One of the longest established social media networks, launching the year after Facebook, YouTube and Reddit, Twitter has continued to be an essential platform for individuals and businesses that want to build their brand. While Twitter hasn’t gained quite so many users as some of the other social media platforms, we definitely see it as a platform that is here to stay. It provides invaluable ways to promote businesses, including paid advertising opportunities, and will almost certainly continue to contribute to the success of accounts that use Twitter as a way to interact with others. Let’s take a look at how Twitter started, before we have a look at some of the biggest facts and statistics that marketing professionals should know in 2021.
History of Twitter
Twitter was launched in July 2006 for ‘microblogging’ – an alternative way for people to express themselves, rather than the longer form blogs that had grown in popularity in the early 2000s. The first posts – known as ‘tweets’ – were expected by the team to be more of a quick-fire way to update friends about what they were doing, how they were feeling and so on. If that sounds a bit like Facebook statuses to you, you definitely weren’t the first to draw that comparison! However, since Twitter was designed to be based on SMS text messages, with just 140 characters allowed it is probably not surprising that the development team allegedly ended up with some pretty expensive phone bills!
The first tweet was sent by co-founder (and current CEO) Jack Dorsey on 21 March 2006, and made for ground-breaking reading, but since they had those quick-fire life statuses in mind, it kicked off the platform as the team clearly intended it to go on:
“Just setting up my twttr”.
Although it might not have been particularly in-depth, it was to lead the way and is likely to continue to make history – we’ll explain why in just a moment!
In 2007, product technologist Chris Messina proposed the use of the hashtag to help users to find content about the same topics – his tweet said:
how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?
Since the hashtag has since been adopted across pretty much all social media channels, Chris Messina sealed his name in the history of the internet as a result of that one speculative tweet, even if it was considered ‘too nerdy’ initially! Unfortunately, he didn’t monetise his idea and so he’s never received any cash for his innovation – but if he received just one penny every time someone posted, his fortune would probably rival that of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
It took just over two years – until November 2008 – for one billion tweets to have been sent – and then just 11 months later, in October 2009, users had sent five billion tweets.
Advertising was added to Twitter in April 2010, in the form of Promoted Tweets.
By March 2011, Twitter announced that users were sending over 1 billion Tweets every single week.
2012 saw a new Twitter bird design, and Barack Obama was the first president that announced his success in an election on Twitter:
This happened because of you. Thank you.
In 2013, Twitter launched the video sharing app Vine (which eventually closed down in October 2016). They also updated how conversations were displayed, so that they could be linked in chronological order much easier.
Promoted videos were added to the platform in 2014, allowing users to see video directly within their Twitter feed.
In 2017, the character count for a tweet was doubled, allowing users to send tweets containing up to 280 characters.
In 2021, the first ever Tweet (that same one that we mentioned earlier by Jack Dorsey) was put up for sale by Jack Dorsey was listed as a unique digital signature on ‘Valuables by Cent’. As we write this post, it had attracted bids of over $2 million, which really is quite a return on the time and effort invested for just five words to be sent – and we expect that figure will increase dramatically before the sale is finalised. Wondering what, exactly, the user will get? Well, they’ll receive an autographed digital certificate signed using cryptography and the metadata of the original tweet – and this is considered a financial investment, as well as a piece of internet history.
Who’s who at Twitter
Twitter was cofounded by a team that included Jack Dorsey (current net worth $12.5 billion), Ev Williams (current net worth $2.6 billion), Biz Stone (current net worth $1 billion), Jeremy LaTrasse and Noah E. Glass (current net worth unknown), who was responsible for coining the name Twitter, which was originally styled as ‘Twttr’.
Since they were part of the team that founded Twitter, it is unsurprising that the oldest accounts on the platform are @jack (Jack Dorsey), @biz (Biz Stone) and @noah (Noah Glass).
Today, the Twitter board of directors is made up of eleven individuals:
- Jack Dorsey (CEO and Director)
- Patrick Pichette (Chairman)
- Jesse Cohn (Independent Director)
- Egon Durban (Independent Director)
- Martha Lane Fox (Independent Director)
- Dr. Fei-Fei Li (Independent Director)
- Omid Kordestani (Director)
- Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Independent Director)
- David Rosenblatt (Independent Director)
- Bret Taylor (Independent Director)
- Robert Zoellick (Independent Director)
Twitter has more than 4,900 employees on staff.
