Inside Twitter

An In-Depth Look Inside the Twitter World

June 2009


Over the past few months, Twitter has experienced explosive growth, attracting celebrity users such as Oprah, and a growing mountain of media and blog coverage. Sysomos Inc., one of the world's leading social media analytics companies, conducted an extensive study to document Twitter's growth and how people are using it. After analyzing information disclosed on 11.5 million Twitters accounts, we discovered that:

  • 72.5% of all users joining during the first five months of 2009
  • 85.3% of all Twitter users post less than one update/day
  • 21% of users have never posted a Tweet
  • 93.6% of users have less than 100 followers, while 92.4% follow less than 100 people
  • 5% of Twitter users account for 75% of all activity (see the report on analysis of top-5% users)
  • New York has the most Twitters users, followed by Los Angeles, Toronto, San Francisco and Boston; while Detroit was the fast-growing city over the first five months of 2009
  • More than 50% of all updates are published using tools, mobile and Web-based, other than TweetDeck is the most popular tool with 19.7% market share.
  • There are more women on Twitter (53%) than men (47%)
  • Of the people who identify themselves as marketers, 15% follow more than 2,000 people. This compares with 0.29% of overall Twitter users who follow more than 2,000 people.

"We wanted to take an extensive snapshot of Twitter that goes far beyond anything done to document Twitter's use, growth and demographics," said Nick Koudas, Sysomos' co-founder and chief executive. "While Twitter's growth has been well documented, we wanted to put the spotlight on how people use Twitter, as well as identify many of the key trends in their backgrounds, demographics and activity. Our study, based on the most comprehensive dataset of Twitter users, provides a wealth of information for anyone interested in getting in-depth details about Twitter."

To discuss this report on Twitter, use the hashtag #sysomossurvey or copy us @sysomos.  

Twitter's Hockey Stick-Like Growth in 09

The Facts: Since the beginning of the year, 72.5% of Twitter users have signed up for the service. This includes 22.7% of total users in March and 19.7% in April.

So what accounted for the tremendous growth in March and April? In March, Twitter started to attract significant media attention after reported that the number of Twitter users had skyrocketed in February.

In April, Twitter's profile was enhanced when Ashton Krutcher (aka @aplusk) waged a public race against CNN to be the first to have one million followers. Then, on April 17, talk show celebrity Oprah Winfrey (aka @oprah) started using Twitter, making her first Tweet on her show with help from Twitter co-founder Ev Williams.

Although April did show impressive growth, it was also the first time in nine months that Twitter had a decline in month-over-month growth.

Twitter Self-Disclosed Age Demographics

The Facts: Based on a sample set of users who disclosed their age, 65% of Twitter users are under the age of 25

Note: Only 0.7% of users disclosed their age, with younger users showing a higher probability of doing so. Still, the statistics suggest Twitter is growing in popularity among younger people.

Number of People Followed

The Facts: 92.4% of Twitter users follow less than 100 people, while 97.8% of Twitter users follow less than 400 people. At the other end of the extreme, 0.94% of Twitter users follow more than 1,000 people.

Number of Followers

The Facts: 93.6% of Twitter users have less than 100 followers, while 98% of users have less than 400 followers. Meanwhile, 1.35% of users have more 500 followers, and only 0.68% of more than 1,000 followers.

Followers vs. Following Activity

Fast Fact: Until people have 150 followers, they follow about the same number of people. After that, this starts to break down. Twitter users who are follow 950 people, for example, are only followed by 531.

The More Followers, the More You Tweet

Fast Fact: As Twitter users attract more followers, they tend to Tweet more often. This is particularly evident once someone has 1,000 followers the average number of Tweets/day climb from three to six. When someone has more than 1,750 followers, the number of Tweets/day rises to 10.


The Facts: 85.3% of Twitter users update less than once/day; while 1.13% Twitter users update more than average of 10 times a day.

Twitter Activity

The Facts: As many people have speculated, a small group of Twitter users account for the bulk of activity. Sysomos discovered that 5% of users account for 75% of all activity, 10% account for 86% of activity, and the top 30% account for 97.4% (see the report on analysis of top-5% users)

How Active Are Twitter Users?

