If You Use Twitter This Month, You Probably Won't Be Back Next Month

Oprah has given the world many discoveries: Dr. Phil, books and on April 17, when she devoted an entire show to it, Twitter.

Since then we (and by “we” I mean “our grandmothers, bosses and homeless folk”) have been all a-tweet over this magical social networking innovation. And yet that spoilsport Nielsen Research has come along, analyzed the numbers and proven that while Twitter may be all that, it is not also a bag of chips. Despite triple-digit percentage growth month over month, the majority of users just aren’t sticking around.

It seems 60 percent of Twitter users in one month are gone the next. And things were even worse before Oprah came along, with 70 percent of Twitter users deciding to no longer be one of the millions of cute little birds that help lift the giant Twitter whale aloft.

Currently, more than 60 percent of U.S. Twitter users fail to return the following month, or in other words, Twitter’s audience retention rate, or the percentage of a given month’s users who come back the following month, is currently about 40 percent. For most of the past 12 months, pre-Oprah, Twitter has languished below 30 percent retention.

To understand why this poses a problem for Twitter, check out the chart below. By plotting the minimum retention rates for different Internet audience sizes, it is clear that a retention rate of 40 percent will limit a site’s growth to about a 10 percent reach figure. To be clear, a high retention rate doesn’t guarantee a massive audience, but it is a prerequisite. There simply aren’t enough new users to make up for defecting ones after a certain point.

The article also says Facebook and MySpace had retention rates that were twice as high when they were the same age as Twitter, and both services currently keep about 70 percent of their users from month to month.

What the research doesn’t take into account is that Oprah herself counts as more than 1 billion people (and no, that’s not a crack about her weight). So as long as she keeps those all-caps overshares flowing, Twitter is fine.

Twitter Quitters Post Roadblock to Long-Term Growth [Nielsen Wire, via Hollywood Elsewhere]
(Photo: lauterhaus)

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.