While San Francisco is the home to the Twitter headquarters, the company has offices across the US, with locations in Atlanta, Boston, Boulder, Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Seattle, Sunnyvale, and Washington. D.C.
Internationally there are offices in Bangalore, Berlin, Bogota, Brussels, Cologne, Dubai, Dublin, Hamburg, Hong Kong, Jakarta, London, Madrid, Melbourne, Mexico City, Milan, Mumbai, New Delhi, Osaka, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Singapore, Sydney, Seoul, Tokyo, Toronto, and Vancouver.
While there are so many Twitter offices worldwide, they were one of the first companies to announce that their employees would be allowed to work from home indefinitely after the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns had passed.
Employees generally say that they like working for Twitter. Twitter made number 105 on the list of the world’s best employers, with 85% of reviews on Glassdoor saying they would recommend working at Twitter to a friend, while a whopping 93% approve of the CEO.
When Twitter was first seeking funding in 2007, it was valued at $220,000. By the time it was time for the IPO in 2013, it was valued at $14.2 billion, and in January 2021, the market cap was over $40 billion.
Twitter revenue has grown steadily year on year – from $28.2 million in 2010, to $1.4 billion in 2014, consistently increasing to $3.72 billion in 2020.
However, despite that, in the 202o fiscal year, they reported a net loss of $1.1 billion due to a non-cash charge related to a provision for income taxes, and the net income for the year previous was inflated by non-cash benefit from income tax.
Twitter has two main categories of revenue – Advertising Services, and Data Licensing and Other. In 2020, Twitter’s advertising services created $3.2 billion (86%) of the revenue, while $509 million was from data licensing and other sources.
How does Twitter compare with other social media?
Despite being well known, of all social media worldwide, Twitter has one of the lowest usage. With just 353 million monthly active users, Twitter has half the number of users than social media newcomer TikTok (689 million) and a mere fraction compared to Facebook and their apps.
During the run up to the US election in 2020, the alt-tech microblogging and social network service Parler became popular – especially after Donald Trump’s loss of the election. While there were 2.3 million active users in December 2020, by January 2021 that figure had exploded to 20 million.
Parler markets the app as allowing “free expression without violence and no censorship”, but many users are Donald Trump supporters, conservatives, conspiracy theorists, and far-right extremists. Posts commonly contain far-right content, antisemitism, and conspiracy theories such as QAnon.
After the storming of the U.S. capital (6/1/2021) both Apple and Google removed the mobile app from their app stores, as it was claimed that activity was coordinated through the app – and while there were claims that Parler would become the ‘impartial alternative to Twitter’ we don’t expect it will cause Jack Dorsey too many sleepless nights.
App store downloads
Now we’ve covered the history of Twitter and given you a bit about the company, let’s take a look at who uses the platform, getting started with some of the demographics information. It makes for interesting reading!
Age of Twitter users worldwide
In 2021, the majority of Twitter users worldwide were in the 35-49 age bracket. As Twitter is one of the older social media platforms, having been around since 2006, it makes sense that the initial adopters of the platform are now in the older age range.
- Age 13-17 7.8%
- Age 18-24 25.2%
- Age 25-34 26.6%
- Age 35-49 28.4%
- Age 50+ 12%
Gender information for Twitter users worldwide
While Twitter usage is spread widely across the adult age ranges, the split looks pretty different when it comes to gender. Just 31.5% – less than a third – of users are female, with a whopping 68.5% being male.
There are a number of ways that women seem to be disadvantaged on Twitter too, with studies showing that women in academic roles who use Twitter to promote their work have significantly less influence than men. Women in this study had less than half the mean number of followers than their male counterparts, and women’s tweets generated fewer mean likes and retweets per tweet compared with men. Gender differences were found to be the largest amongst full professors. There doesn’t seem to be any real explanation for this – but it is an interesting observation!
