Twitter’s Growth May Be Illusory, Says HubSpot Report
“Tweet, tweet,” chirped the robin outside my window yesterday. Given the Wall Street Journal’s report last month that 32.1 million people now have Twitter accounts, it seems like much of humanity is poised to join the robin and his avian cohorts in tweeting.
Not everyone who has a Twitter account is using it though, according to the second “State of the Twittersphere” report, published yesterday by Cambridge, MA-based HubSpot. The Internet marketing company looked at more than 4.5 million Twitter accounts over nine months and found that they are not as lively as might be expected, with more than nine percent of users owning inactive accounts and almost 55 percent never having tweeted at all. What’s more, about 53 percent of users have no followers (as if my red-breasted pal were singing in a sound-proof room).
Twitter has expanded at an astounding rate (see chart below), having had 1.6 million users just a year ago. But the HubSpot report reveals that much of that growth may be illusory. Even with celebrities like Ashton Kutcher and Oprah Winfrey gushing about Twitter and acquiring millions of followers, the report shows that more than 55 percent of users aren’t following them, or anyone else.
“Like many new technologies, part of the challenge is helping users understand how they might use it and why it’s important,” said Dharmesh Shah, chief technology officer and founder of HubSpot in an e-mail interview. “It’s extremely simple in its execution, but leaves a lot up to the users to come with how they might use it.”
Just owning an account does not, it seems, a tweeter make. Those who actually use it do tweet an average of once a day. The problem, according to an informal survey I conducted of about 15 Twitter users, is that most people don’t do (or think) much of interest, so even if they constantly tweeted their lives, it wouldn’t attract more followers. There is also confusion over whether Twitter should be used for personal events the way Facebook usually is, or treated more professionally like LinkedIn or other professional social networks.
There is even the question of when to reply to tweets. My friends, and Shah, seemed to agree that Twitter is not the best system for talking with people. “Having actual conversations is actually pretty hard,” Shah said.
It may just be a matter of quality. If people write more interesting tweets, more people may follow them and be inclined to improve what they post themselves. Perhaps I’ll ask my feathered friend for some tips on how to tweet as well as he does.