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Twitter may have the special sauce to growth, but it can't keep them coming back

Internet blog site Twitter, which allows users to post little 140-word blasts, is wildly growing and receiving comparisons to Silicon Valley's hottest real estate like Facebook and MySpace.  In March alone, it grew 131 percent adding 5 million new users. 

A new report from Nielsen Online, however, finds that approximately 60 percent of Twitter users quit after a month, never to return.  David Martin, the firm's vice president of research, says that while the endorsements of celebrities and public figures -- like Barack Obama, Jon Stewart, and Oprah Winfrey -- have encouraged many users to join, the site isn't keeping them coming back.

Mr. Martin states, "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."

The key problem, according to Mr. Martin, is that the low retention will eventually slow Twitter's growth to a halt.  There simply won't be enough users to replace the leaving ones at a certain point, he says.  Still, he says, Twitter won't die anytime soon, as successful sites' retention rates tend to go up.

He cites, "We found that even when Facebook and MySpace were emerging networks like Twitter is now, their retention rates were twice as high. (But) when they went through their explosive growth phases, that retention only went up, and both sit at nearly 70 percent today."

The biggest problem, Mr. Martin points out, is that people, by and large, tend to be quitters.  Microblogging daily requires a degree of dedication.  While it may be a valuable tool for social use and small business owners, most lack the kind of enthusiasm to sustain such efforts.  Twitter will have to struggle to make its site more fun and appealing to long term use, perhaps adding more options.

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Twitter lacks substance
By WoWCow on 4/29/2009 9:24:35 AM , Rating: 3
The biggest problem, Mr. Martin points out, is that people, by and large, tend to be quitters. Microblogging daily requires a degree of dedication.

Yes, because sharing my awful thoughts & opinions that has nothing to do with you every 3 minutes is the best thing to do. /sarcasm

Granted, some people from higher education seems to enjoy the attention (Shaq?)

RE: Twitter lacks substance
By PAPutzback on 4/29/2009 9:57:04 AM , Rating: 5
I agree. Who really cares that you or anyone else is out shopping for dog food or thinks Demi Moore is hot. I don't see the glamour in this twitter thing. I signed up and never used it. I didn't see what was any different than facebook's what are you doing now thing. And I only hit facebook about once a week. No wonder America is losing its workforce. Everyone is twittering, facebooking, myspacing and posting on DailyTech. :-)

RE: Twitter lacks substance
By Master Kenobi on 4/29/2009 10:32:59 AM , Rating: 5
DailyTech poster tend to be of higher calibre and thus can post here and work without missing a beat. They have mastered the elusive art of "Multitasking".

RE: Twitter lacks substance
By bubbastrangelove on 4/29/2009 10:47:30 AM , Rating: 5
DailyTech poster tend to be of higher calibre and thus can post here and work without missing a beat. They have mastered the elusive art of "Multitasking".

Some of us have also masterd the art of doing large copy and pastes into notepad and positioning the window in the read pane of Outlook. :D

After bieng relentlessly prodded to join Twitter I created an account and proceeded to join the friends list of the requestors.

Forty-five minutes worth of reading later I found myself enlightened to the facts that Laura felt guilty because she had a McMuffin for breakfast when she knew she would be missing aerobics that afternoon, there was someone stealing snacks from her refrigerator at work, she rated some Lifetime Channel movie 3 1/2 out of 5 stars and her cat was going into heat and she didn't want to put ol boots under the knife to get it fixed because she felt bad for taking away its ability to have babies.

I think my exact words were "Honey, I luv ya but if you find someone willing to read that every day you have one of two things: 1: a man feigning interest batting to ask for a date or 2: a stalker.

My Twitter experience lasted a total of 1 hour and I never looked back. Maybe in my mid 30s I "don't get it". But ya know what, that doesn't bother me because I don't want to "get it".

RE: Twitter lacks substance
By bighairycamel on 4/29/2009 11:37:12 AM , Rating: 3
Some of us have also masterd the art of doing large copy and pastes into notepad and positioning the window in the read pane of Outlook. :D

This man speaks the truth.

RE: Twitter lacks substance
By Suntan on 4/29/2009 1:37:03 PM , Rating: 2
I’d have to agree. If your friends are interested in knowing what you do every 5 minutes of every day, you need to get rid of those friends and go find people more worthwhile to have as friends.

I have an email account. It is more than enough to fill my requirement of “social networking” accounts.


RE: Twitter lacks substance
By Screwballl on 5/1/2009 10:01:57 AM , Rating: 2
My Twitter experience lasted a total of 1 hour and I never looked back. Maybe in my mid 30s I "don't get it". But ya know what, that doesn't bother me because I don't want to "get it".

Thats worth the DT "5" IMHO. Twitter seems to be for those who really have no real life and think other people care. These are also the same people who tend to update their Myspace/facebook profile 3-10 times daily.

RE: Twitter lacks substance
By Belard on 4/29/2009 10:48:40 AM , Rating: 2
My personal status:

Twitter = No account (been invited, no thanks)
My Space = Have account, page is blank. Use = 5 times a yr.
Facebook = No account

Dailytech = ugh... thats enough.