Countries with the most Twitter users
Twitter usage is pretty low in many countries worldwide. Considering the population of the United States is over 332 million, and the population of the United Kingdom is just over 68 million, that’s a pretty low percentage that actually use Twitter. Japan is an interesting outlier though – almost 40% of the population there are Twitter users.
- United States 3 million
- Japan 9 million
- India 5 million
- United Kingdom 45 million
- Brazil 2 million
- Indonesia 05 million
- Turkey 6 million
- Saudi Arabia 45 million
- Mexico 11 million
- France 8 million
Like other social media platforms, Twitter has taken steps to prevent people impersonating people of note and celebrities. The blue verified badge with the little tick famously lets Twitter users know they have found an official account for someone. To have attained verified status, the account, and the user should be authentic, notable, and active. Verification has been applied to Twitter accounts for government officials, companies and organisations, news organisations and journalists, entertainment companies and artists, sports, and activists.
However, Twitter announced in 2017 that they had paused verification on their accounts, so while there have been verified badges applied since then, there doesn’t seem to have been any documentation about how those users got their badge. Twitter have announced their plans to relaunch verification in 2021.
Banned Twitter users
While there are undoubtedly thousands of Twitter accounts that get banned every day, there have been some really interesting and high profile users that have been banned in the past few years. While there is much debate as to whether a platform that encourages discussions should be able to censor users, there were more than a few that cheered when @realDonaldTrump was banned permanently as of 8th January 2021. He attempted to get around the ban by using the @POTUS account (the official account of the US President) after which those tweets were deleted, as well as the presidential campaign’s account @TeamTrump.
Twitter users of note that saw their accounts banned permanently in 2020 include conspiracy theorist David Icke, musician Wiley, and British far-right activist Katie Hopkins, while Kayne West and Donald Trump Jr. encountered temporary bans.
Like other social media channels, Twitter is definitely fraught with controversy – and censorship is high on the list of controversies that Twitter faces. Claims of hashtag suppression, a backlash against the Twitter ‘Trust and Safety Council’ and the moderation of tweets has led to Twitter launching the Birdwatch programme in January 2021. This group will have the ability to monitor tweets and replies in a similar fashion to Wikipedia, in that the Birdwatch community will inform Twitter to tag messages with misinformation or counter-messages.
Twitter restriction and blocking
To date, Twitter has been restricted in countries including France, India, Israel, Pakistan, Russia, South Korea, Tanzania, Turkey, and Venezuela. These restrictions were applied by Twitter at the request of the governments in those countries, while other countries block access to Twitter so their citizens are unable to access the platform. Countries that have blocked access to Twitter (either permanently or temporarily) include China, Egypt, Iran, North Korea, Turkey, and Turkmenistan. During the 2011 riots in England, then-Prime Minister David Cameron suggested that access to social networking sites including Twitter might be blocked, but this never came to pass.
Despite the platform being blocked by the great China firewall, there are estimated to be around 10 million users that use Twitter in the country.
Let’s get down the user statistics now – why people choose to log into their Twitter accounts, the numbers of users and how much time people spend per day on the platform.
What do people use Twitter for?
Worldwide statistics for reasons to user Twitter are pretty hard to collect, but in the US, reasons to use Twitter break down like this:
- To get news (48%)
- To get entertainment (48%)
- To keep contact with friends and family (34%)
- To follow brands / companies (33%)
- To strengthen professional network (14%)
- Other purposes (12%)
It is worth knowing that more than 80% of Twitter users access the platform exclusively from their mobile device – and so whether followers are on the move or not, marketers should keep that in mind when creating their content.
Monetizable daily active users worldwide
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the number of monetizable daily active users worldwide grew throughout 2020 to a high of 192 million in Q4 of 2020. With coronavirus meaning that people were at home and looking for distractions from the monotony of lockdowns, it made sense that Twitter usage began to pick up – whether this trend will continue as schools return and people go back to the office remains to be seen.
Monthly active users
Twitter averages around 330 million monthly active users on the platform (although they switched their reporting metric to monetizable daily active users in 2019), but here’s the thing – tweets don’t just get viewed by people that use Twitter. There are a huge number of users – reportedly 1.6 billion users – that find tweets every month via third-party platforms – with many starting on Google or Bing.
