Teens not into Twitter — Morgan Stanley, PMN survey

23 Jul 2009 (Thu)

TWITTER IS NOT POPULAR AMONG TEENAGERS according to a report from analyst firm Morgan Stanley AND a survey by research group Participatory Marketing Network (PMN). The retention rate of Twitter is also much lower than that of social networks like Facebook and MySpace during their explosive growth phases, says a Nielsen Online report.

In the Morgan Stanley report (summarized on ReadWriteWeb and available here courtesy of the Financial Times), 15-year-old intern Matthew Robson says today’s teens aren’t into traditional media (think TV, radio, newspapers).  For example, they don’t bother reading “pages and pages of text” (newspapers) when they could instead “watch the news summarized on the internet or TV”.  They watch less TV than ever before, thanks to online streaming services like BBC’s iPlayer. When commercials come on, teens simply change the channel. While they occasionally tune into radio stations, they prefer online sites like Last.fm where they can stream music ad-free and, more importantly, pick the playlist – not some unknown DJ.

Most teens are into the Internet. They use Facebook for social networking, search and research topics with Google, watch videos on YouTube, and download music for their iPods from file-sharing sites. Teens do like viral campaigns but see banner ads and pop-ups as annoying and pointless. They tend to ignore ads entirely and never click through. Teens also tend to use phones simply for talking and texting. They also share music files with friends using Bluetooth, since the service is free and most phones now support it. They do not own smartphones or engage in video messaging or calling, due to cost. They don’t bother with mobile email either.

However, despite interest in new media, most teens see no point in using Twitter. “Most have signed up for the service,” notes Robson, “but then just leave it as they realize that they are not going to update it” apparently because “no one is viewing their profile”. Besides, to update Twitter via text message takes credit (cell phone text plans) and they’d rather use that credit to text their friends. Robson’s report wasn’t based on any sort of statistical analysis, “just good ol’ fashioned teenage honesty”.

ACCORDING TO THE PMN REPORT, conducted in May among 200 Gen Y-ers (people born during the 80s and 90s)—mostly students from Pace University—only 22 percent are using Twitter although 99 percent maintain at least one profile on a social network. Of those who did use Twitter, 85% said they follow friends, 54% follow celebrities, 29% follow family members and 29% follow companies. Of the 99% of respondents who belonged to social-networking sites, 89% said they had installed an application on their profile page. Of the 38% who owned an Apple iPhone or iPod touch, 53% had downloaded games.

PMN co-founder Michael Della Penna said, “If [18-24 year olds] are texting, using social networks, what is the social value of Twitter?” To capitalize on the Gen Y demographic, marketers have to define the benefits of using Twitter, he said, emphasizing how users can make new friends and followers as well as connect with experts (and celebrities, and celebrity experts) “that you normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to meet.”

Meanwhile, a Nielsen Online report said that majority of Twitter users are quitting the service after one month of registration. “Currently, more than 60 percent of U.S. Twitter users fail to return the following month, or in other words, Twitter’s audience retention rate, or the percentage of a given month’s users who come back the following month, is currently about 40 percent. For most of the past 12 months, pre-Oprah, Twitter has languished below 30 percent retention.”

By contrast, “even when Facebook and MySpace were emerging networks like Twitter is now, their retention rates were twice as high. When they went through their explosive growth phases, that retention only went up, and both sit at nearly 70 percent today.”

Twitter has nearly 14 million new users in March in addition to its other clients. However, Nielsen says that “a retention rate of 40 percent will limit a site’s growth to about a 10 percent reach figure.” With this low retention and low popularity among young users, some communication experts said that Twitter’s fame may be short-lived.

Twitter is a social networking website where people can post messages of up to 140 characters – known as tweets – that can be seen by other users who subscribe to their feed. Its growth has been described as “explosive” and it has become the poster child of social networking sites, particularly among media companies.

7 AUGUST AFTERNOTE: Statistics from Nielsen’s NetView Audience Measurement Service (July 2009) confirmed that “Teens don’t Tweet: Twitter’s Growth Not Fueled by Youth“.

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Posted by J.K. in Research, Social Media, Technology | View Comments |

  • http://www.debthelpquick.co.uk Frank Polenose

    I don’t get Twitter at all. Well, I do get it… but really… what is the point?!

  • http://www.eonon.com silena220

    Yes after days of using it, I find Twitter is not so interesting, the media there is so limited, and not as funny as facebook and Myspace, and so many bugs inside this site. But it will be so popular at least for some time.

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