Today the Fresh Business Thinking website published an article of mine entitled “Twitter is a Serious Business Tool” which has received more than a little interest, which is great. Over the next days I’m going to elaborate on some of the ideas in the article, and I’ve started with this one because it has raised particular interest with my construction marketing friends. Here’s what I wrote:
… With some simple searching I have found more than 1000 architects and estimate that the UK Construction industry is represented on Twitter by about 20–30,000 active accounts.
I first quoted this estimate (then I gave around 20,000 as the figure) in February 2010 at a construction marketing conference. For the benefit of those who asked, here’s how I first came up with the estimate of 20-30,000 UK Construction people, for you to take a look and see if you agree with me. If you have another, more reliable way of estimating the usage I’d be most interested.
Twitter does not publish figures of the number of user accounts or any other demographic so one has to rely on other companies like Compete.com, Sysomos.com and so on to make some estimates. For this reason these figures must remain broad brush.
1. Total Unique Visitors Per Month
Compete.com shows site analytics for sites like Twitter. In July 2010 Monthly Unique visitors were 28million, 288 thousand, two hundred and three, and had been around 27-28m for the previous four months.
2. UK Unique Visitors Per Month
Of those 28 million or so, Sysomos calculated that 7.87% were in the UK. Look at the article from last summer to see the percentages for other countries and cut down your unique visitors by your target country.
If I do this I get 7.87% of 28,288,203 giving 2,226,281 in the UK. By the way if you know a more recent breakdown please use it – and let me know!
3. UK Construction Unique Visitors Per Month
Next we need to work out how many of these UK users are likely to be in the industries of your choice. I used the UK Construction Industry Overview by Corporate Watch UK March 2004 (couldn’t find anything more recent, but I think the size of the construction industry got considerably larger than that in the late noughties, and has shrunk again since, so it’s a reasonable enough metric).
Corporate Watch says “The UK construction industry … employs 1.4 million people” which is 2.33% of the UK population (currently at approximately 60m). So we can reduce our 2.226m UK population to just 2.33% and get the proportion of those users likely to be in the UK construction industry, assuming the demographic is similar to the total population. This gives us a number of users of 51,872. These are estimated users in the UK, likely to be employed in Construction in the UK.
The final measure I want to use is activity.
4. Active UK Construction Unique Visitors Per Month
When I first made these rough yardstick measures I used Sysomos’ report (as above) to look at active twitter users. Sysomos said that “50.4% of Twitter users haven’t updated their status in the last seven days.” In other words, 49.6% had updated their status in the last seven days. For some twitter users, this is activity. With this measure, we’d have a figure of ‘active users’ of 25,728.
But if you want to be more pessimistic and describe activity as updating in the last two days, Sysomos’ graph suggests that 39% updated in the last day or less. This would give a figure of 20,230 ‘active users’.
There were 28.288m unique visitors to twitter.com in July 2010;
7.87% (i.e. 2.226m) of these were in the UK;
2.33% (i.e. 51,800) of these probably work in the UK construction industry, and
49.6% (i.e. 25,000) of these posted an update in the last seven days, or
39% (i.e. 20,230) posted an update in the last day or less.
Now it is worth mentioning that this figure we have arrived at is probably an underestimate of the number of UK Construction people using twitter, because it is based on people visiting the twitter.com site. Sysomos’ report from November 2009, Inside Twitter Clients, put the proportion of users who use the twitter website to post updates at just 46.79%, less than half. The remainder use third party applications, such as Tweetdeck, tweetie (now twitter for iphone), twitteriffic, hootsuite, and so on. These access twitter via the API (a feed of the stream) so the 53.21% of users using twitter with these other tools won’t register as a visit to twitter.com. For this reason I think that it is an underestimate to say that 20-25,000 UK Construction People use twitter every day/week, it could quite easily be more than that.
It is also important to remember that we are talking about people here, not brands or companies. Many of the twitter users I have met are employed in the UK Construction industry but you might not even know it. Perhaps they are your employees?
Over to You
So how helpful is this? I think it is a limited exercise because in the end the numbers are so large they become relatively meaningless in the general scope of things. What matters is what you do with twitter, that is what will determine whether it is successful for you or not. However, if you want to demonstrate the potential of such a hugely popular tool to a sceptic, these numbers might help.
Right, now lets be bowled over by the size of facebook…
Paul Wilkinson says
Good stab at the numbers, Su. I have used the Construction Statistics Annual for a more recent overview of the UK industry: this shows the industry comprises over 202,000 private companies, and employs almost 1.3 million people. There were 1,396 firms employing 80 or more people (totalling 456,000 employees), so it’s clear the industry is dominated by SMEs (who are more likely to benefit from social media, and are often more agile).
One cultural factor to bear in mind, though, is that construction is generally regarded as a conservative industry unlikely to figure among early adopters of new tools and techniques (with some honourable exceptions, like mobile telephones, where it was in the vanguard). This may reduce the estimate a little further, perhaps.
Thanks for the extra more up-to-date data Paul.
A very good point about SME – over 900,000 of your 1.3m work for firms with fewer than 80 employees. This is probably even more noticeable with consultancies as I found out with architects. 76% of architects have 10 staff or fewer, around 50% have 5 or fewer.