Total number of registered users
Twitter has over 1.3 billion registered users (although updates for the exact number doesn’t seem to be released by the company), but it is estimated that over 500 million of those accounts do not log in.
Average time spent on Twitter
So far in 2021, US adults spend around 6 minutes per day on Twitter – while on the web browser version of Twitter in December 2020, the average visit lasted nearly 11 minutes.
Most used Twitter hashtags in 2020
Twitter hashtags change year on year, but there are no surprises for guessing the top three trending hashtags in 2020. The #COVID19 and #coronavirus hashtags were widely used, closely followed by pandemic-related hashtags #stayhome and #wearamask, as well as variations on those hashtags that may or may not have included expletives! Pandemic content aside, #blacklivesmatter was used at unprecedented levels, peaking at 8.8 million tweets on May 28th, following the death of George Floyd, the unarmed African American man killed by police officers on May 20th.
Twitter top 10s
There’s nothing like a top 10 list when it comes to social media. Of course, these lists are subject to change – but they’re correct at the date of publishing.
The most followed Twitter accounts
- Barack Obama (@BarackObama) 129 million followers
- Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) 113 million followers
- Katy Perry (@katyperry) 109 million followers
- Rihanna (@rihanna) 102 million followers
- Cristiano Ronaldo (@Cristiano) 91 million followers
- Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) 88 million followers
- Lady Gaga (@ladygaga) 83 million followers
- Ariana Grande (@ArianaGrande) 82 million followers
- Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) 79 million followers
- YouTube (@YouTube) 72 million followers
In contrast to these most followed accounts, an estimated 391 million accounts have no followers at all.
Most liked posts on Twitter
|Tweet content||Posted by||Likes||Date posted|
|1||[It is with immeasurable grief that we confirm the passing of Chadwick Boseman. Chadwick was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016, and battled with it these last 4 years as it progressed to stage IV… ]||@chadwickboseman||7.5 million||28/8/2020|
|2||It’s a new day in America.||@JoeBiden||4.2 million||20/1/2021|
|3||“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion…”||@BarackObama||4.2 million||12/8/2017|
|4||Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act. To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents. Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day.||@BarackObama||3.9 million||26/1/2020|
|5||Congratulations to the Astronauts that left Earth today. Good choice||@andymilonakis||3.7 million||30/5/2020|
|6||We did it, @JoeBiden.||@KamalaHarris||3.3 million||7/11/2020|
|7||America, I’m honored that you have chosen me to lead our great country.
The work ahead of us will be hard, but I promise you this: I will be a President for all Americans — whether you voted for me or not.
I will keep the faith that you have placed in me.
|@Joe Biden||3.3 million||7/11/2020|
|8||Hey guys, wanna feel old?
|@IncredibleCulk (Macaulay Culkin)||3.2 million||26/8/2020|
|9||😙||@BTS_twt (Jungkook, South Korean singer & songwriter in boy group BTS)||3.1 million||24/1/2021|
|10||Hi Army😊||@BTS_twt (Kim Tae-hyung, singer in South Korean boy group BTS)||3.1 million||16/8/2020|
Most retweeted tweets
|Tweet content||Posted by||Retweets||Date posted|
|1||[Competition Tweet, posted in Japanese]
[ZOZOTOWN’s New Year’s sale is the fastest ever and has just surpassed 10 billion yen!! As a token of my gratitude, I will give 1 million yen (a total 100 million yen in New Year’s money) to 100 people in cash. To apply, just follow me and RT this tweet. Reception open until 1/7. I’ll DM the winners directly! #NewYeargiftifyouwanttogotothemoon]
|2||[Competition Tweet, posted in Japanese]
[🎍Happy New Year🎍 【Total 1 billion yen】#MaezawaNewYearsgift 1 million yen will be given to 1000 people! I hope that a million yen will make your lives happier. To apply, follow me and retweet this tweet. The deadline is 23:59 on January 7. The purpose of the project and the winning conditions are explained on YouTube.]
