Wednesday, August 19, 2009

5 Reasons Why Gen Y is the Minority on Twitter

Before going any further, I think that it is imperative to clarify that teens are indeed on Twitter - they’re just a minority (a clarification I attribute to my friend Joey Mucha ( @mucheazy ).

Last week, Mashable published an article that seemed to get everyone’s underwear in a bunch - Stats Confirm it: Teens Don’t Tweet. They cited a recent Nielsen report that shows that only 16 percent of Twitter users are under 25. Later that same day, one of my favorite editors over at Mashable, Ben Parr ( @benparr ) came out with a very interesting piece titled Why Teens Don’t Tweet. This took a closer look at the numbers and tried to add reason to them. If you haven’t read his post, you should. It’s very well written. Below I’ve put some of my thoughts around Gen Y and twitter. I’d be happy to hear your thoughts on the subject as well!

1. Perceived Value vs. Actual Value (the status update)

Twitter is a social network, therefore it must be like all social networks. Wrong. I’ve heard this a lot from my non-tweeting Gen Y peers. Just because Facebook and Twitter both have a place where you can update your status, it doesn’t mean that they are used in the same ways or even for the same reasons. I have seen a decent amount of my peers get on Twitter expecting it to be like Facebook, only to not really “get it” and close their accounts.

2. Snowball

Like any other hit new thing, at some point it’ll reach a tipping point and go viral. There will always be the first movers, but the masses begin their adoption when the they see the majority of the peers following suit. While other demographics have snowballed with Twitter use, the under 25 segment hasn’t. But who ever said that every demographic adopts things at the same pace? It could simply mean that there haven’t been enough movers in that segment to instigate the viral affect yet...

3. Push vs. Pull

Twitter is best utilized as a means for accessing news/articles in real time (pulling) and pushing content to others, not for finding what all of your friends are currently up to (especially if most of your friends aren’t on Twitter). If you’re following several hundred to several thousand people, trying to keep tabs on all of your friends updates will prove difficult as their tweets will get lost among the tweets of all the other news agencies, celebs, and randoms that you’re following as well - that is, unless you’re utilizing a client like TweetDeck.

4. The Friend Zone

If teens are mainly using social media to connect with their friends, then Twitter is not the most efficient means of doing so, Facebook is. If all of your close friends are already communicating in one area, why move them all over to another social media site unless it has some amazing value-add (might I remind that Facebook is launching real-time search functionality as well...)?

5. The LinkedIn Syndrome

My observation is that Twitter is a lot like LinkedIn: it is great for people trying to build a professional network, or substantiate themselves as subject matter experts on something. Which is why both struggle to attract teens. Why do teens need to build a professional network? Their network consists of their friends and little more. So what is the value-add for a teen to join?

What are your thoughts on the subject?

--Now Let Me Clear My Throat--

Josh Groth


Sean Easley: Gen Y Examiner said...

The only issue I have with this is that only the oldest of teens really fit in with Gen Y and Millennials. Almost 20% of Twitter falls within the 18-25 age bracket, compared with slightly over 20% between 26-35. Teens make up 8%. Gen Y ranges from around 16-27 year olds, and most of those fall within a prime age for using Twitter.

Josh Groth said...

Hey Sean, thanks for the reply. I love following your Gen Y posts, and really liked your recent post "8 norms about the way Generation Y thinks."

There are a couple points that I'll speak to. First, the stats.

The most recent Nielsen stats that Mashable quoted (and provided the graph for) showed that the age group 2-24 represented 16% of the Twitter user base (almost entirely encompassing the Gen Y demographic). Comparatively, the 25-54 age group commanded 64% of the Twitter traffic. Again, this almost entirely encompassed Gen X. I'm just going off of the most recent #s posted by Nielsen and Mashable.

The second point that I want to address is the age range you quote for Gen Y as being aged 16-27. The exact age range is highly debated. I've seen USA Today quote it as those 1980-2000, Wikipedia has it as late 70's to mid 90's, and Bruce Tulgan, who I consider the subject matter expert quotes the age range as 1978-2000 as well as an age range of 1978-90 in his book Not Everyone Gets a Trophy.

I think if you draw the line around 1980 - mid 90's, the youngest are still around 13.

For several of my points, I addressed the fact that for those in college and high school, the majority of their personal network is dominated by friends, as opposed to professional contacts. Given that, I was suggesting that Facebook seemed to addresses their wants/needs better than a Twitter or LinkedIn.


Thanks again,

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