How Many People Does It Take to Make a Success: A Look at Qwitter

September 28, 2008 at 8:17 am 5 comments

In Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, Clay Shirky discusses why some social networks stick while others collapse. Wikipedia is one of his examples of a success. When I looked at Qwitter, my first reaction was it was a failure because there were only 614 people using it. Qwitter, a cleverly-named initiative from TobaccoFreeFlorida that harnesses Twitter, is promoted as “a social tool designed to help you quit smoking” through keeping track of daily cigarettes and feelings about smoking. They also provide tips. That 614 people signed up for Qwitter seems low given that 750 people sign up for Twitter daily and 3 million people use it.

My initial reaction was reinforced by looking at how Qwitter was used, since many of the users had started in April (due to launch publicity, I speculated) and had stopped using it after a few – or just one – use. This is notable given that many Twitter users tweet many times daily. Looking through Qwitter users, I finally found a recent and more sustained user who tweeted pretty regularly for the past month, although there didn’t seem to be any cessation taking place.

My Qwitter perusal indicates that most users do not stop smoking. However, there is no indication who the 614 people are – people who are trying yet another approach to quit smoking or people who were lured by an innovative technological approach and go on to try another. If even a small number of people stop smoking because of Qwitter, it may well be considered a success, especially since the cost of creating it should have been low since it was built on Twitter which is free.


Entry filed under: health, online health communities, Web 2.0. Tags: , , .

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Kelley Connors  |  January 19, 2009 at 4:35 am

    We’re looking at social media and using it to help young girls choose NO to smoking. We just launched it and don’t have marketing partners in place yet, so don’t have benchmarks. However, it is interactive and tested well with our target. It is not fully social media as we;re dealing with girls as young as 8 years old. However, you can see the potential for helping — it is educational and at that age, may be promising.

  • 2. Lisa Neal Gualtieri  |  November 2, 2008 at 7:45 pm

    I agree. Especially for such a hard problem to tackle – smoking cessation – it is very helpful to consider what works and doesn’t work that it not technological, such as support groups and 12 step programs.

  • 3. Eamon  |  October 28, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    When you have a hammer everything looks like a nail. Maybe Twitter is the wrong tool in this case.
    Smoking seems to one of those things where groups are not necessarily advantageous. There is no smokers anonymous. There are many areas where support groups are the state of the art (alcohol, drugs, depression, etc.) but smoking was never one of them.

  • 4. Sytropin  |  October 11, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    Qwitter seems to be a novel idea. But, as you have said, it seems to be not very successful. Your analysis on why social networks fail is spot-on.

    – Sudha.

  • 5. Mike Gualtieri  |  September 28, 2008 at 9:00 pm

    I looked at the Qwitter site and it seems like a really novel way of using Twitter to help people quit smoking. I am curious how Qwitter is promoted because having 600+ users doesn’t necessarily mean the idea is bad. It may be that the promotion of the site is bad. I wondered also if there is any data showing how smokers use computers differently from non smokers. I would also like to point out that sites like Qwitter are needed now more than ever since smoking is being glamourized by the Emmy awarding winning show for Best Drama; Mad Men They smoke like chimneys and drink like fish on that show.


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Lisa Gualtieri, PhD, ScM

Lisa GualtieriLisa Gualtieri is Assistant Professor at Tufts University School of Medicine in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine. She is Director of the Certificate Program in Digital Health Communication. Lisa teaches Designing Health Campaigns using Social Media, Social Media and Health, Mobile Health Design, and Digital Strategies for Health Communication. Contact Lisa:


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