Are Twitter Conversations Dying?

Twitter Over the last month or two I’ve noticed a sharp decline in the amount of conversation occurring on Twitter.

People are still using the service, for sure (witness the number of tweets about McCain’s “ground noise and static” comment, in reference to protesters at the Republican Convention, within seconds of the comment for proof). However, I’ve noticed that the number of replies I’m getting to messages has sharply declined recently.

Twitter has done well for itself recently. While its latest newsletter to members was distinctly underwhelming (where’s the news on IM or tracking – you know, the features that made Twitter useful to begin with?) it did make the point that over the last two months the service’s uptime has been around 99.9% – a big difference from the dismal levels a few months ago.

I’m wondering, though: is this partly due to people moving away from the service?

A couple of months ago, I would get 5-15 replies to any given question that I posed to my Twitter connections. Since that time I’ve added a couple of hundred “followers,” (currently sitting around 1,175) but the number of replies I’m getting to each question has fallen dramatically, my new followers have slowed to a trickle and many of them are wannabe spammers.

I still get a lot of value from Twitter and it continues to prove its value to me daily. However, this trend (if it is one) can’t be a good sign. The conversation is often what attracts people to Twitter to begin with, and it’s where I derive most of my value from the service.

Assuming I’m not a unique case here and that this is a real trend, this makes me wonder if Twitter’s shine is fading. Is their failure to replace services that they stated were their “top priority” three months ago finally hurting them? Are people actually moving to services like identi.ca, or even FriendFeed?

Have you experienced a similar pattern with Twitter? What’s your take on this?

  • Dave, I haven’t noticed this trend. What I have noticed is that people vote with their keyboards. When I ask a question and no one responds, it’s my friends way of sending me a silent message about the question. 😉

  • For me, now that I’ve lost sms updates (I’m in the UK), I have far less interaction with people I follow on twitter as I only end up seeing their tweets a few hours afterwards.

  • I think this is an inevitable reflection of the fact that Twitter’s hype cycle is over. The number of new Twitter members is probably declining too, and the vast majority who are really just followers are probably finding that it’s a lot of hassle keeping up multiple sets of status updates and there isn’t much fun in following without being followed. This gets worse when you compare status update effectiveness with FB. Status updates in Facebook for most of Twitters ‘followers’ (i.e. the majority of low profile members) are guaranteed to be seen and recognised and often responded to. In my experience, tinyurls popped up in my FB status field generate a lot more traffic than anything I ever post on Twitter. Point being that since Twitter is entirely one-dimensional in offering and also rarely replicates most users’ personal networks, there is nothing else to keep people involved when that service isn’t really satisfying. Hence their level of engagement with Twitter is declining.

    Interestingly to compare with Facebook where the hype cycle is also over, the lack of decline in engagement is because of the wide range of functionality and usefulness that keeps people engaged and coming back.

  • I think that many people are still misusing Twitter. Instead of just having a window open, simple Summize searches may pick up replies for many folks they otherwise would have missed, especially if they have a lot of followers.

  • Hmmm… Joe, are you trying to tell me something? 🙂

  • Rizwan — I’ve never used my Facebook status for that kind of purpose. Interesting.

    Brooner — when the IM service went down I had a similar experience – interacting using Twitter became a lot harder for me.

    Daniel — excellent point. That might be one level of effort too far for some people, though. Tools like Twhirl and Tweetdeck provide that functionality, but again you have to take that extra step of installing them. It might be good to see Twitter begin to auto-update replies (and capture them effectively) in the same way that Summize or Facebook’s live feed does.

  • Hey Dave,

    Interesting question. I think it could be Twitter falling victim to its own success. The more people anyone follows, the more rapidly any single tweet falls down their timeline and on to page 2.

    It could be that, as your profile and stature grows on Twitter, it becomes harder to have meaningful-ish conversations.

    The other thing I’ve noticed, though, is that more and more people (entities?) are treating Twitter like an RSS feed to proclaim blog updates than anything else. As the percentage of one-way tweeters increases, the likelihood of conversation decreases.

  • I’ve noticed the same thing as Riswan mentions above. My tweets also update my facebook status and I get more people responding and continuing the conversation via FB email than on Twitter.

    Also agree with Joe’s comment. Now that I follow more people I don’t even try to keep up with every tweet. I know it means I’ll miss things I would normally respond to but not much I can do about it. Actually ‘want to do about it’ would be more accurate as I could set up sms but don’t want the noise.

    For me Twitter has become more of a news scan. I can read 2-3 pages deep and get a pretty quick scan of what’s happening internationally, locally, and with my friends/contacts (at least the more active ones on twitter). I don’t usually click back more than a few pages.

  • Dave:

    My personal usage has decreased because I found other tools to use when the system was down. Twitter was as ingrained in me at the time so I didn’t miss it as much.

    Also the interaction seems to me anyway to have decreased. Or maybe it was just because it was summer.

    Best always,
    – Peter

  • michelle

    I have several different people that I follow that are always asking questions. I only answer if I feel strongly about the content of the question. Otherwise, I have better things to do with my time.

  • Dave,

    I think your spot on with what your seeing. But, I also think that the Twitter user base it to blame for this. I say that because I find that many people are now using Twitter as a service to drive traffic to their web based projects (blogs, videos, podcasts, etc) rather than a way to engage in a conversation.

    In short: Twitter use to be the sort of water cooler that people could gather around and chat about things. Now it is a acting more like a bulletin board where people post things they want others to look at, but if they talk about it they do it at the posters desk rather than the water cooler.

    Does that make sense?

    -N

  • Summer.

  • Dave, I think your observation is accurate and I attribute it to several issues: 1) the instability of Twitter led users to seek out other services such as Plurk, Rejaw, Kwippy, etc. As users fragment their time between multiple services, there are fewer tweets. 2) the natural maturation of the market. It’s no longer new and shiny and long term users are spending less time on “water cooler” talk. 3) The US election. Many have deserted Twitter in the past few weeks tiring of the endless play by play and often heated debates.

    With competition from many other services making it easier to follow threaded conversations, I am not sure we will see the activity level at previous levels on Twitter until the next wave adopt the technology.

  • Hah, Defren’s a genius, as always.

    I still don’t think people are moving away from Twitter. If they’re going to “micro-blog”, they’ll do it there. If they leave or if they’re not there, they probably aren’t “micro-blogging”.

  • I’m standing with Rayanne and Todd. I’ve been tweeting less because I’m home less, and busier at work.
    But I have been noticing fewer engaging conversations.

  • I have noticed that Twitter is gutting my blog stats on technorati. Comments are way down, links are way down. However, readership is up over a 1000 a day and subscriptions are strong. I wonder if Tweeting about recent blog posts are actually moving the conversation there and off my blog. A few short months ago I was ranked 26000 with an authority of nearly 100 (if i recall). Now I am a sad 190k (ish) with authority in the 30s. Is it me? Is it Technorati? Is it Twitter? Is it all three?

    hmmmm.

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  • YES!