BLUF: (Bottom Line Up Front) Today I review the Hubspot report “The State of the Twittersphere”. In my analysis the Hubspot report is of questionable value and cannot be used to extrapolate from the sample used to the general Twitter population. I do not recommend that my clients use this report to draw any conclusions about Twitter.
Hubspot released their January 2010 State of the Twittersphere report today, a free report which if you spend much time on Twitter should be a good read. So I decided to dive into the report and see what I could learn. I would recommend that you take the data in this report with a grain of salt. The reason I say that is that the data is based only upon people who choose to have their Twitter accounts analyzed by Twitter Grader. I feel strongly that we can’t make generalizations on Twitter as a whole based upon this data.Twitter growth has plateaued, I think this reflects the trend of Twitter in the direction of an influencers and communicators platform as I described in my predictions 2010 post. The report has no analysis of the reason for this trend. The big growth this year according to the Hubspot report is in average Following and Followers, and number of posts. All of these metrics are growing, meaning that people are following others more, and being followed by others more often. Now I would attribute this to the fact that more people are Getting Twitter and understanding that it’s much more useful when you have a larger group of people to interact with. Hubspot attributes this shift in numbers to the decline in new users, in other words a maturing user base. I would attribute this to a failure of proper analysis of this data. I’m not a statistician, but I’m confused with these numbers: The report states that the Average Following went from approximately 50 in July 2009 to about 170 in January 2010 (Page 3 of 10) and that Average Followers went from about 70 July 2009 to about 300 in January 2010 (Page 4 of 10). On page 6 of 10 they state that “82% of Twitter users have less than 100 followers” and “81% of Twitter users are following less than 100 people” If both of these are true, then the typical user has not significantly increased their counts in either category much at all. Other reports show very different numbers: Sysmos 6/2009 “93.6% of users have less than 100 followers, while 92.4% follow less than 100 people” Again, the report states that the average Twitter user today has 300 followers and is only following 170. This is wildly inaccurate, while it may be statistically accurate the data is misleading. The true average Twitter member has less 100 followers and is following more people The largest single factor that will effect the results is the sample of Twitterers that HubSpot uses. Because the sample is based upon people who have chosen to use the Twitter Grader service they are automatically more interested in Twitter than the normal population of people on Twitter. This means that it is very likely they are more engaged, have more contacts and are overall more involved with Twitter than the general population. Secondly, I think that the statistics are flawed because Hubspot apparently didn’t remove unusual accounts such as those that have over 100,000 followers, or that send many tweets per day. These accounts will seriously skew the results. I’m sure that the numbers are exactly as Hubspot has reported them. However, I think a statistician would have analyzed the numbers differently which could lead to very different interpretations. I feel that considering the data as presented from the statistical methods and due to the sample source that this report is of very limited use. Overall I’m an advocate for Hubspot. They have many excellent products in their “Grader” line and offer excellent value to their clients. I’ve used their products for years and will continue to do so. However this time I think they missed the mark. I had a telephone conversation with Rick Burnes the Author of this report. I explained my issues with the report and Rick agreed that the data could have presented in other ways that may be more easily understood. Rick however mentioned that the data does indicate overall trends in Twitter usage. I still feel that it’s not reasonable to extrapolate the data from this source to all of Twitter. In conclusion, I recommend that my clients and fellow bloggers not use this report as a guidepost for understanding Twitter user behavior. Leave a comment with your 1 good reason why I should take this report seriously.