June 5, 2023

Twitter is losing its most active users, internal documents show

“Is Twitter Dying?” billionaire Elon Musk thought about in April, five days before the offer to buy the social media platform.

According to an internal Twitter investigation by the Reuters news agency, the reality extends far beyond the handful of examples of celebrities ghosting their own accounts. Twitter is struggling to keep its most active users — who are vital to the company — engaged, underscoring the challenge Tesla Inc.’s chief executive faces as he nears a deadline to close his $44 billion deal to buy the company.

These “heavy tweeters” make up less than 10 percent of monthly users, but generate 90 percent of all tweets and half of global revenue. Heavy tweeters have been in “absolute decline” since the start of the pandemic, a Twitter researcher wrote in an internal document titled “Where Did the Tweeters Go?”

The document says a “heavy tweeter” is defined as someone who logs into Twitter six or seven days a week and Tweets about three to four times a week.

The study also found a shift in the interests of Twitter’s most active English-speaking users over the past two years, potentially making the platform less attractive to advertisers.

The report found that cryptocurrency and “not safe for work” (NSFW) content, which includes nudity and pornography, are the most growing interests of English-speaking heavy users.

At the same time, interest in news, sports and entertainment is waning among these users. Tweets about these topics, which have helped Twitter burnish its image as the world’s “digital town square,” as Musk once called it, are also the most sought after by advertisers.

Twitter declined to specify how many of its tweets are in English or how much money it makes from English speakers. But demographics are important to Twitter’s business, some analysts say.

The platform earned more ad revenue from the U.S. alone than from all other markets combined, according to its investor letter, and the majority of ads in the U.S. are likely to target English-speaking users, said Jasmine Enberg, an analyst at Insider Intelligence. .

Twitter’s study looked at the number of English-speaking heavy tweeters who showed interest in the topic, based on the accounts they followed, and how the number of users has changed over the past two years.

Twitter was motivated to investigate “disturbing” trends among users that may have been masked by an overall increase in daily active users, and to better understand the decline in the number of the company’s most active users, the documents said. The study did not draw any specific conclusions as to why heavy users of the platform are decreasing.

“We regularly conduct research on various trends that develop according to world events. Our audience has continued to grow, reaching 238 million mDAUs in the second quarter of 2022,” a Twitter spokesperson said Monday when asked to comment on the findings in internal documents, using the acronym for monetized daily active users.

Not safe for work content

The number of heavy users interested in NSFW and cryptocurrency content increased, the study found.

Interest in world news and liberal politics showed spikes during major events such as the attack on the US Capitol, but has since lost interest among users. [File: Julio Cortez/AP Photo]

Twitter is one of the few major social media platforms that allows nudity on its services, and the company has estimated that adult content makes up 13 percent of Twitter, according to a separate internal Reuters slideshow. The presentation did not explain in more detail how the figure was calculated.

Advertisers usually avoid controversy or nudity for fear of damaging their brands. Major advertisers including Dyson, PBS Kids and Forbes suspended advertising because the accounts solicited child pornography on Twitter, Reuters reported in September.

In response to the September story, Twitter said it has “zero tolerance for child sexual abuse” and is investing more resources in its work against such material.

Twitter’s most active English-speaking users were also increasingly interested in cryptocurrencies, which hit an all-time high in late 2021, internal documents showed. However, interest in the topic has waned since the crypto crash in June, and the study concluded that cryptocurrencies may not be an area of ​​growth in the future.

Current and former Twitter employees who spoke to Reuters said they fear Musk’s demands to reduce content moderation and his reported plans to retrench staff, which they say will exacerbate the decline in content quality.

“Devastating” losses

The documents show that the topics that have traditionally made Twitter a popular platform for its millions of users are now on the decline among the most active English-speaking users.

Interest in world news and liberal politics showed spikes during major events, such as the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol. The categories have since lost the most major Twitter users and have shown no signs of recovery, the report said.

Twitter has also lost a “devastating” share of heavy users interested in fashion or celebrities such as the Kardashian family. Those users are likely moving to competing platforms such as Meta Platforms Inc.’s Instagram and ByteDance’s TikTok, the Twitter researcher wrote.

The survey also expressed surprise at the decline in interest in eSports and online streaming personalities, which previously grew rapidly on Twitter. “Large communities are now in decline,” the report says.

“There appears to be a significant disconnect between our company values ​​and our growth models,” wrote one Twitter researcher.

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