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.

Author: Melissa Campanelli

Melissa Campanelli is Editor-in-Chief of Total Retail. She is an industry veteran, having covered all aspects of retail, tech, digital, e-commerce, and marketing over the past 20 years. Melissa is also the co-founder of the Women in Retail Leadership Circle.

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