Has Twitter Flat-Lined?

13 09 2010

For the last two years twitter has been the poster child of the social web.  The growth has been both phenomenal and relentless as this chart taken from the twitter blog graphically shows.

By the end of June this year the 20 billionth tweet had been posted and the number of tweets had grown from 45 million a day in January to 80 million a day.  Twitter had become an unstoppable juggernaut, changing the way that news is delivered, socialising prime time television and altering the way that organisations and people engage with each other.

But the unstoppable appears to have stopped, or at least dramatically slowed.  Over the last two months the number of tweets posted per day has barely increased and is still hovering around the 80 million per day mark as this graph from Gigatweet shows.  There has been a modest increase but nothing compared to the growth of the past.  Efforts to reduce twitter spam may have had some impact but the spike in usage during the world cup may have masked the fact that underlying usage has peaked.

We’ve been here before, but previous claims that twitter was flat-lining were based on visits to twitter.com and that was due to the adoption of other Twitter apps and clients like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite and the move from pc to mobile.  This time we are talking about the volume of tweets so the data is platform neutral.

If we look at the time that it took to reach major volume milestones it bears out the observation that the period of rapid growth has either stalled or come to an end.

Milestones in 5 billion increments (time taken to reach):

5 billion tweets                                   3 years, 4 months

10 billion tweets                                 136 days

15 billion tweets                                  87 days

20 billion tweets                                  62 days

25 billion tweets (forecast)                   50 days

30 billion tweets (forecast)                   54 days

If Twitter has reached its zenith it suggests that despite the media hype it may not achieve true mainstream penetration. Currently there are 44.4 million users in the US and whilst that’s a big number it only represents 14% of the population.

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