Only 56% of Twitter accounts have ever sent a tweet

There are over 900 million Twitter accounts but not everyone is actually sending tweets:

A report from Twopcharts, a website that monitors Twitter account activity, states that about 44% of the 974 million existing Twitter accounts have never sent a tweet…

Twitter said it has 241 million monthly active users the last three months of 2013. Twitter defines a monthly active user as an account that logs in at least once a month. By Twitter’s standards, a person does not have to tweet to be considered a monthly active user…

But having engaged users–those who are active participants in the online conversation–are particularly valuable to Twitter. For one thing, activity tends to make users more inclined to continue using the service.

Secondly, user tweets, retweets, favorites and other actions help Twitter generate advertising revenue. Over the last year, the company has made it easier for users to do those things and introduced user-friendly features such as pictures into the timeline…

Moreover, the report highlights Twitter’s user retention issue. It estimates 542.1 million accounts have sent at least one tweet since they’ve been created, suggesting that more than half of the accounts in existence have actively tried out the service. But just 23% of those accounts have tweeted sometime in the last 30 days.

And how many of these accounts are fake?

All together, the number of people actively using Twitter – meaning they are tweeting themselves, retweeting, interacting with others – is still limited. If you read a lot of Internet stories from journalists and bloggers, it sounds like lots of people are on Twitter doing important things. But, these users are likely a limited part of the population: more educated, have regular access to smartphones and Internet connections, younger. This doesn’t mean Twitter is worthless but it does suggest it is not exactly representative of Americans.

Talking about Twitter language and what it reveals about the world

It may seem like common sense that people’s regional dialects show up in their online communication. According to a new study that examined “380,000 messages from Twitter during one week in March 2010,” people in California say “coo” for “cool,” southerners still say “y’all,” and New Yorkers are more apt to say “suttin” instead of “something.”

But I think the study does just go beyond common sense in some of its other conclusions:

Eisenstein said some of the online “accents” mirror those in the spoken language, but not all. For example, many people in the Great Lakes region tend to have similar accents when speaking, but that wasn’t necessarily found to be true in the study, he said.

“One thing I think that it shows is that people really have a need to communicate their identity — their cultural identity and their geographic identity in social media,” he said.

This is interesting: how exactly do people portray their identity through their online language? On mediums like Twitter, people make very conscious choices about how to speak. People of different regions and dialects can choose to use their typical speech patterns or not. And why do they make these choices?

A broader question to ask is how much do posts on Twitter represent reality? What sort of picture of the world does Twitter deliver? This study can help us understand what Twitter behavior is like but can it tell us much about the broader world?

Using Twitter as a data source; examining emotions and more

In April, the Library of Congress announced plans to archive all public tweets since the start of Twitter in March 2006. So what might researchers do with this data?

A recent study provides an example. Scholars from Northeastern and Harvard examined the emotions of Americans through their Tweets. By coding certain words as having positive or negative emotional value, researchers were able to map out data. According to New Scientist:

[T]hese “tweets” suggest that the west coast is happier than the east coast, and across the country happiness peaks each Sunday morning, with a trough on Thursday evenings.

The mood map is cool.

While the findings about when people are happy may not be too surprising, the research does bring up the question about the value of Tweets as a data source. Since it is likely skewed to a younger sample and also perhaps a wealthier and more educated group, it is not representative data. But it could provide some insights into reactions to certain events or for seeing the beginning and end of certain trends.

So what else will researchers study using tweets?