RE: Twitter lacks substance
By marvdmartian on 4/29/2009 11:06:18 AM , Rating: 2
Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winnah!!

Facebook-invited, never bothered.
Myspace-never bothered.
Twitter-um, yeah, okay....who wants to be a Twit?

Seriously, if your life is so boring that you need the hourly input from other people, then it's time to reassess, imho.

RE: Twitter lacks substance
By The Keith on 4/29/2009 11:22:35 AM , Rating: 2
To be honest, I have no "social networking" accounts, hardly ever use sites that have forums and hardly ever post anything.

Daily Tech though is my favourite tech site (which is the first thing I open on my desktop in the morning just after my Outlook has loaded) and alot of the times the articles are followed by a healthy shot of banter and in alot of instances the posts are more informative than the actual article.

I must say though that I have laughed most of the times when I do follow the comments. Sometimes I even almost fall out of my chair!

RE: Twitter lacks substance
By Motoman on 4/29/2009 11:22:45 AM , Rating: 2
I have no idea how people become possessed of the narcissism required to presume that, via Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, whatever, everyone else in the world needs to know every #$%^ing thing you do and think.

There are precious few people in the world who are interesting enough to warrant such attention. The other 99.999% of us should stop pretending that anyone wants to know that you just saw this guy, and OMG he's sOOOOooo cute, and you know, you think maybe he saw you, but maybe he didn't, and I don't know if I should talk to him, or he probably has a girlfriend because he's so hot, but what if he doesn't? OMFG I'm like totally confused!1! :o

RE: Twitter lacks substance
By elfurbe on 4/29/2009 3:00:18 PM , Rating: 2
Bad news, everyone. Social networks aren't going away, whether you want to participate or not, and choosing not to is pretty much fine. For a lot of us, this is the technological shift where we're checking out and deciding to become crotchety old curmudgeons. Everyone who's said they "don't get it" is absolutely right, you don't get it. I don't get it either, for the most part. It happened to our parents, it happened to their parents, now it's happening to us. These kids are on our figurative lawn listening to their metaphorical rock music and generally degrading the moral fabric of our society.

However, there's no reason to assume everyone on Twitter is a self-aggrandizing attention-whore just because you can't think of a use for it. Twitter is the only social network I HAVE found a use for. My friends and I use it to broadcast things of general interest to our group. We schedule group activities, pass around links, asynchronously share witty one-liners, showcase interesting public hilarity, pithy commentary about general topics, etc. It allows us to have a kind of continuously running group conversation about whatever we like. It's not a running news-feed of our lives, it's more like really really lagged IRC. Have I tweeted a bowel movement? Sure. Part of the fun.

Plus Shaq follows me. I will now accept your envy and your envy-fueled flames.

RE: Twitter lacks substance
By Motoman on 4/29/2009 3:26:36 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not sure this one is a generational things...people's grandparents are doing this stuff.

And if you and your crew use it in an abbreviated manner, then bravo. But that's not the impression I have of typical usage/intent of these things...

RE: Twitter lacks substance
By nixoofta on 4/29/2009 9:45:05 PM , Rating: 2
Now there's a headline,... "Shaq Tweets Tirds" .


RE: Twitter lacks substance
By fownde on 4/29/2009 11:38:11 AM , Rating: 2
Similar. I have:

myspace: only cuz friends kept buggin me that I needed one so they could "see what I was up to"... uh. If I never update it, how does that help you? Created the account, set my family picture as the default and never visited again.
Facebook: I found to be as pointless as myspace though my family kept bugging me bout it cuz all of them (even my grandparents and my wifes grandparents have one) so I set one up, uploaded the family pics, and only visit when I get an email that someone has messaged me. Set status to "don't expect updates"
Twitter: yea right. Not even touching that one.
Dailytech: heh every morning and throughout the day :D

RE: Twitter lacks substance
By strunkwriter on 4/29/2009 12:27:01 PM , Rating: 2
I have a work Twitter account. One of our largest customer groups is "churches/religious orgs." I can tell you the Evangelists are working Twitter and seem to be doing great at it -- very active conversations from some very passionate people. (Mostly, I watch.)

From a business stand-point Twitter has proven very useful for customer service...that's where we've seen the most success. And the people on my Follow list are decision makers for their organization.

My personal Twitter account, however, goes virtually unused. I just use it to update my Facebook account.

RE: Twitter lacks substance
By rlandess on 4/30/2009 12:22:50 PM , Rating: 2
Twitter lacks substance? Perhaps it's more accurate to say any online social networking lacks substance and not make a distinction. But at least here in the forums you're held to a standard; that the quality of your thoughts and the relevance of your postings build your reputation. Who wants to be known for the minutia of their daily lives? Not me. Not my friends.

Maybe Twitter serves a functional purpose... Updates, reminders, sharing ideas or something... But isn't that function already served by the other embarrassingly pointless social networking sites I try to hide my involvement with? At least at Myspace I don't have to add my grandparents, then explain to them what a StickyHug is.

