50% of Tweets Consumed Are Created by 20K Elite Users [Study]

Twitter is a haven for influencers – celebrities, media professionals, bloggers, and though-leaders abound. And it’s this group who creates the vast majority of the tweets you read. According to a study conducted by researchers at Yahoo!, 50% of the tweets you read are produced by just 20k users. More from this study below.

The researchers set out to see who follows whom on Twitter. They looked at 42 million Twitter users as of July 31st 2009, 5 billion tweets (which included URLs) from the firehose generated between July 28th 2009 and March 8 2010, and classified users according to how they appeared in Twitter lists.

Using this raw data, they examined just how people were really communicating on Twitter.

Here are some key findings from their study:

  • The median number of followers is less than 100
  • People don’t automatically follow back – reciprocity of a follow is only 20%
  • Even though media outlets are among the most active category of Twitter users, only about 15% of tweets received by ordinary users are directly from the media
  • 20K users (or 0.05% of all Twitter users) attract 50% of the attention

These findings are inline with a Sysomos study released in December, which found that 2.2% of Twitter users account for 60% of all tweets. Both studies show that the conversation on Twitter is dominated by a small group of power users.

It might come as no surprise to the veterans of Twitter, but there are now numbers from several different sources to back it up: a large portion of the content you read is generated by a small part of the Twitter population. There is an elite group of media, celebrities, organizations and bloggers which really defines the Twitter experience for the “ordinary” user.

It’s interesting to see that the Yahoo! study found the mainstream media no longer in control of the conversation – they only contributed 15% of tweets seen by the average user. Now, this circle of influence has widened to include individuals, celebrities, bloggers and social media personalities.

However, the circle clearly hasn’t widened too much, considering how concentrated content creation really is on Twitter.