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Something to think about... / blog
Is Twitter using Misleading Stats?

Written by on April 22, 2008

I was watching a video about Twitter, and one thing that caught my attention was when they said "People Twitter in average 3 times per day". My guess is that they are extremely wrong - or rather that the stats are misleading them.

Note: I do not know the details of Twitter's usage patterns - I am simply speculating.

Averages are, unfortunately, one of the most frequently used forms of statistics. It is also one of the most frequent causes of being misled. You should never rely on averages, unless you are absolutely sure that the average really represents the majority.

In the perfect world, stats would look something like the graph below. The majority is centered on the average, while it is trailing off at either end. If this is your graph you can safely say that the average is such and such - and people can rely on it.

But it is much more likely that you graph looks like something else. Here are two examples. The first one has the same average, but the majority of uses is not centered on the middle, but is instead focused at the edges. In this case the average gives you a completely wrong picture of what is really going on.

Note: If this is your graph is is much more accurate to say the the "average" is either not doing anything at all, or doing a lot

Here is another example where many people do very little with it trailing off as the usage gets higher - only to be broken by a relatively small group of "heavy usage". The thing to notice in this case is that the average is still the same as with the other two graphs. But again, the average is directly misleading.

In this case you should say, the "average" is only doing little, with a small group of power users

Saying that the average user Twitters 3 times per day - is very likely to be wrong. I would not base my strategy on an average usage.

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Thomas Baekdal

Thomas Baekdal

Founder of Baekdal, author, writer, strategic consultant, and new media advocate.

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