Twitter reaches the countries other media doesn’t reach

October 30th, 2013 | Posted by The Robocolum(n) in Social Media

Earlier this week David Farbey tweeted a welcome to a new Twitter follower who seemed to come from a far away land where English was not the first language. I happened to pick up on this as I too have seen a small number (about 7) of new followers from the less traditional geographical areas of others who follow me. This prompted me to wonder where my tweeps actually existed. I went to to find out. The results were not all that I expected.


Let us start with the obvious. Over 50% of my followers are in the good ol’ USA. The land of milk and honey and where arguably the largest number of Twitter users exist. Next up is the UK with just under 16%. Again not much of a surprise considering I am UK based and well known in Technical Communication circles here. The 8.4% from India is also not a real surprise considering the preponderance of Technical Writers there. Other countries with a sizable minority of followers include Canada (5.5%), Australia and New Zealand (3% between them), Germany and France (2% each) and Israel (1.5%). A lot of other European countries at or around the 1% mark including Holland, Ireland and Spain.

A further look at the map above shows a pretty good spread of countries. South America has 1% coverage between them. South East Asia has 0.5% coverage. Asia has 1% coverage including 0.5 % in China where Twitter is banned! I suspect all is not quite as it seems there, unless this counts followers in Hong Kong which (I think) allows it. I’ve even a smattering of Tweeps in the Middle East.

The full list is below, but the “analysis” of my followers (I use that phrase ill advisedly) raises some questions. Nearly 30% of my followers are from countries where English is NOT the official language. Admittedly about 10% are in countries where English is widely spoken or even the de facto administrative language (e.g. India). That still leaves around 20% of my followers for whom English is at least a second language.

Why do they follow me? I’d like to think that they find my tweets interesting. I use my RoboColumn Twitter account to pass on useful information to others in the Technical Communication industry. This includes links to this blog and posts on other blogs. Above us I believe we all know how insular the existence of a Technical Writer can be. Now think about how difficult it can be being a sole Technical Writer in Japan where the Developers are in India and the Project Manager is on the eastern US seaboard.

I’d also question whether some of these countries have the same mechanisms for engaging with fellow professionals? I suspect not. I can easily attend conferences, meetups and social events. I am a member of  an active professional organisation and attend their socials. Even if you do have an active network in Egypt or Indonesia, my bet is that the practical difficulties of getting together means social media is the easiest and most effective communication tool. Even if you have to learn a different language to use it effectively.

If you are from one of the countries listed below that are not English speaking, I’d love to hear your opinion. Just leave a comment below.


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  • Karla

    I wonder how much of these are bounces from server to server? I don’t really know how Twitter tracks these things. I made a comment about an article I read regarding how many Chinese billionaires there are. Given that China is a Communist country, I was shocked there were billionaires. I got a few responses from Tweeps with Chinese-sounding names, but that doesn’t mean they were in China. Also, I got my invite to Google + from a Chinese technical writer who works/worked for Google ( So I imagine there are a few situations like that, American/UK companies in those countries? Just a thought.

    • Colum McAndrew

      I think you are right Karla. I guess it depends on what you class as “Chinese”. Hong Kong as well as some other parts of China has special status and therefore slightly more relaxed rules. I am also aware of ex-pats living in China who were able to access the UK’s BBC website by some PC giggery pokery – technical term :-)

      China has come a long way from the country that existed even 20 years ago. I was there in the early 1990s and it was on the cusp of change then. Some friends of mine went on honeymoon there in 2000 and I didn’t recognize the place from their photos. Like India, China is a very good place to live if you have the means. It is the poor souls who don’t that are still living in poverty. As for Communism, they seem to adopted the Vietnamese model which encourages private enterprise so long as the basic rules are obeyed.

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