As with many technologies, enthusiastic users have used Twitter for more than just answering the question, “What are you doing?” Twitter has been used to help organize and disseminate information during major events like the 2008 California wildfires, the recent American elections, the Mumbai massacre and even the January 2009 crash of US Airways flight 1549 into the Hudson River. Janis Krum, a passenger on a ferry that rushed to the scene, took a photo of the plane with a cell phone and sent it out via his Twitter feed. Twitter and other status updates have also been used for many other purposes including the airing of complaints against companies, sharing ideas, forwarding interesting material, documenting events, conversing and flirting.
Twitter and similar services have been most avidly embraced by young adults. Nearly one in five (19%) online adults ages 18 to 24 have ever used Twitter and its ilk, as have 20% of online adults 25 to 34. Use of these services drops off steadily after age 35 with 10% of 35 to 44 year olds and 5% of 45 to 54 year olds using Twitter. The decline is even more stark among older internet users; 4% of 55-64 year olds and 2% of those 65 and older use Twitter.
Given the youth of most Twitter users, it is not surprising to find that online Americans who live in lower-income households are more likely to use Twitter than more affluent Americans. Some 17% of internet users in households earning less than $30,000 tweet and update their status, compared with 10% of those earning more than $75,000 annually. Younger adults generally earn less money than older adults.
Wireless internet users are also more likely to be users of Twitter and other status updating services; 14% of users who access the internet wirelessly via a laptop, handheld or cell phone have used a service like Twitter, compared to 6% of users who go online but do not do so wirelessly.
The use of Twitter is highly intertwined with the use of other social media; both blogging and social network use increase the likelihood that an individual also uses Twitter. Adults who use online social networks are much more likely to say that they have used Twitter or some other service to update their status and read the status updates of others. Nearly one quarter (23%) of social network users say they have ever Twittered or used a similar service. In comparison, just 4% of those who do not use social networks have ever used Twitter or updated their status online. The correlation between status updates and social network use is less surprising given that many social network sites offer opportunities to post status updates and read the updates of others. Facebook offers a status update feature while other social networks offer taglines and mood updates, often rendered with an adjective and a smiley face indicating the corresponding emotion.
Blogging shows a similar pattern; 27% of bloggers Twitter, compared with just 10% of those who do not keep a blog. Overall, 13% of internet users have created a blog.