true.”

The Verdict
Is Twitter’s popularity confined to twenty and thirty-somethings? To PR reps? To stay at home moms? If it’s not being used in younger generations, what does the long-term projection of Twitter look like? Or any social media, for that matter?

In order for a social media network to be sustainable, younger audiences must perpetuate the trend by using the media throughout their teens and continuing use into adulthood. Both Myspace and Facebook launched in markets reaching a late-teen and early twenty-something demographic, then spread outward to older and younger audiences. But Myspace and Facebook are relatively new themselves; both started within the decade. And how can we really predict the future of Twitter when we have yet to gauge the long-term effect of other social media?

New research from Quantcast says that in 2010, 13-17 year-olds represent 13 percent of Twitter users, an astounding 12 percent increase from last year. So maybe teens are starting to warm up to the idea of Twitter, or maybe they’ll follow in Miley’s footsteps and give up the network all together. Either way, tweeters beware: Unless teens catch on, Twitter is a dying meme.


  1. I think that Twitter may indeed be dying, but it's not because the teens are not supporting the platform, or even because Miley has closed her account (although I must admit that this action was quite a blow for many of us). No, the real reason Twitter is in its waning days is because I signed up for an account, and once I declare upon anything technological, it's just a matter of time until the end.

    But seriously, your contention that Twitter needs teens like a fish needs water is true. This group has been behind the social media revolution since it began. Still, a 12% increase in users in just a year is a very encouraging sign. Maybe the news is beginning to twickle down.

  2. It's just a phase. The quote from the teenager in the article is very telling and it is in keeping with what most of us believe about teens: they like to talk and they believe that everything is important, so they try not to leave anything out. I believe that in time these teens (as adults) will grow to appreciate that less is more, see the value in being able to get to the point, realize time is money etc, etc, and they will come to Twitter instead of writing novels on Facebook.

  3. I'm personally not a big fan of Twitter. I have an account because I had to get one for this class, but I won't be using it too much for personal reasons. I can see its value as a promotional tool and can envision using it for those reasons. But if teens aren't really using it, then it probably is only a matter of time before it fades away. I'll try not to cry too much if that happens.