Pew Report: The demographics of Twitter users

Twitter use among millennials jumped significantly in the past year, but not among older age groups. Read on for more about the characteristics of Twitter users.

In 2010, I lectured at the International College of Management to a class of 18- to 24 year-old-students.

I asked if any of them were on Twitter, and only one had the courage to own up to it.

Fast forward 18 months. In a different class with the same demographics, I asked the same question. Instead of one hand, there were five.

It appears the millennial generation is starting to accept Twitter.

Do others support my research? Yes. Here are some facts and figures from a study by the Pew Research Center:

Is Twitter growing?

The study revealed:

  • As of February 2012, about 15 percent of online adults use Twitter.
  • Eight percent of online adults use Twitter on a typical day.
  • Overall Twitter usage has nearly doubled since November 2010.
  • The percentage of online adults who use Twitter on a typical day has doubled since May 2011.
  • The proportion of adults who use Twitter on a typical day has quadrupled (now 8 percent) since late 2010.

The rise of smartphones might account for some of the uptick in usage because smartphone users particularly likely to use Twitter. This is partly because Twitter is embedded in the Apple iOS5 mobile operating system. iPhone owners can use it as easily as they send text messages.

Who uses Twitter?

Several demographics have high rates of Twitter usage relative to their peers:

  • More than one quarter of online African-Americans (28 percent) use Twitter. Thirteen percent use it on a typical day, which is nearly double the overall average.
  • Twenty-six percent of Internet users aged 18-29 use Twitter, which is nearly double the rate for those aged 30-49.
  • Residents of urban areas are significantly more likely to use Twitter than their rural counterparts.

Among the youngest Internet users (those aged 18-24), 31 percent are Twitter users. These numbers reveal that the heavy use of texting is also moving to Twitter, which will affect the way brands advertise on Twitter.

How old are they?

Twitter use within the overall population remained steady over the last year, and usage rates within most major demographics changed little over the same time period.

There are some standouts:

  • Twitter use among 18-24 year olds increased dramatically between May 2011 and February 2012, both overall and on a typical day.
  • Nearly one-third of Internet users in this age group now use Twitter, up from 18 percent in May 2011 and 16 percent in late 2010.

What hasn’t changed is how much those in their mid-20s to mid-40s use Twitter. It largely leveled off in the last year after roughly doubling between late 2010 and mid-2011.

What is a typical day of Twitter usage?

The proportion of young Internet users who use Twitter on a typical day doubled over the last year. One in five Internet users aged 18-24 use Twitter on a typical day, up from 9 percent in May 2011.

Notably, typical day usage among slightly older adults (those aged 25-34) also doubled—from 5 percent in May 2011 to 11 percent in February 2012—even as overall usage levels within this group remained stable over that time.

Who uses Twitter on mobile?

There is a strong relationship between youth, mobility and Twitter when you look specifically at Twitter use on mobile phones. Twitter usage is highly correlated with the use of mobile technologies, especially smartphones:

  • One in five smartphone owners are Twitter users.
  • Thirteen percent use the service on a typical day.

By contrast, Internet users who own more basic mobile phones are:

  • Roughly half as likely to use Twitter overall (9 percent do).
  • Just 3 percent of basic phone owners use Twitter on a typical day.

This correlation between Twitter adoption and smartphone ownership may help explain the recent growth in Twitter use among young adults. Those aged 18-24 are not just the fastest-growing group to adopt Twitter during the last year, but they experienced the largest increase in smartphone ownership of any demographic over the same time period.

As with general Twitter usage, smartphone owners are much more likely to use Twitter on their phones. Overall, 16 percent of smartphone owners use Twitter on their phones, and 10 percent do so on a typical day.

As with our general Twitter usage findings, cell-phone owners aged 18-24 are more likely than older cell-phone owners to use Twitter on their mobile devices. Twenty-two percent of 18- to 24-year-old cell phone owners use Twitter on their phones, and 15 percent do so on a typical day.

African-Americans and Latinos—both of whom have high rates of smartphone ownership—are also heavy mobile Twitter users.


There are two major takeaways for marketers:

  • The growth of smartphone adoption is highly correlated to the growth of Twitter usage.
  • There is a 400 percent growth in Twitter usage by 18-24 year olds.

Marketers should consider these two points when they plan campaigns, and consider how this relates to other platforms such as Facebook and mobile apps.

Are you using Twitter more? Do you prefer to tweet from your phone rather than your computer?

Jeff Bullas is a digital media coach, mentor, consultant and speaker. He blogs at, where a version of this article originally ran. (Image via)

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