One blog post that really gathered a lot of attention last week was a report released from Nielsen Online, a branch of the Nielsen company that is famous for its TV ratings system. The study, published by Nielsen VP David Martin, suggests that over 60% of all new Twitter users quit the service after one month, and that this retention rate will hinder the service in gaining a mass audience. By comparison, Facebook and mySpace boasted user retention rates over double those of Twitter during their explosive, high growth periods, and enjoy user retention rates of around 70%.
“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… 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 summary offered by the authors of the study is simply, “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.” Some have related this to similar studies published about Second Life, which also enjoyed a wave of massive media hype spurring new users to register, many of whom soon quit or never visited the service again. Do or could some of these same users quit over time, rejoin under different names or accounts, or migrate to third party Twitter apps that mange their message stream on the service? Sure, but more users are sticking with mySpace and Facebook.
With all of the news about a possible Twitter sale to Google, I am wondering if we will see an increased trend in clients looking for micro-blogging sites and “Twitter Clones” for local and niche communication. Already, I am offering Twitter and Social Network integration (Facebook, mySpace) to clients on blog and ecommerce sites, to easily connect with friends, community, marketing, communication, etc. that takes place on those sites from the main domain. More and more people are including their Facebook status messages and Twitter stream on their homepages, using the API & RSS feeds those sites offer to pull social content across network channels.
Xavisys, the web development company behind WebDevNews.net, has created a Twitter feed module for WordPress called WordPress Twitter Widget Pro.
For Drupal, I find the best module to be Activity Stream.
Probably no other blog has done so much to fuel the rise and popularity of Twitter than Michael Arrington’s TechCrunch. Currently number 3 on Technorati’s internet top 100 blog list, TechCrunch has posted updates on Twitter multiple times a week since the site’s launch in 2006 and constantly boosted & stirred the hype around the service. This week, TechCrunch published a post reporting from sources located within both the Google and Twitter camps, stating that Google was in late stage negotiations to purchase Twitter. The post quickly swept across the internet and mainstream media, being covered by Reuters, CNN, the Wall St. Journal, and commented upon across the blogosphere. Arrington followed up with a post stating that Twitter likely wouldn’t sell for less than $1 Billion USD.
Facebook was reportedly in similar talks with Twitter last year, but it looks more likely that the two companies are squaring off and developing / evolving the market for real-time, streaming updates of personal & business information in competition. Recent changes to make Facebook’s “Wall” posts more public is seen as a step in Twitter’s direction. The other players in the field are essentially minor in comparison at this point. Some are suggesting Microsoft could step in and make a bid for Twitter as well – they have already been reported to have invested in a large advertising stake in the company.