Twitter Experiencing Massive Growth: New Research


social media researchIs Twitter part of your social marketing mix?

Are you wondering about Twitter’s growth potential?

Twitter’s foothold with television audiences and Millennial consumers suggest there are some marketing opportunities.

In this article you’ll discover findings from studies to help you determine how much to invest in marketing and customer service through Twitter.

research on twitter growth

Discover new research insights into Twitter’s massive growth.

#1: Twitter Audience Expected to Continue to Grow

Although Facebook audience growth has plateaued, Twitter is on the move. According to the Pew Research Center’s Social Media Update 2014 released in January 2015, 71% of Internet users in the U.S. are on Facebook. Twitter hosts a comparably smaller audience of 23% of all Internet users engaging with it in 2014.

Still, from 2013 to 2014, Twitter’s audience rose by 27.7% (from 18% to 23% of all Internet users), but Facebook’s audience numbers remained the same for both years (71%).

pew research social media site usage comparison graph

Facebook’s audience growth has stalled at 71% of all Internet users.

Further, Millennials (the country’s future spenders) are the biggest users of Twitter with 37% of 18- to 29-year-olds using it. The chart below, also from the Pew Research Center’s 2015 study, shows which users are on Twitter now. With high numbers of both college graduates and those making over $ 50,000 per year, the Twitter audience has respectable disposable income.

pew research twitter usage stats

Twitter is more effective for brands with a younger target demographic.

Finally, although Facebook has little room to grow beyond the 71% of American Internet users, Twitter can move forward. In a 2014 study by eMarketer, researchers estimate Twitter will grow by 5% to 10% year over year until 2018 when 24.2% of Internet users will be on the platform.

These percentages may seem low in comparison to Facebook, but the audience (now at 48.2 million) will reach 64.9 million users by 2018—a respectable customer base. In addition, as consumers get their fill of Facebook, Twitter could rise in popularity.

pew research twitter usage by year comparison

eMarketer expects Twitter’s audience to grow steadily over the next four years.

Key Takeaways: Twitter can be a reasonable place to engage with your audience, do customer research and carry out customer service—particularly if right now your target audience is 18- to 29-year-old college graduates.

#2: Twitter Captures Number-Two Spot for Performance

While the bulk of social media marketing dollars go to Facebook, one study found Twitter gaining respect and budget as well. In December 2014, enterprise-level email marketing provider StrongView surveyed 377 business leaders to gauge their planned marketing budgets, priorities and challenges for 2015.

Their 2015 Marketing Trends Survey finds Twitter secures the number-two spot in their “top three performing networks for your social media marketing efforts” category—45.21% of those surveyed name it number two, and 10.9% give it their number-one spot.

While some may find finishing second underwhelming, keep in mind that Twitter has a wide lead over competitors YouTube (45.2% vs. 11.4% voting YouTube as second most effective), Google+ (45.2% vs. 3.7%) and LinkedIn (45.2% vs. 14.5%).

strongview survey results data

StrongView’s 2015 Marketing Trends Survey has business leaders reporting Twitter as the second most effective social media channel.

Key Takeaways: With an audience of 48 million consumers, Twitter has the potential to reach targets on a one-to-one basis. Many marketers report that it is effective.

#3: Twitter Winning Consumer Engagement

Audience numbers aren’t the only measure of marketing potential. Social analytics provider Simply Measured examined how marketers at Interbrand’s 2014 Top 100 companies use Twitter. Called the “definitive list of the world’s most valuable brands,” it’s populated with names like Apple, Coca-Cola, Google, Microsoft and so on.

How Top Marketers Use Twitter: Q3 2014 reveals several critical findings. Chief among them is that in Q3 2014, consumer engagement with brand tweets was up 83% over Q4 2013. This metric indicates consumers are willing to connect one on one with company representatives through the channel.

Also revealing more consumer attention for brands on Twitter, in Q3 2014, consumers retweeted brand tweets nearly twice as often as they did in Q4 2013. The number of brand retweets by consumers increased 89% in just one year.

Fascinating to marketers, too, is the fact that 70% of all brand tweets (from the brands themselves) were @replies. This means social teams are searching for mentions of the company name and then replying to the specific question, praise or complaint. This smart marketing is warranted because several studies indicate that consumers appreciate when a brand representative connects with them on social media channels.

simply measured q4 vs q3 tweet type comparison

In the past year, brands scaled down their “outbound” or “push” –style tweets, replacing them with “inbound” or “pull” –style @replies.

Simply Measured authors state:

“Users on Twitter are becoming increasingly more willing to engage with branded content. This is reflected in the number of active engagements on branded content. Users are also willing to endorse branded content more than in the past, accounting for the increase in retweets of brand content.”

Key Takeaway: Brands’ enthusiasm for @replies reveals they understand social media marketing performs best in the form of a conversation. They’re even letting consumers start the conversation. While this approach can be time-intensive and therefore costly, if a company’s audience is on Twitter, the company must be there as well.

Other findings from this important study of marketers at these top brands include:

  • Seventy-five percent tweeted or retweeted at least three times per day.
  • Photos won the most engagement, but tweets with hashtags got more engagement than tweets without hashtags.
  • Ninety-eight percent of these top brands have Twitter channels.
simply measured photo tweet engagement data

Photos drive nearly double the amount of consumer engagement on Twitter than the next closest tweet type (links).

#4: Television Strengthening Twitter’s Foothold

Despite the buzz around Netflix and Amazon TV, network television shows still win millions of viewers each week. Most shows now display onscreen the Twitter watermark and a hashtag for tweeting about the show. Twitter has become the go-to channel for exchanging comments about a show and the brands that advertise during it.

Twitter has found a powerful friend in television, and vice versa. Digital marketing analytics firm Nielsen in their 2014 Digital Consumer report found 84% percent of smartphone and tablet owners use their devices as second screens while watching TV. They conclude:

“Connected devices such as smartphones and tablets have become constant companions to consumers on the go and in the home. . . When using connected devices simultaneously, opportunities exist to deepen consumer engagement with content.”

nielsen second screen data

Nielsen, author of this study, declares this era “the new two-screen minimum.”

Specifically, while watching television, 66% of viewers used a tablet to surf the web, and 49% of smartphone users did the same. Of more interest to brands, 44% of television viewers used a tablet to shop, and 24% of them used their smartphone to pursue the latest deal.

Twitter is thrilled to be the social channel of choice for those looking to engage in conversations about a show. In conjunction with partners FOX and the Advertising Research Foundation, Twitter designed an extensive study to discover how exposure to a brand mentioned in a tweet impacts both online and offline consumer behavior. They conducted the study during prime television viewing hours and compiled their findings in this infographic.

infographic from combined study by fox, advertising research foundation and twitter

Twitter’s findings from their Discovering the Value of Earned Audiences study.

Of the 12,000 people surveyed, 54% take action after exposure to the brand earned media while tweeting about a show. They visit the brand’s website (23%) or Twitter page (20%), search for the brand online (20%), consider trying the brand (19%) or retweet mentions of the brand (19%).

Key Takeaway: Television could help keep Twitter strong. When television studios and the brands that advertise on them live-tweet during shows, users not only engage, but also take specific action that leads to greater brand awareness and possibly sales.


Twitter provides some marketing opportunities, despite an audience about one-third as large as Facebook’s. If you need a place to get started or some ideas to refine your tactics, try Social Media Examiner’s recent article 12 Twitter Marketing Tips From the Pros.

What do you think? Does you listen to what consumers are saying about your company on Twitter? Are you replying to comments left by consumers there? Has Twitter been an effective channel for you? Leave your comments and questions below.

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