social media researchIs Twitter part of your social marketing mix?

Are you wondering about Twitter’s growth potential?

Twitter’s foothold with television audiences and Millennial consumers suggest there are some marketing opportunities.

In this article you’ll discover findings from studies to help you determine how much to invest in marketing and customer service through Twitter.

research on twitter growth

Discover new research insights into Twitter’s massive growth.

#1: Twitter Audience Expected to Continue to Grow

Although Facebook audience growth has plateaued, Twitter is on the move. According to the Pew Research Center’s Social Media Update 2014 released in January 2015, 71% of Internet users in the U.S. are on Facebook. Twitter hosts a comparably smaller audience of 23% of all Internet users engaging with it in 2014.

Still, from 2013 to 2014, Twitter’s audience rose by 27.7% (from 18% to 23% of all Internet users), but Facebook’s audience numbers remained the same for both years (71%).

pew research social media site usage comparison graph

Facebook’s audience growth has stalled at 71% of all Internet users.

Further, Millennials (the country’s future spenders) are the biggest users of Twitter with 37% of 18- to 29-year-olds using it. The chart below, also from the Pew Research Center’s 2015 study, shows which users are on Twitter now. With high numbers of both college graduates and those making over $50,000 per year, the Twitter audience has respectable disposable income.

pew research twitter usage stats

Twitter is more effective for brands with a younger target demographic.

Finally, although Facebook has little room to grow beyond the 71% of American Internet users, Twitter can move forward. In a 2014 study by eMarketer, researchers estimate Twitter will grow by 5% to 10% year over year until 2018 when 24.2% of Internet users will be on the platform.

These percentages may seem low in comparison to Facebook, but the audience (now at 48.2 million) will reach 64.9 million users by 2018—a respectable customer base. In addition, as consumers get their fill of Facebook, Twitter could rise in popularity.

pew research twitter usage by year comparison

eMarketer expects Twitter’s audience to grow steadily over the next four years.

Key Takeaways: Twitter can be a reasonable place to engage with your audience, do customer research and carry out customer service—particularly if right now your target audience is 18- to 29-year-old college graduates.

#2: Twitter Captures Number-Two Spot for Performance

While the bulk of social media marketing dollars go to Facebook, one study found Twitter gaining respect and budget as well. In December 2014, enterprise-level email marketing provider StrongView surveyed 377 business leaders to gauge their planned marketing budgets, priorities and challenges for 2015.

Their 2015 Marketing Trends Survey finds Twitter secures the number-two spot in their “top three performing networks for your social media marketing efforts” category—45.21% of those surveyed name it number two, and 10.9% give it their number-one spot.

While some may find finishing second underwhelming, keep in mind that Twitter has a wide lead over competitors YouTube (45.2% vs. 11.4% voting YouTube as second most effective), Google+ (45.2% vs. 3.7%) and LinkedIn (45.2% vs. 14.5%).

strongview survey results data

StrongView’s 2015 Marketing Trends Survey has business leaders reporting Twitter as the second most effective social media channel.

Key Takeaways: With an audience of 48 million consumers, Twitter has the potential to reach targets on a one-to-one basis. Many marketers report that it is effective.

#3: Twitter Winning Consumer Engagement

Audience numbers aren’t the only measure of marketing potential. Social analytics provider Simply Measured examined how marketers at Interbrand’s 2014 Top 100 companies use Twitter. Called the “definitive list of the world’s most valuable brands,” it’s populated with names like Apple, Coca-Cola, Google, Microsoft and so on.

How Top Marketers Use Twitter: Q3 2014 reveals several critical findings. Chief among them is that in Q3 2014, consumer engagement with brand tweets was up 83% over Q4 2013. This metric indicates consumers are willing to connect one on one with company representatives through the channel.

Also revealing more consumer attention for brands on Twitter, in Q3 2014, consumers retweeted brand tweets nearly twice as often as they did in Q4 2013. The number of brand retweets by consumers increased 89% in just one year.

Fascinating to marketers, too, is the fact that 70% of all brand tweets (from the brands themselves) were @replies. This means social teams are searching for mentions of the company name and then replying to the specific question, praise or complaint. This smart marketing is warranted because several studies indicate that consumers appreciate when a brand representative connects with them on social media channels.

simply measured q4 vs q3 tweet type comparison

In the past year, brands scaled down their “outbound” or “push” –style tweets, replacing them with “inbound” or “pull” –style @replies.

