Small Percentage of Twitterers Consistent Users, Study Finds

Thanks to a "Red Carpet Era" of celebrity Twitter users, the microblogging site's usage is up, but a report from Barracuda Networks finds only 21 percent of Twitterers use the services consistently.

A report from security firm Barracuda Networks compiling data about Twitter trends and tracking, Web threats and trends and e-mail spam and viruses found only 21 percent of Twitter users are grouped into what Barracuda calls "True Twitter Users," defined as a user that has at least 10 followers, follows at least 10 people and has tweeted at least 10 times.

The company's analysis was based on nearly 19 million Twitter accounts, in which it analyzed the frequency and content of tweets, user-to-user interactions and each account's overall activity level. Despite the low level of true Twitterers, the study, conducted in 2009, found users are becoming more active on Twitter. According to the report, 49 percent of Twitter users, and 48 of the top 100 most followed Twitter users, joined during the "Twitter Red Carpet Era," indicating the significant impact celebrities have on the social networking landscape as they bring their real-world fans over to Twitter.

The Twitter Red Carpet Era occurred from November 2008 to April 2009, when many celebrities - from actors and athletes to musicians and politicians - started Twitter accounts and began promoting the service on a daily basis. Barracuda's report also noted Twitter's growth rate spiked at 21.17 percent in April 2009 due to the Red Carpet Era. However, the Twitter Crime Rate, defined as the percentage of accounts created per month that were eventually suspended for malicious or suspicious activity, increased 66 percent, during this period. It continued to escalate, reaching 12 percent in October 2009, indicating one in eight accounts created was deemed to be malicious, suspicious or otherwise misused and subsequently suspended.

"Attackers continue to be as opportunistic as ever. As soon as the Twitter user base and activity levels increased, hackers were prepared with novel attacks to compromise users," said Paul Judge, chief research officer at Barracuda Networks. "As social networking, and specifically Twitter, becomes more ingrained in everyday business, it is crucial to understand the nature of attacks happening on these sites, as well as how users and networks can be compromised."

The analysis also found 26 percent of users now have at least 10 followers, showing a 30 percent increase since June when only 20 percent of users had at least 10 followers, and 40 percent of users are following at least 10 user accounts, showing an 18 percent increase since June. Twenty-seven percent of users have tweeted 10 times or more, showing a 29 percent increase since June 2009. Additionally, Barracuda reported a trend toward users actually using Twitter as a two-way communication tool versus as an RSS feed or what it termed an "information fire hose." In fact, 36 percent of Twitter users today have more followers than the accounts they are following, showing an 80 percent increase since June when that number was only 20 percent.