|3||HELP ME PLEASE. A MAN NEEDS HIS NUGGS||@carterjwm||3.31 million||5/4/2017|
|4||It is with immeasurable grief that we confirm the passing of Chadwick Boseman. Chadwick was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016, and battled with it these last 4 years as it progressed to stage IV…||@chadwickboseman||3.06 million||28/8/2020|
|5||If only Bradley’s arm was longer. Best photo ever. #oscars||@TheEllenShow||3.05 million||3/2/2014|
|6||Always in my heart @Harry_Styles . Yours sincerely, Louis||@Louis_Tomlinson||2.78 million||2/10/2011|
|8||Never Not 💜||@BTS_twt||1.71 million||3/5/2020|
|9||No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion…||@BarackObama||1.60 million||12/8/2017|
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Twitter statistics businesses should know
If you haven’t added Twitter to your social media strategy, then you really should. Here’s why:
Businesses benefit more from their Twitter activity when they engage with followers and direct tweets. 77% of users have a better impression of brands when they respond to a tweet, but brands need to be prompt with their responses – 60% of Twitter users expect brands to answer their tweets within an hour.
67% of all B2B businesses use Twitter for marketing their business, while 85% of small and medium businesses use Twitter for providing customer service. Most businesses (92%) tweet more than once per day, while 42% tweeting between 1 and 5 times per day.
Twitter is popular with businesses that want to reach their customers. The following lifts on the marketing funnel are reported by brands:
- 18% increase in message association
- 8% increase in brand awareness
- 7% increase in brand preference
- 3% increase in purchase intent
The average Twitter user follows just five brands – so when businesses get followed, they need to make it worth the follower continuing to do so. When they do follow a brand though, it is often lucrative for the brand, since 40% of Twitter users made a purchase after seeing an item on the platform. However, purchase intent increased more than five-fold when users saw tweets from influencers and brands, rather than just 2.7 times when they only saw a brand tweet. Not only that, 93% of Twitter users who follow small and medium businesses there plan to buy from them in the future, while 69% of users have already made purchases based on content on Twitter.
If purchase intent isn’t enough, Twitter helps businesses to increase brand awareness too. Users remember things they have read on Twitter more than 30% more than anything they have read anywhere else online, while they are 38% more likely to share opinions about brands and products than users of other social media platforms.
Twitter advertising costs
With so many tweets being sent every single minute of the day, getting your tweets seen by your followers can be a challenge – especially when you consider that the average lifespan of a tweet is just 18 minutes. If your business needs a hand getting tweets seen, then using paid ads can be an option – and since there is no minimum advertising budget required, then you can work with what suits your business best. There are five main types of paid advertising on Twitter:
- Promoted Tweets
- Promoted Accounts
- Promoted Trends
- Promoted Moments
- Automated Ads
Businesses can set a daily budget, a total campaign budget, or an ad group budget to put a cap on spending. You’re charged depending on the campaign objective – and costs can be based on Billable actions (a bit like PPC, you pay when someone acts as you want them to), Auctions, and Bids. You can find out more here.
But advertising on Twitter is likely to deliver return on investment – since Twitter users spend 26% more time watching ads on Twitter, compared with other social media platforms.
Why use video on Twitter?
Twitter is a word-based platform, right? So you don’t need to worry about video content? Absolutely wrong! Watch time on Twitter has actually increased by 72% year on year.
If you’re using Twitter for your business, adding video to your tweets is an easy way to increase your engagement – especially if you’re already creating video content, adding B roll to your tweets is a great way to get more value from the video that you’ve already got. Tweets with videos are six times more likely to be retweeted, and that really is the kind of engagement that businesses want and need.
Video isn’t the only media that can boost your engagement though – tweets with GIFs attached get more than 55% more engagement than those without. Despite that, only 2% of tweets actually contain GIFs – which begs the question why, since it is so easy to do, and it takes so little time to add a GIF? With this much of an increase in engagement, those couple of seconds adding a GIF are well spent.
When it comes to your adverts on Twitter, users are 70% more likely to remember an advert if an in-stream video has been added – so if you’re paying for advertising content, make the most of it by adding video!
Twitter has hosted 1300 live streamed events, with 80% of those events reaching a global audience – and we expect that number to keep going up, with more businesses using Twitter as part of their event streaming.
