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Is Twitter loosing its chirp?

Posted by John Horniblow on Jun 11, 2009 in General, Social Media Marketing |

Mashable reported a few days ago that Twitter’s Phenomenal Growth Suddenly Stops or has slowed to a trickle since Nielsen reported a massive increase in time spent on Twitter in total minutes rose by a phenomenal 3712% from April 08 to April 09.

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It could mean that Twitter is hitting a plateau and the buzz surrounding the platform is waning this month. Nielsen’s findings are that there is only 40% retention rate of users. As the hype that has drawn users to Twitter wears off a slowdown in growth of Twitter can only be expected. Twitter could “only” expect a 10% growth if rate of that trend continued, but lets face it, thats not a bad number

In a coincidental and timely article released on the same day from the BBC Technology News “Twitter hype punctured by study” , a cited Harvard study shows that only 10 % of people in the service create 90% of the content, and that many accounts lay abandoned after an initial setup. This should not be surprising, in the blogosphere the numbers, while better, define a fact, that keeping up and publishing in these mediums requires constant attention and many start with good intentions to do just that. Few actually make it. The Social Technographics profile tool presented by Forrester might be applied to Twitter as well as it shows a clear break down on the behaviors: A small % of people are creators, a larger % being critics, a larger % being collectors, an even larger % joiners, spectators and last of all in-actives. The take away is that there are many more watching and listening than creating, and creators and critics do have an influence that cascades down to the collectors, joiners and spectators.

A New York times article from this week also said “that according to a 2008 survey only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks had been updated in the past 120 days meaning that “95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned, left to lie fallow on the Web, where they become public remnants of a dream — or at least an ambition — unfulfilled.” Richard Jalichandra, chief executive of Technorati, said that at any given time there are 7 million to 10 million active blogs on the Internet, but it’s probably between 50,000 and 100,000 blogs that are generating most of the page views.”

I don’t think this spells the end of the blogging or social media. Quite the contrary, E Marketer also posted a Women Who Blog article this week showing results from “2009 Social Media Study” finding that women are turning to all sorts of social media for fun, entertainment, community and connection. “More than one-half (53%) of the US female Internet population of 79 million actively participated in some type of social media at least weekly. Of the female social media participants, 75% took part in social networking and 55% used blogs.” Remember this is only half of the equation , and its a highly influential half.

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And Nielsen’s report from last week showed that Time Spent on Facebook was up 700% in the past year. So social media networks and other social services are well established in mainstream internet usage and behaviours.

What is apparent about Twitter is that it is a broadcast medium. In a typical online social network the top 10% of users accounted for 30% of all production, in Twitter at the moment its a bit disproportionate. On the Harvard team’s blog they said “This implies that Twitter’s resembles more of a one-way, one-to-many publishing service more than a two-way, peer-to-peer communication network,” So Twitter is really another or new form of media, an information network or real-time search engine rather than as a social network. People have a stronger loyalty to their social networks than their online sources of information. What Twitter does for the avid follower or information seeker is that it aggregates a lot of information on groups of people whom you might want to read what they are thinking , seeing, hearing. If your information pundits are known for good information and good sources or commentary then you have a reliable and interesting information source.

Twitter’s challenge is to grow a loyal user-base and at the moment it appears to be slowing. So “the jump on the bandwagon ” hype is probably an adoption or awareness phase. Like most product lifecycles it will taper off and most likely fall unless Twitter manages to win user loyalty. Let’s watch and see over the next few months whether a growth is sustained or more of a detractor phase appears and the service’s usage declines.

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