10% of Twitter users generate 90% of the tweets

A tiny fraction of those who use the fast-growing social-network phenomenon Twitter generate nearly all the content, a Harvard study shows.

10% of Twitter users generate 90% of the tweets

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That makes it hard for companies to use the micro-blogging site as an accurate gauge of public opinion, the Harvard Business School study claims.

The Harvard study examined public entries of a randomly selected group of 300,000 Twitter users. The researchers studied the content created in the lifetime of the users’ Twitter accounts.

It found that 10% of Twitter users generated more than 90% of the content, according to Mikolaj Jan Piskorski, who led the research. More than half of all Twitter users post messages on the site less than once every 74 days.

The median number of lifetime “tweets” per user is just one, according the research.

Unlike other social networking sites, such as Facebook, men are almost twice as likely to follow other men on Twitter than they were to follow women, according to the study.

Women were also more likely to follow men than they were to follow other female users.

Business tool?

Companies are increasingly turning to Twitter to improve their understanding of how consumers view them, he says.

But some users are far more active and vocal than others, limiting information gleaned from messages on the site, says Piskorski, an assistant professor of strategy at Harvard Business School.

“If you’re trying to get what a representative cross-section of the public is thinking, you’re probably better off staying away from Twitter,” he says.

Piskorski says Twitter could still be useful in responding to specific customer concerns. It can also be an effective marketing tool, as companies with Twitter accounts can advertise sales and deals to users who follow them on the site.

JetBlue Airways, Comcast and Dell are among companies with Twitter accounts.

JetBlue provides information on Twitter such as announcements of terminal changes at airports, tips on how to pack and directly answers customers’ questions. Dell uses Twitter to point customers to discounts. Comcast’s account largely responds to customer gripes.

“Enough of our customers are talking about their interactions with us that we get a decent sample of what’s going on on a daily basis that we wouldn’t necessarily get from other long-term studies,” says JetBlue spokesman Morgan Johnston.

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