In general, all three core groups studied — Twitter users, non-Twitter users on social media and social media users overall — consume a good deal of news. In all, 77% of all social media users said they keep up with the news at least once a day, a number that was similar (76%) for non-Twitter users. But among Twitter users, news is a slightly bigger part of daily life. For those, 81% said they keep up with the news at least daily.
In addition to frequency, the survey also probed whether technology is making it easier to be informed. Here, Twitter users are also noticeably more likely than others to say that it is easier to keep up with the news today. Fully 79% find it easier to keep up with the news today than five years ago, compared with 62% of non-Twitter users who feel that way, and 70% of social media users overall.
Those on Twitter also use the network heavily. About two thirds of Twitter users, 71%, say they use the network several times a day, another 12% daily and 12% several times a week.
Not all of this activity on Twitter is consumption oriented. Some is clearly more participatory. About a third of Twitter users (37%), for instance, said they post or retweet several times a day, and another 10% once a day, as opposed to just reading tweets.
Twitter is more than a breaking news service
The survey also tried to probe more deeply how people use Twitter in the context of news. While many news organizations think of Twitter as heavily oriented to breaking news — as a way to get up to the minute details or updates rather than a delivery platform for news stories in general — consumers seem more varied in their patterns.
For instance, while 4 in 10 (40%) said they use Twitter to be alerted to breaking news, nearly as many (39%) said they use it “to keep up with news in general” and to “pass the time” (36%). In addition, about a quarter of Twitter users (28%) also say they use the network to second-screen during live events.
Twitter is, in other words, more than just a real-time service, but a way of staying in touch.
Twitter is also a means of social dissemination beyond news. For about 3 in 10 (31%), Twitter is used “to tell others what I am doing and thinking about.” And for a quarter of users, Twitter is a way to “keep in touch with people I know” (24%) and for 20% a way to keep in touch with celebrities (“follow famous people”).
People also access Twitter from multiple devices, though Twitter and other social networks are highly correlated to mobile. Fully 82% of Twitter users said they had accessed the network in the last week on smartphones, 58% on a laptop or notebook, 39% on desktop and 29% on tablets.
Just as people access Twitter on different devices, they also don’t have one pathway to getting there. For instance, 7 out of 10 (72%) said that in the last week they accessed the network via Twitter’s mobile app. Only slightly fewer, 66% did so via the web (Twitter.com). Far fewer, just 11% through a third-party app such as Hootsuite and 5% through Twitter’s own Tweetdeck app.