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I saw an interesting blog post today over at Webguild.org reporting that Twitter is "Doomed" (in fact the title is "Twitter Doomed") and I had to laugh. There have been any number of people explaining either why they don't use Twitter or predicting its demise. There's even a website-style blog called "Twitter Backlash". But back to the post that got my laugh banks engaged and this sentence:
Apparently more than 60 percent of Twitter users fail to return the following month and pre-Oprah more than 70 percent of Twitter users failed to return to the site according to David Martin, Vice President, Nielsen Online.
Apparently Nielsen believes it appropriate to lump in Twitter with social networks like Facebook, MySpace, and others, and that's the problem. Twitter's a micro-blogging environment much more than a social network and thus should not be compared to Facebook and MySpace. Facebook and MySpace have places for photos of whatever you're doing or a place for installing your favorite music to share with others. That's not what Twitter's designed to do. Thus comparing them is lumping Apples with Oranges.
Twitter, again, is for the act of "micro-blogging" or explaining something in less than 150 characters. That's a system that can be and has been incorporated into a social network like Facebook, but it's not a social network like MySpace and Facebook.
I think what's happening is because one can communicate with others on Twitter, or have "friends", it's viewed as a social network as opposed to something that allows social-networking.
Two different actions.
In Facebook I have various pages, I'm a "fan" of President Obama, and I can see my friends photos, attend events I'm invited to, and play games they invite me to engage in (when I have time).
I can't do any of that on Twitter.
So it should come as no surprise that Twitter has a lower retention rate than Facebook or MySpace. Hey, people like to learn about other people which is what we use Facebook and other networks for. (Personally, I swear by Linkedin which I use far far more than MySpace.)
I don't see Twitter as a competitor to Facebook, but as complementary to Facebook. My Tweets go from my Twitter page out to my followers then onto my Facebook page and for good measure migrate over to my FriendFeed page as well. And my blogs are hooked in the same way: Blog to Twitter to Facebook to FriendFeed. Hey, that horizontal subscription count can add up!
The reason Twitter has a lower retention rate is simple: there's less there. It's a great place for the rapid transfer of information but that's it and you have to use it to understand its value.
Alas, Twitter doesn't have the revealing voyeur factor, so unless someone comes up with an app to send Paris Hilton sex tape through Twitter, the retention rates always going to be less than for Facebook, and that's just fine with me. Twitter's going through a shake out period where everyone thinks they have to use it. It's not for everyone. Eventually, we'll get rid of the wanna bees and be left with a really engaged Twitterverse.