Twitter survey results: who tweets most (about work)?

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:

  1. How many times per day do you tweet (on average)?
  2. What proportion of your tweets is for professional vs. personal purposes?
  3. Are you working as an employee, as an independent worker or else?

And I left a blank space for any additional comment or question.

Twitter users, inspired by Guy Kawasaki
One of the many typologies of Tweeters (image credits: GDS infographics)

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?

Some insights:

  • 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 informationMy 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: 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:

Published by Ewen Le Borgne

Collaboration and change process optimist motivated by ‘Fun, focus and feedback’. Nearly 20 years of experience in group facilitation and collaboration, learning and Knowledge Management, communication, innovation and change in development cooperation. Be the change you want to see, help others be their own version of the same.

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  1. Hi Julie,

    Thank you for the comment and for the links to the research. I think Twitter is one of the most investigated social networks and rightly so as it is a good laboratory to find out how people aggregate around certain other people/networks in relation with specific topics.

    Hopefully someone will pick up the question I raised (or similar issues) and investigate it further. I’d be curious to find out more about the fine differences among Twitter types and what are the real factors at play behind our social network profile.



  2. Hi Ewen, nice post, interesting survey! Interestingly very few (actually, no serious ones that I know of) articles look at who tweets and why. So you may have a good research question there. 😉

    There is one piece of research which may be of interest to you, with a fairly staggering sample of *all* users (so that includes you ;)) over the month of August 2009 I think. It is about indicators of influence of Twitter, which do not have anything to do with numbers of followers, but by retweets and mentions. It is I think one of the most influential current articles on this topic but not yet published (available as conference proceedings). Enjoy, and all the best!

    About the research:
    The research article:

  3. Hello Peter,

    Thank you for your comment. I think there is indeed a danger in generalising the results of my little experiment, which is why I stated that this had an immense possible margin of error – another way to say it is not representative.

    I like the comments you make about asking questions, the office culture and the likelihood of helping others as a result. These are indeed additional factors to look at when carrying out this type of survey.

    However I do think the case of Twitter is interesting because it is a medium that is all about sharing, so in principle most people that remain rather active on Twitter over a period of time would be the ones chatting at the coffee corner (I strongly assume) and therefore analysing their Twitter behaviour could indicate something about use of time and the confidence of using social media at the workplace as freelance or employees.

    But this survey doesn’t tell us that, it just tells us that both of us would likely meet at the coffee machine and have a chat about Twitter if we were working for the same organisation 😉

  4. Taking an even smaller sample than yours, Ewan, (a sample of one), I would be wary of coming to conclusions about who has more time and freedom to interact (whether by Twitter or other means) as between employees and ‘independents’ (freelance).
     Both are likely to work across a number of fields and to keep a number of projects active at once. Possibly a freelancer will cover a broader range of topics (it feels like it), but that is arguable.
     From my memory of 20 years as an employee there were always those who had time to chat at the coffee machine and those who did not. (Indeed, some seemed to have no other desk.) Is the social networking world any different?
     There are perhaps differences in temperament between those who share and those who pursue their own agenda more privately. Some people are just more helpful than others.
     As a freelancer, I have more need to ask questions; in a workplace of one there is a relative lack of ‘office culture’ and common knowledge. And if you ask a lot of questions, you are perhaps better disposed towards helping others, especially if they are facing a difficulty you have just resolved.

    It is possible that by separating out those who interact by Twitter you obscure your chances of finding a pattern between those who share their wisdom and those who do not? Do Twitter users really have different drivers from those who ask and answer questions face to face, by email or on websites?
    I have a Twitter account but since I have never found a use for it my daily average number of tweets is zero. (I hope my band of 30-40 followers appreciate my consistent silence.) I have not found this any barrier to asking questions, or (I hope) to sharing scraps of knowledge and experience with others.

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