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Twitter Quitters Say Twitter is Boring

Over the course of eight months, I conducted a survey of 336 internet users. I asked users a number of questions, ranging from the users' original perceptions of how Twitter might help them to what daily activities they performed on Twitter. Some interesting results arose regarding Twitter Quitters.

The survey was conducted with:

  • People who have never tried Twitter
  • People who used Twitter and then abandoned it
  • People still using Twitter, at the time they took the survey

I wanted to understand how non-Twitter users perceived Twitter. What did they think Twitter was? Was it like Facebook? Or email? Below are the results:

Public Perceptions of Twitter

Public Perceptions of Twitter - What Twitter Isn't

Obviously, there wasn't a lot of agreement among non-users.  People generally didn't think Twitter was like email or RSS. The largest numbers thought Twitter was like a blog (36%) followed by IM (28%). There was about an even split of people who thought Twitter was like Facebook and those who thought it was nothing like Facebook.

What's It Good For?

I also asked people how they thought Twitter could help them. I posed a variety of possibilities ranging from meeting new people to keeping in touch with friends/family to learning about events. I asked people to rate their level of agreement: strongly disagree, disagree, neither agree nor disagree, agree, strongly agree. (In the charts below, I combined the two disagree reponse sets into Disagree, and the two agree response sets into a single Agree.)

People who had never used Twitter had these responses: 

Public Perceptions of Twitter's Value

Public Perceptions of How Twitter Can Help Them

In general, people who hadn't yet used Twitter thought it would help them:

  • Express themselves (59%)
  • Have fun (50.8%)
  • Learn new information (45%)
  • Keep in touch with people they knew (44%)

On the other hand, the great majority of non-Twitter users (62%) didn't think Twitter would be helpful for their business or career.

Non-Twitter users were split on whether Twitter would help them find information about topics they cared about. Approximately a third agreed (36%) and about a third disagreed (39%). Likewise, 33% thought it would help them meet new people and 36% thought it wouldn't.

I asked the same questions of users who had tried Twitter and then abandoned it. I asked these users both what they thought Twitter would do for them before they started using it, and what they actually found it useful for when they did use it. (Caveat: because they were asked both questions after already using Twitter, answers regarding their original expectations must be taken with the proverbial grain of salt.) 

In general, their answers were similar to those of people who had never used Twitter—with one exception. These users weren't so vehement that Twitter wouldn't help them with their business or career. Of those who had never used Twitter, only 6% thought Twitter could help. Of those who tried Twitter and quit, 37% reported that they originally thought it would help their business or career.

Twitter Quitters versus Twitter Fans

Finally, let's look at the opinons of Twitter quitters versus Twitter fans, with regard to Twitter's value. Below are charts showing the opinions of those who tried Twitter and dumped it, and those who continued to use it.

Twitter Quitter's Thought Twitter Could Help Them

Twitter Users Believe Twitter Helps Them

The charts show the dramatic difference in opinion. Twitter quitters apparently found no value in Twitter at all. On the otherhand, those who stuck with it found it highly valuable for everything but reconnecting with friends/family and keeping in touch with them. The greatest value for Twitter users was in:

  • Learning new things (80%)
  • Finding information about topics (78%)
  • Learning about events (73%)
  • Having fun (65%)
  • Expressing themselves (63%)

For a certain segment of people, Twitter is a highly valuable tool. The question is, why do some people find Twitter valuable and others find it absolutely useless?

Why Twitter Quitters Quit

When I asked Twitter quitters why they quit, here's what they had to say:

Why Twitter Quitters Quit

People quit Twitter because they were bored or weren't interested in the tweets. 

Some of the other survey questions help identify the causes of their boredom. I asked both Twitter quitters and those still using Twitter whether they knew people on Twitter when they started, how many people they followed, how they accessed Twitter, and how often they accessed it. The key differences seemed to be how often they accessed Twitter and, perhaps, the number of people they followed:

  • Both groups generally knew people on Twitter: 64.5% of Twitter quitters knew people on Twitter when they joined and 64.7% of current Twitter users also knew people.
  • Both groups primarily accessed through the site: 90.3% of Twitter quitters accessed Twitter through the website, and 90.7% of current Twitter users also accessed through the site.
  • Twitter quitters may have followed less people to start: 63% of quitters reported following 10 people or less. 62.1% of current users report following 50 people or more. However, the latter group had generally been on Twitter longer, by the time they took this survey.
  • Twitter quitters accessed Twitter far less frequently: 67.4% of current Twitter users check Twitter several times a day, with another 11.6% checking once a day. While only 25.8% of quitters checked Twitter several times a day.  79% of current users check Twitter at least once a day, versus only 46% of quitters.

How Frequently Twitter Quitters Accessed Twitter

No Good Tweets

People surely quit Twitter for many different reasons. It appears, though, that a significant number of users quit because they aren't finding interesting tweets. The fact that quitters access Twitter less frequently may be one reason they didn't find interesting tweets. The stream moves fast that the more often you check Twitter, the more likely you are to see something of interest.

There may well be related factors at play. Quitters reported following 10 people or less. We don't know how many follows those who stuck with Twitter had when they first started. It may be that the people who stay with Twitter tend to follow more people initially, which would presumably increase their chances of seeing interesting tweets.

Surely another factor is who you follow initially. Twitter stickers may have found a better set of people to follow initially. If quitters don't find people to follow who tweet information they care about, the chances are lower of seeing interesting tweets.

