55 thoughts on “Ironic But True — Many On Twitter Are Just Silent”

  1. While these numbers are fun to look at, they do have a more serious purpose for the founders as they try to monetize or even simply assign a value to Twitter. When more than half the users haven’t followed anyone or sent a tweet, can the company really be valued at over half-a-billion?


  2. I said it yesterday but my comments were pruned. Hope this time it goes through. 90% of 10% active twitting is just from bloggers who tweet for every new blog or from spammers. Twitter is made and run by bloggers. It does not have substance. Rejecting $500m deal from facebook was a big mistake. They will realize it within next 6 months to 1 year.

      1. That was the reason probably that my comment yesterday didn’t go through. But today Om is probably in a different mood and allowed it:)

  3. Can someone explain how 9% are inactive (defined as “< 10 followers, friends and updates") but 55.5% do not follow anyone? If 9% are inactive then that means 90% are active (define as "more than 10 followers, friends, updates".) My stats are rusty.

    1. I was befuddled by that one at first too. I think the inactive number represents people who were once actively tweeting but have now gone dormant for some period of time.

  4. I keep reading this story or variations of it on various sites. I can’t help but think about my own experience on Twitter. Now, I can’t speak for everyone, but the main reason why I’ve dropped off Twitter is that I got tired of never actually having a conversation with anyone. Let me clarify: I would initiate a conversation with another user only to never get any reply (DM or public) and I am talking about people I know IRL or even ones I don’t. Then, with something like the NYT or similar entities, they don’t really appear to be using Twitter for conversation and instead use it as a way to broadcast information. What is the point of the two-way aspect of the service if you are intending to use Twitter only to broadcast information and never converse (one-way)? Why don’t you just stick to RSS? Why are you following me if you aren’t going to talk to me when I try and talk to you (this makes me feel like some sort of research subject)? If I seemingly can’t engage in a conversation, why would I stick around? People say that Twitter-haters just don’t get it. I don’t hate Twitter and I’ve seen some great things come from Twitter, but for someone like me, the average user (you know, the 90%), I still don’t get it.

    1. I think you are correct. It appears that Twitter is more of a broadcast medium than a communication medium. This is because most of Twitter active users are interested in other people getting their message, rather than conversing with them, especially when they don’t know them. This is different from Facebook, where people are active within a circle of friends and know each other. As well, the Following issue is not very clear. Practically it is not possible for someone to follow even 500 people. If each of these people tweets one message a day it means that you receive, and need to read, 500 messages a day. So people follow many other people just that the other people will follow them. What Twitter did is open the way for a new way of communication and now there is a need to put more substance into the communication to make it useful for the average user.

  5. Ironic perhaps, but not surprising. The adoption of twitter and its amazing spread, imvho, was largely due to the nature of the people who have a natural or professional interest in being on the cutting edge of news as it spreads, both as a consumer and a producer. Twitter points you where the action is. These numbers are likely to continue to diverge in the short to medium term.

    Its like beer – a relatively small percentage of beer drinkers account for a major share of consumption. For twitter, i might substitute production for consumption.

  6. Twitter has been the most over hyped startup in recent years. It’s growth can be attributed to this hype and rejecting $500m was very foolish. This is not to say that Twitter won’t be worth $500m one day, but it’s probably still 3-4 years away from attaining that. Tackle on another 5-6 years before it’s worth one billion. There are of course no guarantees on its future value, but those $500m certainly were.

  7. “..State of the Twittersphere points out that people may not be using Twitter to its full potential. If new users aren’t really engaged, should it really be considered growth?..”

    I feel there is a large gap between what twitter is and how twitter is used. Twitter homepage gives a perception of it being a status application, some users are using it for pure marketing. People come to me all the time and ask me what do I do on twitter. A bunch of my friend opened accounts but then got discouraged as they didn’t exactly know what to do. I feel Twitter invented a new way of communication which will be used in different ways.


  8. In regard to:
    * Only 24.14 percent of users have a bio in their profile.
    * Only 31.32 percent have a location in their profile.
    * 20.21 percent of users have a home page URL in their profile.

    Those numbers probably correlate pretty closely with the number of twitter “users” that are actually brands pushing their social media image.

    Brands who tweet are not covered in this article and have greater incentive to be more active. Of the ~10% of total users who are active, I wonder how much of that pie is made of up of glorified advertising.

    1. I have to say i agree, twitter is not like facebook, or myspace or anything like that, its more on the advertising side of things, well thats the way that a lot of people are taking it i think. Sure they say that <10% of users are inactive, as for for me, i would be classified as inactive as i have less than 10 followers, less than 10 updates and so on, but i use twitter everyday. Maybe i am classified as inactive as i am not as popular as say Lance Armstrong who has followers in the 6 figure range. I don't stand out from the crowd so how am i meant to be an 'Active' twitter user if there is nobody to follow me? I simply use twitter to follow people of interest, its not really for me its simply for me to follow somebody else.

