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Do Teens Really Not Tweet?

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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.

23 Responses to “Do Teens Really Not Tweet?”

  1. Nameless

    I’m 19 and I don’t use Twitter. I eventually caved in and got an account, but I don’t actually USE it. I don’t see the point, and I don’t want to keep visiting the site all the time to see updates.

    Then again, I don’t use Facebook or other social networking sites. I just don’t really care for them, nor do I care to broadcast every waking detail of my life to the Internet. I may disclose some events, but for the most part, my Internet life is separate from my real life.

    However, I am rather tech-savvy and know my fair share about computers, the Internet, and the ongoing trends. I just don’t feel the need to follow the latest tech trends for the sake of following them.

  2. im 14 and i really dont like twitter, i think its kinda a waste of time. Most teens are actualy with their friends, not stlking them on twitter. Sorry if any of that sounded rude

    • Californian

      Actually, that’s a good point. Most teens don’t really go outside of their circle of close friends and connect with people online who may be valuable connections in the future. Also, most teens don’t have tech-savvy friends who even understand what twitter really is and its utility. And some just genuinely don’t like the concept. Whatever the reason, I don’t think the demographic is going to change a lot because Twitter’s image is already set in stone because of the playful jabs it gets in the media already. It’s a good community as-is though, so perhaps that really isn’t a problem.
      By the way, as I mentioned above, I’m 17 and I *do* use twitter.

  3. As a 17 year old in High school, i can safely say…

    where have you been?
    i do not know a single friend, or anyone my age who is on twitter. And i am not counting the couple of people who sign up for an account just reserve their screen name… maybe things change when you get in to college judging by some of the comments, but i doubt it

  4. Mstwash

    I find that Twitter is more for young adults who are interested in sharing ideas & perspectives, I work too much to dedicate to a blog, so short thoughts & links work for me & I hear from varying perspectives

  5. Californian

    I use Twitter (albeit not constantly), and I’m going to be a freshman in college next year. I also use facebook, but that’s simply because my friends don’t all use an alternate service (I really dislike it, but they kind of have a monopoly). I like Twitter, especially for sharing links and following others, but FriendFeed was better. Obviously, with my dislike of facebook, I stopped using that a couple of days ago.

  6. I can understand why celebrities tweet and why their fans tweet back. But I don’t know why anyone else would even bookmark the site.

    Anyway, I do know from reading 4chan and PBNation that no teen on either board will admit to using Twitter even if some do. And yes, they are all on Facebook.

  7. Why is this controversial? If you don’t believe Nielsen, check Quantcast. The fact is, teens do *not* tweet. Twitter is neither fun, nor useful. Teens see that better than adults.

  8. It’s so catchy. i can’t help having the unmistakable feeling that everyone who hasn’t discovered it yet, which is a LOT of people, are definitely missing out, and would use it if they downloaded an application like TweetDeck. That’s what got me hooked. I think it’s something to do with the “push button net”-ness of it.

    • My daughter has a twitter account. Doesn’t actually tweet herself much, but does read a lot of the threads and trends.

      Installed Seesmic on her desktop, and she is loving that her friends facebook status’ and tweets all show up in the same screen without refreshing manually.

      Teenagers would love to experience facebook as a stream, but its not there yet.

  9. Coming from a teen, I can say that teens don’t tweet. The only teens that tweet are the teens that are into technology more heavily then just the teens that visit Facebook 10 times per day. The reason teens like Facebook more then twitter is because of the media and security features. With Facebook, users can upload media files directly to their profiles, instead of third party applications. Bottom line is, Facebook has more traction, and better community then Twitter.