Though recent studies have documented women’s dominance on Facebook, MySpace and other popular social media, a new Harvard Business School study reveals that men may actually be the driving force on Twitter.
Despite the fact that women comprise a slight majority of Twitter users (55% of women vs. 45% of men), and men and women? follow a similar number of tweeters overall, men have 15% more followers than women, and have more reciprocated relationships, according to Bill Heil and Mikolaj Jan Piskorski, who conducted the study.
The research also found that – despite the fact that men and women tweet at the same rate – an average man is almost twice more likely to follow another man on Twitter than to follow a woman, an average woman is 25% more likely to follow a man than a woman and an average man is 40% more likely to be followed by another man than by a woman.
According to the authors, this “follower split” suggests that women are driven less by followers than men, or have more selective thresholds for reciprocating relationships.
Heil and Piskorski say these results are “stunning,” in light of the fact that they run counter to the bulk of other social networking research, including a recent report from InsideFacebook. “On a typical online social network such as Facebook, most of the activity is focused around women – men follow content produced by women they do and do not know, and women follow content produced by women they know,”? they said. “Generally, men receive comparatively little attention from other men or from women.”
Twitter Breeds Followers
Perhaps because of the nature of the microblogging medium, the analysis of a sample of 300,000+ Twitter users found that 80% are followed by or follow at least one user. In comparison, only 60% to 65% of other online social network members had at least one friend (when these networks were at a similar level of development). “This suggests that actual users (as opposed to the media at large) understand how Twitter works,” said Heil and Piskorski.
Usage Patterns Differ from SocNets
The research also found that Twitter’s usage patterns differ significantly from typical online social networks, where individual users tend to make more per-person contributions. On the other hand, a typical Twitter user contributes very rarely. Among Twitter users, the median number of lifetime tweets per user is one. This translates into over half of Twitter users tweeting less than once every 74 days, the study found.
At the same time, the top 10% of frequent tweeters users accont for more than 90% of all tweets, while the top 10% of users of other popular social networks account for 30% of all posts:
“This suggests that Twitter resembles more of a one-way, one-to-many publishing service more than a two-way, peer-to-peer communication network,” the authors said.
About the research: The survey was conducted with a random sample of 300,0542 Twitter users collected in May 2009 which set out to determine how tweeters were using the service. Results were then compared with activity on other social networks and online content production venues. To determine male vs. female Twitter users, the researchers cross-referenced users’ “real names” against a database of 40,000 strongly gendered names.