Does It Matter That Usage Per-Person Is Down at Twitter and Facebook?

Inactive Twitter Account

Twitter and Facebook are growing like weeds, with 60 million and 400 million members each, respectively. Last month Twitter announced that its account-holders are churning out 50 million Tweets per day, to ever-expanding networks of friends and colleagues (and, let’s be honest, robots). According to stats published in :

“Web analyst firm HubSpot estimates that the average Twitter user now has 300 followers — compared to 70 in July — and follows 170, a substantial increase from 45 in the middle of the year. And, users are tweeting more, with the average output growing from 120 in July to 420.”

There’s a danger to looking at averages, though. Ashton Kutcher, Ellen DeGeneres and Britney Spears each have more than 4.5 million followers (see ).

And while total Twitter membership is up to nearly 60 million accounts, visitors to Twitter.com remained flat in the 2nd half of 2009. Again from :

“According to data from Web analytics company Compete, Twitter attracted approximately 22 million visitors in December 2009, which was pretty much unchanged from June levels. From its best month, August, the visitor metric fell by 770,000.”

Twitter usage on client and mobile apps such as Tweetdeck isn’t counted by website traffic firms like Compete, but it’s not logical to me that the percentage of Twitter users who use downloadable clients, which requires a bit more technical know-how than visiting a website, would grow faster than usage of Twitter.com as its overall audience has expanded to a more mainstream (and less technical) population.

According to BarracudaLabs, only 21 percent of Twitter accounts are active, if you define “active” as an account holder who has at least 10 followers, follows at least 10 people and has Tweeted at least 10 times. (See .)

Facebook has a similar problem. Total membership is bigger than the entire human population in the United States and those members push 5 billion pieces of content into Facebook newsfeeds every week. But the activity rates per person — sharing links, photos or status updates — are falling. From :

“While the actual raw count of data shared has skyrocketed, the overall percentage of Facebookers who post status updates daily has actually fallen. Which means that on the whole, Facebook’s users may be much less engaged with the site. And much of the increased content-sharing is coming either from a proportionally smaller group or from the much larger number of pages being published — many of those, however, are promotional vehicles for other companies, particularly local businesses.”

With total audience numbers as big as Facebook’s, I’m not downgrading its odds of achieving world domination. But declining engagement rates aren’t a good thing. What is Facebook if members aren’t participating? Anecdotally, I know many Twitter lurkers who actively use the service as vital news aggregator. The non-contributing Facebookers I know tend to lose interest altogether.

Anyhoo, because I know you need to know, here’s what I’m up to: Awwww, cloudy Saturday morning in SF!! #ihatecloudydays

(Thanks, , for pointing me to several of the above articles!)

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