Gartner Blog Network

Twitter is mostly for losers.

by Michael Maoz  |  July 28, 2009  |  12 Comments

One great part about summer is the spike in non-work related conversations. Weekends at the shore, dinner with friends, tennis with university and graduate students from near and far. I can’t leave well enough alone, though, and usually start asking questions about how others use technology, and specifically their use of mobile devices and the internet in general. The shocker was when the majority of people in my small, unscientific sample, said that (with a few qualifications) Twitter is for losers.

They also said that if I made that the headliine of a blog, the majority of Tweets that would mention what I am writing now would be from people who did not take the time to read the blog, but instead would just tear apart the 24 letters, period, and four spaces. Because they are losers. After the shock on my part, and the looks of ‘get real’ from the others, I asked more questions and got some better answers. They were of completly different minds when it came to using Twitter during the elections in Iran. They saw this ability to rapidly disseminate the reality of a situation as amazing. But then one of those asked came back with, “I didn’t see any surge in Tweets from Darfur.” And another said, “Yeah, but in Iran some of the Tweets were faked.” They thought it skewed attention away from other, equally compelling stories, such as China and Africa where the population may not have access to expensive internet services.

In one group of 12 people that I spoke with in Stony Creek, Connecticut, they saw the positive side of Twitter for breaking news and for closer contact with associates, but also saw it as distracting, unsecure, and subject to manipulation because of its uneven spread. These 12 were mostly business owners (3) and professors (6).

So who said it was for losers? University students and recent college Grads. They said there was something very ‘post 9/11’ about needing to hunker down and vicariously feel a part of the glitter of the stars, even if from your coccoon you would never be in their constellation.

Finally, I was surprised that of about 36 people I talked to, not one of them was actively on Twitter. The education levels were university students, to BA, MA, PhD, DDS, MD – and almost all called the East Coast of the US their home, though many were born elsewhere in the world. Maybe I need to vacation further afield, and soon.

So, it is eye opening, and I would love more insight on the statistics of who is on Twitter – the psychographic and demographic models of the most active participants, and the breakdown between business users versus open ended social interaction / discourse. If anyone knows credible sources of data, let me know, please.

Category: social-crm  social-networking  social-software  twitter  

Michael Maoz
VP Distinguished Analyst
13 years at Gartner
26 years IT industry

Michael Maoz is a research vice president and distinguished analyst in Gartner Research. His research focuses on CRM and customer-centric Web strategies. Mr. Maoz is the research leader for both the customer service and support strategies area and customer-centric Web… Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Twitter is mostly for losers.

  1. Scott Olson says:

    I have begun using twitter pretty actively for my Marketing Consulting business and I use it to track trends and emerging news in the areas of interest for both myself and my clients. As an example, I track the terms “botnet” and “malware” for my security clients and “startup” and “entrepreneur” for my own business blog.

    What gives twitter a bad name is the incessant focus on followers and spamming of non-useful information and content. I will tell you, however, that one great use of twitter is to promote good content. Social media is changing the way PR works in a big way.

    Now off to tweet your headline on my feed @scottdolson1 :).

  2. Michael Maoz says:

    Great example. I see this use as well. Peer-to-peer, polling customers on their sentiment (economy, your products, etc.,.), or looking for “who is best at” or ‘what price should I pay’ or ‘know any good integrator resources’ are all terrific uses of Twitter that we’re seeing.

    How long until Twitter has a ‘for-fee’ offering tailored to business? Stay tuned.

  3. Mike Fratto says:

    Mike, your answer lies in this observation: “Finally, I was surprised that of about 36 people I talked to, not one of them was actively on Twitter. The education levels were university students, to BA, MA, PhD, DDS, MD – and almost all called the East Coast of the US their home.”

    So snobs who don’t use the technology and therefore can’t see any use for it. Shocking. By the way, the snobbery isn’t restricted to East Coast educated people. You can see the same snobbery from people on /. and other communities. For example, on a guitar community site, someone posted a entry on useful iPhone guitar apps which was met with the expected “You mean there are useful iPhone apps?”

    The value of Twitter is NOT in tweeting the minutia of your life. The value of Twitter lies in who YOU follow and what words you search for. No wants a steady diet of your daily activity and reducing the Twitter experience to that is quite stupid. I can say from personal experience that I have met many IT professionals on Twitter that I wouldn’t have otherwise met and I have been exposed to a wealth of knowledge that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

    Imagine, getting value out of a communication tool.

  4. Peter Hillier says:

    Ask some of the other industry analysts I have been liaising with how effective the use of collaboration on Twitter has been for some of their efforts, then get back to me.

  5. Michael Maoz says:

    Good posts.

    Folks did see value in Twitter for business (closer contact with associates), and at the same time were concerned about it being potentially “distracting, unsecure, and subject to manipulation because of its uneven spread.”

    I agree with you, Mike (Fratto) that a lot of business people are using it. I would not agree that the disparate folks I spoke with were snobs who don’t use technology – were that the case it would have been much less interesting. These are folks who crunch lots of data and have become quite wealthy using economic modelling tools, and whose homes bristle with technology, and they use extensive internet tools. They are simply concerned about some of the limitations that lie ahead.

