Experts have attributed the difference in Twitter uptake among white and black users to demographic factors that distinguish the African American community, such as age and above-average smartphone use, as well as disparities between social media sites themselves. Twitter, for example, is limited to 140 character updates and is easily accessible on mobile devices.
Yet new research provides fresh insight into the forces driving Twitter adoption among users in the black community and suggests that one of the most powerful catalysts is an interest in celebrity and entertainment news.
During a six month period ending in May, the share of African Americans on Twitter nearly doubled from 13 to 25 percent, while the proportion of whites on Twitter edged up only slightly, from 5 to 9 percent, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. African Americans are also far more active Twitter users: 11 percent visited the social media service daily, compared to 3 percent of whites.
Though African Americans make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, they account for 22 percent of Twitter users, according to Edison Research, a market research company. A Twitter spokeswoman said the company does not comment on third-party research and declined to provide statistics on the use of the site by African Americans, noting, “We don’t ask users for demographic information.”
But the use of one form of social media does not translate into the use of another: On Facebook, the world’s largest social networking site with over 750 million members, African Americans are actually underrepresented and constitute just 12 percent of all users, according to Edison.
Many researchers argue that the lower average age of African Americans has contributed to Twitter’s popularity among individuals in this group. The majority of Twitter users are under 35 years old, and according to the 2000 census, the median age of African Americans, 30, is seven years below the median age of white Americans.