Some new data from Nielsen Online suggests that Twitter has a retention rate of just 40% after one month of usage—60% of users leave. This is despite Twitter's growth in user numbers, including its adoption by celebrities like Oprah (@oprah) and Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk), and news outlets like CNN (@CNN), as well as its growing role as a news service propelling it into the public eye. But will this figure represent trouble for Twitter?
Nielsen's research looked into the "follow versus follow-through" behavior of Twitter's users, and that's where the company turned up the 60% "Twitter quitter" figure. This corresponds with some thoughts out there about the micro-blogging service: Apparently the majority of first tweets are along the lines of "Trying to work out what Twitter's all about!" and if Nielsen is right, then six in ten users fail to ever grasp the core concept and then leave.
Nielsen's report also delivers more gloom about Twitter's numbers by showing a graph of audience retention rate versus "Internet reach levels,"—the latter being the degree of penetration, or a metric for popularity. According to this graph, Twitter's 40% retention will limit its success to a 10% reach. The report also goes another step, and compares Twitter's early successes—its retention rate was apparently just 30% earlier this year—with MySpace's and Facebook's, finding that its rate is roughly half that shown by the two older social networking sites.
But do these statistics actually spell trouble for Twitter and damage its potential to earn revenue, even when its monetization plans are just in the early stages? Actually, it doesn't—the report's basic premise is slightly flawed.
Twitter is different—that's why some find it difficult to understand. But once you're hooked into Twitter, then the idea of microblogging to "lifecast" and share information, and also read interesting tidbits from other users, is highly addictive. And unlike both Facebook and Myspace, Twitter doesn't require a large time commitment or effort on a day-to-day user basis, nor does it require much personal information up front. It's easy to get lots out of Twitter without much effort: A problem faced by both Myspace, as it evolved its user interface into a complexity of gaudiness, and Facebook with its redesigns and plethora of apps that let your "friends" pester you with requests to throw snowballs or battle zombies.
As a result, MySpace's star is rapidly fading—I suspect if Nielsen looked at its retention rate now it'd show a significant decline. And there's no guarantee Facebook will continue its meteoric rise.
Given that retention rates are a demonstrably dynamic figure, it's a little preemptive to proclaim doom for Twitter. It's really just a matter of getting people to "get" Twitter, and life-casting in general.