The Facts: 50.4% of Twitter users haven't updated their status in the last seven days.

Twitter Activity by Day of Week

The Facts: Based on a sample of 20 million Tweets, Tuesday is the most popular day for Twitter activity, accounting for 15.7% of total activity; followed by Wednesday (15.6%) and Friday (14.5%)

Twitter Activity By Time of Day

The Facts: During the day, the most Twitter activity happens from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (EST)

Publishing Tools

The Facts: More than half of Twitter users (55%) use something other than TweetDeck is the most popular publishing tool with 19.7% market share, while Twitterfon had 4.5% and Twitterfeed 3.8% share.

iPhone Users on Twitter

The Facts: Not surprisingly, the majority of iPhone owners using Twitter are located in the U.S.

Note: These numbers are based on the number of iPhone users who use their devices to update their Twitter status. It also reflects higher penetration rates of  the iPhone in the U.S.

Top Twitter Countries

The Facts: US is the biggest Twitter country by population, followed by UK, Canada and Australia.

Fastest Growing Cities

The Facts: The cities with the biggest Twitter populations are New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, San Francisco and Boston. Los Angeles is the fastest growing city in the list.

Most Common Keywords in Twitter Profiles

The word cloud below shows a list of common words in bio of Twitter users.

Insights on Social Media Marketers Using Twitter

The Facts: 15% of Twitter users who follow more than 2,000 people identify themselves as social media marketers. More than 78% of social media marketers have more than 20 followers. As well, 35% write more than one update/day, compared with 15% for the overall Twitter population.

Average Tweets Per Day

The Facts: 65.5% of social media marketers post less than a update a day, compared with 85.3% of the general Twitter population. In addition, 6.3% post two updates a day (vs. 2.8 overall), while 4.3% post at least nine updates a day (vs. 0.17% overall). This suggests social media marketers are far more active than overall users.

Number of Friends

The Facts: 9.23% of social media marketers follow more than 500 people; 9.74% follow more than 750 people; while 10.7% follow more than 1,000 people. (Tablular Data)

Number of Followers

The Facts: 10% of social media marketers have more than 500 followers, 10.9% have more than 750 followers, while 11.8% have more than 1,000 followers. (Tablular Data)

Most Common Keywords in Profile of Social Media Marketers

Twitter Communities

We analyzed our entire Twitter collection of 11.5 million users to identify communities. While the notion of a community is admittedly open to multiple interpretations, in our case we adopted the following intuitive definition: we seek to identify sets of Twitter users that are tightly "connected" in terms of following each other. Our results are astonishing:

  • There are communities on Twitter for nearly any topic! Sample communities include users interested exclusively on children's books, lounge music, new parents, lawyers, state politics, city events, etc.
  • The denser the community, the more specific the topics of interest. One for example, can easily observe a tightly coupled community of mothers interested exclusively on children's books, as well as a loosely coupled communities of individuals interested in politics in the U.S.
  • Communities tend to be of manageable size (in accordance with known theories in sociology)  

We will be updating our blog ( with Twitter communities.


Sysomos analyzed more than 11.5 million Twitter accounts, including the indexing of user profiles and status updates. Location and age information is based on information disclosed in their profile pages. Genders are based on the analysis of user's real names as disclosed against extensive lists of male and female names. Statistics for social media marketers is based on users who mention their profession in their profiles as social media practitioners, online marketers, and pr professionals.

Note: this survey report was produced in May and, as a result, hence data for May 2009 is not complete.

About Sysomos

Sysomos is the social intelligence company backed by data science that gives businesses immediate context to the hundreds of millions of conversations happening online every day. The Sysomos social intelligence platform continuously decodes these conversations and news stories to give marketers real-time answers about what their customers think and feel. More than 1,400 global brands and agencies including United Health Group, 3M, Boeing, Edelman, Genetech, Marriott and Ogilvy trust Sysomos for their social intelligence. Sysomos has offices in seven cities worldwide, including London, New York, San Francisco and Toronto. 

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