There's some conflicting information floating around at the moment in regards to X's usage, and its growth (or not) under Elon Musk.
Some reports suggest that X usage is way down, while downloads of the app have also declined. Other reports imply that X is actually gaining in popularity when compared to its traffic and engagement numbers from last year.
In times past, we've been able to rely on Twitter's quarterly updates as a means to measure the platform's actual usage, and because those reports are legally enforceable, we could trust that Twitter was indeed providing its true usage numbers. But X, which is a private entity, doesn't have any such reporting obligations, which leaves us reliant on Musk and X CEO Linda Yaccarino to provide us with actual current usage insights.
And going on what they've been reporting thus far, I'm not sure that we have any clue as to what's actually correct, true, or factual on this front.
So first off, we have Musk himself, who last week shared this chart as an indicator of X's surging traffic.
Looks compelling right? Based on this chart, you could be led to believe that X is actually beating Instagram in terms of overall usage.
It is not. In fact, it's not even close.
Instagram has over a billion monthly active users, versus X's 500 million, so in sheer visitors alone, it's very unlikely that X would be matching IG.
But what's less clear, based on this chart, is what the above figures actually represent.
The numbers in this chart are based on website traffic data from SEMRush, which measures traffic to a domain, in this case x.com versus instagram.com. So it's measuring visitors in browsers (web or mobile), not in the actual apps. 80% of X's usage comes via the app, while it's more like 97% of Instagram's. In other words, only a fraction of the users of either app is coming to the platform via its www domain, with the bulk of usage happening in-app, which is not reflected in this chart.
Add to this the fact that X posts are indexed by Google, while the vast majority of IG posts are not, and it's no surprise that X is seeing more website traffic. If anything, the fact that X was ever trailing IG in this respect is more of a concern, but to imply that this means that X is seeing more overall usage than Instagram is not correct, and in fact, not even close to the reality of the situation.
This same measure has been used in various reports suggesting that X's traffic is up.
This week, another report, using data from Ahrefs, suggested that X has seen a 22.3% increase in traffic year-over-year. Just like SEMRush, Ahrefs has no access to app usage data, so this is only based on domain traffic, i.e. people using X via web browsers on desktop and mobile devices. Which is only around a fifth of X usage, and within that element, X is seemingly seeing an increase. That could particually be attributed to Musk's own posts, and the surrounding commentary around such, but without equivalent app usage data, this insight is largely meaningless as an indicator of overall X usage, one way or another.
In Domo's recent "Data Never Sleeps" report, it also shared that total X posts per minute have increased year-over-year, rising from 347k per minute in 2022, to 360k per minute in 2023. But that belies X's own insights on this.
Back in September, Elon said that X users were sharing 200 million posts per day in the app, but a week later, Yaccarino corrected this, saying that X is actually seeing
- 100 million original posts per day
- 100 million replies to posts every day
- 300 million quote posts and reposts
So, in essence, X is seeing 200 million original posts per day, but using the reported numbers from Domo, this does not match up.
Taking Domo's 360k posts per minute stat, that would mean that X is currently seeing 518 million posts per day, which is well beyond X's own reported numbers. At 500 million per day, that would actually equate to 347k posts per minute, which is what X was seeing last year. So X may not be seeing less usage, but based on its own data, it's also seemingly not seeing more, unless Domo has additional insight into X usage that X seemingly does not.
Another recent claim from Yaccarino, that X is seeing 150 million new sign-ups per day, is also not being reflected in X's own usage numbers.
More than 10 million people have signed up for X so far this December! pic.twitter.com/sW8cN2xM0Y— Linda Yaccarino (@lindayaX) December 8, 2023
At 1.5 million new account sign-ups per day, X should be adding 45 million new users every month, but it's been on 500 million monthly users, according to its own reports, since July. So if it is seeing 45 million additional sign-ups a month, those new users are not sticking around, and as such, I'm not sure that this is a great stat to highlight X's growth.
Finally, Elon has also reported that the platform has reached various new record highs throughout the year in cumulative user seconds, though this figure has also been criticized by various industry experts. Musk says that this is the most accurate measure of true engagement, but critics claim that this only suggests that Musk's most dedicated fans are spending all of their time in the app, and is not indicative of a more general usage trend.
In summary, there's no clear evidence to suggest that X is seeing more usage overall, though it is also important to note the relevance of such in your own planning. It doesn't matter if a billion people are using X, it matters if your target audience is active there, so in broad terms, it may be less relevant to your individual marketing plans that X is or isn't flying under Musk's leadership.
But in terms of sustainability of the platform, it does matter, and it could impact what becomes of Musk's X project in the long term. On that front, the fact that the numbers aren't declining rapidly should mean that X is still performing well enough, on balance. But basically, we don't know what the actual state of X's performance is, based on the data that we're currently receiving.