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Nearly half of all Twitter accounts have never been used

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On Sunday, April 13, David Murphy of PC Magazine reported that about 44 percent of all 982.4 million people who have Twitter accounts have never posted anything on the popular microblogging platform. Out of those people, only 241 million of them were monthly active users during the last three months of 2013, according to a report that recently appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

According to Yoree Koh of the Wall Street Journal, "Twitter defines a monthly active user as an account that logs in at least once a month. By Twitter's standards, a person does not have to tweet to be considered a monthly active user."

Murphy cited statistics that were revealed in a recent study conducted by a site called Twopcharts. He said that approximately 550 million users (in other words, people with accounts representing a little over half of the total known to exist) have ever actually posted anything on Twitter. Almost half of those users, or 236.8 million people according to Twopcharts, have not submitted a tweet in more than a year. He added that only 126 million people have posted on Twitter in the past 30 days.

Many people in the greater Spokane area have never used Twitter. These statistics indicate that this may not be as strange as it might seem to people in the community who regularly interact with people on the site, or use it to follow their favorite celebrities and news sources. After all, only about 13 percent of the people who are on Twitter have actually used it in the past month.

A big part of using Twitter is engaging with other users. Much of the charm of using Twitter in addition to Facebook or other social media sites for people in a smaller city like Spokane is that the site allows people to connect with their favorite celebrities, journalists, politicians and other public figures in ways that they might never be able to do in real life. The user's physical location doesn't matter if Paul Krugman or Chris Hardwick (just to name two famous people who are very active on Twitter) likes one of his or her tweets.

Therefor, it may seem strange to realize that many people who have signed up for Twitter never connected with other users. According to Murphy, almost a quarter of the people on Twitter have never followed another person's account.

"According to Twopcharts' data, there are approximately 391 million Twitter accounts with 0 followers. Just over 232 million or so haven't followed a single user themselves," Murphy said.

Mark Rogowsky of Forbes suggested that people should not be concerned about the statistics revealed in the Twopcharts study. He said it is not unusual for social networks such as Twitter or Facebook to follow a model where only about 10 percent of the users provide most of the content.

According to Rogowsky, "... it’s pretty normal for online communities, which historically have followed something called the 90-9-1 rule. Basically, 90 percent of people aren’t expected to do anything but read content generated by others. The nine percent are expected to be contribute occasionally — perhaps responding here and there or, in Twitter's case, re-tweeting something or 'favoriting' it, akin to liking something on Facebook. And it's the one percent who are expected to generate the bulk of the content. On Twitter, celebrates, athletes and journalists of various stripes represent the one percent. They break news there or share it.

"... For Twitter, consider some statistics. The... folks at Twopcharts claim that 36.6 million people were tweeting in February 2014. ... those 36.6 million likely represent a bit below 15 percent, but certainly more than 10 percent. That sounds just about right, based on the 90-9-1 rule doesn’t it? Oh, yes, 43.4 million also tweet at least once a day. ... In other words, Twitter’s user base looks exactly like it's supposed to according to a rule that's been around since online communities came into being decades ago."

Murphy said Twitter is not commenting on the Twopcharts data. He added that their own research indicates that monthly active users had increased by 30 percent in 2013. This suggests that the company is still in good shape and the community of active users is still thriving, but it is hard to know for certain how accurate that assessment is because Twitter uses different criteria than Twopcharts.

Hopefully, these statistics will not discourage people in the greater Spokane area from trying Twitter if they haven't used it already. Even if only a small fraction of users are posting new tweets, there is still almost too much content out there for any one person to absorb. People can get the latest news and sports updates, follow their favorite comedians, tell Hillary Clinton how they think she is doing or participate in fun time wasting activities such as playing a game called #Hashtag Wars on the official Twitter feed for the Comedy Central series @Midnight.

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