Understanding how social media is being used in the ever-changing landscape is vital for a marketer in devising state-of-the-art strategies across various channels that maximize engagement, leads, and conversions.
In this blog post, we present an in-depth analysis of the 100 million tweets that we collected in early 2018 — one of the largest studies in the social media marketing world — giving a big picture into the state of Twitter in terms of usage.
As 89% of the businesses
recently surveyed by Buffer
have active presence on Twitter second only to Facebook, we believe our study provides a timely guide for social media managers and marketers
what's working on Twitter in 2018.
Data-driven Insights into the Usage of Twitter
Here's an overview of a few major findings from our research study that we hope social media managers and marketers take into account in their Twitter strategy:
- Retweets and replies constitute one-half and one-sixth of all Twitter messages respectively.
- Twitter usage is at its peak at 2 p.m. – 3 p.m. London time on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
- Users with 100 – 350 followers tend to reply the most.
- Videos are more likely to retweeted than other forms of content.
- English, the most popular language on Twitter, is used in only 32% of all Twitter messages.
- Face with tears of joy (😂) is Twitter's most popular emoticon or emoji.
- Twitter's official mobile apps account for 80% of all Twitter messages posted.
- Mere 1.4% of all Twitter messages are geo-tagged.
Before going into the details of the above highlights, we will quickly define what we mean by a 'Twitter message' since we use this term extensively throughout this blog post.
Any message posted on Twitter is often referred to as a 'tweet' in general conversation. More avid Twitter users understand that there are mainly three types of Twitter messages — a tweet, a reply, and a retweet — each of which has its own significance and used in different contexts.
- A tweet is a self-sustaining message that is not dependent on any other Twitter message.
- A reply is a message that is sent in response to a tweet.
- A retweet can be thought of as an endorsement of a tweet or a reply usually sent by another user which is shared to the endorser's followers.
We believe that characterizing the types of these messages helps in gaining deeper insights into their respective roles not only from a bird's eye view of Twitter usage but also from the perspective of social media engagement.
We collected over 100 million Twitter messages continually from their official sample stream over a period of 33 days starting from January 2, 2018 until February 3, 2018. Each of these messages contains details such as its published time, the type of the message, the content, the device used among various others.
Now let's dive into each of our major findings and what the implications are for you.
1. Retweets and replies constitute one-half and one-sixth of all Twitter messages respectively
Our data shows that a half of all Twitter messages are retweets. This shows that Twitter users are quite willing to share others' content with their followers.
One-sixth of all Twitter messages are replies. Another way to interpret is that one-third of all messages typed by users (i.e., not retweeted by clicking the retweet icon) are replies. This suggests that Twitter users frequently strike conversations with others.
What it means for you
Social media managers and marketers must be able to engage in discussions with other Twitter users, not just put their content out hoping to be shared and retweeted. Such participation can only increase greater bonding and trust with their audience which can potentially drive traffic, leads, and conversions.
2. Twitter is most active worldwide at 2 p.m. – 3 p.m. London Time on Wednesdays and Thursdays
At what time of the day Twitter users are most active is of critical importance specifically to social media managers and marketers who would like to share their content to the largest audience possible.
Our analysis of over 100 million Twitter messages during the month of January 2018 shows that Twitter usage peaks during the hour between 2 p.m – 3 p.m. in the United Kingdom (UTC + 00:00).
Not surprisingly, this happens to be the hour when most of the human population is awake with the Far East and the South-East Asian countries about to go to sleep while the North and the South American continents have just begun their day.
At this hour, the local times in the following eastern countries:
- Japan (UTC + 09:00) : 11 p.m. – 12 a.m.
- South Korea (UTC + 09:00) : 11 p.m. – 12 a.m.
- Philippines (UTC + 08:00) : 10 p.m. – 11 p.m.
- Indonesia (UTC + 07:00) : 9 p.m. – 10 p.m.
and the following western hemisphere time zones:
- Pacific Standard Time (UTC - 08:00): 6 a.m. – 7 a.m.
- Central Standard Time (UTC - 06:00): 8 a.m. – 9 a.m.
- Eastern Standard Time (UTC - 05:00): 9 a.m. – 10 a.m.
- Argentina Time (UTC - 03:00): 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Does Twitter usage vary based on the day of a week?
Wednesdays and Thursdays, closely followed by Fridays, received more Twitter messages during the five-week study than the rest of the days of a week.
What it means for you
Peak hours and days in terms of Twitter usage do not imply that these periods are the best times to tweet due to the double-edged sword nature.
On the one hand, your tweets during this peak hour may receive a large number of impressions and retweets.
On the other hand, these tweets can be lost in the crowd despite the quality of their content.
Regularly posting a Twitter message with a worldwide appeal at this peak hour can certainly boost the chances of reaching a wider audience, in particular if your followers are from all over the world and different time zones.
