Estonian Twitter users, like those in the rest of Europe, mostly share their thoughts with the world in their mother language.
In five years, the US microblogging service Twitter has collected about 30,000 users in Estonia. However, according to monitoring company Freqmedia CEO Toomas Toots, not all are active any more.
Twitter, launched in 2006, is an Internet messaging service and a social network, its most characteristic feature being the message or tweet length limit: 140 characters. According to the company, as of this March, they have over 200 million users issuing more than 400 million tweets, daily. Of the population of the Earth, 2.9 per cent use Twitter.
Most of the user accounts are open to be read by anyone; the nature of the service allowing those interested to make detailed research into people’s moods etc.
One such researcher is Kalev Leetaru, a man with Estonian roots and a research fellow at the University of Illinois, USA. Recently, he published in First Monday, with his colleagues, a detailed study on Twitter use geography, including language-based distribution.
Based on the Twitter messages database on October and November, 2012, Mr Leetaru discovered that close to 40 per cent of the tweets were made in English, with Japanese and Spanish slightly over 10 per cent. Indonesian, Arabic and Norwegian were widely used, also.
The scientist told Postimees that it is evident with Estonia, as in all of Europe, that Twitter is mostly used in the mother tongue i.e. Estonian. Tallinn still should be viewed separately, as in the capital, tweets in Russian also abound. «Twitter use quite evenly covers the entire country, not being limited to Tallinn,» he said.
When it comes to English, often used on his account for President of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves, typically it is not widely used in Estonia. According to Mr Leetaru, not many tweets in English come from Estonia – most of such from Tallinn.
Forwarding one’s ideas in a local language and not in English equals no influence abroad and limits on potential readership, adds Mr Leetaru.
In his words, Lithuania stands out among the Baltic States, with no single language clearly favoured among Twitter users.
According to Toomas Toots, CEO of Estonian monitoring company Freqmedia, about 6,000 Estonia-related Twitter accounts are active daily, producing some 40,000 tweets.
«From this, it cannot be concluded that only 6,000 accounts are active,» he said. «Rather, not all Twitter users tweet every day.»
Every week, 100 to 150 people open themselves a new Twitter account and start tweeting.
An important indicator of a user’s influence and impact is the number of followers, with Estonia-linked users never exceeding 30,000. However, with the big stars of this world, it’s in the tens of millions.
Among Estonians more widely known outside social media, we find Twitter users like President Ilves (close to 15,000 followers), TV personality Mihkel Raud (close to 14,000), economist Kristjan Lepik, musician Henry Kõrvits and others.
According to Freqmedia, the largest following in Estonia is held, however, by a 14 years old schoolgirl @JenniRH, mostly tweeting in English. «The top spot belongs to a teenager, who has simply taken about 28,000 other accounts under her monitoring and, by this method, gotten herself the same amount of followers,» commented Toomas Toots.
The Illinois University scientist Kalev Leetaru says it is very difficult to compare users of Twitter and of the other well known social media site, Facebook, as in Twitter the bulk of activity is public, while Facebook is closed and not accessible to researchers. Of Twitter, it can be said that it is widely used by companies geared towards end users, in their communication, as well as by journalists and politicians.
«Ordinary citizens use it to communicate with brands and politicians, as well as between themselves,» says the scientist. «The people actually posting tweets amount to a rather limited part of society, and there is not enough understanding about who and why they are. What came up in our research was that over a half of tweets contain references to other Twitter users. Meaning that the users, in addition to letting the world know what they think, also hold conversations with others and enter into dialogues.»
Concerning America, where 15 per cent of Internet users also tweet, with 8 per cent doing so daily, it can be said, according to Mr Leetaru it can be said that Twitter has entered the web use mainstream.
Top 40 of Estonian tweeters:
Username Number of followers
@beat_service 14 391
@mihkelraud 13 980
@kristjanlepik 11 544
@PaksBasilio 11 300
@radioskyplus 10 682
allikas: Freqmedia OÜ