Social Media

360i Report: Twitter Usage Across the U.S. & U.K.

July 27, 2013

By Claire Charron, Analyst, and Irina Kondrashova, Strategist at 360i

Executive Summary

Geography, access to technology, the popularity of certain social networks and cultural norms all influence how people across the globe engage in social media. This whitepaper explores the role of culture when it comes to how, where and with what purpose people in the United Kingdom and the United States engage on Twitter. These findings reveal important implications for marketers engaging consumers on both sides of the pond in social media.
For this study we analyzed a randomized sample of 400 Twitter posts, representative of the population of public Twitter conversations in the U.K. and U.S. To qualify our findings, we also conducted in-depth online interviews with Twitter users from both countries to give us perspective into the rationale behind their expressed behaviors.
Summary of Key Findings
Twitter users in the U.S. and the U.K. prefer to engage in the platform at different points of the day. US users are most active in the evening, whereas UK users intermittently update throughout the day as new topics of conversation arise. Marketers will want to understand the preferred time of activity for a regional audience, and align their content strategy accordingly to maximize engagement.

Motivation for sharing varies greatly across cultures: UK users seek connection and conversation, while US users are driven by validation and self-expression. Understanding the cultural psyche of an audience can help marketers tailor content and messaging to better incentivize conversation and sharing. By playing into the motivations of an audience, brands can deliver a more relevant value exchange.
UK users are generally more positive than their US counterparts, and tend to avoid revealing overtly “raw emotion,” such as anger, on Twitter. Marketers should keep this in mind when developing a social tone of voice for their brands across different regions. Authenticity is a big factor in how brands approach consumers in the U.S., so quips about common frustrations can help make brands more relatable. Humanizing the brand is equally as important in the U.K., but it should be done in a way that generates a positive response, as that audience is less prone to air blatant grievances in social media.
People in the U.S. tend to be more opinionated when interacting with brands on Twitter. When evaluating consumer sentiment online, we recommend that marketers hold the U.K. and U.S. to different standards. This means that a slew of negative commentary coming from a US audience online might not point to a bigger issue offline, just as a lack of demonstrated brand love from UK users might not point to a lack of emotional connection to that brand within the general population.

US & UK Twitter users are active at different times of the day

When comparing usage behavior across the U.S. and the U.K. — and adjusting for time zone discrepancies — we found stark differences between the times of day when users in each region are most likely to post. Twitter users in the U.K. are more active in late morning/early afternoon, specifically during the hours of 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Conversely, users in the U.S. tend to be most engaged on Twitter in the evening, (after 6 p.m.). US Twitter users indicate having more time in the evenings once they get home from work, and it is at this time when they will reflect on the events of that day and are more likely to get feedback from peers. In the U.K., users tweet throughout the day as interesting conversation topics surface, and some mention their lunch break as a dedicated time to update their social media profile.
1USUK1 2

Source: 360i’s analysis of the social media landscape conducted March 2013 for data spanning September 1, 2012- February 28, 2013.
Sample Size= 13,000 posts per market from blogs, forums, public Facebook profiles and Twitter.

What this means for marketers: Messaging cadence and expectations for level of consumer engagement with brand content will vary greatly depending on the time of day. While UK consumers are active on Twitter throughout the day, there is a heightened possibility to catch their eye around lunchtime with relevant content. This provides brands with an opportunity to enter timely conversations, as UK consumers keep a keen eye on current events as the day unravels. From a content perspective, joining trending conversations in a timely fashion will likely have a positive impact on engagement.
UK consumers seek genuine connection, while US consumers desire self-expression and validation

In the U.K., people are more likely to have conversations on Twitter (67 percent of the conversations sampled were part of an ongoing back-and-fourth with another user) and they prefer to share content they feel will be relevant to their followers, such as specific advice or timely, news-related content. US users, on the other hand, are 82 percent more likely to re-tweet content (e.g. from their friends, a celebrity or a content curator), and love to share their opinion about anything – even without being prompted.


Source: 360i’s analysis of the social media landscape conducted March 2013 for data spanning September 1, 2012- February 28, 2013.
Sample Size= 200 posts per market from blogs, forums, public Facebook profiles and Twitter.
In the U.S., the need for self-expression and validation drive engagement. Said one interviewee: “The reason I’m on Twitter is to follow my favorite celebrities; I have actually connected with a few of them and that’s what keeps me coming back. […] I am on Twitter to express myself and make my opinion loud.”

UK consumers cite the desire to connect with friends and discuss interesting subjects as a motivation for platform usage: “Twitter should be used for people to share experiences they have had, to post links to interesting articles (and videos) they have found online,” said a UK user we interviewed.

What this means for marketers: In the U.S., many brands have as much clout as celebrities, so validation of consumer self-expression from a major brand could spark a meaningful, long-lasting relationship. In the U.K., however, brands must deliver significant “talkability” value — e.g. providing content that is interesting and worth commenting on — because validation is generally not a currency that those consumers seek.

