A Twitter Customer Segmentation

Twitter has certainly seen its share of hype, but along with Facebook and followers like Google Buzz, the company really does herald the rise of a new communication paradigm, the status update.  Whether due to nature or nurture, people seem wired to respond to headlines, and the status update feeds on that desire for short, punchy communication.  Based on the explosion of text messaging from almost nothing to hundreds of billions of messages per year just in the US, the status update medium should also be transformative.

With that in mind, here’s an only slightly tongue-in-cheek segmentation of Twitter users based on my experience with the service so far.

The Broadcaster

  • Broadcasters are on Twitter to promote content, whether their own or someone else’s.  Consciously or unconsciously, many broadcasters see Twitter as being a medium like an email newsletter; one more channel to shoot their message into.  They’ve heard that interacting with other people on Twitter is valuable somehow, but they just haven’t gotten their heads around how or why.  A slightly different type of Broadcaster is looking to reinforce personal status, and their tweets tend to highlight their intelligence, sophistication, and wealth.  If they retweet, it’s typically to show off their good taste or high-status friends.
  • 15% of users

The Consumer

  • This user comes to Twitter from the newsreader paradigm.  Twitter is a source of interesting information, and the Consumer is here to find that information, not to talk.  In extreme cases, these users are so quiet that it can be difficult to distinguish them from inactive accounts.  Interestingly, information consumers are estimated to make up about 90% of most user-generated online communities.  On Twitter, the number feels much, much smaller, perhaps because the 140 character bar is low enough that more people feel comfortable expressing themselves.
  • 10% of users

The Chatter

  • This crowd comes to Twitter from the IM / MySpace / Facebook / SMS world.  They send enormous numbers of stream of consciousness tweets to each other.  Check out the Twitter trending topics to get a sense of this world.  I read somewhere that the average teenage girl sends 100 text messages per day.  Twitter is either supplanting or complementing that firehose of communication.
  • 50% of users

The Conversationalist

  • These people are the uber-marketers on Twitter, in a good way.  They promote their point of view and content like Broadcasters do, but they manage to mix that with a genuine dialogue with their followers.  I’m thinking of people like Tom Peters and Gary Vaynerchuk here.  They somehow overcome the inherent pain of using Twitter as a communication medium, in part by being more savvy about Twitter clients.  They’re amazing to watch, although following them can be exhausting because of the sheer volume of tweets they generate.
  • 5% of users

The Faker

  • The Faker is the evil twin of the Conversationalist.  They go through the same motions at first glance, but you can tell that the Faker is just trying to get you to buy something.  Repeated links to the same products or sites and a lack of original thought are what give them away, although at the margins the line between Fakers and Conversationalists is a thin one.  Outright spammers probably fall in this bucket as well.
  • 20% of users

Now the questions is, how much has Twitter the company thought through these segments?  What do they mean for the business model and the evolution of the medium overall?  I’ll write about that another day, but I’d be interested in your thoughts.

Update: As it turns out, the percentages in this post are way off.  I still think they provide an interesting qualitative view into how prevalent different types of users seem on Twitter, but they don’t really match up to some of the public numbers.  See here for a more updated analysis on Twitter, which is at least slightly more data-driven.

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  • http://twitter.com/paulo_ortiz paulo_ortiz

    my question here is: what will be the trend of this balance in the future? Which one is the segment that is growing more? What the followers value most?

  • http://www.brekiri.com/blog/ Greg4

    Well, the Broadcasters, Converstionalists, and Fakers all have an incentiveto be early adopters because they're trying to get their content out there. So I would imagine that those segments are already better represented onTwitter, although they'll continue to grow. The real growth is going tocome from the Consumers and Chatters, in other words the mass market, asthey figure out what to do with Twitter. The current 100 million users area drop in the bucket compared to the overall global market.As for volume of tweets, that one's harder to estimate since differentsegments tweet differently. I'll put some thought into that and try toaddress it in my next post on the topic.

  • http://www.pntmarketingservices.com/newsfeed/article/Using_customer_segmentation_analysis_to_predict_customer_behavior-19685318.html Customer Segmentation

    Great article. Tracking customer trends seems essential to any business. Great read.

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