Twitter traffic skyrockets, thanks to middle-age tweeters

Older Twitter users have leg up over teens, twentysomethings on the social network

Twitter is not just for your kids, according to a new comScore Inc. study.

The number of people using Twitter in February jumped a dramatic 700% compared to the same month last year, reported comScore. And who is largely behind that huge increase? Well, it's not the teen set. It's not even twentysomethings or thirtysomethings, according to the online researcher.

ComScore found that people aged between 45 and 54 are 36% more likely than other age group to use Twitter, making them the highest-rated age group, followed by those aged 25 to 34, who are 30% more likely to Tweet out updates about their life and work.

What's notable about this is that traditionally, the people who first populate social networking sites -- think MySpace and Facebook -- are, well, younger. Much younger. Teens talking about school and dating, and posting pictures of pool parties and proms got MySpace off to its meteoric start.

But older users -- you know, the ones who have been able to vote for 15 years or more -- are now diving into social networking. Just last month, Hitwise Pty., which measures online traffic, reported that Facebook's audience of people over the ripe old age of 35 increased by 23% in February compared to February 2008. While the social network was launched to serve college students, Facebook has broadly expanded that audience over the past year to include many middle-age folks.

"The skew toward older visitors, although perhaps initially surprising for a social media site, actually makes more sense than you might think at first," wrote Sarah Radwanick, a blogger for comScore. "With so many businesses using Twitter, along with the first generations of Internet users 'growing up' and comfortable with technology, this is a sign that the traditional early-adopter model might need to be revisited. Not only teenagers and college students can be counted among the 'technologically inclined,' which means that trends are much more prone to take off in older age segments than they used to."

Overall, worldwide visitors to Twitter were close to 10 million in February, noted Radwanick. Traffic growth in the U.S. alone has grown 1,000% year over year, hitting 4 million visitors in February.

Radwanick also noted that 18- to 24-year-olds, the ones who generally are social media early adopters, are actually 12% less likely than average to visit Twitter.

And older users also spend more time on Twitter.

Twitter users who are in the 35-to-44-year-old age group spend nearly 20 minutes on the microblogging site at any given visit, according to comScore. That's compared to those aged 18 to 24 who only spend 5.3 minutes on the site, and 25- to 34-year-olds who spend 5.8 minutes tweeting and reading tweets. However, after the 35-to-44-year-old age group, time spent on Twitter drops off again. Users aged 45 to 54 spend 7 minutes on Twitter, but the number bumps up to 9.3 minutes for those aged 55 to 64.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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