Since anything involving Twitter these days makes news (for good or ill), much fanfare greeted last week’s report by Nielsen Online that 60 percent of new Twitterers abandoned the popular microblogging site after 30 days. The haters rejoiced, Twitter fans cried foul and the 140-character engine that could had another turbulent trip through popular discussion.
While the exponential growth of Twitter means an overall net gain, the report’s author David Martin noted a lack of retention represents a longterm challenge to the community: 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, he blogged. 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.
And while some questioned the methodology, which Martin later tweaked and defended, common sense provides several possibilities for so-called Twitter quitters. Many who jumped aboard because of the media hype, expecting the best thing since sliced bread, may not have realized the amount of activity required for a fulfilling Twitter experience. Those adding due to the celebrity/glamour angle may have despaired upon learning that, even in Web 2.0, their favorite stars still don’t actually talk to them. (And Oprah virtually abandoning her tweeting likely left her fans unsure of what to do next.) Marketers who stampeded onto Twitter may have not realized that neither traditional hawking nor get-rich-quick schemes are all that welcome or trusted.
I also think about studies involving college students, which find those who make quality connections more likely to stay in school. What kept me on Twitter? Not hype, not novelty, not voyeurism but real people, connections and conversations. Those just don’t happen right away. As I’ve explored in Twitter 101 and Twitter 102: The Twitterduction, finding good tweeps takes time, effort and interaction. Facebook, by comparison, is much easier. We may interact in micro form but Twitter is, by no means, a place of easy instant gratification.
It’s sort of a shame that, in a world where every Twitter twist and turn makes news, the media didn’t look too far behind the headline for reasons. Maybe some journalists’ attention spans can’t get past 140 characters now.