The best evidence you can get is the one you go get yourself. Well, in theory anyway… But it certainly helps to get to first hand data.
I was recently wondering about all those quality tweeters that seem to really spend a lot of time posting excellent resources, asking good questions, answering others’, sharing the fun and passing the wisdom. Having to deal with many different pieces of work and projects at the organisation that employs me, I was wondering if they would have time, were they in my position. More broadly I was indeed wondering if those quality tweeters were not independent workers who may have more time and more reason to tweet about work as a way to get recognised, visible and turn tweets into opportunities for work. By contrast, employees, I assumed, may have more organisation-centric work to do…
One thing leading to another, and encouraged by Gauri Salokhe, to set up a poll about this, as a try-out I designed a very simple survey with just 3 questions:
- How many times per day do you tweet (on average)?
- What proportion of your tweets is for professional vs. personal purposes?
- Are you working as an employee, as an independent worker or else?
And I left a blank space for any additional comment or question.
19 respondents took part: 10 employees, 8 independents, 1 student – a very small sample I agree but it’s a try-out after all!
What I found out, trying this nifty survey app (TwtSurvey), is that unless you pay for a pro account, you cannot disaggregate the results and find out who answered what. Luckily I could check and report each answer as it came in and attribute it to either an employee or an independent worker (or else). But if you use this survey app, be aware of this caveat ;)
What are the results?
- From the sample, what can we say about twittering volume? Respondent employees generally tweet 2 to 15 times per day (four do it 2 to 5 times, another four 6 to 15 times) while independents are rather very minimal tweeters (four of them twittering once per day or less) or abundant tweeters (three twittering 6 to 15 times and one over 26 times per day). In other words, employees are spread around the average, while independents are located on the extremes of twittering a lot – or not.
- An overwhelming majority of employees actually tweet about their work: 7 out of 10 of them tweet overwhelmingly about work (75% or more, and 90% of them tweet about work more than about personal life). This is to be expected if one considers that social media by and large still have to convince at the work place and that using Twitter to send news about cooking recipes, holiday destinations or mood swings may not be seen as ‘appropriate behaviour’ (no judgment intended on my side here, I love good recipes and nice holiday tips). In contrast, independents span the full spectrum of professional vs. personal twittering with two of them for each of the segments (except 100% personal or 100% professional), so there isn’t much of a pattern among respondents from my sample.
- 7 respondents left some comments and I just copy most here as they add some depth to the survey: Twitter is my most current and richest source of information… My boss loves Twitter, so I started using it as per his request… I’m one of the older Tweeps at work. Suspect age has something to do with it as well… Reading my tweets and tweeting is the best part of my day!… I think my use of twitter really depends on how much time I have per day. Some days I am humming away while on others, more busy one, I don’t… IMO you need to engage in the personal to get the best out of the professional. There’s quite a bit of detail to delve into here.
So – from this short survey – we seem to have a rather homogeneous group of employees tweeting quite regularly and quite consistently about work, while we have independents following very different behaviours and either tweeting much or very little, about work but not only. Prolific work tweeters are employees, first and foremost…
Some concerns and potential biases:
- Hey, with a sample of this size, the only claim you can make is to have potentially a seriously immense margin of error;
- This survey falls very short of the depth that would be desirable: it would be great to find out when people tweet, where from, about what (among all their work duties), with whom? What kind of Twitter profile they have (see this short list of potential profiles: http://mashable.com/2009/08/14/social-mojo/) etc. and to delve into in-group specifics (among employees and them among independent workers)…
- The boundaries I set for the amount of tweets is arbitrary and may not be right – giving confusing ideas about the patterns that come out. Anyone has better measures for these?
- The perception of what represents work and what not may be more blurred in the case of home-based independent workers and that is just one extra layer to factor in…
Well, these are quite meagre results you might say, but this calls perhaps for a follow-up study, as there seems to be surprisingly little about recent twitter user demographics (Google query results) Anyone up for it?
The final results of the survey are available at: http://twtpoll.com/r/yl6n29