Lies, Damned Lies, and Tweetdeck
[Ed. note: Yes, I’m on sabbatical. Yes, I’m incredibly happy. And yes, I’m unplugging much more than usual. So some posts over the next month or two will be fresh and posted on the fly (like this) and some will be ones I’ve got scheduled. I hope you like the mix!]
So this morning I Tweeted about some new Nielsen research on Twitter users.
In a nutshell, Nielsen found that only 40% of new Twitterers stuck around after a month and, comparing that to the retention rates of other social networks, pondered how that could help predict Twitter‘s future.
But then @heatherread clued me in to a VERY important point that the ever-intelligent (and, btw, very cute) @mashable picked up on in this post.
In short: they weren’t counting Tweetdeck.
The longer explanation: Nielsen’s stats don’t seem to take into account one of the fundamental weirdnesses of Twitter as a social network: The more you use it, the less likely you are to use its own website to access your account. You’re going to download one of the many free applications that work better and prettier to get you that information.
This is not the normal way a social network is used, and that seems to be what’s tripped Nielsen up. No matter how much you’re addicted to Facebook (and who isn’t?), you’re still using Facebook.com or Facebook Mobile. There is no third-party app that you’re accessing which is pulling your information to it.
But Twitter’s completely different, because, frankly, its own UI is not nearly as good as those that have been built around it. Using me as an N of 1: I might visit Twitter.com once a month to check something in my archives, but if my computer is on, I’ve got Twhirl open. Ditto Twitterberry if I’m on my Blackberry. (I’m not a Tweetdeck girl.) I suspect most users are the same.
I haven’t seen @nielsenwire respond either way about their methodology, so I can’t say for sure. But the point is, it’s important to notice that the Nielsen stats may not take into account that the logical progression of a user’s experience on this social network is completely different than that for others.
Just another reminder to critically consider what the easy numbers actually mean before you take them as gospel. Apples and oranges are awfully different.
HUGE thanks to the lovely and talented @heatherread for pointing this out.