Do Teens Really Not Tweet?

twitter-bird1Though Twitter is used by celebrities like Oprah and Ashton Kutcher, a recent analysis by Nielsen concluded it hasn’t yet caught on with the under-25 set, which it found accounts for just 16 percent of Twitter users. But not everyone agrees with the way the findings, gathered under the title “Teens Don’t Tweet; Twitter’s Growth Not Fueled By Youth” are being presented, nor the methodology used to procure them.

There’s a lot we still don’t know about the number of teens and young adults on Twitter, social media researcher Danah Boyd pointed out in a blog post last week. First, Boyd notes that the demographic Nielsen measured to find out how many people under the age of 25 are on Twitter spans everyone from ages 2-24, failing to distinguish between teens and young adults. Nielsen’s conclusion that teens don’t tweet also presents an interpretation problem, according to Boyd, because “saying that 16% of Twitter users are 24 and under is NOT the same as saying that 16% of teens are on Twitter.” And while comScore reported that Twitter drew 44.5 million unique visitors in June, Facebook’s audience has already passed 225 million and is still growing strong — Twitter’s numbers, in other words, show the site’s audience still has room to grow. Or as Boyd puts it, “The majority of people are not on Twitter, regardless of how old they are.”

And Facebook does appear to be the destination of choice. Professor Jon Taplin, who teaches digital entertainment classes at USC, told MarketWatch that his students “don’t care about Twitter at all,” opting to spend their time on Facebook instead.

Indeed, of the nine college students I spoke to from Stanford, UT Austin and Brown, only three said they had a Twitter account. And Ingrid Pangandoyon, a senior at Brown, said she was considering canceling her account because “I can easily get an update on my friends’ lives through Facebook.” The two others, both students at UT Austin, said they only use it every month or so. “Twitter is great for advertising and creating buzz and I don’t really think that a lot of college students are interested in that right now,” said UT Austin senior Adriana Lugo. “College students prefer following their friends or keeping in touch with their closer circle rather than reaching out to something completely unknown to them.”

Students also didn’t like that Twitter is centered entirely around status updates that are available to the rest of the web. Beyond that, some said Twitter just hasn’t caught on yet. “You might be labeled a nerd if you have a Twitter account,” according to UT Austin sophomore Ryan Rasmussen.

While teens and young adults don’t make up the lion’s share of the population on the web, they play a significant role in determining its direction. Twitter will have to start catching on with this demographic if it wants to stick around in the future.