The Tweet Smell of Celebrity Success: Explaining Variation in Twitter Adoption among a Diverse Group of Young Adults

Authors: Eszter Hargittai and Eden Litt

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Citation: Hargittai, E. & Litt, E. (2011). The Tweet Smell of Celebrity Success: Explaining Variation in Twitter Adoption among a Diverse Group of Young Adults. New Media & Society. 13(5):824-842.


What motivates young adults to start using the popular microblogging site Twitter? Can we identify any systematic patterns of adoption or is use of the service randomly distributed among Internet users of this demographic? Drawing on unique longitudinal data surveying 505 diverse young American adults about their Internet uses at two points in time (2009, 2010), this paper looks at what explains the uptake of Twitter during the year when the site saw considerable increase in use. We find that African Americans are more likely to use the service, as are those with higher Internet skills. Results also suggest that interest in celebrity and entertainment news is a significant predictor of Twitter use mediating the effect of race. In contrast, interest in local and national news, international news, and politics shows no relationship to Twitter adoption in this population segment.


  • Introduction
  • What is Twitter and Why Study It?
  • User Attributes and Social Network Site Uses
    • Facebook, MySpace and User Background
    • Twitter and User Background
    • Personal Interests and Twitter Topics
  • Data and Methods
    • Sample descriptives
    • Digital media experiences
    • Topical interests
    • Measuring Twitter use
    • Analyses
  • Results
    • Prevalence of Twitter Use
    • The Relationship of Twitter Use and User Attributes
    • Explaining Differentiated Twitter Adoption
  • Directions for Future Research
  • Discussion and Conclusion


The authors are grateful to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for its generous support. They thank the helpful assistance of Ericka Menchen–Trevino, Cassi Saari and the group of undergraduate research assistants in the Web Use Project lab during the 2008–09 and 2009–10 academic years for data collection and data entry. They also thank Jeremy Freese and the anonymous reviewers for helpful advice as well as Ann Feldman and Tom Moss for their support.

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