Conclusion

It's a well known fact that users won't give a site much time to prove itself. The majority of Twitter quitters I surveyed tried Twitter for less than a month. It's important that users see tweets of interest to them in their very first session with Twitter and in sessions thereafter, until they are sold on it.

If Twitter wants to keep users, they need to do a better job of connecting first-time users not just with people they know, but with people who frequently tweet on topics that the user cares about. They also need to use the UI to encourage users to follow a significant number of people initially—probably 25 or more.

If new users are rewarded in their early interactions with Twitter, they will be more likely to check Twitter more frequently, increasing their chances of seeing interesting tweets and setting up a virtuous cycle.


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Join The Conversation

  • Courtney Hunt's picture
    Mar 8 Posted 7 years ago CourtneyHunt Thanks, Neicole. My point in highlighting my personal experience was to raise a larger issue regarding the quality of the posts and exchanges on Twitter, as well as the responsibility for avid Twitter users to assume greater responsibility for their actions. This isn't about "bad apples" to me. It's about an unacceptable signal/noise ratio that makes Twitter so unappealing to a significant majority of people who try it. I find it ironic that the people who are such ardent advocates for the channel are all too often awful ambassadors. I'm looking forward to significant improvements in the quality of Twitter as a social media platform. When that day comes I will become much more fully engaged.
  • NeicoleCrepeau's picture
    Mar 7 Posted 7 years ago NeicoleCrepeau I'm sorry to hear you had sucha bad experience.  As a "social" network, I suppose it has the same benefits and problems as real-life social communities. There are always the bad apples.
  • Courtney Hunt's picture
    Mar 7 Posted 7 years ago CourtneyHunt

    I have been on Twitter for about a year and have three accounts for personal/professional use. Even though I have "hung in there," I can strongly relate to the perspectives of the Twitter Quitters. I like the perspective that Twitter could do a better job of making Twitter inviting and usable for newcomers, but to me it's equally as important for active Tweeters to take more responsibility for their posts and to do a better job of managing the overall signal/noise ratio. I readily admit that I am not a Twitter fan, but my dissatisfaction has almost nothing to do with the platform or the usability of the service. In fact, I LOVE the idea behind Twitter and its contribution to social media. It's the Tweeters that I'm not so fond of. In the past week, I have unfollowed at least 50 of the 80 people I was following on one account, and I expect to unfollow some more. For my own sanity and the benefit of the people who follow that account (which is on behalf of a digital community), I have decided to be much more selective about who/what gets my "follow" vote.

    If Twitter users can alienate a social media advocate like me, it's pretty easy to understand the negative perceptions and reactions of non-initiates.  

  • NeicoleCrepeau's picture
    Mar 2 Posted 7 years ago NeicoleCrepeau

    I'm not a research agency (or even a full-time blogger) and don't have the resources to cold-call people. So, yes, they were self-selected. I solicited through CraigsList in several metropolitan cities, LinkedIn groups, Facebook, and Twitter. I think some other studies bear out the "boredom" aspect, and if you look at the usability study I did a while back, it suggests similar root causes. I did ask a number of other questions and will be posting other results of the survey. I asked how many people were following them, how many they were following, how often they went on Twitter, how they accessed, general questions about computer/internet use, etc. 

    With regard to the effort they put in, I don't think it's realistic to expect these users to put in effort. It's one thing if they are looking to use it for business or similar purposes. But people try out the service because they think it will be fun and useful. Twitter, therefore, competes against other fun and useful services, like Search, Facebook, etc. The burden is on Twitter to make the bar low enough that that users don't have to put a lot of effort into it in order to get rewards. That is, if Twitter's goal is to grow its userbase among general users. 

  • Mar 2 Posted 7 years ago RickReno (not verified) @Barb  The survey has a particular value reagardless of the sample methodology. You question methodology of a "citizen survey" which is the same as "citizen journalism." Everyone has the right to do a survey. It is not that everyone needs to be a future Nielsen or Gallup.  The problem with traditional surveys and polls is that they become too long because of the long tail of questions like you want to tack on. You can generalize the findings because the internet is open. Polling is a social science, and in social media, metrics are at best problematic. 
  • NeicoleCrepeau's picture
    Mar 2 Posted 7 years ago NeicoleCrepeau Thanks, Davina. I believe I read your post, and tweeted it!  It's true that people make a lot of mistakes and, if you're going to use it for business, etc., you need to stick with it. On the other hand, as a UX person, I think the burden is really on the site/product to lower the barrier of entry. Twitter really should be able to do better on its join process and welcoming new users...
  • DavinaKBrewer's picture
    Mar 2 Posted 7 years ago DavinaKBrewer Neicole, Last week I blogged that "Twitter is not for quitters." You've got some nice data here to back that up. People make a lot of mistakes about using SM platforms, esp. Twitter because they don't understand what it is, what it isn't and how to use it. So they follow the wrong people, don't invest the time and work to really learn it. Thanks for sharing.
  • NeicoleCrepeau's picture
    Mar 2 Posted 7 years ago NeicoleCrepeau Thanks, Imad. I agree re: following lame people. That's why Twitter needs to help make sure people find good people to follow. Maybe they also need to get the message out about how useful Twitter can be for business/career. Though, that takes some dedication, and a lot of people probably expect returns without investment.

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