To Twitter or Not to Twitter?

Everybody’s talking about Twitter, but are people actually using it? What do the numbers say?

eMarketer estimated earlier this week that there were 6 million Twitter users in the U.S. in 2008, or 3.8 percent of all Internet users. The online marketing research firm also projected the number of Twitter users will jump to 18.1 million in 2010, representing 10.8 percent of Internet users.

Everybody’s talking about Twitter, but are people actually using it? What do the numbers say?

eMarketer estimated earlier this week that there were 6 million Twitter users in the U.S. in 2008, or 3.8 percent of all Internet users. The online marketing research firm also projected the number of Twitter users will jump to 18.1 million in 2010, representing 10.8 percent of Internet users.

What’s more, comScore — according to the eMarketer report — found Twitter.com drew 4 million unique visitors from home, work and college/university locations in February 2009, up from 340,000 a year earlier — a 1,086 percent increase. comScore also reported a surge in March. After months of double-digit growth, traffic to Twitter.com accelerated 131 percent to 9.3 million visitors for the month. That’s more than 5 million visitors since February.

Seems like everywhere you turn lately, it’s Twitter, Twitter, Twitter. The site’s growth is unreal. What’s driving such growth? Celebrity tweeters and substantial mainstream media attention, according to comScore, which added that the site ranked as the top-gaining property for the month of March.

“Twitter lets people know what’s going on about things they care about instantly, as it happens,” Evan Williams, Twitter’s CEO and co-founder, told The New York Times in an April 13 article. “In the best cases, Twitter makes people smarter and faster and more efficient.”

But things are not all rosy in Twitterville: Currently, more than 60 percent of Twitter users don’t return the following month, according to an April 28 blog post by David Martin, vice president of primary research for Nielsen Online.

In other words, Twitter’s audience retention rate, or the percentage of a given month’s users who come back the following month, is about 40 percent, according to Martin.

In the post, Martin also compared Twitter to two heavily touted behemoths of social networking when they were just starting out: Facebook and MySpace. When doing so, Martin found that when these networks were emerging — like Twitter is now — they had retention rates that were twice as high. In addition, when they went through their explosive growth phases, retention went up, and both sit at nearly 70 percent today.

What does this all mean? Twitter as well as the other social networks might not be for everyone. Some people may just not understand their power. But most of those who do use them, swear by them. They understand how these networks can become real-time marketing and customer service tools, not to mention powerful brand builders. And there’s virtually no investment needed, so as I’ve been preaching already, I recommend these sites become part of your digital marketing mix, if they’re not already.

What do you think? Let us know by posting your comment here.

SES N.Y. Buzz: The New Google AdWords Interface

Google has done it again. The biggest buzz at the much smaller and saner Search Engine Strategies Conference & Expo 2009, held this week in New York, was the new Google AdWords interface.

The demonstration of the beta version of the interface for Google’s flagship pay-per-click program brought a crowd to the cavernous second floor of the New York Hilton and Towers on March 25, where Google was exhibiting. And most attendees seemed thrilled with it.

Google has done it again. The biggest buzz at the much smaller and saner Search Engine Strategies Conference & Expo 2009, held this week in New York, was the new Google AdWords interface.

The demonstration of the beta version of the interface for Google’s flagship pay-per-click program brought a crowd to the cavernous second floor of the New York Hilton and Towers on March 25, where Google was exhibiting. And most attendees seemed thrilled with it.

Here’s the skinny. The new interface allows users to do the following:

  • navigate their accounts more easily via an account tree;
  • make changes with fewer clicks and pages to load thanks to easy in-line editing of keywords, bids, ads and placements;
  • have easier access to their data, including integrated reports that are available on campaign management pages;
  • have access to custom, roll-up views of all of their keyword ads, placements and campaigns in an effort to see their performances at a glance; and
  • have access to performance summary graphs for quick trend-spotting.

Current Google AdWords’ users need not worry, according to Google. Quality score, bidding, budgeting and other aspects of ad serving don’t change with the new interface. Users can sign up for the new interface by entering their AdWords customer IDs here.

Before launching the new interface, Google said it took a close look at how advertisers manage their campaigns with Google AdWords and then looked at where it could make improvements. The new interface is a result of the research.

According to the enthusiastic crowd gathered at SES, Google seems to have done something right.

An Ill-Timed Folly for Facebook

Facebook has caused quite a stir lately. About two weeks ago, it revised its terms of use, but the change caused such a turbulence in the blogosphere that the social media pioneer backed off and reverted to its old terms — at least for now.

Facebook has caused quite a stir lately. About two weeks ago, it revised its terms of use, but the change caused such a turbulence in the blogosphere that the social media pioneer backed off and reverted to its old terms — at least for now.

What temporary revision caused the uproar? Basically, the terms said members own their information on the site and control who sees it. But when they’d go to delete their accounts, Facebook would retain the right to the information, so friends still would be able to access the shared information. Facebook sated that it would have an “irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid worldwide license” to material on the site, per the short-lived terms.

But after the new rules were posted, many people contacted Facebook with questions and comments about the changes and what they meant for people and their information. Many expressed distrust and aired suspicions that the site would sell or share their information with third parties. Users protested on the site, while external groups also took action. The Electronic Privacy Information Center threatened legal action.

Data-sharing issues have been dicey stuff among American consumers since well before the economy tanked. Facebook has become such an American icon that this revision was ill-timed. Facebook made a mistake and had best rectify it quickly before the site becomes just another fad.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained in a Feb. 16 blog post that the revised terms were intended to make the site’s policies clearer to users. “One of the questions about our new terms of use is whether Facebook can use this information forever,” Zuckerberg wrote.

“When a person shares something like a message with a friend, two copies of that information are created — one in the person’s sent messages box and the other in their friend’s inbox. Even if the person deactivates their account, their friend still has a copy of that message. We think this is the right way for Facebook to work, and it is consistent with how other services like e-mail work. One of the reasons we updated our terms was to make this more clear.”

“In reality,” Zuckerberg continued, “we wouldn’t share your information in a way you wouldn’t want … Our goal is to build great products and to communicate clearly to help people share more information in this trusted environment.”

Nevertheless, based on the feedback on his blog on Feb. 18, Zuckerberg said Facebook had decided to return to the previous terms of use while it resolves the issues people have raised.
But the matter isn’t resolved. The Harvard-schooled boy wonder of social media said Facebook is working on a new version of terms. The next version, he said, will be a substantial revision from where Facebook is now. It will reflect the principles of how people share and control their information, and it will be clearly written in language everyone can understand.

He also said Facebook has created a “Bill of Rights and Responsibilities” and a forum where users can discuss the issues.

The incident marks the third time that Facebook has backed off changes after users voiced privacy concerns. The site’s news feed and its Beacon advertising program drew criticism, which prompted the social networking site to increase privacy protections.

So, what do you think? Is Facebook doing the right thing? Is the flip-flopping affecting your opinion of the site? Let us know.