It’s not just Twitter. It happens on all kinds of networks, apps, sites and forums. Users sign up, set up a profile, mess around with it for a while, and then vanish. That’s a fair process. We need the freedom to try things out and decide if we like it enough to keep using it.
A recent Semiocast report noted that Twitter has now passed the 500 million-user mark. It’s an impressive number. But just as we in social media have learned it’s not about the quantity of fans and followers, it’s about the ones who are actively engaged with you, we need to look at how many of those 500 million users are true “users.”
The report says of the 500 million, only 170 million are active. Active is defined as having modified the account in some way over a 3-month period (tweeting, retweeting, replying, direct messaging, adjusting the profile, etc.) In the social network world, 3 months is a long time, so the standard by which a user was defined as “active” was more than fair. And it doesn’t count “lurkers,” those who look at tweets but never participate. Still, the number we’re dealing with is that just 27% of Twitter’s audience is active.
So why would someone try Twitter, only to decide, “this isn’t worth my time and effort?”
1. It’s Confusing
To experienced users, the proper use of symbols (@, #), odd-looking short links as opposed to linked phrases, and commonly used acronyms and abbreviations are second nature. But there is a learning curve, one not everyone is willing to go through. Brands that pursue clarity and simplicity in their tweets will appeal to the broadest possible audience.
2. They’re Too Busy to Watch Twitter
Being an active Twitter user takes some time. Many companies still ban employees from being on social network sites at work. For many, it’s all or nothing. They decide if they can stay plugged in, they won’t mess with it at all. Brands can help address the time issue by keeping tweets as short as reasonably possible.
3. You’re Boring and Uninformative
This one’s on your shoulders. Obviously, many potential users weren’t entertained by the tweets they saw, and/or they weren’t getting any usable information from them. In the absence of value, using Twitter became expendable. Obsess over your content. All killer, no filler.
4. They’re “Facebook” People
Just like Apple vs. PC and Coke vs. Pepsi, some people feel that with limited time, they can only commit to being active on one social network. While Facebook and Twitter are quite different in style and substance, many users pick their horse and stick with it. Brands should be active on and optimizing audiences on as many social networks as is reasonable.
One reason users may choose Facebook over Twitter is that it’s more visual, with News Feeds loaded with pictures and embedded videos. Study after study has shown how imagery affects engagement. While Twitter does link to pictures and videos, the Twitter feed itself offers no imagery to stop the eye. Brands can’t change Twitter, but if you are linking to a video or picture, you have to really sell it in the text to get that click.
6. The People They Followed Don’t Post
What if you subscribed to a magazine and it never came? That’s the way users feel who go to the trouble of searching for people they’re interested in, following them, and then never getting any content from them. It only takes a few of those experiences to generate a feeling of “there’s no point” about Twitter. Brands should not be guilty of starting, and then abandoning, social channels.
7. They’re Not Getting Followed
There’s no more debilitating feeling in the world than being rejected. A user may sign on to Twitter, excited about the prospect of interacting with industry peers. They follow numerous accounts, only to have relatively few people follow them back. While there are plenty of articles about how to attract more Twitter followers, the frustration of not getting quick, organic follows may lead some to not bother tweeting. Brands should set guidelines on whom to follow back, and emphasize ways followers can connect with you. Make it clear…they’re valued, and you want to hear from them.
No, you don’t run Twitter. But you can certainly take steps to make sure your Twitter account is a desirable, sought-after, rewarding experience for those who do you the honor of following you and trying you out.