In its four-year history, microblogging service Twitter has become something of a household name, a favorite vehicle for celebrities to connect with their fans and a popular target for late-night comedians.
But how many Americans actually use Twitter?
Just 8 percent, according to a new survey from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, the organization’s first research project devoted exclusively to Twitter.
When asked about regular usage, just 2 percent of survey respondents said that they use Twitter on a typical day.
The study is a bit of a departure for Pew researchers, who have historically focused more broadly on computing trends, rather than individual companies. The group’s recent research on Twitter, for example, has been lumped in with a series of surveys asking Internet users about their habits of using the Web to post status updates, a line of questioning that included other social-networking services. But Pew researchers Aaron Smith and Lee Rainie explained that many analysts and media outlets interpreted those studies as confined exclusively to Twitter, reflecting the degree to which the service has come to dominate its category.
“As we saw that impression taking hold, and as it was becoming clear that Twitter users were emerging as an important research subject on their own, we decided to use question language that exclusively focuses on Twitter,” Smith and Rainie wrote in their report.
Of the respondents who identified themselves as Twitter users, 41 percent said they often go several weeks without visiting the site, or said that they “never” check it. Thirty-six percent of users said they visit the site at least once a day, with the remainder saying they typically check Twitter a few days a week or every few weeks.
By demographic, Pew found higher rates of Twitter adoption among Hispanic and black Internet users than whites. The researchers also reported that Twitter users tended to be younger and live in urban areas.
Pew researchers also asked about the subjects that people tend to comment about on Twitter, finding that 72 percent of users said they post updates about their personal lives, with 19 percent saying they do so on a typical day. Sixty-two percent said they post updates about their professional lives, while 55 percent said they used Twitter to share news stories.
In contrast, the least frequent subject people post about that Pew identified was location, finding that just 24 percent of Twitter users are in the habit of tweeting their whereabouts.
Kenneth Corbin is an associate editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.