How Popular Is Twitter? Join The Discussion

As there have been lots of discussions on whether Twitter is losing popularity, we decided to have a look at how popular Twitter is now and where it's heading.

Written by Paul Mortimer
Social media |   3 minute read

Following predictions earlier in the year that 2016 would see the demise of the platform, a slew of unpopular changes by its developers and a general feeling of malaise amongst many users, we discuss a range of issues broadly addressing the question; "How popular is Twitter?" 

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Predictions Earlier In The Year

At the beginning of the year, various sources, from The New Yorker to this truly brilliant Brad Colbow cartoon in The Guardian, were commenting on the demise of what was once the king social platform for user enjoyment.

Do you remember those halcyon days of being able to interact with real-life-influencers like your facourite musicians and sports stars rather than their paid PR teams? Or finding out about things like the Boston bombings HOURS before mainstream news even picked it up?

Stagnation in growth beyond their 300 million users in mid-2015, an increased use of paid posts impacting UX and rumours of huge changes to the format (like losing the USP of 140 character limit to posts and increasing it to 10,000) led shares to fall in price early in 2016.

Over the past couple of years, there has also been the rising tide of highly-personal, highly-focussed abuse to individuals on Twitter. Now, just as often as the trolls (note how "trolls" has become a mainstream term to describe such users) gain traction, countless more users rally around the victim in the @replies. Kind and noble as it is, it's also quite monotonous and predictable.

With the widening of advertisements compounding all these frustrations, this is why many were saying 2016 would see the demise of Twitter. 
Twitter logo purple 

What Twitter Has Changed

A probably incomprehensive list of changes that Twitter has made to its format, (roughly) this year, in order to attract new users and revenue streams through advertisements include:

- Installed co-founder Jack Dorsey as CEO
- Launched "Moments", an pre-curated tab to show users what is happening (in the past you did that yourself organically)
- Advertised on TV
- Improved tools to report harassment and abuse (needed)
- Organised feeds by "popularity" rather than chronology (to so much dismay that you can now disable this algortithm)
- Renamed the "Favourite" feature to "Like" (which, although opinion was split amongst users at the time, makes sense semantically)
- Allowed longer and multiple user private messages
- Added polls
- Integrated Periscope for live video to appear in people's feeds (was great for on-the-ground reporting during Euro 2016, for example)

Where Twitter Is Now

Well, Q1 results show that they added another 5 million users worldwide, reaching 310 million - but this is well below the growth needed to become a marketing platform to trouble Facebook and Google.

Also, profits were around $13 million lower than expected, although still up year-on-year. Q2 looks to be between $88 million and $67 million behind forecast predictions. You can read more here, but the upshot is Twitter's stock was down roughly 14% at the end of Q1.

So, that's the business side of things, but how are users finding it? People we have spoken to have summed up their feelings thus; it's not what it was, will probably come off, but still check it out of habit as much as anything.

This sentiment would actually match what Twitter themselves said a few years ago; 40% of active Twitter users don't post content but just consume it instead.

What this pretty much tells us is that although numbers of users are up on Twitter - it isn't as popular emotionally as it once was. If this trend continues, and when you consider WhatsApp and WeChat have more users, the marketing potential of Twitter will only last as long as it is popular.

This very good blog post documents somebody "starting again" with their approach to Twitter in a professional capacity. They essentially take it back to what made it so popular in the first instance; treating it like a community, interacting and discussing things with other users. Which is what Brad Colbow nailed perfectly in the cartoon linked in the first paragraph.

Join The Discussion And Let Us Know What You Think In The Comments...

  • Is Twitter falling in popularity as a platform, in your circles?
  • Do you enjoy Twitter for business/marketing purposes?
  • Do you enjoy Twitter for personal use?
  • Have their changes altered your experience of the platform for better or worse?

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