Posted: May 11, 2009
Are you a Twitter quitter?
To twit or to quit twit, that is the questionBy Steve Baker
I have mixed feelings about Twitter.
I was told by many friends that I was “stuck on stupid” in the Stone Age and just had to start using Twitter.com to get into the real new world. I took a very good class on Twitter and set out to share my goings-on with the waiting world. I was told that I should strive to get as many people following me, and I, in turn, should follow them and read their 140-character impulsive thoughts because they would be reading mine.
I also read that using Twitter could help my business grow if people get to like me.
So I started "tweeting" but could not bring myself to confess to total strangers that, as a successful businessman, I had time to share that my grass is growing.
I've been using Twitter for awhile now, and I must confess that in reading other people’s tweets, what I've found is that a whole lot of people have a whole lot of time on their hands and want me to know that they are enjoying a cup of coffee somewhere or that they're stuck in traffic (and tweeting this important information while they're driving… hmm, I see a new traffic law coming).
It also does not seem to be two-way communication but rather a narcissistic "Look at me, and what I'm doing" one-way street. I very rarely see anyone respond or comment on others’ tweets, they just keep telling others about themselves.
I kept thinking, “Maybe I am Stone-Age stupid – I don’t get this.”
Well, this week I read a Reuters report: "Many Twitters are quick quitters."
The article reports data that questions the long-term success of the latest social networking sensation used by celebrities from Oprah Winfrey to Britney Spears. President Obama used Twitter during last year's campaign.
Sounds like the new wave, but data from Nielsen Online, which measures Internet traffic, found that more than 60 percent of Twitter users stopped using the free social networking site a month after joining.
"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," David Martin, Nielsen Online's vice president of primary research, said. "For most of the past 12 months, pre-Oprah, Twitter has languished below 30 percent retention."
It has enjoyed a recent explosion in popularity on the back of celebrities such as actor Ashton Kutcher and Oprah Winfrey, among countless others, who’ve sung its praises and sent out "tweets," alerting followers to breaking news or the sender's sometimes-mundane activities.
Twitter, as a private company, does not disclose the number of its users but according to Nielsen Online, Twitter's website had more than 7 million unique visitors in February compared to 475,000 unique visitors in February 2008.
But Martin said a retention rate of 40 percent will limit a site's growth to a 10 percent reach figure over the longer term.
"There simply aren't enough new users to make up for defecting ones after a certain point," he said. Martin said the more-established social networking sites Facebook and MySpace enjoyed retention rates that were twice as high and those rates only rose when they went through their explosive growth phases. Both currently have retention rates of about 70 percent, with Facebook having about 200 million users.
"Twitter has enjoyed a nice ride over the last few months, but it will not be able to sustain its meteoric rise without establishing a higher level of user loyalty," said Martin.
My conclusions so far:
Starting out on Twitter is like using a spoon to carve a steak. It might work but you need more utensils to work effectively. I have discovered that there are a great many tools out there to make Twitter more effective, like Twellow, Twellowhood, Tweetstat,Twitterfriends, Twitpwr, Twtpic, TweetBeep and more. But you need the time and desire to learn how to use each of them to get the most out of Twitter.
Twitter is a fad. It's great for celebrities, but don't for a minute think that they are following you back. Okay, I confess that I do want to have a million adoring fans following ME, just like Oprah, hanging on my every thought to make their lives more complete and then rushing out to buy my book, “PUSHING WATER UPHILL With A Rake.”
But back in the real world I have no illusions that if I am following 5,000 people –and don’t have time to read their comings and goings – that they are all following me or caring about what I’m doing or not doing.
I think Twitter might have value if used in conjunction with other networking media. Successful Internet networking needs to be more related to personal networking and less about chatter. I have found success with smaller sub-groups on Twitter that have shared values and geography, including the Denver Twitter Connection. These types of groups are twittering within Twitter, much like groups on Facebook.
So for now, I’m not a Twitter quitter, but I’m certainly not a fan.
What do you think about Twitter? Please leave your comments, and feel free to tell me I'm Stone-Age stupid... just tell me why.
Steve Baker is a founder of successful businesses and a business advisor with a passion for every phase of business cycle from startup to exit He’s also a public speaker and author of "Pushing Water Uphill With a Rake," as well as an avid poor golfer. He welcomes your comments and e-mails at steve@PushingWater.com and invites you to visit his website www.PushingWater.com