Here is a blockbuster “discovery” from Harvard Business School—just 10% of Twitter users generate 90% of the content. Most everyone else is there passively for the ride.
Sorry, HBS, but anyone following social media has known about this ratio of active to passive participants for YEARS. I remember talking about this with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales at the World Economic Forum in Davos three years ago. He said that 1% of Wikipedia participants did 90% of the posting and editing, another 9-10% were somewhat active and the rest just used the encyclopedia without changing it.
Anywhere from 2% to 5% of YouTube and Flickr participants post, the rest watch.
The HBS study says that Twitter is a broadcast medium, not an intimate conversation medium for friends. I half agree with that. You
are broadcasting on Twitter, but you are also linking and shouting out cool new ideas and comments on blogs and web sites to your followers. For me, it's nice following John Byrne on Twitter on his daily journey through journalism but it's also nice following David Armano on his journey because he's constantly linking me to new sources of great ideas (John does that too). So Twitter is both broadcasting and conversing at the same time.
The real problem with Twitter is that it is hard for newbies to use. It isn't nearly as intuitive as other social media. And it's not the 140 character limitation--that part is fun. Haiku-talk. It's the formulas for linking and compressing that are a pain. Enough of a pain to push first-time users away from active participation to passive participation.
And hey, what's wrong with being actively passive anyhow? Ever sit in a classroom? Or watch hulu?