We're not just getting old. Twitter just doesn't add anything to our lives that we care about. Most people I know share that feeling. Plus most high profile people who are propagating Twitter are just awful. I take offense to the labeling of people who choose not to use Twitter as people who "just don't get it." Maybe a person who has never used it can be labeled that way but not a person who actually signs up and after using the service, finds it lacking and quits.

Maybe Twitter's useful, but it's definitely lame.

Annelle received a Sticky Hug.
By jemix on 4/29/2009 1:11:00 PM , Rating: 1
I just logged into Facebook and the latest update says "Annelle received a Sticky Hug." WHAT THE HELL IS A STICKY HUG ????

RE: Annelle received a Sticky Hug.
By plowak on 4/29/2009 1:37:13 PM , Rating: 3
A hug coupled with a premature eja....

RE: Annelle received a Sticky Hug.
By jemix on 4/29/2009 2:03:21 PM , Rating: 1
Twitter'ers are cool!

By callmeroy on 5/1/2009 8:45:01 AM , Rating: 2

By imperator3733 on 4/29/2009 5:32:25 PM , Rating: 1
Twitter is not just people making useless comments about what they're eating, etc. It is a very useful source for news, links, and conversations with other people. For example, during the Mumbai attacks last year, the Hudson plane landing, and now the swine flu Twitter was and is a very valuable source for information and in many cases this information was available before traditional/old media had the story.

Don't start bashing a service like this until you actually try it out - and "trying it out" does not mean register an account, spend five seconds looking at it and then leave forever. Spend several weeks really trying it out and seeing how it could work for you. It's hard to explain to people the real power of Twitter, but if you give it a try you will likely see how useful it is.

By AEvangel on 4/29/2009 7:48:09 PM , Rating: 2
It's also a useful source of misinformation....

By imperator3733 on 4/30/2009 9:52:46 AM , Rating: 2
Well misinformation can be spread through other means as well. You just have to learn to be able to separate the good information from the bad, which is an important skill these days for everyone. If people are giving good information they will likely provide links, which probably wouldn't happen if someone is spreading false information. Also there are several news sources, like @cnnbrk and @breakingews, which provide good information. You shouldn't believe everything that some random person says on Twitter, just like I hope you wouldn't believe everything some person you meet on the street says.

By omnicronx on 4/29/2009 12:04:46 PM , Rating: 2
I for one, am a twitter quitter..

Perhaps in record time too, signed up, realized I don't care if Obama is eating soup and logged off forever.

RE: Quitter
By ClownPuncher on 4/29/2009 12:56:56 PM , Rating: 2
The sad part is, you thought you might be interested in what kind of soup he was eating in the first place.

In comparison...
By christojojo on 4/29/2009 10:44:58 AM , Rating: 2
I am curious. How much retention/ return do we have here at I don't have as much time to be on here as I would like but this news drives me to return just like Hollywood gossip seems to drive America.

thank god
By kevinkreiser on 4/29/2009 11:20:40 AM , Rating: 2
there was already too much text messaging. i hope it dies out.

Will "twittering" replace prayer?
By plowak on 4/29/2009 1:27:41 PM , Rating: 2
Will we get prayer points with God for "Twittering"?
Does God "Twitter"?
(I'll bet He doesn't even blog.)

By majorpain on 4/29/2009 3:26:11 PM , Rating: 2
"Stick a fork in me Jerry!, I'm done!!" by Cosmo Kramer

Obama = Tweeting Twitter Twat
By ggordonliddy on 4/30/2009 12:17:47 AM , Rating: 2
In other news...

By diegoaac on 4/30/2009 1:07:17 AM , Rating: 2
I don't think that Jonathan Stewart encourages people to join twitter

My twitter experience
By kyleb2112 on 4/30/2009 3:31:43 AM , Rating: 2
A boobless waste of time is truly wasted time.

By callmeroy on 4/30/2009 8:55:41 AM , Rating: 2
I want the ability to send to all active twitter accounts (including the celebs that have them) just one message "GET A FRIGGIN' LIFE TWITTER FREAKS NO ONE CARES THAT MUCH ABOUT YOUR DAY!!!!" then the account can be closed. :)

oh wait maybe do a follow up post as well something like "This message brought to you by the Church of Latter Day Saints and Girl Scouts of America ...have a nice day! :) "....

I'm sorry I just do not get the point of twitter --- zero---at all. If there's something that is urgent --- pick up a phone...nearly the whole planet today with little exception, has a cell phone on them 24/7.

What a suprise!
By Diesel Donkey on 4/30/2009 2:51:59 PM , Rating: 2
People who can't read something longer than 140 characters are quitters! I never would have guessed!

By Souka on 4/29/09, Rating: -1
By nixoofta on 4/29/2009 1:53:07 PM , Rating: 2

Not so awesome!

By Penth on 5/2/2009 3:20:12 AM , Rating: 2
Watch the video before you call it spam. It was linked to from an MSN article about twitter as well. It's funny and on point.

"Vista runs on Atom ... It's just no one uses it". -- Intel CEO Paul Otellini
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