Simply Measured authors state:

“Users on Twitter are becoming increasingly more willing to engage with branded content. This is reflected in the number of active engagements on branded content. Users are also willing to endorse branded content more than in the past, accounting for the increase in retweets of brand content.”

Key Takeaway: Brands’ enthusiasm for @replies reveals they understand social media marketing performs best in the form of a conversation. They’re even letting consumers start the conversation. While this approach can be time-intensive and therefore costly, if a company’s audience is on Twitter, the company must be there as well.

Other findings from this important study of marketers at these top brands include:

  • Seventy-five percent tweeted or retweeted at least three times per day.
  • Photos won the most engagement, but tweets with hashtags got more engagement than tweets without hashtags.
  • Ninety-eight percent of these top brands have Twitter channels.
simply measured photo tweet engagement data

Photos drive nearly double the amount of consumer engagement on Twitter than the next closest tweet type (links).

#4: Television Strengthening Twitter’s Foothold

Despite the buzz around Netflix and Amazon TV, network television shows still win millions of viewers each week. Most shows now display onscreen the Twitter watermark and a hashtag for tweeting about the show. Twitter has become the go-to channel for exchanging comments about a show and the brands that advertise during it.

Twitter has found a powerful friend in television, and vice versa. Digital marketing analytics firm Nielsen in their 2014 Digital Consumer report found 84% percent of smartphone and tablet owners use their devices as second screens while watching TV. They conclude:

“Connected devices such as smartphones and tablets have become constant companions to consumers on the go and in the home. . . When using connected devices simultaneously, opportunities exist to deepen consumer engagement with content.”

nielsen second screen data

Nielsen, author of this study, declares this era “the new two-screen minimum.”

Specifically, while watching television, 66% of viewers used a tablet to surf the web, and 49% of smartphone users did the same. Of more interest to brands, 44% of television viewers used a tablet to shop, and 24% of them used their smartphone to pursue the latest deal.

Twitter is thrilled to be the social channel of choice for those looking to engage in conversations about a show. In conjunction with partners FOX and the Advertising Research Foundation, Twitter designed an extensive study to discover how exposure to a brand mentioned in a tweet impacts both online and offline consumer behavior. They conducted the study during prime television viewing hours and compiled their findings in this infographic.

infographic from combined study by fox, advertising research foundation and twitter

Twitter’s findings from their Discovering the Value of Earned Audiences study.

Of the 12,000 people surveyed, 54% take action after exposure to the brand earned media while tweeting about a show. They visit the brand’s website (23%) or Twitter page (20%), search for the brand online (20%), consider trying the brand (19%) or retweet mentions of the brand (19%).

Key Takeaway: Television could help keep Twitter strong. When television studios and the brands that advertise on them live-tweet during shows, users not only engage, but also take specific action that leads to greater brand awareness and possibly sales.


Twitter provides some marketing opportunities, despite an audience about one-third as large as Facebook’s. If you need a place to get started or some ideas to refine your tactics, try Social Media Examiner’s recent article 12 Twitter Marketing Tips From the Pros.

What do you think? Does you listen to what consumers are saying about your company on Twitter? Are you replying to comments left by consumers there? Has Twitter been an effective channel for you? Leave your comments and questions below.

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  • Personally, for me Twitter is my favourite social network of all. Unfortunately, the platform is not so popular in our region and companies cannot make use of it. I am hoping that the audience will grow and we will be able to use Twitter as very effective marketing strategy.

    As for global brands – it is an amazing platform.

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  • Suzanne Delzio

    Interesting! Can you explain why it’s your favorite?

  • I’m glad to know Twitter is still growing; it’s my favorite social network.

    Twitter is easy to use, especially for business. All you do is set up your company page. There’s no need to have a personal Twitter profile to be an Administrator. 🙂

    I manage a few Twitter pages and respond to followers — it does make a difference. Your followers/customers/clients want to know that you’re paying attention to them. If they can buy your products and services, you can respond to them.

  • I haven’t paid much attention to Twitter, but now have some fairly influential people sharing my blog posts there and it is time to take a closer look. My email inbox is starting to fill with RT notifications. On another note, and I hesitated to say this, but thought you might want to know. The social share strip on the left side of your blog limited my ability to see all of your amazing infographics as it covers part of your post.

  • It is probably because I like its simplicity. It has minimalistic design and no fancy features. Only those that are the most important.

    And, I like that real time timeline with short messages that look like RSS news feed.

    This is just an opinion from a user point of view. As a marketer I have a totally different opinion.

