Twitter’s Engagement Problem [Data]

Twitter Engagement - Are you talking to me?Twitter has an engagement problem.
A microblogging social media platform enabling 140 character communications, Twitter is approaching its 500 millionth account. That makes this is a good point to look at what new Twitter users are actually doing.

A top line view of Twitter’s path to 400 million users reveals slow adoption and then a big jump in early 2009. This makes sense since, unlike other social media platforms, Twitter has its own special language and requires time to become proficient. [Need help? Here’s how to get your Twitter Mojo.] As Twitter’s gained more mainstream attention, it’s continued on a relatively steady growth trend.

Interestingly, during these last two years, teen use of Twitter has doubled from 8% of online teens to 16% according to Pew Internet Research. This teen segment has moved to Twitter since it gives them a sense of control, allows users to select a pseudonym, and offers a channel for private communications. 

Looking at the behavior of recent Twitter registrants, issues related to engagement emerge. Analysis of 100,000 newly registered accounts, starting from account number 400 million, by Twopcharts revealed the following trends.

  1. 12% of these accounts were deleted, cancelled or suspended leaving 88,052 remaining accounts. By itself, this number shows that actions are being taken to eliminate spam and bots.
  2. 62.3% of these remaining accounts are still eggheads because they haven’t changed their profile image. Contrary to accepted social media practice where transparency is expected, these accounts are anonymous to other Twitter users. Across the active accounts, 20.2% have filled in the location field and 17.3% have filled in the bio field.
  3. 4.4% of these remaining accounts hide their tweets from the public and have protected their accounts. There’s a good chance that these accounts are being used for private direct messaging and/or monitoring specific profiles.
  4. 24.3% of these remaining accounts don’t follow anyone else. Since most social media participants use these platforms to engage and communicate with others, this lack of activity is surprising. That said, they may use a third party tool to track people, hashtags or keywords thereby gleaning the information they desire.
  5. 52.7% of these remaining accounts have no followers. This means that these members aren’t engaged with a community of other like-minded individuals or even have any private conversations. They can extend their tweets through the use of hashtags but, without a following, it’s unlikely anyone will pay much attention to them.
  6. 53.8% of the sample never tweeted. In a social media ecosystem filled with conversation and noise, it’s hard to believe that this many Twitter participants have nothing to say to anyone. It’s more likely that they’re challenged to overcome the hurdles Twitter participation presents.
  7. 12.3% of the sample sent one tweet. Over 80% of these Twitter registrants sent their lone tweet over two months ago. Therefore it’s a good bet that they aren’t about to return. This makes sense since Twitter has its own language that makes it difficult to jump in and come up to speed. It reminds me of when my mother first got email and couldn’t understand why to use it when she could make a phone call much easier and quicker. Unfortunately for Twitter this behavior isn’t new. [Check out Nielsen’s analysis of Twitter Quitters from 2009]

Twopcharts estimates that only a maximum of 20%-25% of new registered Twitter users convert to active new users, with only about 10% of new accounts actively sending out tweets. Before you assume that all Twitter activity is created equal, Twopcharts explains that these accounts were opened in the last three months. While they’re probably similar to accounts opened within the last year, their activity can’t simply be extrapolated to the entire Twitter population.

What does this mean for marketers? Take this low usage into consideration when developing your social media marketing plans. As with any emerging technology, understand that you may need to provide an explanation to your target audience if you want them to overcome the hurdles to using Twitter.

How do you view these results as they apply to your marketing?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

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