Statistics have been released on the meteoric rise of Twitter that resulted to it being recognised as one of the behemoths of social media. Growth from its launch in February 2008 to February 2009 was reportedly at 1382%, with the incline increasing further in recent months. In 2010, it was reported that users are signing up at the rate of 300,000 per day with 180 million unique visitors coming to the site every month. As of July 2014, total number of active registered Twitter users stands at 645,750,000, with the number of new users signing up every day at 135,000.
But a result of a study conducted by statistics tracking firm Nielsen cautions us that the number of accounts may continue to increase, but the battle that has to be fought is in its measly 30% retention rate. Like in many social networks, it seems many users lose interest with the service with 60% of users who sign up fail to return the following month.
Nielsen compared the retention rate of Twitter against Facebook and MySpace while they were all just emerging and those who remain active in using them after a while remain twice as high. Even after they went through the peak of their growth phases, user activity continue going up with both Facebook and MySpace retention rates at nearly 70 percent today.
Some say that the numbers are down because Twitter failed to live up to how it was hyped by the media. During its infancy, media wrote lots of puff about how great Twitter is. One of the memorable public relations stunt pulled was when Ashton Kutcher challenged CNN to a popularity contest racing to get 1 million followers. If he wins, Kutcher says he will “ding-dong ditch” CNN founder Ted Turner’s house. The media hypes encouraged people to sign up and see for themselves what the fuss is all about. With more people signing up, the more articles get written, even by less techy media outlet and bloggers, resulting to more and more people signing up. But many of those who sign up use it once or twice and then give up, either temporarily or permanently. Just as there are hundreds of thousands of dead blogs because people signed up and then couldn’t be bothered to keep updating them.
In analysing the Twitter dilemma, Gartner’s Hype Cycle curve can be used. The Oxford dictionary defines hype as the intensive promotion or publication of a product or idea often exaggerating its benefits. The ‘hype cycle’, on the other hand is a conceptual framework for understanding how technologies move from introduction to widespread application. The process is whenever a new technology comes along, it usually gets hyped to the point of inflating user expectations about how much it will change their life, then users encounter interface or applicability problem until they get disillusioned by the unfulfilled promises. These difficulties lead to them becoming dormant users until they finally decide to quit altogether.
As I understand Twitter, the problem with it is that the main dynamic is more of the performer/audience. It suits celebrities and other self-promoters, compared with Facebook which celebrates the ordinary, the humdrum of everyday life. Twitter is a way for self-promoters to stoke fans’ riotous curiosity to see, know and comment on the scandalous details of their life. They are confident that followers are hanging on their every word. It is for those who already have an established fan-base or follower, but for those wanting to be followed by new people, it’s an uphill task.
Another reason for the alleged Twitter exodus could be its ‘Me and myself’ nature. It is fun to find interesting people, groups and organisations to follow, but it can be disheartening if nobody follows you back. Twitter can be greatly enjoyed if one doesn’t expect too much from it in terms of relating to others.
But the main question is surviving after all the hype. How can Twitter make sure that users stick around for the long haul? Encouragingly, nearly 60% of former Twitter users said they’d be willing to give it another go and persist in its use if sorting and filtering mechanism will be improved, if more of their friends will join this microblogging platform, and assistance with matching or helping users amass followers.