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Twitter Faces User Interaction and Retention Problems

  |  April 15, 2014   |  Comments

New research shows that Twitter is facing user interaction and user retention problems, with news that 44 percent of users have never sent a single tweet.

There is no argument that Twitter is an extremely valuable social media tool for businesses and individuals. But is it really as heavily trafficked as the company might lead us to believe? Not exactly.

Meet Twopcharts, a company that tracks Twitter users by language and city, which also keeps track of statistics such as the users with the highest follower counts and those who have the most new followers each month. According to Twopcharts, a very large percentage of Twitter users have never even sent a single tweet.

They estimate that there are currently 983.6 million Twitter accounts. But less than half of those users, 46.8 percent, have submitted a profile image for their account and only 23.9 percent have ever submitted a description for their account profile. Even more startling is the fact 44 percent of Twitter users have never sent a single tweet. Added to that, another 30 percent of accounts have only sent between one and 10 tweets. And only a very small percent, 13 to be precise, have sent 100 or more tweets in their account's history.

Twitter also has a significant long-term retention issue. When looking at data from the past 30 days, only 23 percent of accounts have sent a tweet. But if you go further back and look at users from 2012, only 11 percent of those accounts are still actively tweeting.

There's also the issue of accounts set up for spamming or botting, clouding the statistics - we've all seen cases where we tweet about a topic that's trending, and suddenly get @replied with spam. Additionally, there's the problem of many fake Twitter accounts set up for people purchasing followers. But if anything, these fake accounts skew the numbers to make it appear as though there are more active users, as they will follow lots of people, follow each other, have their profile filled out, and generally make it appear as though they are a legitimate user.

More problematic for Twitter is how their ad system works, and how they get paid for those ads. The social media platform needs to drive user engagement, as Twitter's ad system is not based on views but interaction, requiring the user who sees the ad to interact with it in some way such as retweeting or replying. This is a fairly different model from many other ad platforms' CPM models, which simply require the ad to be viewed, so it's in Twitter's best interest to get more users to understand the platform and regularly utilize the service.

Twitter is clearly aware of this issue and has been working to make the platform easier to understand for new users. But while they may have a very high account sign-up rate, the statistic that 44 percent of all users have never sent a tweet before shows that people are likely signing up because they've heard of the site, but don't understand what to do once they have their account.

To help new users, Twitter has been transitioning the term "retweet" to the more widely understood "share". There are also reportedly plans to do away with the traditional @reply and #hashtags on the platform, news that was met with heavy resistance from active Twitter users, but that was suggested with the goal to make it easier for new users to navigate the new world of Twitter.

New users have also complained about the lack of available usernames; users signing up are faced with struggling to find a username that hasn't already been taken. Adding to the problem is the fact that Twitter does not purge old, dormant accounts to free up inactive usernames, likely a policy meant to keep their account numbers high.

And although when you sign up for a new account Twitter walks you through importing your address book to follow people and directs you to who they view as the most important people to follow, they fall short at educating the new user on how to use Twitter once they have set up a follow list.

Directing users to relevant tweets with the suggestion that they might want to retweet them, or highlighting tweets that someone they follow is getting lots of engagement on and suggesting they @reply, too, or even just asking users "What did you do this week that was cool? Tweet about it!" would go a long way to help new users navigate Twitter.

With Twitter facing significant user retention and user interaction problems, it will be interesting to see how the company addresses this going forward, aside from simply maneuvering the current user base to "share" instead of "retweet" and improving the interface so @replies are seen differently in a user's Twitter stream.


Jennifer Slegg

Jennifer Slegg began as a freelance writer, and turned to search engine optimization and writing content for the web in 1998. She has created numerous content-rich sites in niche markets and works with many clients on content creation, strategy, and monetization. She writes about many search industry and social media topics on her blog, JenniferSlegg.com and is a frequent speaker at search industry conferences on SEO, content marketing and content monetization. Acknowledged as the leading expert on the Google AdSense contextual advertising program, she runs JenSense, a blog dealing exclusively with contextual advertising. She is also the founder and editor of The SEM Post. She is known by many as her handle Jenstar on various webmaster forums.

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