I’m repeatedly amazed how, when the subject is Twitter, writers and readers will jump to all kinds of conclusions from any scrap of information, however suspicious or specious.
The latest came in the form of a Wall Street Journal blog entry titled Is Gen Y Tweeting?, which immediately was linked and retweeted throughout the Twittersphere. But looking at this article about the most fictionalized modern generation shows there’s less than meets the eye, and makes one question the common sense of serial RTers.
The headline conclusion found the oversimplified group known as Gen Y just isn’t that into tweeting, as only 22% of 18- to 24-year-olds used Twitter. Well, sort of. According to one study. And one with a laughably small sample size. A marketing firm partnered with Pace University’s business school on the study, and polled the 200 Generation Y-ers — mostly Pace students — on their social-media habits, according to the story.
Hang on. Is 200 a sufficient sample size to categorize the habits of millions? Moreover, such a homogeneous group mostly at one college? (Not to get too deep into statistics, but the margin of error for such a small, uniform sample would provide a very low confidence level of interpolating the result to such a large population.)
Remember that Twitter, like any social-media manifestation, is viral in nature. Most of us start using it because others we know use it. Malcolm Gladwell, in his much-read The Tipping Point, notes that for anything to go viral, you need mavens — who discover and share information — to interact with connectors, who spread the word to others. This cultivation of any movement, including Twitter, varies by location and introductory forces.
Example: Until I showed a Music Business class on our campus about Twitter, I knew of no students who tweeted. Some of those students started using Twitter, told friends, who told their friends and now I see a lot of our students on Twitter. It’s quite possible colleges with more mavens and connectors have double the Pace user base, while others may be well lower. But to draw conclusions on one isolated geographical population is to ignore what we should know about social media and how actions spread.
In a related development, I discovered the Wall Street Journal is on Twitter, so I can confidently interpolate that 100% of print publications have Twitter accounts. Seems just as valid a conclusion.