Who really uses Twitter? 60% of Twitter's traffic isn't on Twitter
There are two ways to post and read stuff on Twitter -- you can fire up your web browser and go to www.twitter.com or you can or you can use the API. Well, not really 'use the API' but rather, use a program that some geek wrote that uses the API.
And there are LOTS of Twitter programs out there. I'm running a report right now that grabs what program people use to post comments on Twitter and in less than 24 hours I've seen over 350 unique apps. Sure, most of them are hardly used at all, but that's kind of my point -- people don't use Twitter, they use Twitter's database.
Let me see if some numbers help… From a sampling of 12,760 postings, we saw 351 unique programs posting to Twitter. People posted to Twitter using Twitter's web interface less than 40% of the time. That means that 60% of the traffic on Twitter never sees Twitter.com.
This is completely backwards from every web application out there. The idea has always been to build traffic. I remember a conversation I had with the folks at MSN who kept talking about 'eyeballs' -- they wanted as many people to show up as possible, and then get those people to spend as much time on MSN websites as possible so they could deliver as many ads as possible.
MSN is one of the biggest properties on the Internet and their revenue model is the same one we had with tiny sites back in the 90's. Getting people to your site means controlling what they see and creating inventory that you can sell.
But Twitter is literally giving away inventory. It's like owning a shopping mall only you aren't charging the stores for using your building. You let them put up their own signs, sell products, and be completely autonomous while you provide the space and the infrastructure.
Now, I know Twitter got that $1 Billion valuation last year (New York Times), but I still have no idea why investors think this is such a valuable property -- sure, there are 13 million active users and 75 million accounts, and so many postings I won't even hazard a guess, but, who really sees Twitter?
And how do you leverage your customers if you don't see 60% of them?