Don’t Make Twitter Your Feedback Barometer
Does your association measure membership happiness via Twitter? A Pew Research Center study reveals that the platform may not be the most trustworthy barometer of public opinion.
A recent study from the Pew Research Center sheds new light on how well Twitter conversations reflect general public opinion: Not well, it turns out. And that may have implications for how you look at the Twitter conversation going on in your association’s social space.
The study looked at Twitter commentary on 2012’s major political events, such as presidential debates, nominations, and Supreme Court rulings. From population concerns to variations in age groups, Pew found several reasons why Twitter is a faulty barometer of public opinion:
Generation gap: Age plays a big part in Twitter’s public opinion data. Thirteen percent of adults are active on Twitter. That is not the same pool of people who participate in national surveys. “People under the age of 18 can participate in Twitter conversations, while national surveys are limited to adults 18 and older,” according to the study.
The Twitter population: The Pew study revealed that only 3 percent of people get their news from Twitter. If this is true, that could also speak to how much users respond to a certain event. “The lack of consistent correspondence between Twitter reaction and public opinion is partly a reflection of the fact that those who get news on Twitter—and particularly those who tweet news—are very different demographically from the public,” the study says.
The key takeaway: When creating member surveys, keep in mind that the respondents may represent a different pool of people than those who have given feedback via Twitter. And the Twitterati themselves are not a cohesive group. According to Pew, the people who would tweet about a Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage may not be the same type of users who would tweet about Obama’s reelection. “While [Twitter] provides an interesting look into how communities of interest respond to different circumstances, it does not reliably correlate with the overall reaction of adults nationwide,” the study reports.