  9. “The good news for Twitter is that people who like Twitter love using the service.”

    And the good news for ice cream makers is people who like ice cream love eating ice cream.

    I’ve not often commented on Twitter musings as there’s so many of the same it’s most often pointless. But I’ve got a moment, so just for fun… Twitter may have some minor uses. But I’m still not “getting it” in terms of the full on hype. Value? Sure, for a variety of things. 500mil? Not at all convinced.

    Over the past year or so, the most incredible thing Twitter has done is generate a stunning amount of buzz. I’ve personally been struggling to see for what specific use cases it has value. Clearly there are some; from quick alerts to news items, etc. On the other hand, from a real time search perspective, the hype is so far ahead of reality it’s ridiculous. Real time spam will swamp any value there for some time until some forms of quality control are put in place. (Perhaps through Digg like reputation tools.) In the few cases where it’s useful, it’s for the random ‘big event,’ and even then of seriously questionable depth and trust. (Though likely still somewhat useful in terms of the User as Accidental Journalist for the same reasons Wikipedia works; collective altruism, social capital generation and so forth.) And it’s sometimes useful for hash tag based events.

    In terms of a communications tool, as Josh pointed out above, it’s not really used for conversation. For those promoting stuff, etc., it’s essentially asynchronous. There’s no way someone with tons of followers could begin to keep up with everyone anyway. (See Clay Shirky’s book, “Here Comes Everyone” for more depth of discussion on this regarding the famous folks.) For this use though, why not just subscribe to the Blog’s feed and get the headline in a reader?

    Twitter may be a great headline channel, and for the occasional dip into the news event from the streets alerts, but for personal ambient awareness of personal or company activity? I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point Facebook didn’t just add a Public Newsfeed allowing users to tag some updates as available to all. Then a user’s externally facing page for non-logged in users would simply be Twitter. No separate website, UI or app required. Typical users outside the Web 2.0 Echo Chamber don’t have time for such things.

    I’m not going to hop on the “Twitter is Close to Useless” Bandwagon. It’s got some value. But… I agree They Should Have Taken the Money.

    Someone tell me if I’m just missing something here please.


    1. You’re missing the volume of content being pumped through Twitter in “real time.” There is value in that. The website is a front to that channel but not the end game. And it is by and large public content, not like the private content that Facebook has. Facebook can only innovate on one user at a time and with explicit permission each time. Twitter has carte blanche on most of the content flowing through it.

      1. Actually Paul, I fully agree there’s some value in the content being pumped through Twitter. Just that getting to it via real time searching is going to be a challenge. (See Matt Hurst’s Twitter section on his blog: Data Mining: Text Mining, Visualization and Social Media. http://datamining.typepad.com/data_mining/twitter/ He has some good links and even better thoughts.) There’s real issues with searching corpora with discourses in 140 characters. (And actually, it’s not even really much of a corpus per se because excepting hash tags and @ Tweets, it’s mostly non-structured.) Anyway, it’s a relevancy/ranking challenge in itself,(not to mention thrashing of high volume indexing servers), and spam will increasingly be an issue without upfront ways to manage it.

        Perhaps I was unclear about Facebook. IF they allowed users to simply have a public aspect to their feed and allow followers for that public facing aspect of a profile, they’d instantly have more users who are truly ACTIVE with the service. It would be a minor behavior addition for those users interesting in doing such things. Twitter, on the other hand, is very much constrained. Twitter right now has that very special ineffable thing going for it with the whole Tweet as a verb thing. As a fan of any interesting web start-up, I’m looking forward to seeing what real lasting value might come out of Twitter. Right now though, I think they’re struggling through the novelty curve to find true relevance. I don’t think it’s worthless or dying any more than I think it lives up to its hype. I’m just not clear on the core values beyond the couple benefits I first mentioned.


  10. It should not surprise anyone that Twitter follows Forrester Research’s and Charlene Li’s 90/9/1 rule for social media: 90% lurk, 9% actively participate, and 1% create.

  11. Dear Twitter users,

    This study from hubspot shows one thing clearly to me – most of you are just testing the waters. Maybe a friend of yours is on Twitter and convinced you to sign up, but you’re not sure about it or you don’t see the point. Well, stop testing the waters and JUMP IN.

    Get active and stay active, and you’ll start to see why Twitter has grown so explosively. Twitter, like blogging and just about anything else in life, takes actual work in order to see success.

  12. 4.5 million WHO have nothing else to do. i would like to
    1. compare the family life of an active Twitter user vs. a non-user and also 2. how many active Twitter users are single vs. married vs. married with children.

    Twitter is a waste of time.

  13. “..State of the Twittersphere points out that people may not be using Twitter to its full potential. If new users aren’t really engaged, should it really be considered growth?”

    I feel there is a large gap between what twitter is and how twitter is used. Twitter homepage gives a perception of it being a status application, some users are using it for pure marketing. People come to me all the time and ask me what do I do on twitter. A bunch of my friends opened accounts but then got discouraged as they didn’t exactly know what to do. I think Twitter has invented a new way of communication which will be used in different ways, some useless ways where people put a status about their coffee break and some useful where we can reduce email information overload and more.