For example, you may post tweets based on the day of the week using popular hashtags such as #MondayMotivation, #TuesdayThoughts, #WednesdayWisdom, #ThrowbackThursday, and #FridayFeeling at this hour. Such hashtags usually belong in the 'Trends' section almost throughout the day, which implies potentially more exposure to your content and user profile.
3. Users with 100 – 350 followers tend to reply the most
Does the influence of a user in terms of followers affect the posting behavior of Twitter messages?
To address this question, we split the users into 7 categories based on the number of their followers: 0-100, 100-350, 350-1K, 1K-10K, 10K-100K, 100K-1M, and more than 1M.
Our results show that users with fewer than 350 followers posted 55% of all Twitter messages, and those with fewer than 1000 followers posted 75% of all messages.
Users in each of the first 4 categories with fewer than 10,000 followers all tend to retweet roughly half the time.
The category of users who are most likely to engage in conversations with others are those with 100 – 350 followers, closely followed by the other 3 categories with fewer than 10K followers.
What it means for you
The main lesson, combined with first finding, is that replies are an integral and a non-insignificant component of Twitter usage particularly for users with fewer than 10K followers who are responsible for 95% of all messages.
To turn this insight into action, offer support on your account if the line of work for your business allows.
Another way to improve interaction with your target audience is to run question-answer sessions.
4. Videos are more likely to retweeted than other forms of content
Besides containing up to 280 characters of text, Twitter messages can incorporate rich media such as photos, videos, and animated GIFs which provide important context to the messages.
Only 22.7% of all Twitter messages contained such media led by photos (16.4%), videos (4.7%) and GIFs (1.5%).
Does the usage of these media in a tweet or a reply increase the chances of getting retweeted?
Our data suggests that a Twitter message containing a video is nearly twice as likely to be a retweet compared to a message containing no media at all.
In fact, the usage of a photo or a GIF also increases the likelihood of being a retweet by more than 1.5 times in comparison to a solely text-based message.
What it means for you
'A picture is worth a thousand words' applies to Twitter messages as well. Wherever appropriate, posting Twitter messages by including media in the form of videos, photos, or GIFs can significantly improve the chances of being retweeted.
Moreover, the screen space occupied by a Twitter message embedded with these media objects is typically much larger than the one with no media. This aspect can also increase the interactivity with the message by the user clicking on such media objects.
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5. English, the most popular language on Twitter, is used in only 32% of all Twitter messages
Tens of languages are used on Twitter which has over 330 million monthly active users across the world.
English (31.8%), Japanese (18.8%), and Spanish (8.46%) lead the list of most popular languages used in posting Twitter messages.
Not all messages on Twitter can be classified into well-known spoken and written languages. This is because users have the freedom to express in any manner within a limit of 280 characters in a Twitter message.
Users often post Twitter messages with internet slang, emoticons, spelling errors, only media objects such as photos, videos, or GIFs. The language of such messages containing no words from established languages is classified as 'undetermined'.
There are about 6.5% of all Twitter messages are deemed 'undetermined'.
Despite English's popularity worldwide, 68% of all Twitter messages are written in other languages. Determining what time of the day each language is most active can help social media managers and marketers strategize and schedule for their relevant languages.
Here's a closer look at the top 6 languages on Twitter and how active they are during a day.
English is the only language that is used in either official or unofficial capacity in countries and provinces in almost every time zone ranging from New Zealand in the east (UTC + 13:00) to Hawaii in the west (UTC - 10:00).
Peak hour for the English Twitter messages is at 12 p.m. – 1 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (UTC - 05:00).
The local times for other places at this peak hour are:
- California (UTC - 08:00): 9 a.m. – 10 a.m.
- United Kingdom (UTC + 00:00): 5 p.m. – 6 p.m.
- India (UTC + 05:30): 10:30 p.m. – 11:30 p.m.
Since Japanese is spoken predominantly in only one country with a single time zone JST (UTC + 09:00), the pattern of hourly usage of Twitter during an average day follows a regular human sleep pattern: a steady growth starting at 5 a.m. JST in the morning until 11 p.m. JST in the night and then a steep fall overnight.
Spanish-speaking countries range across 8 time zones from Spain in the east (UTC + 01:00) to Mexico in the west (UTC - 07:00).
Since most of the Spanish-speaking population is in the western hemisphere, we study the hourly activity of Spanish Twitter messages from the time zone of Argentina (UTC - 03:00).
Although the peak hour for the Spanish Twitter messages is 6 p.m. – 7 p.m. Argentina Time, at least 90% of peak hour's messages are also observed over 10 hours starting from 2 p.m. in the afternoon until 1 a.m. at late night.
A major takeaway from this observation is that any time in the second half of the day has a large audience for Spanish Twitter messages.
