Inactive usersIs marketing on Twitter really worth your company’s time? Twitter’s About page will tell you that there are 175 million registered people on the network. But how many are really using it?

Facebook, for example, freely shares that 600 million people use Facebook at least monthly, and about half use it daily. Twitter doesn’t volunteer similar information.

Business Insider reports that, of all registered Twitter accounts, 119 million follow one or more accounts, and 85 million are followed by one or more accounts. By Twitter’s own definition, there are even fewer “active users” than that. Josh Elman, Twitter’s Product Lead in charge of user retention, says the “aha moment” – when a casual user becomes an active user – happens when a user follows 30 accounts, and one-third of the accounts they follow also follow them back.

By this definition, there are less than 21 million active users on Twitter.

Reaching the “aha moment”

One possible reason for this inactivity is the effort required to make Twitter worthwhile. Facebook can be more of a spectator sport – even if you’re not uploading photos, posting status updates, etc., there’s still plenty to see, and it’s plenty engaging and useful.

Twitter, on the other hand, is more about contributing and sharing. There’s plenty to consume, and users definitely use the network to check what others are linking to and talking about. But the most engaging aspect of the network is in tweeting and being tweeted at. Hence the higher 30 connections mark – Facebook, in contrast, estimates it takes only 10 friends to keep users coming back. It simply takes more commitment to become (and stay) active on Twitter.

Twitter recognizes that inactivity is an issue, and they’re taking steps to fight it – both by cleaning house, and by driving users toward the “aha moment.”

  • The network has started releasing inactive accounts. They now send emails to inactive users to reactivate their accounts, which get about 9% click-through reactivation rates
  • They’ve made changes to the sign up process, adding steps to help users follow accounts and start tweeting. By removing Captcha requirements for signups from new IP addresses, Twitter increased signups about 5%, without increasing spammers
  • Twitter has seven full-time employees dedicated to fighting spam
  • New tools are making it easier for users to find new accounts to follow

And the network is definitely growing. According to @TwitterGlobalPR, there was a 52% increase in global monthly Twitter account signups from December to March (57% US). And it’s getting more active – Twitter reported a 41% increase in global tweets per day in the same period (38% US).

Use Twitter to encourage earned media

Number of followers is an easy, quick metric, but interaction and engagement should be much more important to your team. Yes, there may be fewer active Twitter users than you thought. But are they worth your company’s time? If your brand uses Twitter as a broadcast network, you may need to reevaluate your marketing with a more realistic audience size in mind. But if you’re using Twitter to drive customer conversations, this report shouldn’t scare you.

With the extra effort it takes to be active on Twitter, it follows that active Twitter users may be more likely to make the effort to be active in other online media. The numbers back up this theory. Active Twitter users – those who use the network on a daily basis – are more likely than other online consumers to produce a wide range of influential online content. Active Twitter users are nearly…

  • Five times more likely to publish a blog post on a monthly basis (72% vs. 14%)
  • Three times more likely to write at least one product review monthly (61% vs. 20%)
  • Six times more likely to publish an online article on a monthly basis (56% vs. 10%)

A Pew survey found that Twitter users are more active offline, as well: “85 percent of them were involved in group activity offline, followed by 82 percent of social networking users.”

Capitalize on Twitter users’ likeliness to contribute by using your brand’s Twitter presence to encourage earned media like user-generated product reviews, blog posts, photos, and videos. Recognize that shoppers and customers have different needs on social networks, and help Twitter users to create the content that both types of consumers crave – opinions from real people like them.

Twitter’s “true” population may be smaller than it looks, but that doesn’t mean the network isn’t useful for marketers. Use Twitter as you should use all social media – to encourage conversations between real people.

Shel Israel Webinar
  • http://twitter.com/txTDM Tara DeMarco

    Thanks Merlin! One of Twitter’s biggest assets is definitely the data the network generates. If they could package that data to businesses — say, by identifying influential/highly-active fans, or uncovering trends among customers — there’d be something there.

    I think, though, that there are already better tools for those goals. I have to admit, it’s easier for me to think of ways for businesses to use Twitter than to think of ways for Twitter to monetize.

    Re: Klout, I definitely think conversational metrics are a far better indicator of influence online than metrics like followers/impressions. I see a lot of people criticize Klout for that reason.

    Glad you liked the post, thanks for commenting!

  • http://twitter.com/txTDM Tara DeMarco

    Exactly Bryan. It’s all about what your goals are, and whether Twitter is the right tool to reach them. It seems like we can’t say that enough — choose tools to help you reach your real business goals, not just because a certain tool is the new big thing.

    Thanks for your comment!

  • http://twitter.com/txTDM Tara DeMarco

    You’re right Dawn, Twitter isn’t for everyone. Each individual company has to evaluate whether their customers are on Twitter, and whether engaging them there will effectively work toward real goals. And I agree with you — even if now isn’t the right time for your business on Twitter, it’s good to understand the tool and be prepared.

    Thanks for reading!

  • http://www.probiotics-lovethabug.com Dawn

    Have to admit that Twitter is not very relevant to my business. I continue to use it because I find useful links that educate me about things I’m interested in. However it doesn’t seem useful in a business sense but I hang in so that if I do ever find a good use for it – I’m already there!

  • http://MerlinUWard.com Merlin U Ward

    Great post! I’m sad you left the key to the very end though – its about the conversations not the numbers! Flip it on a business side, with such a small % of people driving majority of activity on Twitter, how do you think Twitter should monetize? AND should Klout reevaluate it’s formula to be weighted more towards conversational transactions (@s and retweets) than followers/impressions?

  • http://twitter.com/be3d Ian Greenleigh

    Not just to the 21 million, but to 21 million users that are more active online in almost every regard. Twitter is not a walled garden, and its users spread content around like few other groups, if any. Thanks for stopping by.

  • http://twitter.com/bryanchaney Bryan Chaney

    Good piece on the inflated tweet reach. Twitter is not for everyone. Yet. But ask a marketer (they’re on Twitter, along w/the PR folks) if they want access to 21M active evangelists. Just depends on the subject matter and passionate followers.

  • http://twitter.com/bryanchaney Bryan Chaney

    Good piece on the inflated tweet reach. Twitter is not for everyone. Yet. But ask a marketer (they’re on Twitter, along w/the PR folks) if they want access to 21M active evangelists. Just depends on the subject matter and passionate followers.

  • http://twitter.com/bryanchaney Bryan Chaney

    Good piece on the inflated tweet reach. Twitter is not for everyone. Yet. But ask a marketer (they’re on Twitter, along w/the PR folks) if they want access to 21M active evangelists. Just depends on the subject matter and passionate followers.

  • http://twitter.com/bryanchaney Bryan Chaney

    Good piece on the inflated tweet reach. Twitter is not for everyone. Yet. But ask a marketer (they’re on Twitter, along w/the PR folks) if they want access to 21M active evangelists. Just depends on the subject matter and passionate followers.