Is the Twitter Hype Drawing to a Close?

    June 12, 2009
    Chris Crum

Is Twitter’s hype drawing to a close? Has there always been as much merit to Twitter as hype anyway? These are the kinds of questions being tossed around as more and more information becomes available indicating that Twitter may not be as popular as many of us thought it was.

Avid Twitterers are well aware of the situation. "Twitter’s phenomenal" is one of the top trending topics, and is a reference to a report on the subject. You have to wonder what percentage of the truly active Twitter community is talking about this. I have a hunch it’s fairly high, because a lot of Twitter’s user base does not even Tweet or use their account much if at all.

Here are a couple graphs referenced in that report. They come from Compete and Quantcast, and basically tell the same story:

We’ve known for some time that Twitter has had issues with retention, but some other findings from security firm Purewire released this week show some somewhat starting numbers. Let’s look at some stat’s they are sharing:

40% of Twitter users have not tweeted since their first day on Twitter, evidence that the account was most likely created and subsequently abandoned

Forty percent. That’s quite a chunk. Can you imagine if forty percent of Google users actually weren’t using Google at all? Think how happy Yahoo and Microsoft would be.

Approx. 25% of Twitter users are not following anyone, while 2/3 are following less than 10 people, evidence that the account was created but is largely dormant

That’s nothing to ignore. Even if these accounts are not dormant, it’s hard to imagine that these people are using Twitter incredibly often.

Over 1/3 of Twitter users haven’t posted a single tweet, and nearly 80% of users have fewer than 10 tweets, evidence that while Twitter is billed as a great collaboration tool, a large number of users are there to consume content, not distribute it.

I don’t find this one quite so startling. Twitter can be many different things to many different people. I think we’ve covered that before. I personally find it more useful as an information gathering source than anything. I read what people are saying far more than I say things myself. That is why my one word for Twitter was "microblogging." I think of it as reading miniature blog posts in terms of how I use it most myself (despite the many differences between Twitter and feed readers).

Approx. 30% of Twitter users don’t have any followers, and 80% of Twitter users have less than 10 followers, evidence that for many users, their posts are not being widely tracked or read.

Again, see my comments above. You don’t have to have followers to get some benefit out of Twitter. Although, with the ongoing confusion, questioning, and general dislike for Twitter, you have to wonder how many of these people see it that way.

50% of Twitter users are following more people than they have as followers, and another 30% of Twitter users are following the same number of people that are following them, evidence that users are aggressively trying to attract followers by hoping they will "follow back" but have been unsuccessful.

Purewire also shares the following graphs looking at Twitter’s population following counts, tweet counts, and follower counts:

Purewire Twitter Populiation Following

Purewire Tweets

Purewire Twitter population Followers

So what do we make of all of these stats and graphs? Clearly, Twitter is not the biggest thing on the planet. Some have called it a fad, and it may be, but I’m not going to go so far as to say that that is the case. The people that are actually using Twitter love it. When you can make your users happy, you’re bound to keep some interest. I suspect that the numbers of Twitter users actually using it will grow.

Twitter’s not going away anytime soon, and as the company itself grows and changes in time, it just may improve on that retention rate. Maybe I’m wrong, but it will be interesting to see how Twitter’s future progresses either way.

 Update: To see how Oprah may have affected Twitter’s numbers in a negative way, read this.