  14. I am pretty sure I recall from a UK-based news story read a few days ago that the median for users twittering was “one message per year”. That is much worse news IMHO than the “average” of one per day cited in the article. The other article point that was very bad was something like 60% of users set up an account, then never use it.

    Twitter is pretty clearly not that “across the population” communication revolution it is made out to be. Its growth has also flat-lined in the recent month (could be an artifact, however).

    Anyway, lots to learn. We’ll see what Twitter becomes. My bet is it is a paid account mechanism for the 1% of brands/people that can have many followers. The broader population will migrate to FB or Wave which are not so narrowly defined.

  15. I created a twitter account because someone said I should because it’s all the rage. I posted my “Hello World” tweet and have never felt compelled to tweet again or to follow anyone else’s tweets. I have already found the websites and blogs (such as this one) that keep me informed of the things that interest me. My friends text each other to keep up to date on what’s going on, or post on facebook. I just don’t see the need for yet another meaningless thing that I have to constantly tend to. Maybe I will post one more tweet. It’ll be something like this “….is getting on with his life and being a productive member of society and so should you!”

    1. I wouldn’t use the argument that Twitter is a productivity killer but Facebook isn’t. But in your case it sounds like Facebook works well for you and your group of friends. For others, it doesn’t. I have tech friends who find Facebook too complex for what they want; group messaging. Twitter does well for them.

  16. Social Networking might be in danger of losing its luster if places aren’t keeping user intrigued with things to do, or things to shoot for. Facebook has the ability to keep users busy for hours and with all of its applications and ideas, it keeps people coming back with something new to do the next day.
    On another page, a place like http://www.HipOnThis.com is offering prizes to its users for keeping busy with posts, referrals and overall activity. It’s a model that I think is necessary for some networking sites as they try to be innovative and keep activity steady.

  17. This is consistent with alpha user theory. Go to any online community and you will likely find a similar pattern: a small group of alpha users who drive the vast majority of activity.

  18. Twitter is fascinating for anyone in the media business. Lately a lot of people think they are in the media business. Later they will learn they were in media, but not business.

  19. “54.9 percent have never tweeted.”
    “45.12 have tweeted at least once.”

    Same info in both the lines, redundant info. Just in the mood for nitpicking 🙂

  20. I keep seeing a lot of users saying that these stats are consistent with other services. But that is one of the things I don’t get. Everyone uses a phone. Everyone uses email. There is no top 10% awesome users. Sure, some people use email or their phone service more than others, but that doesn’t change the fact that EVERYONE uses them. So why do people consistently stand up for these services that rely on their top 10% (or whatever the actual stat is)? That just doesn’t make sense.

    Let me put it another way. Does the automotive industry rely on 10% of the American population to buy cars? Or, do you see only 10% of the population using cars, while the rest just own one and sit on it? No, GM would have been in trouble decades ago.

    I don’t understand how everyone can go on and on about how great Twitter is (or Facebook/MySpace/whatever) when only a small minority actually use it. Email/SMS/phone are still better ways of communicating.

    (Semi-off-topic here:) Thats what kills me even more after hearing about the Fed getting on on these social networks. The government doesn’t contact me through email or phone or SMS. Why have they skipped those forms of communication and settled on the ones that are dominated by the 10% top users? Doesn’t that mean they are really only getting their information out to 10% of the userbase (which isn’t even the total population)?

  21. Twitter is going to fade – there will always be people that follow gossip tweets – but mostly twits. Facebook does such a better job of keeping up to date – daily not HOURLY for gods sake.

  22. LOL. Thats kind of funny. I have one, but I don’t use it, its nothing but a chat room really. I’ve only ever used it to see what updated the CoD developers are working on.

  23. Twitter is a fascinating new product development case study on How To Turn A Promising New Product Into A (Friendster-Like) Flash in the Pan. Our story begins with enthusiastic embrace of early adopters, morphs into massive trial — which is then not converted into repeat business. Those over-zealous 10% Super Users, a quixotic mix of shameless self-promoters, news junkies (me!) and the occasional civilian, may actually be impacting repeat business (driving Enthused-Confused Beginners away). What’s making me crazy is that it wouldn’t take all that much for Twitter to improve on these stats, especially usage. I can’t decide whether these missed opportunities, some of which have fairly simple fixes — are the result of arrogance (‘velvet rope’ stuff)or typical start-up staffing issues. I’m a fan (although not of the 10%) ilk …

  24. Login to my website,
    Login to my gmail,
    Logine to facebook,
    Logine to myspace,
    Login to linkedin,
    Check my emails,
    Answer my emails,
    Post on my blog,
    Check the comments,
    Replay to the comments,
    No wonder this twitter thingy is left behind and not much are using it.
    People just signup because they want to be part of the buzz.
    It’s start there and its ends there..!

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