Research casts doubt over whether Twitter fad will last
Over 60% of Twitter users stop using the service within just one month after joining, new research from Nielsen Online has revealed.
Nielsen Online vice president David Martin has said in a blog post that the social media site will not be able to sustain its growth unless it changes its model and improves user loyalty.
New research from analysis firm Hitwise has shown that Twitter recorded 1067% growth in Australia since the start of the year, while it has surged by 570% and 621% in the US and Britain respectively.
Much of the growth has been fuelled by Twitter being used in the media, after news organisation CNN ran a competition to see which celebrity could have one million "followers" in the shortest time.
"Twitter's audience retention rate, or the percentage of a given month's users who come back the following month, is currently about 40%," Martin said in a blog post.
He also says that Facebook and MySpace's retention rates were twice as high when they were beginning.
"People are signing up in droves, and Twitter's unique audience is up over 100% in March. But despite the hockey-stick growth chart, Twitter faces an uphill battle in making sure these flocks of new users are enticed to return to the nest," he said.
Social networking expert Con Frantzeskos says he isn't surprised by the figure, and agrees there are problems with Twitter's current model.
"Twitter is very simple to use, and because it's so simple I think people don't feel intimidated by it. You've got people who will get online, saying ‘I've heard about this' and then they set up their account and do nothing else.
"I don't think it's particularly interesting. Despite the fact you can link to things, when you look at Twitter it's very limited and users expect more after dealing with Facebook and MySpace."
Frantzeskos also says that a major downfall is the lack of customisation in the site, and that Twitter must change its model to survive.
"You've got 200 people you're following, and there is no way you can prioritise which updates you read. People expect a level of customisation in anything these days, whether it's in products or social media. That is a key, and there is none available in Twitter.
"The first thing Twitter would have to do is bring in prioritisation of people you would want to follow. I'd suggest there's a means to prioritise topics or people, and that is necessary for Twitter to help retention rates."
But Sitepoint.com technical director Kevin Yank says Twitter continues to be viable because of its multiple access points including conventional computers and mobile phones.
“I’m not sure a 40% retention rate is that bad. If we could get 40% of the people looking at our site to somehow get involved that would be fantastic.”
Yank says the fact Facebook and MySpace may have had higher retention rates at the same point Twitter is at now proves nothing about the site’s content.
“I would go back to the fact that Facebook and MySpace are closed web communities that force their users to visit them through a web browser whereas Twitter is open to a lot more different styles of usage. Based on that, the 40% number is pretty good.”
Yank also says that there is no need for Twitter to change its model, and that it is natural for Twitter users to come up with a list of things that they think Twitter should have.
“If you use a really complicated client like TweetDeck you can split up the people you follow into groups and display things the way you want, but that’s additional functionality and is not forced upon every user.”
“If you want to use it simply, you can do so, and there are ways to make it more complex. That sees to be the approach they’re taking now. I think the best approach is somewhere in the two – I expect more functionality but not to the extent some are calling for.”
Chris Thomas from Reseo says that the problem may lie with the user, and not the site itself.
"I think what's basically happened is that people don't realise they can download a widget, so those sorts of widgets create pop-ups when you get a Tweet so it keeps it in front of mind. If you have to log in to your Twitter account people can't be bothered.
"You can also get totally overwhelmed and you just end up with Tweet city and you can't keep up with it. The irony is that to get people to follow you, you have to follow them."