· Hubspot, in its "State of the Twittersphere" report, says that over half of Twitter users have no followers.
·- According to new, unquantified data from Quantcast, U.S. Twitter usage has actually fallen from last month, from 24.4 million to 21.9 million. (I'll attribute this to "The Oprah Effect", since there were no celebrity additions to Twitter of her magnitude recently.)
-- Compete says Twitter grew in May, but by only 1.47%, to 19.7 million unique visitors.
OK, people. I guess it's time to fold up our Twitter accounts and go home. Not. But it is time to dig a little deeper and figure out just where Twitter really is in the zeitgeist at this moment, and where it should go from here.
The first thing we should all note about some of these just-released Twitter stats is that they don't necessarily take into account the explosion of Twitter clients. Still, though it's important to take all traffic numbers with a grain of salt -- or at the very least look at a number of them to come to a more well-rounded conclusion -- it's not as though the Twitter clients can be counted upon to take up all the slack. Compete says that use of Tweetdeck declined dramatically between April and May, from 915,000 users to 476,000 users. Quantcast's unquantified numbers show an even deeper drop. Certainly, there's evidence that more and more tweeting is going mobile -- m.twitter.com showed 20% growth in the last month, per Compete, but overall, the Twitter bird's wings aren't flapping as fast as they were a month ago.
But the bigger problem for Twitter lies in the numbers put out by Hubspot, which echo earlier findings that way too many Twitter users are users only in the sense that they logged on, maybe once. In addition to more than 53% having no followers, 55.5% aren't following anyone. Hubspot also found that 9% of Twitter users are what it defines as inactive, with fewer than 10 followers, friends or updates. And, in another telling statistic about how Twitter's growth is being aided and abetted by those who don't really care about it, last year's "State of the Twittersphere" report showed that 80% of Twitter users had a bio; this year only 24% have put a bio into their profile.
Yes, in case you doubted it, Twitter is really serving only a tiny fraction of us. The question, when a company confronts slowing growth numbers, is to figure out how it can grow more; in Twitter's case, I'd argue it's how to make more of its current user base become truly engaged so that its growth is real growth, instead of, well, Oprah or Ashton growth. Whether or not you believe the numbers above, this will be something that Twitter has to confront, if not now, at some point in the near future. The danger, if it doesn't, is that it could be perceived as just another wacky trend, like pet rocks or "Baby on Board" signs. I know it's not that, but I originally come from advertising, where perception is everything.