Twitter In Trouble? I Smell Trolling At 100 Virtual Paces

There’s lies, damn lies and statistics, but when it comes to using online stats to attack Twitter, it’s not just a case of damn lies, but epic trolling.

Stats are out today from comScore and Compete for October, and depending on which one you believe traffic to Twitter declined 8% or 2.2% respectively. Depending on which interpretation you read, this is a sign that Twitter is in “trouble” or as Mashable more fairly puts it, that Twitter has “flatlined.”

A drop from the shiniest, buzziest startup of 2009 naturally makes for a great tale, which added with a dash of trolling no doubt makes it good for those writing it page view wise. But there is a flaw in using page views to as a gauge of usage for the site: a sizable portion of users never hit to use Twitter.

Depending on the stats month to month (and source to source,) roughly 15% through to as high as 40% of users connect to Twitter using third party services. To that you also need to consider that new users are more likely to use directly (not knowing about third party services), until after some time looking at or switching to third party tools (in this case, the Oprah spike.) Look no further than the popularity of iPhone Twitter clients as evidence that there’s a strong market for third party Twitter clients, even if pinning down exact numbers may be an abject lesson in guessing in itself.

Third party tools aside, it’s important to consider that the stats used to justify Twitter being in trouble are primarily based on US users (Compete exclusively, comScore mostly.) It’s easy for an American writer to presume that nothing important happens outside of the United States, but Twitter is not playing from the same handbook. The proof can be found in the under-reported announcements Twitter has made over the last few months as it has rolled out SMS support in places like India and Indonesia. Even if comScore was tracking either country, they wouldn’t be tracking SMS use of Twitter, where as Twitter clearly sees SMS as a growth tool in countries where data isn’t as affordable, or readily available particularly over mobile networks.

Twitter has always been secretive about its usage numbers, but we can get a rough idea about how popular it might be outside the United States through Alexa (yeah, I know it’s not accurate, but Alexa offers better non-US stats than most of the others.)

According to Alexa, is ranked in the Top 100 sites online (so not including SMS) in the following ntn-highly ranked countries for data access: South Africa (9), India (11), Philippines (12) Pakistan (14) and Brazil (18.)

If Twitter was in trouble, they’d need to clock something a lot bigger than a 2.2%-8% decline on to balance their growth outside of the United States and other Western nations.

It’s clear that looking at the bigger picture that Ev, Biz and the team are heading in the right direction when it comes to making Twitter a truly global service, and that the stats in this case don’t provide a full and true picture.