The numbers Twitter doesn’t want you to know about

Everyone is carrying on about the meteoric rise of Twitter following the recent race between Aston Kutcher and CNN for that magical one million follower number. Celebs and other well known people climbing on the Twitter bandwagon as if it is the greatest thing in their lives.

But, for as quickly as its numbers are rising one has to wonder if those numbers in anyway reflect the number of people sticking with the service.

Well according to the Nielsen Wire blog Twitter is suffering from some of the lowest retention numbers of social media services. Where services like Facebook and MySpace experience a 70 percent retention rate of new members Twitter is lucky if it can manage 30 percent. Only since the Oprah, Kutcher and CNN explosion has Twitter’s retention rate managed to reach 40 percent but there is nothing to suggest so far that we’ll see that number stick.

As Dave Martin, Nielsen Online Vice President, said in the post

By plotting the minimum retention rates for different Internet audience sizes, it is clear that a retention rate of 40 percent will limit a site’s growth to about a 10 percent reach figure. To be clear, a high retention rate doesn’t guarantee a massive audience, but it is a prerequisite. There simply aren’t enough new users to make up for defecting ones after a certain point.

I’ve always maintained, and still do, that sign up numbers actually mean very little. In most cases we are dealing with first blush popularity puffing up the numbers but in the cold light of day they have no lasting value. In this case Twitter might appear to be exploding across the landscape but beyond the initial flood of celebs and other glitterati just how many of them will still be around in a month, in six months or a year. Will the numbers still show the same type of growth at that point or will they settle down to the more realistic count of actual users.

[top graphic courtesy of CFO Strategist – graph courtesy of Nielsen Online]

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