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Twitter Falls, But Not to Its Death: Lessons for the Enterprise

A recent post by Network World blogger Mark Gibbs has some really interesting statistics, courtesy of RJMetrics, about the use of Twitter in the past several months. Although Twitter had 75 million registered users by the start of 2010, new adopters peaked back in July, 2009. Only 17 percent of users sent a tweet in December (I wasn't one of them, having sworn off Twitter during the craziness of holidays-plus-year-end-scramble--a swearing off that has since stuck), and the average number of followers and tweets per subscriber continue to decline.This isn't surprising. Like any technology, and perhaps more importantly, any social medium, Twitter will likely coalesce around a core group of so-called "power users." Many of these users, according to the survey, are young. Others are probably invested in the marketing and promotion Twitter enables, whether on a personal or corporate level. But those numbers will show limited growth over time, and will eventually map more to demographics (number of young people, number of brand-focused employees, etc.) than anything else.

Granted, the number of engaged Twitter users today isn't small: around 15 million, depending on your definitions, and how you slice the data. But it isn't 75 million--and pretending that it is would be a mistake (one I think Gibbs makes when he suggests companies shouldn't ignore the marketing opportunity to reach 75 million people).

Now, this only has ramifications for companies that are interested in marketing to people on Twitter (and, of course, to the business model of Twitter itself). The service--or rather, something like it--still has value as an enterprise communications tool, because in that scenario, people will have a compelling reason to use it: It will help them do their jobs better.

But that assumes that micro-blogging will help employees do their jobs better. If it doesn't, you can expect uptake to mirror that in the consumer world, or be even lower, since a corporate micro-blog doesn't offer the opportunity to follow Hollywood celebrities, sports stars and other guilty pleasures. It also requires that users tweet about meaningful things; otherwise it's just the time-sink old-timey managers worry it will be.