With Lack of True Stats Twitter is Losing Trust of Its Users

I’m reading the MarketingPilgrim article, “As Twitter Slips, Potential Competitors Close in” – there seems to be an increasing negativity towards Twitter lately, and I only fear it will get worse. I’ve warned of this before. Twitter has been consistently reporting numbers in the hundreds of millions of users when stats of the several million member cache of users on my own servers are showing that only a fraction of that number are actually active. In fact, MarketingPilgrim agrees with me. They are claiming that “90% of the Tweets come from 25% of the people” on Twitter. The worst part is they are making it look like these numbers are comparable to Facebook’s. Intentional or not it’s going to backfire on them if they don’t start getting honest with their numbers.

In my own cache I have consistently shown 30% of users that have more than 20 Tweets in their timeline – of course, my cache is only a segment of the entire Twitter user base but I’m hearing similar from other Twitter developers that keep even larger caches than I have. The fact is Twitter is reporting correct stats. They’re just not reporting the same stats as their competitors, and that’s a huge illusion, creating confusion as it was intended to.

Here’s the problem. I’m sure Twitter is purposely reporting the higher number – the total of their stats – in order to sound like they are bigger than they are. I don’t blame them for this.

What I worry however is that users will catch on, and as a result, users will never be able to trust the numbers that Twitter releases. When Twitter releases a big number in the future, there will always be a question in the back of users’ minds on whether the number Twitter is releasing is the same number being counted by any one of Twitter’s competitors. Let’s face it – I heard a rumor from a former Facebook employee that if Facebook were to count its entire user base like Twitter is doing they would easily be in the billions of users. Does Twitter really want to play this game?

Let’s go ahead and compare this further with Facebook. Since almost the beginning, I have been able to go to Facebook’s Press page and get open, honest stats about the service. Facebook shared these numbers since they were under 100 million. I know because I shared it in my first book, way back in 2007. Not only that, but they have always been clear that the number being shared is active users – not total users, and that 1/2 of those active users log in to the site at least once daily. Sure, we could argue on Facebook’s definition of active, but we do know that at least half of the  number Facebook is reporting is indeed active users. Twitter can’t even vouch, or isn’t even vouching for that.

That’s a stark contrast to the 25% of the people being reported by Marketing Pilgrim. Perhaps Marketing Pilgrim is wrong. Perhaps my stats are wrong. We’d never know though because Twitter isn’t being honest from the start.

If your competitors are sharing active user counts and bloggers are reporting active user counts of that competitor, you too should be honest and share the same. That would be the right thing to do, and I’d then be able to trust Twitter when they share their numbers.

Twitter, regardless of numbers, is a force to be reckoned with. As a social strategist, I know, even though Twitter has smaller numbers and not as significant an engagement rate as Facebook, it still has huge value to me and the brand I represent in terms of how public the network is and the ease it is to learn about what others are saying about me and my brand. The sheer size of Twitter isn’t what makes Twitter valuable to me. It’s the openness of the network. That’s why I don’t understand why Twitter can’t take the brave move to gain its users trust and let us know the real numbers.

I would really like Twitter to step out and share their real numbers. What is their active user count? How many log in through any Twitter client daily? Let’s start there, and when they get to 100 million of those, then we can start comparing them to Facebook and the others. Until then let’s accept Twitter’s value for what it is. Let’s also accept that Twitter’s not Facebook, nor is Facebook Twitter. They are 2 different sites, and I really want to trust both of them when they share their numbers.


5 thoughts on “With Lack of True Stats Twitter is Losing Trust of Its Users

  1. Really glad I'm not the only one that thinks this way. I'm sure the inflated numbers are good for ego and investment but what's wrong about being honest with user activity? I'm fine with Twitter being less populated than Facebook, as you said “they are 2 different sites”.

    Let's hope they are listening.


  2. Wow, what a great and compelling post Jesse, you are absolutely right with this. It is a fear I am carrying around for quite a while now. What I really don't get is why Twitter doesn't think they are better of showing everything openly.

    They have 230 million accounts and only 30 million active. So what? Why not say this openly to the public. I think transparency has only one in the past and it is time for Twitter to show more of that.

    Let me Buffer this and follow you on Twitter, great thoughts here!


  3. I wish Twitter understands these issue and improve its credibility. Twitter has its own DNA and I believe it is most useful tool – completely different than Facebook. But the numbers it releases should be worthy to rely on.

    Thank you for this lovely article.


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