Tweeting. What is it? Why is everyone you know (including Oprah) now doing it? How is it of value to the world? What's the point? I originally asked myself this question in early 2008 and to this day haven't really heard any good explanation for Twitters purpose.
According to Twitter's website the purpose is this:
"Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co-workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?"
So now that we have that cleared up, does anyone else really care what we're doing? Well according to Nielson News...no they don't:
"Currently, more than 60 percent of U.S. Twitter users fail to return the following month, or in other words, Twitter's audience retention rate, or the percentage of a given month's users who come back the following month, is currently about 40 percent. For most of the past 12 months, pre-Oprah, Twitter has languished below 30 percent retention"
Should this really come as a surprise to anyone? Ok. Ok. I must admit I too was shocked when I read this statistic, especially after all the Twitter hype lately. However, the more I pondered it the more it just made sense. Signing up for Twitter is like signing up to get 140 character text messages all day long. It's signing up for those same people who send you 10 forwarded emails a day to tell you to check your inbox. It's signing up to be more annoyed not more connected. What's the point in that?
Anita Hamilton of Time Magazine wrote in 2007:
"I know, it's totally silly and shallow, but that's precisely why Twitter is on its way to becoming the next killer app."
Hamilton may have been right thus far, but how much larger can Twitter get with user retention rates as dismal as those above? Within the same Nielson News article above there is also a chart and this information:
"Twitter is still something of a fledgling, and surely some other sites that eventually lived up to Twitter-like hype suffered from poor retention in the early days. Compare it to the two heavily-touted behemoths of social networking when they were just starting out. Doing so below, we found that even when Facebook and MySpace were emerging networks like Twitter is now, their retention rates were twice as high."
Knowing that Facebook, MySpace, and any other social networking sites are making money from advertising I wanted to know how Twitter was planning on cashing in. After all with a low retention rate and predominately text based messaging, advertising dollars must be tough to come by right? Apparently; because Twitter even admits that making money still really isn't the goal:
"Twitter has many appealing opportunities for generating revenue but we are holding off on implementation for now because we don't want to distract ourselves from the more important work at hand which is to create a compelling service and great user experience for millions of people around the world. While our business model is in a research phase, we spend more money than we make."
What? You don't want to distract yourselves with making money? Huh? Well it seems that we're all distracted by your business then?
It's like I said does anyone, anywhere, know what the point of Twitter is?