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Twitter’s Awareness vs. Usage Problem

Despite growth, usage is still a niche activity

June 10, 2011

The Pew Internet & American Life Project announced this month that Twitter usage had risen from 8% of US internet users in fall 2010 to 13% in May 2011, a 62.5% increase in penetration. Twitter usage does seem to be growing, but is a bump like that sizeable enough to take it from niche to mainstream?

In May, Arbitron and Edison Research published an update to their social media research indicating Twitter has a long way to go in convincing consumers they want to use the microblogging service.

Awareness of the service was high, at 92%, but just 8% of consumers ages 12 and up said they had ever used it. Although Twitter awareness actually increased 5 percentage points from an already high figure in 2010, usage increased by just 1 point over the same period.

Awareness vs. Usage of Twitter Among US Consumers, 2008-2011 (% of respondents)

To be sure, Facebook has greater awareness than usage, too. Arbitron and Edison found that more people have heard of the social networking giant than use the internet in the US. But Facebook usage is also high, at an estimated 42.3% of consumers and 57.1% of internet uses this year, eMarketer believes.

By contrast, eMarketer estimates just 11% of internet users will access a Twitter account at least monthly this year.

Comparative Estimates: US Twitter Users, 2009-2013 (% of internet users)

eMarketer projected in January 2011 that US advertising revenues on Twitter would reach $140 million this year and $225 million in 2012. That forecast depended, however, on traffic trends improving and the site seeing greater uptake. Pew’s research indicates that usage may not be flattening, but Twitter has thus far failed to make its value proposition appealing to most Americans who have heard of it.

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Check out today’s other article, “P&G’s Panel of Women Helps Amplify Word-of-Mouth Marketing.”


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