Indeed. As a Business Anthropologist, I am fascinated by who chooses to be active in Twitter and what they're up to. And equally fascinated by the numbers - including marketers and business pundits - who are fearful, confounded or compelled to denigrate Twitter.
From the Harvard study
Among Twitter users, the median number of lifetime tweets per user is one. This translates into over half of Twitter users tweeting less than once every 74 days.
At the same time there is a small contingent of users who are very active. Specifically, the top 10% of prolific Twitter users accounted for over 90% of tweets. On a typical online social network, the top 10% of users account for 30% of all production. To put Twitter in perspective, consider an unlikely analogue - Wikipedia. There, the top 15% of the most prolific editors account for 90% of Wikipedia's edits ii. In other words, the pattern of contributions on Twitter is more concentrated among the few top users than is the case on Wikipedia, even though Wikipedia is clearly not a communications tool.
Those 10% are very active. As other bloggers have explored, they differ from other social media users in several ways. What I find especially interesting are the small, non-monetized exchanges being invented real time. The skill to do so is not taught in MBA programs; a better place to look might be Aikido dojos and community theatres. As I see it, Creatives from all over the world are exchanging because it's fun and enlivening. A high-performing client remarked to me recently, "I love going on Twitter; I always learn there."
For those who feel a need to distinguish between value and play (believing that play is defined as 'not creating value',) I am happy to explore the question: what are millions of people finding on Twitter? The more practical value includes:
The less practical? Challenges; inspiring quotations, accomplishments, and points of view. I learned about the Harvard study this morning on Twitter. Thanks @DanOnBranding and @Lapp.
Received wisdom when I was in grad school was that one could recognize the advent of human ancestors in the archeological record when tools became more beautiful than they needed to be to get the job done. Making such tools was viewed as distinctly human behavior. Does anyone think that has changed?
And who made those beautiful tools? Not the median tool user. This anthropologist will bet it was the same part of the population who are now active on Twitter. The 10% who feel compelled to make the world better.
These are the people who are navigating the economic downturn by inventing new exchanges with people all over the world. Whether or not money is involved, these Creatives are like bees - pollinating our businesses and communities - sparking new value - making the economy more resilient.