The Kids Are Alright. With Facebook and SMS. But Not Twitter

I delivered a lecture to business and technology freshmen (late teens, I reckon) in Trinity College Dublin recently. I spoke about user experience in enterprise applications, trends that UX pros need to be aware of such as social media, community support, mobile and tablet platforms and a bunch of nuances around those areas (data and device security, privacy, reputation, branding, and so on).

Berkley Library, Trinity College Dublin

It was all fairly high level stuff given the audience, and I included lots of colorful screenshots. Irish-related examples helped to get the message across.

Twitter stream showing Eircom Support

During the lecture I did a quick poll. "How many students here use Twitter?" Answer: None. "How many use Facebook?" All (pretty much). So what do these guys like to use instead of Twitter? Easy - text messaging (or SMS if you like). They all had phones.

Perhaps I should not have been so surprised about Twitter, but it's always great to have research validated by some guerilla UX research on the street. There's already quite a bit of research about teen uptake (or lack) of Twitter, telling us young adults don't tweet. Twitter is seen as something for er, older people. Affordable devices and data plans that allow students to text really quickly are also popular (BlackBerry, for example). Younger people just luuurve to text each other. A lot.  Facebook versus Twitter for younger folks? Well, we know the story. No contest: Facebook.

I would love to engage more with students like these. I'll plan for it. It will also be interesting to see if Twitter becomes more important to them over time. There were a few other interesting observations about the lack of uptake of Foursquare, Gowalla and mobile apps like that. I  don't think there's a huge uptake in these kind of apps in Ireland anyway, but maybe students have different priorities anyway?

 Gowalla screen showing Stag's Head pub

I'll return to that another day.

Comments:

perhaps they can't afford smart phones yet? did you poll for that? that might explain a lack of uptake with 4sq, maybe... i don't know that many people, personally or professionally, that use twitter. i mean really use it. they may lurk. they may post something once a month. but they simply don't use it. i have been unable to convince anyone of the benefits, personally and professionally (i have concentrated on professionally). chet

Posted by chet on March 20, 2011 at 03:19 PM GMT #

Definitely there are lots of people who sign up and abandon Twitter within months (the majority of sign-ups). They all had smart phones. However, the level of rewards and benefits from FSQ in Ireland (Dublin) is very very low. More research needed - and planned in this area.

Posted by Ultan on March 21, 2011 at 03:16 AM GMT #

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Oracle applications user experience (UX) assistance. UX and development outreach of all sorts to the apps community, helping to design and deliver usable apps.

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Ultan Ó Broin. Director, Global Applications User Experience, Oracle Corporation. On Twitter: @ultan

See my other Oracle blog about product globalization too: Not Lost in Translation

Interests: User experience (UX), user centered design, design patterns, tailoring, BYOD, dev relations, language quality, mobile apps, Oracle FMW and ADF, and a lot more.

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