Why Do People Twitter?: Results of a Scientific Study

By: Shama Hyder

A few months ago, I conducted a full blown quantitative study of Twitter. (This was for a Master’s thesis from the University of Texas at Austin).

  • Main goal was to study why people use Twitter, and to check if they perceive time differently (goes by faster, dragging on, etc.) than people who use other social media sites.
  • Over 1000 surveys were collected. Approximately 650 were Twitter users.
  • One question asked…”I twitter because…” Answer choices were divided into six categories of communication motives (i.e., pleasure, affection, inclusion, escape, relaxation, and control).

Results?

Results revealed that Twitter users were more likely to communicate in order to Escape. This means they chose items in line with: I talk to put off something I should be doing; I talk to get away from what I am doing; I talk because I have nothing better to do; I talk to get away from pressures and responsibilities. My earlier research on Twitter had led to the assumption that it was a “water cooler” of sorts for bloggers (as a group and occupation type) to convene, ask questions, get feedback, and spend time with colleagues. These findings make it clear that Twitter users do not view the social media site as an online water cooler. In fact, the Escape factor as a reason for communication puts Twitter more in line with “happy hour.”

There was no difference in the perception of time.

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9 Comments
  1. I think Twitter is an escape for some but a marketing tool for others. Without a doubt in todays world Social Networking has become a powerful bridge to advertise your service or product. Twitter is a solid piece to the process. Great Post!

  2. Interesting study… and even more interesting conclusion.

    If I recall back to my times in corporate culture, the water cooler was used as an escape there too. A few minutes to get up and delay progress before settling into the work being avoided.

    Now, coming from a law office background, where the importance of billable hours are stressed, hanging out at the water cooler wasn’t the norm, but walking to it as a diversion was!

    I think what makes the study complex is that many of us use Twitter for different things.

    For instance, in no particular order, I use it to:
    -connect with friends I know offfline
    -connect with new friends online
    -promote friend’s products
    -get friends to a blog post
    -ask questions
    -pass the time during downtime like waiting in line
    -alert people about the start of a teleseminar or ustream
    -gather instant feedback
    -flirt
    -ask
    -announce
    -solicit
    -remind
    -partner

    … ummm… I’m gonna stop rambling now. One good thing about Twitter, with a 140 character limit, your writing needs to be pithy and impactful!

  3. I’m using it as a kind of “intimate broadcast” right now. My intuitions make me think Twitter’s behaving kind of like an IRC channel where everybody feels vaguely excluded and are trying to break into the conversation . . . but there’s no core conversation.

  4. Someone asked me today what “this Twitter thing” was about. I told them it was instant messenger for crowds. Facebook status without Facebook. It’s a great intro to blogging because you do it one burst at a time. While I don’t think the current version of Twitter is amazingly useful, I am curious to see where it evolves. Twitter 5.0 in a few years could be remarkable.

  5. Hi,

    I recently completed my Master’s in Information Management and was interested in some of the points that you documented. Practitioners in the industry have been trying to make your points through case studies. Has your paper been published or is it available for review?

    Regards,
    Jennifer
    email to: jengoetchius@gmail.com

  6. I love this project that you chose for your thesis! I’ll bet it was fun compiling data too! One more thing that I noticed is the application for home business owners, particularly WAHMs who may feel isolated due to location or family issues. The network of support that can be found in twitter friends should not be underestimated. The relationships that I have built on twitter have led to some productive business applications also. It has to be done right though. Thanks so much for sharing this, twitter friend!

  7. Interesting finding but I think possibly your results may differ with a different crowd. I could be wrong, but I wouldn’t be one of those “escaper” types, and I think a lot of the people that I connect w/ probably woudn’t be either. In fact, many of the most infuential tweeters strategically don’t just “chat” with twitter but tweet strategically.

  8. At last! Seonmoe who understands! Thanks for posting!

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