    I was surprised about the younger demographic, and await data (maybe Peter has some?).

  6. I’m not particularly surprised that the demographic you described weren’t enthusiastic about Twitter. They’ve grown up with texting and MMS, games with IM/voice built in and a variety of other mechanisms for accomplishing much of what Twitter does.

    In all honesty there is good reason for them to think Twitter is for losers based on evidence. There are a large population of users who post mainly about very personal matters like what they are eating, what they are watching and other random slices of life. This is fine for people who want to communicate with close friends but it doesn’t communicate well to a wider audience. In addition there are a growing number of MLM/SEO/Social Networking Experts/Affiliates whose primary reason for being on Twitter is to monetize it. Along with spam accounts they further detract from the value of the Twitter experience. But these are not the only types of users on Twitter.

    For me Twitter has become my primary source of news and breaking information on topics of interest to me. Developing information sources on Twitter is not necessarily straight forward. Not all Twitter users are worthwhile to follow. You have to vet the people and bots to isolate the most useful and trustworthy sources. Once this is done however you gain a rich source of information that tends to be considerably closer to real time than any other news source. Also by following people whose opinion you respect and whose discernment you trust you gain an expert filter that can pass along information that is of greatest value without having to dredge through the bulk of news items.

    Twitter is also particularly effective at building communities around niche fields. My interests are in Information Security, Government 2.0 and Cloud Computing. Each of these interests has a large, well informed and active population on Twitter passing along pertinent information at the speed it is released. Information Security in particular has sped the dissemination of new information incredibly as researchers often release information via a web post and immediately tweet about it.

    So while there may be reason for some to say Twitter is for Losers I’d argue that Twitter is what you make of it. Like most things, it’s only as cool as the bit you experience is cool.

  7. Meg Suggs says:

    I agree with Scott. Twitter is a fantastic way to keep up with industry trends and hot off the press news. But, to be honest, there are a few individuals that I follow that incessantly tweet about, well, nothing really. I think that’s where the negative reputation comes from.

    My husband and I are in our mid-twenties and he and I recently got in a discussion about this. He told me that he doesn’t see Twitter lasting and commented, “Why do I care that you’re at the grocery store or tired?”

    So, I think perhaps some younger folks associate Twitter with boring updates whereas others have discovered the benefits of utilizing this site as a tool to stay informed. I am in charge of Social Media at Inovis and use Twitter to keep an eye on subjects like supply chains, MFT, IT, B2B, etc. I personally see Twitter growing more and more popular.

    Thanks for such an interesting post!

  8. Steve Friedberg says:

    Excellent thoughts from all…Twitter’s value comes in connecting *small* to mid-sized communities of people with something in common. You want to follow Demi Moore? Knock yourself out. But you’re not going to get real value from Twitter.

    By contrast, if you want to follow what some Gartner analysts think about a key topic, and if they’re Tweeting…then Twitter provides great value, and provides you with the way to interact with an entire community where the exchange of ideas is critical.

  9. Paul Easton says:

    As an attorney and legal project manager working and residing in Asia, I’ve found Twitter helpful to keep on top of my industry and in touch with its top thinkers. After moving from New York to India & Taiwan, I found myself feeling rather isolated from my industry, with few opportunities to attend legal tech and litigation support events or meet in person with e-discovery thought leaders.

    Twitter is an efficient way to keep connected to people in my industry who matter and provides a valuable, timely stream of industry news. It has become the hub of my efforts to keep on top of the latest print and web publications, company news, new case law, and breaking technologies.

    To make Twitter useful, however, I’ve found it necessary to use third-party tools like TweetDeck or, which provide filtering and aggregation tools to mine the stream.

  10. As a small business owning woman in West Virginia, I find Twitter a great way to communicate with clients, potential clients, industry peers, and others. I can keep my small business in the eye of the community and respond to questions about my service offerings.

    As mentioned above, I can monitor industry trends and keep up on breaking news. It is one of many good tools in the box. It alone is not the answer.

    The problem with many MBAs & PhDs now-a-days is they plow through these degree programs immediately after high school, limiting their knowledge to the academic world.

  11. […] the value of Twitter and how it should be used. Yesterday, there was a Gartner blog entry titled Twitter is mostly for losers. This post was intentionally titled to draw in readers and comments, but it is a sentiment that is […]

  12. Adam Bullock says:

    Great eye-catching title, Michael. Really good blog post…

    Michael Osterman of Osterman Research recently tweeted (how ironic!) this little tidbit:

    “A survey of social networking sites found that Twitter has the highest % of older users”

    This doesn’t really surprise me – it’s a lot less intimidating than other social media options out there.

    I really think Twitter works really well as a social platform, to communicate with customers, colleagues, etc. and would be interested to see a follow up with some answers to the questions in your last paragraph.

Comments are closed

Comments or opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual contributors only, and do not necessarily represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management. Readers may copy and redistribute blog postings on other blogs, or otherwise for private, non-commercial or journalistic purposes, with attribution to Gartner. This content may not be used for any other purposes in any other formats or media. The content on this blog is provided on an "as-is" basis. Gartner shall not be liable for any damages whatsoever arising out of the content or use of this blog.