When is Twitter busiest?
According to this post, peak Twitter time is between 11am and 3pm Eastern Standard Time, with around 5.44% of the whole day’s tweets sent between 1pm and 2pm. Although that may be true, there are Twitter users worldwide, the busiest time for tweets for users from each country are different – and so you should check your Twitter analytics for more relevant information about your followers.
Current Twitter limits
It makes sense that there are limits on accounts – especially where there is such opportunity for spam messages to occur. These are the current limits that have been applied:
- 1000 direct messages per day
- 2400 tweets per day (that includes retweets)
- You can change the account email 4 times per hour
- You can follow 400 accounts per day (although there are rules that ban aggressive following tactics)
- After an account is following 5000 accounts, follow attempts may be limited
Some of these seem somewhat arbitrary – who in the world has enough content to tweet 100 times an hour – but remember, these rules will have been set to limit bots creating spammy content and to keep the platform in the spirit it is intended.
How to increase the reach of your Tweets organically
There are a few pointers that we can give you to ensure you’re reaching the right type of followers:
- Make sure you’re active on Twitter. The more you’re active, the more likely your followers will engage with you – and that engagement is essential for the algorithm to show your tweets to others.
- Tweet when your followers are likely to be active. Tweets really don’t last that long – and so checking your Twitter analytics to find out when your engagement occurs is the first step.
- Use hashtags and handles. Don’t go over the top with hashtag use – just a few is fine – but make sure you use handles where you’re quoting someone.
- Use photos, videos, and GIFs. We mentioned this earlier – if those engagement stats didn’t make it clear why, we’re not sure what to tell you.
- Invite engagement. Twitter is all about conversation, after all!
- Add a poll for more engagement.
- Try a thread of tweets. Find out more here.
- Join in with trending hashtags. But do so selectively – there’s nothing more painful than seeing a post that tries too hard to link what they’re trying to say with a trending topic when it has nothing to do with it.
- Reformulate your best content. That’s not to say copy/paste/repeat – use different points of view to keep things interesting.
- Use your Twitter analytics. It is there to help you tweet more successfully, so give different approaches a try – and adjust your activity accordingly.
Random interesting Twitter statistics
The most used emoji is “the face with tears of joy” () and it has been used more than two billion times on the platform. 77.7% of emojis used on Fridays and Saturdays are positive – which is 1.9% more than on other days of the week.
The most distant tweet sent was in January 2010 when astronaut Timothy Creamer tweeted from the International Space Station. The tweet read:
Hello Twitterverse! We r now LIVE tweeting from the International Space Station- the 1st live tweet from Space! 🙂 More soon, send your ?s
Although you’d think there would be more, the tweet got just 4,000 retweets and 1200 likes – maybe astronaut Creamer didn’t have that many followers back then.
92% of world leaders use Twitter – since having their words misinterpreted by those in the media is often an issue for world leaders, there is little wonder that they have turned to Twitter to express themselves.
Although Twitter isn’t nearly as large as some of the other social media platforms, it is still an incredibly valuable platform for businesses to use for marketing. Depending on the target demographic for the company, Twitter can help to amplify the message of the business, and to increase brand awareness – but of course, that’s not all Twitter can be used for. Even where businesses aren’t using Twitter to promote their products or services, it is well worth having a Twitter account purely for customer service.
Customer service should be front and centre of Twitter strategy for most businesses, but considering how quickly customers expect responses to tweets, it is essential to manage your Twitter activity carefully. Getting a social media inbox management tool, so that responses to all social media DMs and posts can be handled in good time is essential. Monitoring the inbox and replying to posts quickly will compound the social media strategy to really increase the return on investment.
Last Updated on March 17, 2021
Aires Loutsaris is a content marketing specialist working with some of the world’s biggest VC funded startups and eCommerce companies. He has 15 years of experience in organic search optimisation and content writing with over 2500 students enrolled in his Udemy SEO course. An ex-head of two award-winning agencies, he has lectured at the University of the Arts, London College of Fashion on content marketing and has consulted for all three of the Universities he studied at: The Open University, The University of Hull and Kings College University of London. Feel free to connect with Aires on LinkedIn or Facebook.