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Since the very first Tweet was posted in March 21, 2006, Twitter—and its users—have been evolving.
just setting up my twttr
— jack ??? (@jack) March 21, 2006
Twitter wasn’t even called Twitter back in 2006—the original name was twttr (it was officially changed to Twitter six months later). In the thirteen years since its launch, Twitter has grown and evolved into a social media giant with 68 million active daily users in the U.S. as of Q1 2019.
This begs the question, who is using Twitter and how do they compare with Americans overall?
In April 2019, The Pew Research Center conducted a survey of just under 2800 U.S. adult Twitter users to answer these questions. The survey results provide a breakdown of Twitter users by demographic and summarizes user behavior on the platform.
Demographics of U.S. adult Twitter users
The Pew survey results revealed that U.S. adult Twitter users are similar to the American adults in some ways but different in others.
Twitter users are younger, more educated and more likely to be Democrats than the general U.S. population.
- The median age of adult U.S. Twitter users is 40 versus 47 for U.S. adults as a whole
- 42% of Twitter users have at least a bachelor’s degree (versus 21% of U.S. adults)
- 41% of Twitter users have a household income above $75,000 (versus 32% of U.S. adults)
U.S. Twitter users are more likely to have liberal viewpoints about immigrants and minorities versus American adults (current president, excluded).
The following chart shows the demographic breakdown of all U.S. adults compared with U.S. adult Twitter users.
While the most pronounced differences are with age, education and income, the gender and race/ethnicity of U.S. adult Twitter users is similar to the breakdown of all U.S. adults.
- 50% of Twitter users are women versus 52% of all U.S. adults
- 50% of Twitter users are men versus 48% of all U.S. adults
- 11% of Twitter users are black, correlating with all U.S. adults
- 60% of Twitter users are white versus 64% for all U.S. adults
- 17% of Twitter users are Hispanic versus 15% of all U.S. adults
Twitter’s power users tweet a lot
The Pew survey found that 80% of tweets come from the top 10% of users. To put this in perspective, the median user tweets about twice a month, but the most active Twitter users tweet 138 times a month (at least once a day or more).
This is an important distinction, because the top 10% of tweeters differ demographically than the bottom 90%.
For example, 65% of them are women (versus 48% of the bottom 90% of users). The top tweeters like to tweet about politics with 42% indicating they have tweeted about politics in the last 30 days versus 13% of the bottom 90%.
Twitter users skew more Democratic and liberal than the general population
36% of Twitter users identify with the Democratic party, compared with 30% of U.S. adults. The difference is similar for Republicans, with 21% of adult Twitter users identifying as Republicans versus 26% of the U.S. population.
Twitter users are less likely to characterize themselves as conservative compared with all Americans, with about 14% of Twitter users indicating they were “very conservative” versus 25% of American adults.
However, about the same percentage of Twitter users characterize themselves as “very liberal” as people in the U.S. population as a whole.
Ideologically, Twitter users tend to express more liberal views than the general population.
- 64% of Twitter users say blacks are treated less fairly than whites versus 54% of Americans
- 66% of Twitter users say immigrants strengthen the U.S. versus 57% of Americans
- 62% of Twitter users say barriers exist that make it harder for women to get ahead versus 56% of Americans
How can marketers use this information?
Twitter ads can be targeted in a variety of ways including by user demographics, language, interests, geography and more. Twitter provides audience insights to its advertisers, but this doesn’t necessarily paint a complete picture of who users the platform (and how) since it’s specific to each advertiser’s campaign.
Audience insights for advertisers are also not particularly helpful to businesses (or people) who want to build their Twitter audience organically in order to promote themselves and create a meaningful dialogue with their followers.
The Pew study helps augment the information that Twitter provides, by providing insight into the current makeup of Twitter users and how they are interacting with the platform.
Marketers can use this information to understand how often to tweet, how to best craft their tweets, and who they’re likely to reach organically (e.g., liberal, female, democrats who tend to be white).
As Twitter matures and changes, its users will inevitably change with it. The recent Pew study helps clarify how the most prolific tweeters might be shaping current topics and trends (and the conversations that inevitably crop up around them.)
With more and more Americans turning to Twitter for real-time information and news, it’s important to understand how Twitter’s users differ from the U.S. adult population. This knowledge will help inform your social media marketing strategy as well as your understanding of how a specific topic might be viewed through the lens of Twitter’s current users.