UK users are less comfortable expressing overtly ‘raw emotion’ than their US counterparts

In their tweets, UK users express more joy, while US users are generally angrier in their tone.

Source: 360i’s analysis of the social media landscape conducted March 2013 for data spanning September 1, 2012- February 28, 2013.
Sample Size= 200 posts per market from blogs, forums, public Facebook profiles and Twitter.
UK Twitter users express themselves through a range of emotion; however, they are less comfortable expressing blatant “raw emotion” such as anger or disgust, citing fear of mockery and irrelevance to others as the reasons: “I try to steer away from being too angry or depressing on Twitter because no one really wants to hear that. I’ll usually stay pretty neutral or happy on Twitter.” UK consumers keep it light because they don’t want to read others’ rants, instead, the joy they express in conversation stems from sharing topics they and their followers are passionate about.

As discussed earlier, US users see Twitter first and foremost as a platform for self-expression, and this often means “letting it all hang out.” Twitter offers them an outlet for strong emotions such as anger and disappointment: “I tend to express frustration a lot, not just about brands but everyday living… from trains being late to people bumping in front you…”

What this means for marketers: This insight becomes important when developing an effective brand voice for this platform. Authenticity is a big factor in how brands approach consumers in the U.S., being “real” and “genuine” is considered a virtue; consumers want brands to have the same problems as they do, so quips about long lines and other frustrations help make the brand more relatable. In the U.K., on the other hand, while humanizing the brand is equally as important, it should be done in a way that generates a positive response. UK consumers are not expecting brands to be people, they are simply looking to be entertained and engaged in valuable conversation.
Brand conversations are less opinionated in the U.K. than in the U.S.

Brand mentions make up a small percentage of overall conversations on Twitter in both markets, however the motivations behind brand mentions differ significantly. UK consumers tend to mention a brand strictly to share a specific experience they’ve had, complete with rational thoughts on quality and performance: “[I talk about the] quality and performance [when mentioning a brand] — people don’t want to know if you love a brand and everybody has different tastes but the quality/performance of products should be the same across the board.”
US consumers, on the other hand, are most likely to mention a brand if they’ve had a negative experience (this is in line with this demographics’ overall trend of negative expression): “I share my feelings on twitter not reviews.”


Source: 360i’s analysis of the social media landscape conducted March 2013 for data spanning September 1, 2012- February 28, 2013.
Sample Size= 9/200 U.S., 11/200 U.K. posts per market from blogs, forums, public Facebook profiles and Twitter.
What this means for marketers: When evaluating consumer sentiment online, UK and US consumers might have to be held to different standards. While brand sentiment online is sometimes seen as an indicator of general brand perception in a specific region, these findings reveal that there are deeper cultural factors that influence what people choose to express about a brand in social media. For example, in the U.S., an overwhelming amount of negativity might point to an isolated issue, but may not be representative of larger consumer opinion. In the U.K., conversation may be more neutral and performance-focused, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that consumers lack emotional connection to the product.


Today, most brands have a largely segmented and hyper-localized social approach. However, as we begin to move towards a more global social marketing model to create a consistent brand presence and strengthen equity, we can’t ignore the impact of culture, not only on how people perceive the brand, but also how they will relate to it in social.

As evidenced here, consumers of two markets that are often viewed as being similar can react to brand messaging in social media very differently. For instance, UK Twitter users engage in conversations they consider relevant to others, while US users tweet to broadcast their personal opinions. Because of this key difference in behavior, marketers should closely consider their tone of voice and unique currency to reflect the voice of consumers. Of course, culture isn’t the only data point for marketers to consider when developing strategies — we recommend a more holistic data-driven approach that incorporates insight into the unique habits and behaviors of a brand’s specific audience — these findings, for example, do underscore the need for marketers to factor the multifaceted challenges of geographical location into the equation as well.
Marketers are used to investing in research when it comes to offline campaigns, but investment in social research still lags behind, especially when it comes to emerging markets. As brands continue to allocate larger portions of their budgets to social media initiatives, a “just go for it” or “one size fits all” attitude may not work. A well-thought out global strategy and relevant localized executional plan will help brands achieve the best success in the U.S., U.K. and other markets around the world.


This data comes from 360i’s research and analysis conducted March 2013 on public Twitter conversations spanning September 1, 2012 — February 28, 2013. A random sample of 200 posts in each the U.K. and the U.S. were analyzed from public Twitter profiles for a total sample size of 400 posts.
This random sample was not targeted to subject matter. Data was manually vetted and cleaned to ensure tweets were coming from relevant users and then manually analyzed for behavioral trends among Twitter users in the U.S. and U.K. Top-line metrics and categories were analyzed out of the 400-post sample, and time of day was analyzed on a larger sample of 13,000 posts per market. The emotions categories are not mutually exclusive for posts with mixed sentiment.

360i then conducted online research communities with 28 UK Twitter users and 24 US Twitter users to understand motivations driving specific online behaviors among users.