Similar to Japanese, Korean is spoken in a single time zone — Korean Standard Time (UTC + 09:00) — which means the hourly usage also follows a human sleep pattern in Korea.
Peak hour for the Korean Twitter messages is at 11 p.m. – 12 a.m. in the night (KST).
Arabic-speaking countries range across 5 time zones from the United Arab Emirates in the east (UTC + 04:00) to Morocco in the west (UTC + 00:00).
As most of the Arabic-speaking population falls under the Arabia Standard Time (UTC + 03:00) and its adjacent time zone (UTC + 02:00), we see the hourly activity similar to a single time zone scenarios such as Japanese and Korean.
Peak hours for the Arabic Twitter messages are from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. in the night as per the Arabia Standard Time.
Since Brazil accounts for over 75% of all the Portuguese-speaking population, Twitter usage during a 24-hour period also follows a pattern similar to other languages such as Japanese, Korean, and Arabic effectively with a single time zone.
The peak hour for Portuguese Twitter messages is at 10 p.m. – 11p.m. Brasília Time (UTC - 03:00).
What it means for you
English and Spanish are the two languages that enjoy a very high Twitter usage continually for 10 hours or more, especially in the second half of the day as per Eastern Standard Time (UTC - 05:00).
If you are a social media manager in the western hemisphere, you may find a very large English and Spanish audience for your content from lunch until midnight.
If your target language is other than English or Spanish, publishing your Twitter messages from 8 p.m. until midnight in your time zone may be more effective than at any earlier hour of the day.
6. Face with tears of joy (😂) is the most popular emoticon or emoji on Twitter
Emoticons or emojis offer a great way to express your thoughts and reactions without spending too many characters in an already space-limited Twitter message.
The face with tears of joy (😂) is the most popular emoticon in Twitter messages, with a share of 22% of all used emoticons. This emoticon is used in replies quite frequently indicating that users find Twitter messages very funny.
Not always is this emoticon (😂) used in expressing humor. Often, it is used along with words in a sarcastic sense to demonstrate hypocrisy or disagreement.
A half of top 10 most popular emoticons used in Twitter messages are based on positive sentiment such as smiling face with heart eyes (😍), two hearts (💕), smiling face with smiling eyes (😊), blue heart (💙), and purple heart (💜).
What it means for you
Knowing a wide range of emoticons and when to use them accordingly can be very handy in the age of short messages.
7. Twitter's official mobile apps account for 80% of all Twitter messages posted
Understanding the types of clients or apps employed by users to browse Twitter helps in the process of creating landing pages suited for these devices in the scenario of redirecting users to your website from the tweets.
Nearly 80% of all Twitter messages are posted from the official mobile apps and clients: Twitter for iPhone (38%), Twitter for Android (37.8%), Twitter Lite (2.8%), and Twitter for iPad (1.5%).
Desktop-based Twitter Web Client accounts for only 9.7% of all Twitter messages.
Around 10% of all Twitter messages are posted from unofficial or third-party clients or apps using Twitter's API.
Retweets constitute over 55% and 61% of all Twitter messages posted from Twitter for iPhone and Android apps respectively.
What it means for you
Since Twitter users mostly retweet from their mobile devices, it is imperative that your website is mobile optimized in case these users, their followers or a wider audience were to visit either from your tweets or your profile page.
A large mobile user base also means that your potential advertisements on Twitter ('Promoted Tweets') should also be suitable for viewing and interacting on small screens.
8. Mere 1.4% of all Twitter messages are geo-tagged
Twitter allows users on their apps to tag their tweets with their geo-location information containing the place, the latitude, and the longitude.
With a large mobile user base, what percentage of all Twitter messages are geo-tagged?
Only 1.4% of all Twitter messages are tagged with their geolocation, despite 80% of these messages being posted from mobile devices. This may suggest users are quite reluctant to post their geolocation.
United States (33%), Brazil (15.4%), Japan (5.8%), and United Kingdom (5.3%) capture the top spots in terms of geo-tagged Twitter messages.
We emphasize that this distribution is for geo-tagged Twitter messages alone and not for Twitter usage in general.
What it means for you
Although the geo-tagged Twitter messages give a hint into the locations of a tiny fraction of users, such little information should not be used in extrapolating the geographical distribution of all the users.
Putting all things together, we believe the following aspects should be considered in the social media strategy for Twitter by managers and marketers of businesses of all sizes in order to increase engagement:
- Engage in conversations with your target audience as much as possible.
- Take advantage of the peak hours that can maximize the reach for your content.
- Add rich media such as videos, photos, and GIFs to your content whenever appropriate.
- Use up-to-date and relevant internet memes and emoticons that bring lightheartedness.
- Make sure your website and Twitter ads are mobile-optimized.