  • Mark Aydelotte

    Great info and sales metrics – Thanks


    Wow. This is packed with useful information. Thank you so much. I’ve recently made it a personal commitment to learn Twitter better; thus, this growth doesn’t surprise me. I’m enjoying it much better than Facebook. Currently, I have less than 5% of my posts reaching people on my Facebook fan page. (This is organic reach.) I love the interaction on Twitter for free. 🙂 This information is timely. Thank you.
    I can be found on twitter @literate4

  • Despite all the research cited in your article, few small business owners I work with bother to Tweet – and I live less than an hour from Silicon Valley! I have worked with hundreds of clients in the past few years and they are not using Twitter tho they may have set up accounts that are now dormant. Despite Twitter continuing to “copy” Facebook in its features, ad advertising options and try to make it UI easier for beginners, I would rather steer them towards a Google Plus account, not Twitter.

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  • Not to be a wet blanket, but how can we say Twitter is having “massive” growth when Twitter only added 4 million new users worldwide between Q3 2014 and Q4 2014?

    There’s a lot of great research here, but those audience estimates miss the mark compared to the facts.

  • I’ve been actively trying to use Twitter over the last few months and as much as I like reading people’s posts I just find I get no engagement at all. I post things and crickets. The thing that bothers me the most is not knowing whether people are really on there live or not. So you respond to someone and then get no response. So you wonder well was that just an automated post they set up 10 months ago to go out on this day. If Twitter wants to really grow they need to ban scheduled posts. It kills it.

    They also need to figure out a way to teach people how to use it. So many people do not find Twitter intuitive and just don’t get it at all. That’s a problem. Everyone gets Facebook and everyone gets Pinterest. If people don’t understand what to do on Twitter and how to make it work for them then that is the problem of the social network itself.

    I like the fact that it is a stream and isn’t filtered for me like facebook. In some ways that is convient but often surprising on facebook how much you actually don’t get to see.

  • Twitter is also my favorite platform because of all the way search options. My target age group uses this platform the most (although not do much in my region), so I get a fair amount more engagement then other platforms.

  • Ishita Ganguly

    Great insights Suzanne. However, I personally feel that Twitter should
    release the ad feature for all countries. It’s high time, as more and more marketers are taking real interest on the network. I am from India and it’s one
    big problem I face while working on this amazing tool.

  • Maya Williams

    Twitter is my least favourite network! I am a fashion blogger and everything I do relates to images which is where Instagram comes as best and I have connected with so many brands and people worldwide from it! Facebook on the other hand is fantastic I get most my readership through it and once I share my pics from Instagram onto Facebook I reach my other audience. Twitter shares the Instagram pictures but as links only which is useless. I have been on Twitter for two years but haven’t benefited by it only when I blog an article about a brand and tag their name when sharing it, that’s about it!

  • Suzanne Delzio

    Thanks Amandah. Research does indicate customers appreciate getting an @Reply.

  • Suzanne Delzio

    Try maximizing your window size? Let us know if that helps.

  • Suzanne Delzio

    Hey literate4,
    You know you can boost facebook posts for as little as $1 per post, right? It’s still a cheap way to reach a very targeted audience. The switch from free to pay was a shocker, tho. . . .

  • I know I do!

  • Suzanne Delzio

    Interesting. Thanks Karen! Announcing blog posts on Google Plus gets them indexed immediately, so it makes sense to be there.

  • Suzanne Delzio

    18% growth for Twitter v. 0% growth for Facebook registers on our meters.

  • Suzanne Delzio

    You would think it would only benefit them to release the ad features to all countries. I bet it’s in the works . . .

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  • Guest

    Twitter’s growth in Q4 2014 was 1.4%. Facebook has added almost as many users in the last three months of 2014 as Twitter added over the entire year of 2014.

    The data sets you’re using to justify’s Twitter growth seem to be based on the US market only (as well as eMarketer projections – not sure if that 2014 figure is accurate) in addition to Pew’s research with 1,600 people. Not an overall picture.

    You might need to revisit this Suzanne.

  • GHDuffy

    Thanks for the input. 🙂

  • Demo Master

    Since the announcement from Google that they will be connecting with Twitter tweets for search on Google I say Twitter is going to grow real quick.

  • Thanks! Link is fixed now 🙂

  • Kirsty Wilson

    Twitter is still, after 6+ years, my favourite social media platform. It can be informative, fun, fast-paced and it’s by far the platform that has brought me the most success!