Some Findings About Twitter and the News, From Pew Research Center

A couple of weeks ago we learned how Americans consume news on Facebook, and according to a study released by the Pew Research Center Monday, we now know more about the connection between the news and Twitter — Twitter users are “younger, more mobile and more educated.”

The last study Pew did, along with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, indicated that 30 percent of people actually use Facebook partially as a news source. For Twitter, the number is much lower — eight percent of U.S. adults log in for tweets about news. Only 16 percent of American adults use Twitter at all.

Forty percent of Twitter news consumers hold at least a bachelor’s degree (for Facebook, that number is 30 percent), and nearly half of Twitter news-readers are 18-29 years old, according to Pew.

Amy Mitchell and Emily Guskin with the Pew Research Journalism Project also wrote that the research consisted of Twitter conversation analysis. Here’s what that breakdown revealed: “much of what gets posted centers on passing along breaking news; sentiments shift considerably over time; and however passionate, the conversations do not necessarily track with public opinion,” Mitchell and Guskin wrote. The only somewhat surprising fact among those three is how much the opinions of Twitter users can change over the course of a few days. Pew took ten major news events over the last year (Newtown, the Supreme Courts same-sex marriage hearing, presidential election, etc.) and zeroed in on Twitter users’ sentiments; you can read more about how they came to those conclusions here.

I’m going out on a limb, but I would venture to say that while there are fewer people getting their news from Twitter than Facebook, it makes sense that the Twitter news consumers would be more mobile and educated — one could assume that those on Twitter are more likely to seek out new, updated, worldly information. Whereas Facebook tends to function as a true “social” online network — a place where you snoop on exes and share engagement photos — the eight percent who look to Twitter for news are perhaps less inclined toward the social aspect of the network and more intentional in their usage of the application (this idea can be backed by Pew’s findings that 78 percent of Facebook users sort of stumble upon news — they don’t seek it out).

Publishers and media companies should be paying attention to these studies and tailoring their social media efforts accordingly. Breaking news on Twitter is a BIG deal for news organizations. If you don’t believe me, just let this sentence sink in:

“Straight news accounts also led the Twitter conversations about the Oct. 1 rollout of the Affordable Care Act (42%) and the concurrent federal government shutdown (35%),” Pew wrote. Both ACA and the shutdown are undoubtedly points of contention and passion, yet a hefty group of Twitter users shared tweets without opinions or political leanings. And since those who are on Twitter tend to be younger, it’d be wise to think about the art of composing the tweet. What catches the eye of 20-somethings on Twitter? What kinds of issues do younger, educated American adults want to read about on Twitter? Finally, since Twitter users are so prone to reading news on-the-go, media companies can never be too forward-thinking when it comes to developing sophisticated mobile apps and features to accommodate that need. Where are your readers led once they click on your Twitter link? Something to mull over.

Your turn: are you surprised about the results of Pew’s Twitter study?

Image via Pew Research Journalism Project