By Dan Mitchell, MLM Blog Correspondent

Bill Heil and Mikolaj Piskorski at Harvard Business Review  have some interesting research on Twitter.

Twitter has attracted tremendous attention from the media and
celebrities, but there is much uncertainty about Twitter's purpose. Is
Twitter a communications service for friends and groups, a means of
expressing yourself freely, or simply a marketing tool?

We examined the activity of a random sample of 300,000 Twitter users
in May 2009 to find out how people are using the service. We then
compared our findings to activity on other social networks and online
content production venues. Our findings are very surprising.

Of our sample (300,542 users, collected in May 2009), 80% are
followed by or follow at least one user. By comparison, only 60 to 65%
of other online social networks' members had at least one friend (when
these networks were at a similar level of development). This suggests
that actual users (as opposed to the media at large) understand how
Twitter works.

Although men and women follow a similar number of Twitter users, men have 15% more followers than women.
Men also have more reciprocated relationships, in which two users
follow each other. This "follower split" suggests that women are driven
less by followers than men, or have more stringent thresholds for
reciprocating relationships. This is intriguing, especially given that
females hold a slight majority on Twitter: we found that men comprise
45% of Twitter users, while women represent 55%. To get this figure, we
cross-referenced users' "real names" against a database of 40,000
strongly gendered names.

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