Twitter Use Overstated

It was a head scratcher. Why was CFM finding Twitter use in Oregon and Washington roughly half of that found by Pew Research nationally?

It didn’t matter if it used telephone or Web-based surveys, CFM consistently found use of Twitter to be in the 6 percent to 8 percent range. By comparison, Pew Research found 17 percent to 18 percent of Americans tweeted.

Then in September, Pew found Twitter use at 24 percent and skeptics surfaced.

Pew Research and its services are highly respected. CFM frequently uses its research to benchmark opinions. Confronted with pointed questions and statements – think of tennis great John McEnroe yelling, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” – Pew revisited its results.

Pew rewrote the Twitter question and re-fielded the survey.

The new results found 8 percent of the U.S. is tweeting. Why the change? Pew Research realized the question it used was too broad, capturing a range of micro-blogging sites, not just Twitter.

Even the new results have critics. Twitter management contends use of the micro-blogging tool is much higher. Now the ball is in Pew’s court to support its case.

There are several good learning moments from Pew’s experience:

  • Good managers are not afraid to change their mind.
  • Admit your mistakes. It is the first rule of reputation management. Pew Research double checked its results and found a problem. There was no cover up. Instead, it announced the new survey results this week. Read Who Tweets.
  • Research is not flawless. Questionable wording can bias results.
  • Finally, the new information will cause marketers to rethink communication plans that include Twitter as a key tool. Pew found people most likely to Tweet are younger and live in urban areas. African-Americans and Latinos are more than twice as likely as whites to use Twitter.