Twitter Hits 75 Million Users, Most of Them Inactive

Twitter continues to sign up users at a remarkable rate, though a vast majority of those users almost never use the service, according to a new study from RJMetrics.

The online measurement firm, which is based in Camden, NJ, analyzed Twitter’s backend data for a closer look at the numbers behind the nearly three-year old social platform.

What they found was that Twitter has a remarkably high number of inactive accounts, but enjoys ever-deeper levels of engagement with its frequent users.

Seventy-five million people signed up for a Twitter account by the end of 2009, the study said, though only 17 percent of them sent even a single Tweet in December, an all-time low for the micro-blogging service.

About 25 percent of Twitter users have no followers, and about 40 percent have never sent a single Tweet, the study said. Eighty percent of Twitter users have sent fewer than 10 tweets since signing up.

However, such high levels of inactive accounts are not unusual for a free service that has attracted so much hype said Robert Moore, president of RJMetrics. The study also could not detect users who do not send tweets, but still use the service to look at others’ profiles or search for information.

“In a lot of cases where there’s a really low threshold of work in order to get an account, companies will see a tremendous number of registrations, particularly when there’s a lot of publicity driving not particularly tech-savvy people” to try it, he said. Moore cited high-profile Twitter advocates like Oprah Winfrey and Ashton Kutcher as celebrities who likely drove large numbers of the curious to register – but never use – the site.

On the upside, the study found “tremendous loyalty and engagement from those Twitter users who stay on the system after their first week.” For example, although just 20 percent of users sent tweets in their second month with the service, those users tweeted so often it made up for the lack of activity from the inactive users.

Additionally, users who signed up in 2009 sent more tweets in their first few months than did those who signed up in 2008, meaning ” active users are actually becoming more engaged over time,” the study said.

Despite the high percentage of inactive users, Moore noted that even just 17 percent of 75 million people equals a tremendous number of active members.

Moore also noted that whether a user is active or not, they had still given their contact information to Twitter, which could certainly make use of it in the future. “Having all these people’s contact and registration information might provide them the outlet to go and woo them back in at some point,” he said.

Among the study’s other findings: Twitter is currently signing up about 6.2 million new members a month, which is about 20 percent lower than the July 2009 peak of 7.8 million a month; and the average Twitter user has 27 followers, down from 42 followers in August 2009.

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