One of the problems with there being no actual statistics is that these can only every be very rough estimates – I’d like to know whether our strong but anecdotal experience of construction firms being slow to adopt social tools could be one day backed up by cold hard facts!
Pritesh Patel says
My guesstimate would be about half of the number you calculated. Why? Well the first metric you used in your calculation is ‘Unique Visitors’. Unique visitors is not people, its the number of times a unique machine (laptop, mobile, desktop) has interacted with a website. This is why sometimes Unique Visitors is a useless metric to measure ‘people interactions’. A human could visit this blog (or any other website) using 3 different devices (laptop, mobile and desktop). 1 human but shown as 3 unique visits. (Not going to go into technical detail to explain)
Anyway, so lets assume that most people access twitter.com on mobile and on desktop. That 28million now becomes 14million (2 unique visits per machine) to give a better idea of ‘Unique Visitors’ as honest as can be for this scenario. Could even be divided by 3 to account for 3 devices.
Going through the same process as you, I get 12,558 people, who work in the construction industry and are active tweeters. But then, the real question is, how many of the 12,000 or so actually tweet about construction or looking to connect with other construction Twitter users? Much less? 6000? 9000? Just because they work in the construction industry doesn’t necessarily mean they tweet about construction, do they really want to connect with construction industry people? For example, I have a friend who works in the construction industry but tweets about cake recipes. But according to our numbers….she would be grouped within the 12,000 or so. Is this right?
It is important that the numbers provided do not become a marketing hook to get others using Twitter and for them to think that there are over 20,000 people are there which they can connect with (seen someone tweet earlier that they are going to send this post to clietns to get them using twitter). My friend who tweets about cakes works in the construction industry but not looking to connect with individuals within the construction industry, contractors or any other construction companies for that matter.
.-= Pritesh Patel´s last blog ..Which is worse A complaint via E-Mail or complaint via Twitter =-.
Hi Pritesh, thanks for taking the time to comment.
Would you agree with my case about the twitter API? I’m not an expert but I believe this means that my use of hootsuite and twitter for iphone wouldn’t count amongst the uniques anyway. So yes, it is complicated.
I’d agree with your comments about using the numbers to mislead people. They are, as I’ve stated several times, only a rough guess because we cannot know. The purpose of the exercise is to break down the meaningless millions of visitors to something more relevant to us as individuals.
What I do take issue with (though it is an interesting idea) is your point about who these people are and what they are using twitter for. As you know I follow hundreds of architects on twitter and I can safely say that though many of them do talk about architecture quite a lot, even they don’t do it all the time.
The boundary between our work lives and our personal lives has become perhaps irreversibly blurred by social tools. My secretary told me of a friend whose activities online were read back to her at a job interview recently. But this is just an enhancement of what was already there. Your network was the group of friends who met in the pub, now it is worldwide, but it is still real, ordinary people, not a ‘market’ to be exploited.
I think these ideas must surely motivate particular behaviours and prove the complete pointlessness of others – don’t you agree?
This is an interesting method for working out that number, but I agree that what you do with Twitter is much more important than the numbers.
Great use of our data though!
Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos
.-= 40deuce´s last blog ..What&8217s A Social Media Influencer =-.
Lee Smallwood says
Firstly – great article and one which can/will be debated upon from a variety of subjective opininons. Which is actually one of the main reasons I love the web – or more speciffically how to define the elusive…’ meaningful metric’- or as you put “break down the meaningless millions of visitors to something more relevant to us as individuals.”
Your comment of “…only a rough guess because we cannot know” basically, the complexity of establishing ‘what is a unqiue visit?’ – got me thinking that we are able to establish with certainty is the ‘uniqueness of the conversation’ and what effect that has on the people reading it – which tells us a lot…
E.g. over the last 30 days there were 3,826 posts (just on twitter) relating just to one keyword ‘construction’ andthis many posts where just from people based within the UK .
97.6% were by you and Paul (joke) 😉
The main spikes over the last 30 days ocurred on:
18th August – 198 posts
26th August – 193 posts
3rd September 167 posts
So from that alone should we be asking questions like:
What happened on those dates in particular to almost double the number of daily posts?
What % of people of those tweets were posted by the same people?
There are of course so many other questions that could be asked – and therefor lies the paradox: what are the right questions to ask and which are the wrong ones? (and even though you think a question is wrong would you still ask it because you know sometimes asking the wrong question can actually lead to different ways of thinking)
But, just to clarify, my 2 questions may or may not be the right questions – but that’s the beauty of subjective opinion…
The main point here for me is, and I support your comment Su, that people are talking about Construction – fact! But what other keywords from within construction sector are people talking about, not just on twitter but on other platforms?
Would those figures be more relative rather than the number of ‘bums on seats’?
As always happy to challenged and educated 🙂
.-= Lee Smallwood´s last blog ..An Idea Worth Spreading- CocaCola Happiness Machine UK =-.
Great comment Lee, thanks. Really pushes us on to the next level.
For me this is where we move from the process of accepting that twitter is a place where people in construction hang out, to asking ourselves what they are doing there, and what is it achieving?
I know architects, for example, who get business direct from twitter, as well as indirectly as a result of having a higher profile online (to which twitter contributes).
I also know that many people save a great deal of time and money getting advice, information and help on twitter from their network.
For those of us who are not only consumers but business people, evidence of results is the primary attraction. We need to see results, share them and make them for ourselves.