In a report certain to shock few, media analytics firm Pear Research took 2,000 tweets from the public timeline (in English and in the United States) over a two-week period, capturing tweets in half-hour increments, and categorized them into six buckets. Not surprisingly, "Pointless Babble" won, with 40.55 percent of the total tweets captured.
Placing a close second at 37.55 percent was "Conversational." "Pass-Along Value" was third (albeit distant) at 8.7 percent of the tweets captured.
The study revealed a wealth of information on how Twitter users use the service. Spam was found consistently all day, everyday, but was second to last on frequency, while 11:30 a.m. and Mondays had the most frequent tweets with Pass-Along Value. The study found that news seemed heavier at 2:00 p.m. and on Tuesdays and Conversational tweets were high between 2:00 and 4:00 p.m., and heaviest on Tuesdays. The "Self-Promotion" category ranked fourth on the list with 8.7 percent, while the "News" category, at 3.6 percent, ranked slightly below "Spam" (3.75 percent).
The study also found correlations between the type of tweet and the day of the week it tends to occur more frequently. For example, retweets happen most on Tuesdays. The category with the largest gap between the highest occurrence and the second highest occurrence was self-promotion, where the highest occurrence was 8.5 percent of the tweets on Wednesdays, and the second highest occurrence at 6.25 percent on Tuesdays.
"As Twitter continues to evolve, not only as a brand but from a user's perspective, it is likely that the usage patterns will change," the report said, noting Pear will continue to publish data quarterly in an attempt to identify and assess new trends on the microblogging site. "We did not predict that Conversational would be as high as it was, or that Self-Promotion was going to be as low as it was."
An April report from Nielsen Online showed that despite social networking site Twitter's meteoric rise in popularity, the site is having trouble retaining its community of Twitterers. The data released by Nielsen shows the social networking site is struggling with low retention rates: More than 60 percent of Twitter users fail to return the following month.
For the small business community, social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and even Twitter hold potential opportunities for growth. In addition, they provide an easily accessible, rapidly deployable channel to their customer base. But as any small business owner can attest, keeping customers is hard enough to do in the real world. Any small business thinking about investing time and energy into a Twitter account or Facebook page (or a blog) needs to have the dedication to provide constant, personalized information-not to mention posting information that is worth reading.
Despite reports concerning Twitter's long-term viability or day-to-day practicality, the site reaches an impressive audience. According to digital audience measurement service Quantcast.com, Twitter reaches 27 million people per month in the United States, with 55 percent of users females and 43 percent between the ages of 18 and 34. While 78 percent of users are Caucasian, African American users are 35 percent above the overall Internet average.