Twitter is an interesting character in the social media space. It is rock solid in its position because there is no other service that is just like or has grown to the ‘importance’ it currently has (or is perceived to have).
Where one can get confuzzled is in pinning down just how influential and widespread the actual use of Twitter is. On Tuesday, it was announced that they have entered into their seventh language for the service (Korean and most will need Google Translate to read it) and that international growth is moving right along. Twitter also has some new stats for the service as Forbes’ Oliver Chiang reports
Twitter has reached nearly 200 million
usersregistered accounts who post 110 million tweets per day as of the January 1, 2011, Twitter spokesperson Carolyn Penner tells me. That’s up from 160 million registered accounts as of September 2010 and 95 million tweets per day as of early December— steady, but not explosive, growth. That’s why the company is now focused on building out its international presence.
Chiang’s user v. account recognition points out the current confusion regarding Twitter. It seems that Twitter suffers from the same problem of defining important metrics for the service just like many of its users do. The number one most misleading metric for Twitter users is number of followers. People tout these numbers and claim ‘expertise’ based on them but in most cases there is no clear line to be drawn between number of followers and actual influence.
Now Twitter talks about 200 million accounts. OK, some overly simple math tells us that if these accounts were actual Twitter users then the average number of tweets per day per user would be about 1.8. Let’s be generous and round it up to 2. That’s fine. But let’s take myself as an example. I have at least 5 placeholder accounts which do nothing other than protect a name I will be using in the future and I have set up countless other accounts for other businesses doing the same. In fact, it’s a regular piece of advice I give to businesses all the time.
That being said, in my rather small part of the social media space, I have some direct influence on many ‘accounts’ that don’t do anything on the service (except get ‘followers’ without even trying because the Twitter bot world is alive and well).
Also, take into account the social media industry, which one might argue is the source of any real usage of the service at all. Just a glance around to see those that average 10 tweets per day and much, much higher should give anyone pause as to just what these Twitter numbers of accounts and tweets actually means regarding reach and impact on the world at large.
Of course, there will be those who say that many people make a great living using Twitter. If you want to go down that path, I would ask that you put an actual number to just what number constitutes ‘many’ and a clear definition of what a ‘good living’ is. I think it’s more accurate to say that a very select few have built very nice income with Twitter as part of the mix (the superstars) while some others make some money in a variety of different ways and the vast, vast majority don’t make a red cent (although they will claim they do).
Look, I think Twitter is great for what it is. It works for me in the limited fashion that I use it but as I talk to more and more business people and people in general who are not social media hyper-users the real value of the service is hard to define. There is SO much junk in it that any numbers that are given by the company need to be looked at with a very serious critical (and skeptical eye). Couple that with the mystery revenue plan and you have something that is looking more and more like a Hollywood set everyday. The buildings look great on the outside but when you walk through the door you get nothing.
This may be a harsh assessment of the service and feel free to tell me so in the comments but the more I hear about Twitter stats and compare it to what I actually see going on, the less I am convinced that Twitter is what it wants to appear to be to the world at large.